Muscles of Iron

Close Encounters WithBrooks Kubik

Cover Photo

Brooks kubik with three eight-foot chains wrapped around his waist, circa 2006.

One cold winter day, when I was about 20 years old, I made my first visit to Walt's Olympic Gym. This training facility was located in the basement of the Mid City Mall on Bardstown Road, and at the time it was the mecca of heavy lifting in the Louisville area. The gym was equipped with 14 York Olympic sets, a plethora of benches, three squat racks, a lifting platform, a dumbbell rack with solid bells going up to 120 pounds, a chinning bar, and much of the usual bodybuilding equipment.

Although there were many strong guys who trained at Walt's, there was one muscular fellow in particular who stood out from the crowd. He wore thick black glasses, and he had an aura about him that portrayed confidence, inner strength, know-how, and intelligence. If the gym had a leader, this guy seemed to fit the bill.

I trained only a short time at Walt's Olympic Gym before moving to Youngstown, Ohio to attend engineering school. But, after graduating from Youngstown State University, I was offered a job in Louisville and I moved back there. One of the first things I did after returning to the Derby City was to buy a membership at the gym in the Mid-City Mall, only by this time it was called Bud's Gym. Bud had been the manager of the original gym, but he became the owner of the training facility after Walt Oster, the first owner, decided to sell.

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Brooks Kubik with arms crossed and hanging over a barbell resting on stands.
Brooks posing for the cover shot of Gray Hair and Black Iron, circa 2009. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

Three or four days a week, after work, I would drive straight to Bud's Gym for a workout. I typically arrived at the gym between 5:30 and 6:00 pm, and I preferred to start things off in my favorite power rack, a cage type. However, gaining quick access to this rack often was no easy task, but not because it was popular with the crowd; it wasn't. Rather, there was one really strong guy who usually arrived at the gym about the same time I did, and he was a power-rack fanatic. As such, he often occupied my favorite piece of training equipment for what seemed the longest time, performing set after set of heavy squats, deadlifts, or bench presses, depending upon what day of the week it was. It was the same guy with the thick glasses who had caught my attention some years earlier.

The poundages this muscular fellow used during his power rack training were very intimidating, and rare was the gym member who would attempt to invade his territory while he was hard at work. I, for one, took a back seat when this mighty man was hitting it hard inside the steel cage. He was the alpha dog of the gym and ruler of the power rack. Soon I would know him as Brooks Kubik.

While I didn't like waiting for Brooks to finish up before beginning my own rack training, I came to realize that I was learning a great deal about productive strength building by observing him in action. He did multiple sets on the three powerlifts, often working up to heavy singles or concluding with heavy partials. Brooks also often performed the bench press and the squat with the barbell resting in the bottom position at the start of a set. This technique intrigued me, and it didn't take me long to figure out that it builds stupendous strength.

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Brooks Kubik wearing a low-cut, sleeveless shirt and showing his bulging chest and arm muscles.
An awesome shot of the Dino Man when he was doing lots of bodyweight training, circa 2006. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

In the gym, Brooks trained like a wild animal. His concentration was fierce, and before a heavy set he approached the bar like his life depended on lifting it. With dinosaur-like growls and groans, he virtually attacked his barbell in frenzy, calming only after he had successfully conquered the weight at hand. His training was quite a sight, motivating to the ambitious and darn right intimidating to the squeamish.

Unlike most of the other lifters in the gym, Brooks engaged in virtually no conversation during his workouts. His focus was 100% devoted to building muscle and strength, and socializing during a training session was never his style. However, after his workout Brooks would often stick around the gym for a friendly discussion with a fellow training mate or two. Occasionally, I would get close enough to listen in, and I became impressed with Brooks' intelligence and wide-range of knowledge. He would often talk about current interests and politics, and it was clear that he was well read and a deep thinker. Brooks also had much to say about oldtime strongmen and the history of physical culture. These two interests appeared to be a leading passion of his, and eavesdropping in on his conversations gave me an introduction to Dinosaur Training a few years before Brooks would pen his now famous book of the same name.

