It wasn’t long after I’d learned about StrongFirst, that I learned about the Iron Maiden Challenge. Within the kettlebell world that is StrongFirst, the Iron Maiden challenge entails doing a chin-up with a 24kg kettlebell hanging from their waist, a single-arm press with the 24 kg kettlebell and a pistol squat with the 24kg kettlebell.
Back then (in 2013) I could barely get one bodyweight chin-up without swinging into it. I had a lot to do before the IronMaiden challenge would even seem semi-realistic, so I decided to get strong, first. 😉
Training for the StrongFirst certification to become an SFG (Strong First Girya instructor) was no walk in the park. But the timed sets of 100 snatches didn’t bother me. Neither did the copious amounts of double kettlebell front squats, or endless TGUs.
The thing that almost annoyed me the most during my Strong first kettlebell training was that because I could already perform the mandatory chin-up (or flexed-arm hang), chin-ups were barely in my program. I was only supposed to do them once a week in my SFG cert training. Once a week was not enough! After training with my coaches at Achieve Fitness in Boston I would actually sometimes sneak in sets of chin-ups at my apartment building’s gym. I had a mild obsession to say the least.
If I wasn’t sneaking in sets of chin-ups I was writing about them, check out this article. After successfully competing the SFG certification I began powerlifting and doing weighted chin-ups about once a week. By August of 2015, I began to do my own programming for a bikini competition in November that would set me up rather well for a powerlifting meet in January.
Since the #bikiniprep strength program commenced simultaneously with the bikini diet in August, I knew that I had the luxury of time. Meaning, I could work on getting the 24 kg chin-up en route to the bikini contest. 16 weeks is a good amount of time to accomplish anything.
And to my luck, it worked rather well, considering I was also losing weight. The less bodyweight I had to pull, the more I could load onto my actual body via a belt. My program had a lot of volume when it came to upper body. The year prior I’d learned that I need to do more volume to build upper body strength, while preparing for my first powerlifting meet and the 24 kg kettlebell press. And as a coach for other women, I find this strategy bodes well for them too.
Each week of the #bikiniprep I did moderate weighted chin-ups, body weight chin-ups for volume and one day of HEAVY chin-ups, in what I’ll call “Week A.”
Week A always had one day of heavy set single chin-ups, like just sets of one rep. Every other week (Week A) I’d go for a new record in the single heavy chin-up, by about 2 kg. In the alternating week, “Week B,” when I’d maintain the same heavy single weight, I’d add in a fourth day of 2-2-2 or 3-2-2 cluster bodyweight chin-ups where I’d focus on perfect form and speed in the chin-up. To add a challenge to the cluster sets, I’d switch my grip trying alternate grips, wide grip or overhand grip.
On September 18th I nailed the 24 kg chin-up. I was 8 weeks-out form the bikini contest. Two weeks after I’d completed it I tried again and got it.
For a year following this feat of strength, I kept chin-ups in my general regime two times a week, minimum. Some weeks I did more, and only three weeks out of the entire year I did less. There were only 2 weeks when I didn’t do any weighted chin-ups.
Operation total upper body obliteration complete ✅ Today's workout included (but was not limited to): # 5×5 bench press 3×8 narrow bench With 4×5 heavy Chins Neutral grip seated rows 4×5 with double kettlebell overhead presses 4×8 Lat pull-down with bicep curls and paused push-ups # And finally, the main attraction: a conditioning circuit (fueled by eating calories and not fighting a deficit): # *light sets of 10 front squats * 20 battle rope slams *12 heavy KB swings (36kg) (5 rounds) ?????? #daretomove #daretolift #mymomdidthiswithme Thankful that my mom was my training partner today!! @copperexplorer58 #chinups #lifetimefitness #indy #benchday #newprogram #powerlifting #powerbuilder #nike #justdoit #npcbikinicompetitor #benchhair
I kept the strength to do the 20 kg kettlebell chin-up whenever I tried it, which was about once a month.
A year ago today I pulled the 24kg kettlebell in a chin-up. As my max-load lifts have been on the back burner for 2 weeks I was curious (thanks #timehop) to see if I could still pull the 20kg at least. So far so good! Gonna go for the 24kg next week! Woo! #Daretomove #weightedchinups #practice #strength #strengthmakeseverythingbetter
In the caption above, it says I was going to go for the 24 kg the “next week,” but I didn’t. That week I decided that I would get back on the #bikiniprep program the following week and start from scratch. The attempt shown in the Instagram post above felt very, very hard and a 4 kg increase to 24 kg, is a big jump. I wanted to knock out the 24 kg chin-up with ease as a 25 year-old. With my 26th birthday rapidly approaching (December 9th) I got on the 8-week program the first week of October.
The program follows a powerlifting format, including a squat, bench and deadlift day. Then, the fourth training day is what I call an “odds and ends day.”
“Week A” has front squats in it, (when I don’t go for super heavy backsquats that week), and moderate weighted chin-ups with an OH press variation. “Week B” omits front squats. If you’ve followed my CROF Weekly Updates, over the years, you’ve pretty much followed me on this program for quite some time.
