So… we’ve arrived at Brandon Lilly’s The Cube Method. To be clear, I am going to be focusing on his most recent release of the program also known as the Cube Boss Method, Cube Kingpin, and Cube 365 Strong. I don’t know what the official name of the program is, but I do know that the most recent publication is Lilly’s 365 Strong eBook.
If you’re interested in doing the Cube Method, you’ll probably want to snag a copy of 365 Strong for reference material. That said, the eBook is only 69 pages long and more than half of it centers around Brandon Lilly’s philosophies about life rather than the actual Cube Method. I don’t think you’re getting good value for your purchase, but, at the same time, it is hard to stay true to a program without having the book. I am personally neither a fan of the method nor the book. I can’t recommend either in good conscience. Buy at your own discretion.
Let’s get into why I am not necessarily a fan of the Cube Method.
If you’d rather watch than read:
The Cube Method: Context
Unlike so many of the other programs that we’ve reviewed thus far, Brandon Lilly actually designed The Cube Method for powerlifting! That’s a great start. Essentially, Lilly had become fed-up with the never-ending carousel of bands, chains, and movements that is Westside Barbell programming; Lilly had become fed-up with overreliance on powerlifting gear; Lilly had become fed-up with thinking harder than he was working.
In response, Brandon, in his own words, “returned to his roots”. He did this by designing a program that centered on compound barbell movements minus all the bands and chains. He simplified everything. If you look closely though, the Westside influences are still a major part of the program.
Cube Method: The Actual Program
Let’s take a deeper look into The Cube Method.
As you can see, the Cube Method is not the most straight forward program. In terms of basic structure, you have one day per week dedicated to each of the powerlifts. A fourth training day is added where you employ bodybuilding style movements to address muscular weaknesses.
The program is run in three week waves. Each week, you rotate the type of work you do on each of the main movements. In Week One, you might do speed work for the squat. In Week Two, you might do rep work. In Week Three, you’d finish off with heavy work. During each training week, each lift is trained in a different style. That is, you never go heavy on two movements in the same week nor do you ever do speed work on two main movements in the same week. Everything is rotated and waved throughout the three week cycles.
The program contains three, three week waves in all. Each wave reduces the volume a little bit and increases the intensity a little bit. Overtime, you work your way from slightly higher volumes and slightly lighter weights to slightly heavier weights and slightly lower volumes.
If you’re looking for a Cube Method calculator, BlackIronBeast is your best bet.
Because the Cube Method is an actual powerlifting program, it is designed as a 10 week cycle. Every ten weeks, you’re supposed to compete and/or do a gym mock meet to test your new 1RMs. As such, the program is structured around peaking in the 10th week. The last three week wave features less overall volume and heavier overall weights to accommodate this fact.
The peaking plan for meet week is brutally simple.
As you can see, you basically just fully deload in the last week with a few light sessions before the meet. This isn’t a sophisticated peak, but it will work well enough for most.
The Cube Method does employ periodization to some extent. For each lift, a different physical quality is focused upon in each of the three weeks that make up every cycle. One week is dedicated to max strength, one week is dedicated to hypertrophy, and one week is dedicated to speed-strength.
However, the program does not periodize all exercises with a focus on the same physical quality simultaneously. Just as an example, if you’re doing a max strength bench week, you’re doing a hypertrophy squat week, and a speed-strength deadlift week. So while each individual lift is periodized, in reality, the totality of the training employs concurrent periodization where all physical qualities are developed simultaneously.
Remember, concurrent periodization is typically most appropriate for beginners, but, in this case, the period is three weeks long. Because of that fact, the program is most appropriate for late stage intermediate and advanced lifters.
The overall programmatic structure of The Cube is typical of old school American powerlifting programs. Each lift is featured once per week. Due to the fact that a different quality is trained for each lift during each week, you also get substantial variation in intensity and volume from session to session.
In fact, per lift, you also get substantial variation in volume and intensity from week to week. Each mesocycle in the program contains three weeks and they’re all substantially different from each other in terms of loading and volume for each lift. Because of this, The Cube can be used profitably even by advanced athletes. At the same time, late stage intermediates can still get a lot out of the program because of the concurrent periodization aspects contained in the assistance and due to the rotation of qualities trained throughout the week.
The one thing you can’t criticize The Cube Method for is specificity. This program is thoroughly aimed at powerlifting. The entire program is structured around the Big Three and the vast majority of assistance comes through closely related movements such as block pulls, deficit pulls, closegrip bench, Olympic squats, and other similar variations.
The one knock I would give the program in terms of specificity is that, in my opinion, a bit too much of the overall volume of the program comes from the assistance rather than coming from doing work on the competition lifts.