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Brooks Kubik holding on to two Gorilla ropes with a reverse grip.
Brooks performing “Gorilla Grip” pull-ups, 2006. This exercise is “BIG medicine” for building mighty forearms. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

I came to learn that Brooks not only was a strongman and five-time national bench press champion in drug-free competition, he was highly regarded in other fields as well. In fact, his list of accomplishments was nothing short of mind boggling to me. While a high school lad in Dayton, Kubik excelled in wrestling and was the champion of Illinois in Greco Roman Style. After finishing high school, Brooks attended undergraduate school at Wilmington College of Ohio where he graduated in 1979 summa cum laude. The weightlifter then entered law school at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. There, Brooks served as an editor on the Law Review before graduating in 1982. Upon earning his law degree, Brooks moved to Louisville, Kentucky where he joined Stites & Harbison, one of the largest law firms in the Southeast. As a lawyer, Brooks devoted his practice to employment law and commercial litigation, and he became a widely regarded author and speaker in his chosen field. And, as if that wasn't enough, the big fellow became a noted strength writer, penning early works with Stuart McRobert and regularly contributing articles to Hardgainer magazine.

During the time period when I trained alongside with Brooks at Bud's Gym, I don't recall a single time that I had conversation with him. Once, however, I was experimenting with a technique to accelerate progress on my weaker side, and I was performing the seated press with more weight on the left end of the bar than on the right end. Prior to one particular set, Brooks spotted the uneven bar and he rushed over to me with a most horrid look on his face. “Whoa!”, he gasped out at me. “You don't have the plates evenly distributed. That is unsafe.” He then insisted that I adjust the weights to make them perfectly symmetrical before continuing on with my training. That was the only direct encounter I can recall having with Brooks at Bud's Gym.

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Brooks Kubik holding an extended handstand position while his upper-body muscles bulge.
Brooks demonstrating timed holds in the extended position of the handstand. This exercise provides a “massifying” effect on the shoulders, arms, and upper back. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

Before the release of Dinosaur Training in 1996, I had left Bud's Gym and I was not aware that Brooks was at work writing his first strength book. But, one day in the late 1990's I was at home reading a copy of Iron Man at my kitchen table, and I stumbled across an advertisement in the magazine which offered a smorgasbord of bodybuilding and strength books for sale. After looking at ads for each of the many books available for purchase, four survived my final round of elimination, and I placed an order for them. The four books I selected for purchase were Static Contraction Training by Peter Sisco and John Little, Ironman's Home Gym Handbook by Steve Holman, Loaded Guns by Larry Scott, and Dinosaur Training — Lots Secrets of Strength and Development by Brooks Kubik.

Although I greatly respected Brooks, in the late 1990s I didn't regard him as a mentor or great teacher. He was just a local lifter, albeit a good one, so I thought. In fact, I can remember being wary about my decision to include Dinosaur Training among the four books on my order list. Before including it, I even sought counsel from a training friend, and he strongly advised me not to purchase the book, saying doing so would be “a total waste of money.” But, I sensed that my friend was more jealous of Brooks than an objective critic, and fortunately I elected not to follow his ill-advised recommendation.

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Dressed as a warrior with sword in hands, Brooks Kubik poses for the cover of his book, “Horatius”.
Horatius was Brooks' first non-weightlifting book and is one of his favorite stories. This gripping novel relates the true story of an epic battle which took place in Ancient Rome. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

I couldn't wait to receive my book package from Iron Man, and when it finally arrived in the mail I opened it immediately in full anticipation. First up on my reading list was Loaded Guns, and I must say to this day I think that this is one of the most insightful and idea-provoking bodybuilding books I have come across. The Sisco/Little booklet, which totals a mere 43 pages, was selected second for reading. It, too, stimulated me with new training ideas, and this work continues to influence my training philosophy. The third book of the quartet I read was the Holman text, and it lived up to its subtitle as being “A Complete Guide to Training At Home.”

