I was reviewing all of my Journals from last year to get a good sense of how far I have come in my strength training and it has been one great year. I saw nearly a 100lb increase in my squat (350 to 450lbs), and finally hit a 500+lb deadlift while dropping from 215lbs to 181lb competitor. I am by no means a world class strength athlete, but I have my eyes set on something close to an Elite Total at the 181 weight class this year. Last year I made the decision to become a competitive powerlifter at 38 years old. I had lifted weights my entire life and was an athlete through high school and realized I needed to get my competitive juices flowing again. I got into Crossfit about 6 years ago, but I pretty much exercised myself into an injury every other month (my stupidity, and not a direct knock on CF, anyone who follows the daily WODS deserves to be injured). This left me training hard with my kettlebells and barbells with nothing except working out in mind. Just “working out” sometimes just becomes something to do, and just setting PR’s in the gym is no different than posing in front of mirrors and wiping your sweat off your face with your shirt at the big box gym to make sure the girls can see your abs. No one really cares and there is no “most ripped award” at LA Fitness.
I came off of Paul Carters LRB program early in 2013(which I will review later), and I thought it was a great program get my body prepped to lift some weights, it got my numbers up to where I felt I was becoming strong enough to possibly compete at a meet. I put on some size and strength with that program and decided to give “The Cube” a whirl in early 2013. There are many different programs written and if you are familiar with the lingo, there are linear programs (5/3/1) and Non-linear programs (the Cube and others). IF you want more info on the difference there is a good article on Elite FTS. Pretty much linear has your weights go up each week with some adjustments in reps over time so that you “Peak” your weights at a given point in time. Example. Wk1-3 4×10, wk4-6 4×8, wk7-9 4×6 etc… Each week the weight goes up by a percentage, then you may take a week off at some point, lower the weights again and start progressing from week to week. This is over simplified, but this is the general aspect of it. Linear programs work great for awhile, but if this worked ALL the time we would never see the end of strength gains, and we would have numerous 1000lb squats in a short period of time. Beginners see the biggest gains from these types of programs as they have the most room to grow, but even advanced strength athletes can see gains with linear programs in short bursts as they peak for a competition.
The Cube would most likely be classified as non-linear. Each week your percentage and goal for a give lift changes. Example:
Week 1: Squat HEAVY, Bench Exlposive, Deadlift for Reps.
Week 2: Squat Explosive, Bench for Reps, Deadlift Heavy.
Week 3: Squat for Reps, Bench Heavy, Deadlift Explosive.
You then repeat this in Week 4-6 with different rep schemes and again Weeks 7-9. Week 1 my Heavy Day is 80% of Max @ 2×5, My next Heavy Day, 3 weeks later is 85% at 3×2, and my last heavy day on the cycle is 95%for a repout. There are similar changes in the rep schemes for the explosive and rep days. The premise of this is that if I kill it with heavy squats on Monday I am not going to go really heavy on Bench and Deadlifts that week. Though I have to say that it doesn’t mean that the rep and explosive days are really easy days depending on your assistance work.
BODY BUILDING DAY!!!
This was probably my favorite part of the program. If you read the book he pretty much developed this program to get back to the basics for himself, see results, and have fun again. I will say that the Body Building Day really did change my perspective of training all over again. I was doing bicep curls, Tricep with ropes, calf raises, some hamstring curls etc… and guess what, I didn’t fall apart, get weak, or lose site of strength. It really was to work on weak points and I personally used it as a day to work my shoulder press as well.
Increased my total by 90lbs in 10 weeks.
So I would say that my numbers were definitely an improvement for 10 weeks.
The results speak for themselves, I got stronger. Period. I have to say for the most part I stayed really fresh each week and looked forward to my Heavy days a lot. When I felt like hitting a few extra reps on the heavy days I went for it, when the explosive days were super light I added a few pounds. The training sessions were challenging, but I stayed motivated and didn’t over train and get defeated the entire strength training program. The variety of the rep schemes each week did keep it interesting. In the book, Lilly puts together a template for assistance work and it is pretty grueling at times and has lots of volume which I really liked. There were a few days where I was just not feeling so hot, so I hit my main lift numbers and took it easy on the assistance work. No results were lost either. Did I mention the Bodybuilding Day? It was great to get back at bodybuilding training and really made things fun again. My clients had a heart attach when I was doing bicep curls, but sometimes things just have to change.
Though I really enjoyed the volume of the assistance work he recommends, some people complain that it is too much, but realize that the assistance work is just the assistance work. Hit your weak points, get some hypertrophy work in and move on. The only issue that I would say is the “explosive day” percentages seemed to be really really light especially in the first 2 waves, and I found my self adding about 5+% on those days. If you can think of the explosive days as more of a technique day it shouldn’t matter as much, but I chose to increase the load and still kept the days fast and not grindy. I don’t recommend adding so much weight that the “Explosive Day” turns into a Heavy Day, because that would not be the program.
Who Should not Do the Cube:
If you are a complete novice with lifting this is not your program. Meaning if you are in your first year of training you still have lots to be had with basic linear progression and body building training. Example, if you are guy that squats 250lbs, or if you are a female and have a bench of 85lbs this is not for you… Why? well there are a few reasons, but here is the deal, lets use the example of having a 200lb bench(male). On your first round of explosive days your bench will be probably around 120lbs. At that level of strength, moving 120lbs fast is not going to help you get stronger. If you are a female with 85lb bench you would be pretty much doing the bar explosively. So I hope you get the point. Just get stronger and move all your weight as fast as you can all the time.
Who Should do the Cube:
If you have been on 5/3/1 for past 3 years ( I wish I was joking, but I hear this all the time. It is a great program, but get out of your comfort zone already. Just to rant even more if you trainer has had you on the same program for the last 2 years it is time to move on.). If you are bored with going to the gym and just hitting some weight for reps and “working out” and really looking to train on a program then this is for you. I like using this strength standard chart as a guide, and if you are north of the intermediate numbers you are probably good to go on The Cube.
What if you have certain lifts that are stronger than others?
One of the solutions I have given to lifters at our club that have some really strong lifts and lifts that need improvement is to do a bit of a hybrid of a linear progression and Cube. How does this work?
Here is an example:
Joe has a bench of 180lbs, Squat 320lb, and Deadlift of 405lb. He could probably see some benefit of doing the Cube method with his Squat and Deadlift, but his bench will probably not get as much out of it as it would on a linear progression program. So starting the 9week cycle with the Cube on the Squat ad Deadlift and then starting a linear progression on the bench over the 9 weeks usually works really well.
We used the Cube and Linear/Cube Hybrid to prepare most of our lifters for the NASA Western Nationals and we didn’t do too shabby.
1st Place Team NASA Western Nationals
Here is how Brandon Lily explains the Cube in a nutshell without all the percentages and rep schemes. The biggest thing is to train hard, have fun, and not miss reps.