I also think there is probably a bit too much bodybuilding fluff, but this is typical of virtually all American programs. American powerlifters generally get their start through bodybuilding and, because of this, much of American powerlifting culture is informed through bodybuilding. Many of these guys never drop the supersets and giant sets for their arms, lateral delts, and what have you. For powerlifting, this stuff isn’t really necessary or specific, but it does serve an important function as GPP.
The Cube Method is a percentage based program. That is, you need to know your maxes in order to run the program properly. After each training cycle, a new max is taken and your next training cycle is calculated based on this number.
After each three week wave of The Cube, the %s on all main exercises is increased by 5% (the only exception is Rep Day in Wave 2 is increased 10%). This is progressive overload. The lifter is progressively taken from slightly more volume at lighter percentages to heavier weights at slightly lower volumes.
The program goes to pain-staking lengths to ensure program recovery. I doubt very many people will have trouble recovering on this program. You perform each lift only once per week and, each week, you only go heavy on one movement. You’re never killing yourself on everything at the same time.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say this program does too much in the way of recovery. For most unenhanced lifters, routines like The Cube don’t work optimally. They generally need much more frequency than hitting a lift one time per week. They generally need more volume than can be done in a single session. They cannot rely as much on anabolism to drive progress. They have to put in more work. I just don’t think The Cube contains enough overall volume nor do I think doing each lift once per week is optimal.
While Lilly goes out of his way to mention that you should increase the weights if they feel light and decrease them if they feel too heavy, this is the standard, unteachable “listen to your body” advice. There is no way to uniformly or systematically apply autoregulation to Lilly’s program even though he suggests that you do. Essentially, this just means that more experienced lifters will use that experience to autoregulate and less experienced lifters will ignore autoregulation and suffer the consequences. The saving grace is that at least the rep days have rep ranges so there is SOME built-in autoregulation.
This is why I’m such a huge fan of Mike Tuchscherer’s Reactive Training Systems. As far as I know, it is still the only program that actually systemizes and teaches you HOW to autoregulate. “Listen to your body” is nebulous advice that the vast majority of trainees simply cannot apply.
So, while the Cube DOES include aspects of autoregulation, they aren’t systemized. You have to figure it out for yourself. This causes the program to rate as good, but not great on this quality.
I am sure some of you are somewhat confused as to why I said I don’t like the Cube Method. Most of the things I’ve said in this review are fairly positive. Yes, that’s true. Remember, when we evaluate programs, we’re looking at things from a “good, better, best” perspective.
The Cube Method is a fundamentally sound program. Generally speaking, it covers all the bases. However, my personal biases run amuck here. I just don’t believe in once per week frequency on the main lifts. I just don’t believe in getting the vast majority of your volume from assistance lifts. I think technical mastery requires more weekly exposures to each movement and I think that maximizing specificity mandates that a large chunk of your volume should come from the actual competition movements.
Overall, you’re definitely not going to go wrong with the Cube Method. I’d be surprised if you didn’t make progress on it actually. I just don’t think it is optimal, though.
Next, we’re going to tackle a juggernaut… The Juggernaut Method that is! I’ve received a lot of requests to review this program. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t even know what the program is; I’ve never looked into it. I am excited to do some research and see what I find. Hopefully this will be an as interesting of a review for you guys as it is for me.
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Table of Contents
Powerlifting Programs I: Scientific Principles of Powerlifting Programming
Powerlifting Programs II: Critical Training Variables
Powerlifting Programs III: Training Organization
Powerlifting Programs IV: Starting Strength
Powerlifting Programs V: StrongLifts 5×5
Powerlifting Programs VI: Jason Blaha’s 5×5 Novice Routine
Powerlifting Programs VII: Jonnie Candito’s Linear Program
Powerlifting Programs VIII: Sheiko’s Novice Routine
Powerlifting Programs IX: GreySkull Linear Progression
Powerlifting Programs X: The PowerliftingToWin Novice Program
Powerlifting Programs XI: Madcow’s 5×5
Powerlifting Programs XII: The Texas Method
Powerlifting Programs XIII: 5/3/1 and Beyond 5/3/1
Powerlifting Programs XIV: The Cube Method
Powerlifting Programs XV: The Juggernaut Method
Powerlifting Programs XVI: Westside Barbell Method
Powerlifting Programs XVII: Sheiko Routines
Powerlifting Programs XVIII: Smolov and Smolov Junior
Powerlifting Programs XIX: Paul Carter’s Base Building
Powerlifting Programs XX: The Lilliebridge Method
Powerlifting Programs XXI: Jonnie Candito’s 6 Week Strength Program
Powerlifting Programs XXII: The Bulgarian Method for Powerlifting
Powerlifting Programs XXIII: Brian Carroll’s 10/20/Life
Powerlifting Programs XXIV: Destroy the Opposition by Jamie Lewis
Powerlifting Programs XXV: The Coan/Philippi Deadlift Routine
Powerlifting Programs XXVI: Korte’s 3×3
Powerlifting Programs XXVII: RTS Generalized Intermediate Program