When I finally got ready to read Dinosaur Training, I was a little taken aback after I saw that the text didn't contain any photos. This didn't seem right for a strength-building book, but I figured that a manuscript should be judged by what it says rather than by how many pictures it has. And, with this thought in mind, I plunged into the book with only moderate expectations that it would become a personal favorite.

Before I turned more than a handful of pages upon my first read of Dinosaur Training, I was overwrought with interest. Straightaway, through his humorous and satirical style, Brooks pulled me deeply into a new world of training, one which hitherto was virtually foreign to me. I quickly came to realize that I was holding a revolutionary book in my hands—even though the principles it is based on are old school. But, it was Brooks' ingenious way of presenting the old ideas and codifying them into a coherent system, i.e., Dinosaur Training, which brought new life and greater meaning to the practices of the oldtime strongmen. I was hooked, and before I finished the first half of his book, Brooks had become my mentor and a new favorite author.

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Cover of “Dinosaur Training—Lost Secrets of Strength and Development”, by Brooks Kubik.
Dinosaur Training — the work that brought old-time lifting back to life, and one of the best strength-building books of all time. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

Dinosaur-style training soon became a central theme in my workouts, and the training system did much to improve my progress in the gym. Excited with my new gains in size and strength, I went on a campaign to learn more about the methods of training that Brooks promoted. This quest led me to The Dinosaur Files, a monthly newsletter published by Kubik and dedicated to “Hard Work, Heavy Iron, and Super Strength.”

To this day, I consider the original Dinosaur Files, which ran from August, 1997 through August, 2002, to be among the best and most informative periodicals devoted to the obtainment of muscle and strength ever published. My only regret is that I didn't sign up to receive the newsletter until July, 2001, near the end of its run. Nevertheless, studying the 14 issues that I amassed taught me much about the value of Olympic-style lifting and greatly expanded my knowledge of productive physical training. I still regard these issues as a sacred muscle-building scripture.

In the final issue of the original Dinosaur Files, Brooks wrote:

“This year [2002] has been the busiest year of my practice since 1988, and I anticipate being a very busy attorney for the foreseeable future. There is nothing at all wrong with that; indeed, it is an excellent thing for a lawyer to be busy. After all, the world recognizes your worth by sending clients to your door. But my ever increasing work-load, combined with more out of town business travel than in previous years, has made it impossible to continue to put out monthly product as ambitious as a 20 or 24 page issue of The Files.”

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Brooks Kubik demonstrating a heavy dumbbell exercise.
Brooks demonstrating one of many “forgotten” exercises in his video, The Lost Art of Dumbbell Training. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

Brooks' statement was a sad ending to what arguably was one of the best strength-building periodicals the world has ever known. But, his portrayed conflicts had a deeper meaning to me than perhaps they did to most other readers of his newsletter. It was evident that Brooks' job as an attorney was demanding, relatively inflexible, and a huge consumer of both time and energy. I respected this, and his devotion to his career and family gave him a practical knowledge of “real world” training limitations that most of us working folks must abide by. He wasn't just another personal trainer, “Mr. Everything” winner, or “arm-chair” technician clueless of the special requirements of hard-working, family oriented, drug-free, and genetically-typical strength athletes. Nope, Brooks faced the same hardships, restraints, stresses, and challenges in life that most of us do, perhaps to even a greater extent. This scenario was reflected in the practical training methods he recommended and employed, and the advice he offered was (and still is) almost always compatible with normal living.

In 2006, Brooks shock up the iron-slinging world when he announced on his website that had abandoned his barbells in favor of bodyweight training as his primary means for building muscle and gaining strength. I have no first-hand knowledge of what motive prompted Brooks to make this switch. However, I can say that I purchased both a copy of Dinosaur Bodyweight Training and a one-year membership to the now defunct Dinosaur Inner Circle, and in both cases I came out the better for it. For those of you who may not be familiar, the Inner Circle was a private internet forum Brooks offered to bring like-minded people together for discussion about productive strength training.

