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Dragon Door Interviews Iron Maiden Beth Andrews, Senior RKC and PCC Instructor

July 19, 2013 10:30 AM

Senior RKC Beth Andrews Demonstrates a Pistol with a 24kg kettlebell
Dragon Door: How did you first decide to try the Iron Maiden Challenge?

Beth Andrews: I was intrigued by the strength challenge of the Iron Maiden. I registered for the April RKC Level II in 2012, and had only three months to prepare. After testing myself to see if I was close enough with the three lifts, I decided to train for the Iron Maiden. In January, I could pistol with a 18kg kettlebell, and do a pull up with 20kg, but my press was ugly. I couldn’t press the 24kg for the life of me—I had a mental block! I had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.

Pressing hurt my shoulders, so I rarely pressed. Instead, I did bottoms up holds, overhead holds, and then would try to work on lighter pressing. When I would attempt pressing heavier bells, my shoulder would hurt to the point where I had to stop! To train the pistol, I did a lot of half reps, heavy negatives, and isometric holds in the bottom position with a 32kg. I also did many reps with bodyweight only. For pull ups, I practiced flex-arm hangs with 24kg and 28kg kettlebells. I also worked on 5 sets of 5, and 5 sets of 3. And I did 5 to 1 countdowns starting with a light bell and 5 reps, working down to using 20kgs for the last rep.

Two weeks before the test date, I was able to hit all three lifts, more than once. So, I felt comfortable enough to give it a shot. I still had doubts about the press, and the pistol was still a grind, but I owned the pull up.

At the Iron Maiden Challenge, I missed my press right off the bat, but the pull up was actually easy. I attempted the press a second time, and even though both attempts went up, I got two thumbs down and was disqualified. I wasn’t crushed because I didn't complete the Iron Maiden Challenge—I gave it a shot and had come a long way in a short amount of time. This was really only the beginning for me--I was close, and knew that it wasn’t over. As Arnold would say, "I’ll be back."

A little while later, I was excited to attend a bodyweight workshop lead by Max Shank. I planned to drain his brain about everything to do with improving my press. He recommended handstand push ups and deadlifting. He made it very clear that when I could perform handstand push ups, I would be able to double press 24kg kettlebells. He said it, I believed it, so I did it. It was an easy plan, and it worked! I also added in bridging to increase my shoulder mobility. I followed this routine for three months, and I’ll be damned, but I double pressed the 24kg for 5 sets of single reps.

Dragon Door: Your pull-ups always look so strong, and that seems to be the biggest challenge for most women. What's your secret?

Beth Andrews: I've just always spent a lot of time doing pull-ups—at least three days a week, they're always in my program. It's either bodyweight pull-ups or sets of two or five with weight. I'm always finding a way to hang off a bar and love to try different grips. It feels good to me and I love the movement, it seems like something I'm built to do. Most everyone in my family can do pull-ups really well and have a similar build. So maybe it runs in my family! But, I definitely struggle with the other two lifts.

Dragon Door: What's your advice for someone who wants to try the Iron Maiden Challenge?

Beth Andrews: First, go for it. But, you need a plan and you need to stick to it. Be very patient, it takes a while. Everyone is different so everyone’s training will be different. You can’t train for other goals when training for Iron Maiden—other goals just don’t mix well with it. At my first attempt, I only trained with kettlebells, but the second time through, I needed to be stronger. I built a strength base using deadlifts, handstand pushups, one arm push ups, bridging, back squats, along with kettlebells. I wanted to own the lifts.

My advice is to build a solid strength base first, be patient with the progressions, and don’t try to mix the Iron Maiden goal with other goals. For example, I wouldn't run a Tough Mudder race, or enter a bench press meet while training for the Iron Maiden.

Dragon Door: What did you have to give up for your Iron Maiden training?

Beth Andrews: I gave up everything that didn't feed into the three lifts, and added FMS corrective/mobility drills. On my first Iron Maiden attempt the press was my weak link because of shoulder mobility issues. On the second attempt, my pistol became the weak link even though I could do the lift. It was a slow grind because of recurring hip imbalances, and rotary instability issues I had.

