While I was at RKC Veinna this weekend I was routinely asked if I was going to attempt the Iron Maiden challenge. My training protocols up until the weekend were completely focussed on one goal and one goal alone: passing the RKC. A few things happened on day one of the certification though that promptly gave me the courage to attempt the Iron Maiden challenge. First of all, I watched one of the male RKC Candidates pass the Beast Tamer challenge (which requires men to perform a weighted pull up, pistol squat, and strict military press with the 48kg kettlebell. The word “inspirational” doesn’t even touch how amazing this feat of strength was in real time!). Secondly, I was being encouraged by several different RKC’s to try the challenge just to for the sake of attempting it (and let’s face it, I’m easily persuaded to take on challenges of this nature). Finally, having thought about the fact that I knew I could do the 24kg press and pistol squat, I was curious as to whether or not I could have done the 24kg weighted pull up. While I had not actively trained with a lot of weighted pull ups, I knew I could perform weighted pull ups with a 16kg kettlebell without an issue. So…curiousity had me wondering about just how far off I was from the 24kg weighted pull up itself.
Take a look at the footage below to see the Iron Maiden Challenge form start to finish. I will be making some comments on each video as we go through each movement. First up is the 24kg military press.
I had been practicing heavier military presses for quite some time now. As far as I’m concerned, this press was solid. My only complaint here would be doing it a little too fast. I have a tendency to rush through heavy lifts which has given me problems in the past (in fact, prior to the Iron Maiden challenge, I had actually dropped a 24kg right on top of my right hand while I was attempting a personal record for the 24kg turkish get up. Rushing through it lead to a not so fun feeling. ouch!). So, I should have taken it easy and slowed the pace of the lift down a bit.
Now on to the pistol squat.
The squat looks pretty solid. One thing to note on this particular lift. In order to do a proper pistol squat, the foot that is extended CANNOT touch the ground. I can tell you that this is a little tricky, as there is a tendency to want to elevate yourself quickly out of the single leg squatted position, especially when you are using a heavier weight. Again, rushing through the lift may actually sabotage the precision of your form. Dont’ be afraid of the kettlebell you’re lifting. Take it slow and you’ll lift it with ease.
Finally, the weighted pull up.
Sigh….close but I cannot claim victory. DARN IT! As bummed as I was about not mastering the 24kg weighted pull up, I noticed a few things on this video that I can improve upon to successfully hit it in the future. If you are interested in doing weighted pull ups yourself, pay attention. I believe I figured out the problem here.
1. The kettlebell itself was positioned in front of me instead of behind me. This caused my body to cave inward just enough to limit the amount of core strength I needed to elevate myself above the bar. Remember, pull ups require a lot of core strength, and anything that inhibits the power of your core with weighted pull ups will result in a failure of the lift. I had a number of instructors tell me that had the kettlebell been positioned slightly behind me, I would have had the ability to engage the full power of my core to get myself over the bar. So, the actual position of the weight is important for this lift.
2. This point is kind of related to point number one. While my overall upper body strength is rock solid, my core strength is actually quite limited. I have the tendency to muscle my way through lifts, especially when it comes to pull ups. Focussing on the correct tension patterns into the lats and abdominal muscles may have actually saved this lift from failure. One of my personal goals this training year is to work exclusively on my core strength. I am convinced that working on the core will lead to the 24kg weighted pull up.
3. The lift was rushed. If you notice how I lifted this pull up, I immediately tried to drag myself up from the ground which resulted in my swaying back and forth on the bar. Once you begin to swing like that, it becomes incredibly difficult to center yourself properly. Taking the time to focus, position the kettlebell, and then tensing the core correctly may have resulted in passing the entire Iron Maiden challenge. Sometimes, you just have to slow down and focus to get the job done.
While I am bummed that I did not make it through the Iron Maiden challenge, I know I am only inches away from conquering it. This year, I plan on getting myself fully above that pull up bar with a 24kg kettlebell. I’ll keep yinz all posted on my training logs for that, and if I come up with any other useful pointers for this challenge, I’ll be sure to share them with you all as well! Afterall, this isn’t just about me getting through the Iron Maiden Challenge. I want more women going after this challenge as well! The more the merrier! The stronger the better! 😉
Until next time, remember to eat smart, train hard, and enjoy your life!