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Brooks Kubik demonstrating the Double Leg Raise exercise while holding onto two thick ropes.
Dinosaur Bodyweight Training should be studied by every serious student of strength training and physical culture. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

Like Brooks' first book, Dinosaur Bodyweight Training was a real eye opener. It proved to me that you really can build significant muscle and strength without weights by just overcoming gravity with your own body mass. I also learned many new ways to make my training more progressive other than by merely adding weight to a bar. Most importantly, perhaps, the mental lessons emphasized in Brooks' manual did much to strengthen my training will, a factor which to this day continues to help me achieve new personal strength records on a regular basis, both as a bodyweight performer and as a weight lifter.

Becoming a member of the Dinosaur Inner Circle was literally a life-enhancing experience for me. Participating in its forum discussions not only expanded my knowledge of bodyweight and barbell training, but also provided me with a medium and audience to gain writing skills and receive invaluable feedback. I probably overdid my presence on the writing circuit, but looking back I can see that penning posts for the Dinosaur Inner Circle was my first big step that led to the making of Oldtime Lifting, my first website. Writing posts for the Inner Circle and holding discussions with fellow members also helped me to organize and integrate my own thoughts about physical training, a process that brought clarity and additional progress to my muscle-building ambitions.

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Brooks Kubik performing a pushup with one leg elevated from the ground and with both hands on a medium-sized ball.
Brooks demonstrating the One-Legged Ball Buster Pushup via his video, Dinosaur Push Ups. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

Once again committed to iron slinging, Brooks brought The Dinosaur Files back to life in May, 2010. The revived issues included lots of photographs, and the Dino Man encouraged guest writers to submit articles for consideration. The new publication was terrific, and regular contributors included Brooks, John Wood, Jim Duggan, Kevin Dye, Peter Yates, Mark Lario, and a number of other strength-minded experts.

With encouragement from Brooks, I also contributed a few articles to his new newsletter. They were among the first full-feature pieces that I penned, and seeing them published in The Files did much to boost my confidence and development as a writer.

On a few occasions when I was preparing articles for The Dinosaur Files or for my website, Brooks invited me to his beautiful home for discussion and review. During each visit, he was a most gracious host, and his optimistic and boundless energy was most inspiring and contagious.

I found Brooks to be extremely intelligent and well versed in a wide variety of subjects. The Kubik household is stocked with all kinds of books, and the Dino Man is an avid reader. Brooks also possesses a phenomenal memory, and he can recall all sorts of dates, names, and facts with seemingly ease. Get him started talking about physical culture history and you might as well pull up a chair and prepare to listen for hours at a stretch. But, I guarantee that you won't be bored. Brooks is a master story teller, and when you listen to him speak it isn't long before you jump out of your seat in total anticipation and interest.

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Cover of “The Dinosaur Files”, January, 2011.
The Dinosaur Files is one of the most informative muscle-building periodicals ever published. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

One of my fondest memories of the Kubik household is from a time I visited in preparation for reviewing Black Iron, a sensational book about John Davis, which, at the time, Brooks had recently finished writing. I was floored when I saw the size of the new work, and I was even more pleased when I saw the high quality of the manuscript. Brooks also gave me much private discussion about John Davis, and I could tell that he poured his heart and soul into his writing about him. Black Iron remains one of my favorite strength books, and its narrative fiction format really brings to life the competitive weightlifting scene during the years which John Davis was generally considered to be the strongest man in the world and American weightlifting was at its top height.

Another fond memory I have is of a time that Brooks graciously took me and Mark Lario, a fellow Dino, out to dinner. We went to the Bristol Bar & Grille on Bardstown Road, one of Brooks' favorite restaurants. During a tasty feast, the three of us had all sorts of discussions about the strength training scene. But, the highlight of the evening was a story Brooks told Mark and me about a brief encounter he had with two champion bodybuilders some years ago. Here is the story as I remember it:

It was the summer of '78, and Brooks was working a summer job at a place called Lakeside on Lake Erie while on break from college. Lakeside on Lake Erie is a resort located on the shores in northern Ohio. During the 1930's it was a fun little place, but by the time Brooks worked there it had seen better days.