At the CK-FMS I discovered that my score was below average, and learned I had many stability issues. This is where Andrew Read played a huge part in my success by creating a specific plan, based off my FMS score and from what he saw on videos of my three lifts. Six weeks out from the Iron Maiden challenge, Andrew set me up with a three-day-a-week program. His program was designed to build strength, create stability, and improve my movement patterns.

I did kettlebell-based FMS correctives and would finish each workout with pistols. I was curious if the hip pain would still hinder my pistols, if I would have to live on the foam roller, and get chiropractic adjustments. But, I didn’t have to do that this time. I actually enjoyed the training because my hip didn’t hurt during pistol practice. Soon, it was just a matter of maintaining the press and pull up, which actually got stronger as well. Andrew is an awesome coach! I chased strength the first time without any attention to movement. The second time, I established quality movement patterns and gained quality strength.

Dragon Door: The recent Beast Tamer, Jason Kapnick, also worked on his mobility in order to do a pistol with the 48kg Beast. Of course strength is important, but there are obviously other pieces to the puzzle.

Beth Andrews: That’s what became very clear to me. My first attempt was a strength chase, and I'm definitely not a whiner but my shoulders and hips would hurt and I was having to foam roll my hip and back all the time. After my first attempt, I was on a mission to figure out my issues. I was talking to everybody and picking their brains.

It was definitely a journey, and I learned that strength wasn’t the issue. I had a lot of mobility and stability issues with my shoulders and hips which were causing pain, along with muscle imbalances. I wish I had worked with the FMS sooner. Quality movement must be established first, before you can truly unleash your strength. I'm moving much better and it’s amazing how the mobility/stability foundation has carried over into strength gains in other exercises.

Dragon Door: How did it feel to complete the Iron Maiden Challenge at the RKC workshop hosted at your gym?

Beth Andrews: It was cool. I felt like I had the home field advantage. By the way, the RKC was so much fun. I liked that the workshop was small—we really got to know each other better and really connected, even on the first day. We had so much extra time because we didn't have to herd over 100 people. I also liked how Max Shank spent a lot of time on programming—what to do with our clients, and what not to do. I felt like this was so important for people who were getting certified for the first time.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to like a smaller RKC workshop, because I thought it might lose its oomph. But, there was just as much excitement. Russ DJ’d the grad workout, and everybody had so much fun. I think fun needs to be a part of the RKC.

Dragon Door: What's your next goal?

Beth Andrews: I took a break from my one-arm chin-up training to get ready for the Iron Maiden, so now I'm just going to chill out and enjoy some bodyweight training before going for my one-arm chin-up. I’m really excited about getting back into bodyweight training, because that’s when I actually feel the best. In the next three weeks I’ll get focused with my goals, but for now I'm just going to give myself a break and enjoy playing with different movements.

I have a tendency to get too serious about my training, and sometimes stop having fun with it. When I came back from the PCC Workshop, I realized that I need to stop being so serious and start having more fun in my own training. I've always made sure that we had a lot of fun with the people we train and lead in classes, but not necessarily in my own training. I also hope to bring that same fun and energy to the upcoming HKC Workshops I'm leading.

Dragon Door: I loved the energy at the PCC. It was a lot of fun, but very effective.

Beth Andrews: The PCC was amazing. I thought it set the stage for a new direction for the RKC too, if that makes sense. In past RKC workshops I remember being almost afraid to fail. At the RKC we just had at my gym, everyone was cheering each other on just like we did at the PCC. Everyone was helping each other, and everybody was allowed to share their ideas. It was refreshing. The new RKC has community, support, and great energy between the instructors. It’s easy to find quality instruction from very knowledgeable leaders throughout the RKC.
Senior RKC, Beth Andrews is a gym owner and instructor at:
Maximum Body Training
41 S. Public Square Cartersville, Georgia 30120
Maximum Body Training on Facebook