I won’t spell out the whole program. If you want to see it, go to the “News” tab of my website and tracer back all of the CROF Weekly Updates and you will have the shell of the program. If you want to get on a #Daretomove Program like mine, shoot me an email! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Today I’m writing a quick synopsis of how the last 6 weeks have gone, so that you see what I’ve done to prepare to pull the 24 kg kettlebell next week, the day before Thanksgiving.
Sidenote: if I feel good, I might got for it early, perhaps on Monday or Tuesday. Time will tell!
Below is a summary of the past 6 weeks of training, but only the chin-up schedule, not all the other powerlifts.
I’m sharing this to demonstrate how much time and patience this takes. Please note that I started with a very high level of base strength; for example, I could do 13 bodyweight chin-ups in a row. Anyone can get there, if they practice and commit. Again if you are just starting and want to learn more about the chin-up read this article and shoot me a message to get on your own strength program!
-Bodyweight day: 3×5 Moderate weighted chin-ups with 12.5 pounds
-Moderate weighted day: n/a
-Heavy weighted day: 4 sets of 1 rep with the 30 pound kettlebell, accidentally did one set of 2
-Fourth day– I was traveling–Bodyweight chin-up max test (@ Rebell Conditioning in Chicago) 13 reps
-Bodyweight chin-ups: 6×5 (two sets of 3-2)
-Moderate weighted day: 4×4 with 15 pounds
-Heavy weighted day: 4×1 with 30 pound kettlebell
-Fourth day: Wide-grip 2-2-2 chin-ups on Bench day
-Bodyweight day: 4 sets of 3 chin-up with 2 half reps (confusing, see video below)
-Moderate weighted day: 4×4 chin-ups with 20 pounds
-Heavy weighted day: 3×1 with 35 pounds
-Fourth day: Wide grip chin-ups 3-3-3
-Bodyweight day: 4×5 chin-ups
-Moderate weighted day: 4×4 chin-ups with 20 pounds (same as week 3, but minus one set)
-Heavy weighted day: 2×1 at 35 pounds and 2×1 at 40 pounds, got excited and tried the 45, it was SLOW (see below)
My what a difference 5 pounds makes! Here's the 45 pound kettle bell (struggle city) then the 40 pounder. I managed to get three singles with the 30, one with the 35, then hit these two reps. Wahoo! Oh how I love a good program! Happy Wednesday!! In case you were wondering, both of these are over a third of my bodyweight. #daretomove #strength #strongfirst #daretolift #chinup
-Bodyweight day: 5x 2-2-2 wide-grip
-Moderate weighted day:4×5 with 20 pounds (same as last two weeks but added a rep)
-Heavy weighted day: singles 4×1 at 40 pounds
-Bodyweight day: 3×7 chin-ups, 1 set of 5-2-2
-Moderate weighted day: 3×5 chin-ups with 25 pounds!!!!!
-Heavy weighted day: 2×1 at 18 kg (39.6 pounds), 1 rep at 44 pounds, then 1 rep with 20 kg (44 pounds) + 5 pound weight= 49 pounds!!!
Self-trust is a must. 5.5 weeks ago I started the program that I did 16 weeks out from my first bikini competition. By the 8-weeks out marker, I pulled the 24kg kettlebell. I am less than 3 weeks out from my goal of pulling the 24 kg again, I decided since I pulled It when I was 24, I wanted to pull it when I was 25, and soon I'll be 26. So, basically I'm right on track. This morning I got the 20kg KG with a 5 pound plate, see above. This goes to show you that if you decide to commit to something and trust yourself (believing in your own ability to get it done) you WILL make it happen. Coming for you (again), 24 kg!! #strongfirst #chinups #weightedchinups #datetomove #ironmaidenchinup
Two-weeks out plan:
This present week will be a moderate week as far as the weight goes. The volume will be significant.
-Bodyweight day: 5×5 bodyweight chin-ups.
-Moderate weighted day: 4×5 reps with 20 pounds.
-Heavy weighted day: 5×1 with 40 pounds, may try one rep with 42.5 pounds.
-Fourth day: 3x 2-2-2-2 Wide grip chins
-Bodyweight day : 7×4 Sunday
-Heavy weighted day: 24 kg
-Moderate weighted day: 4×4 at 15 pounds.
I will weigh myself and go for the 24 kg chin-up, whatever day feels best. I’m thinking Tuesday or Wednesday will be the day. Last time I went for the 24 kg chin-up I weighed somewhere between 115-117 pounds. Right now I weigh anywhere between 124-126, thanks to a year of getting stronger and building my glutes (and not currently bikini prepping). The 24 kg kettlebell weighs 52.8 pounds, roughly. I’m going to give it my best. After getting 49 pounds last week, I feel confident in this program– especially after doing it twice now. If this article demonstrates anything it’s that following a strategic program is helpful in attacking your goals. As long as you follow a program to the best of your ability, trust it, and have patience you will achieve your goal!
If you have any specific strength goals and are curious about getting on a program do not hesitate to reach out! I’d love to help! Email me at email@example.com