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Brooks Kubik is clinched in an animal-like posture and staring at his barbell just prior to a set of heavy squats.
Brooks just prior to doing a heavy set of barbell squats, circa 2001. Note his white-hot concentration. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

One day, Brooks was off from work and he wanted to train. The problem was he didn't have a car, and he didn't want to walk five miles to and back from the town of Lakeside, where there was a “little hole in the wall” gym. So he talked this teenager who worked with him into driving over to the training facility with a promise to teach the fellow how to workout.

Brooks' co-worker hesitated and declared, “I don't know if I want to go to that gym; I'm kind of skinny, and I'm not built or anything. The other guys are all muscled and everything. I'll look out of place.”

Brooks eased the kid's tension by telling him, “Oh no — it's the guys you go to high school with — normal guys just like you. Come on; let's go!”

So, out they went to that “little shack of a gym” in Lakeside, ready to pump some iron. But, when Brooks and his skinny acquaintance entered the place, they quickly saw in the corner of the gym two brutally huge guys working out. The teenager turned to Brooks and said, “That's it,” and he never came back.

Meanwhile, inside of the gym all of the regular members present were just sitting there watching the two huge men train. Among these folks were an older guy and his son, perhaps nine or ten years old. Finally, the boy asked his dad if he could go up to the two huge men and get their autographs. His dad granted approval, so the boy grabbed a brown paper lunch bag and a pen and went up to one of the big fellows and said, “Who are you?” The big fellow replied in an almost robotic tone, “MR.AMERICA.” The boy was amazed and uttered, “Can I have your autograph?” “Sure,” replied the massive bodybuilder, and the boy handed him his paper bag and pen. The big guy then signed his name and title on the bag and returned it and the pen to the boy.

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Brooks Kubik performing Double Rope Pull Ups.
Brooks performing the Double Rope Pull-Up with three thick eight-foot chains wrapped around his body for added resistance, circa 2006. Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.

The astonished kid then turned toward the second big fellow and said, “Who are you?” “MR. UNIVERSE,” the heavily muscled man replied with a slow and powerful rhythm. “Wow! Can I have your autograph?” “Sure,” the champion replied, and he added his name and his title to the brown bag.

The boy then walked over to Brooks, and he said, “Who are you?” “Brooks Kubik, State wrestling champion”. Hearing this brought a look of awe to the young kid's face, and he nervously uttered, “Can I have your autograph?” “Sure,” Brooks kindly responded. The boy, clearly excited that he got the autograph of the wrestling champ, then ran over to his dad with his signed paper bag in hand and excitedly shouted, “Look daddy — look what I've got.”

After witnessing the joyous effect Brooks had on the boy, the two champion bodybuilders let loose their super-inflated egos.“ You ruined our autographs,” one of them snapped at Brooks with clinched teeth and a reddened face. This remark left Brooks utterly stunned. He couldn't believe that the two famous bodybuilders were so bothered by the boy's admiration for a wrestler.

The muscle stars, it seemed, thought that Brooks had taken away their glory. “I would have talked with the two famous bodybuilders and asked questions,” Brooks told Mark and me. “But, they were so upset I never uttered a word to them.”

Incidentally, the two champs had been in Northern Ohio for a guest posing exhibition, and they opted to train at the small gym in Lakeside during their visit. At the time, they were two of the hottest physique stars in the world.

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Home page of Brooks Kubik's website, June, 2001.
Shown here is the Home page from one of the first incarnations of Brooks' website (June, 2001). Photograph courtesy of Brooks Kubik.


As I reflect back upon my encounters with Brooks Kubik, I can see that over the years he has imprinted his influence not only upon my training philosophy, but upon my personal growth as well. Thanks Brooks for sharing with me so many wonderful stories and for helping me grow stronger, both physically and intellectually. I will forever remain a Dinosaur, and the lessons I have learned from you continue to guide me well.

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