Tag Archives: Iron Maiden Challenge

Damn you Squat…I love you really! Part Two

Last week I spoke about teaching myself how to squat all over again leading up to the HKC (Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification) Damn you Squats….I love you really!! Part one. Part two is about training up for the RKC, developing a solid squat, and learning to love them.

Now it was time for the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certification). For the HKC I just had to do 5 Goblet Squats with 12kg Kettlebell. For the RKC the requirements were 5 front squats using two 16kg Kettlebells. It was a big jump for me and I had five months to get it sorted.

Following Andrew Reads Dragon Door Australia programs was fantastic and it got me well and truly ready for the RKC but there is 3420km distance between us. I sent Andrew videos, he gave me feedback but perfecting these damn squats I was on my own. It was challenging, frustrating, annoying and my hate for them was stronger than ever.

Getting closer to the event something incredible happened – I learnt how to engage my glutes and then I learnt how to engage my abs.

I had a light bulb moment – my squats suddenly started to get easier! No more stripper moves!! I was moving in and out of the position a lot smoother, I felt more balanced. I was starting to enjoy doing squats!!

There is light at the end of the tunnel

After successfully completing the RKC and being told that I had a great looking squat. I still felt I had room for improvement, which I continue to work on today.

When I got back from the US I took some time off training, evaluated what I wanted to do next and set my new goals. These goals are to increase my strength, to train up for the Iron Maiden challenge and RKCII.

Andrew wrote me a new strength program to help me towards my goals and it has barbell squats in it. Part one of this blog describes my woeful attempt at barbell squats a few years ago, so I was a little scared/excited to give them another crack.

I tentatively walked up to the bar, I started with 40kg to get the feel for them, I placed the bar across my shoulders/upper back, I stepped back and pushed out a few reps…they felt awesome! I was getting wonderful depth, I felt balanced and in control. I put the weight up to 50kg and finished my sets. Each week I kept increasing the weights 55kg, 57.5kg, 60kg. 60kg is very challenging for me. I would like to get up to 65kg or even 70kg, which would be very cool.

I have come a long way since my early days. No one had a magic wand to wave above me, there were no shortcuts taken; it was simply hard work and determination that got me to where I am today. Being the perfectionist that I am I will always find ways to improve my skills, I’m still reading everything that I can get my hands on. The knowledge that I gained throughout the progress I now pass onto my clients, I know exactly what they are going through and can sincerely encourage them on.

To take home:

  • To get better at squats you need to learn and understand the movement. 
  • Teach yourself bodyweight squats first – do many sets but at low repetitions, if you keep the reps low you will stay focused on the technique and your mind won’t wander. 
  • You don’t want to do heaps all at once because you always want to maintain good technique. There is no point practising bad technique because all it will teach you at the end of the day is bad technique. 
  • Work on your flexibility, being flexible will help a great deal with the movement – stretch your hips, glutes, thighs, hamstrings, upper and lower back, and chest. 
  • If you have poor mobility issues in your ankle and hips work on improving it.
  • Squats are a grind exercise, which means it should be performed slow and controlled. If you perform the exercise fast, you will not be engaging the muscles correctly. 
  • Once you have mastered body weight squats, start doing Goblet Squats, full description of them is in part one of this blog. 
  • Get an RKC instructor to help you and video yourself so you can see what you look like while doing them. 
  • Last thing – practice, practice, practice, constantly visualize the movement through your mind and don’t give up. As painful as squats can be you will eventually perfect it and all your hard work will be worth it in the end, you may even learn to love them like me.

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Damn you Squats…I love you really!! Part one

When I first started working in the fitness industry, like most trainers my knowledge was limited. The programs I wrote for myself as well as for my client were incredibly basic, textbook and bodybuilding orientated.

I remember doing a workout years ago – it was legs day. I did your standard leg press, leg extension, leg curl, some lunges, calf raises as well as barbell squats. I was pretty rapt in myself when I did 20 reps with 40 or 50kg but I hang my head in shame now as the movement was pretty limited, I don’t think I even got to 90°. I thought I was strong!! I had no idea what strength was all about.

It wasn’t until I started getting into kettlebells (2009) that I started to learn about strength. My education started for the first time. I read everything I could get my hands on, from books, articles, blogs, forums, if it was about kettlebells and strength training I was reading it. One of my favourite reads was Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline, this opened my eyes up to a whole new world. Why wasn’t I taught this incredible information at TAFE!!

To train up for the HKC (Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification) and the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certification) I had to relearn how to squat, I had never been passed 90°. We all know how to squat; it is a very natural movement for us, if we never learnt how to squat as toddlers we would never have progressed towards walking. So we all know how too, but some of us just lost the ability or should I say forgot.

It was hard work for me, my legs were weak, and my mobility and stability was weak. I had a hate relationship with them. I don’t know how many Goblet Squats I did leading up to the HKC I lost count!! I kept doing “stripper squats”, this is when your hips come up first then your upper body follows. I didn’t know how to use my body as a whole.

If you have never seen a Goblet Squat before, here is how you do it. With two hands grab a Kettlebell by its horns; hold it to your chest. Keep your shoulders back and down, lats tight, chest up, elbow tucked to your sides. Before you descend zip up your abs and squeeze your glutes.

Slowly lower yourself; you want to imagine you are pulling yourself down into position with your hips, glutes and abs. Keep your weight on your heels and once you are in the bottom position, keep squeezing your glutes and abs.

Push through your heels and big toe and slowly ascend to the starting position. Through the range of motion your chest stays up, shoulders back and your back stays flat.  You want the motion to be straight down and up, not backwards. If you find it hard to keep your body upright put the weight down and instead hold onto a sturdy frame and practice the motion with just your body weight. Also get help from an RKC instructor for more advice, help and tips.

Daily, I started doing the Goblet Squat stretch, I would just hang out in the bottom position pushing my elbows against my knees, pushing my chest forward and squeezing my shoulders backs. I repeated this for many repetitions. Eventually, holding this position became easy and coming out of it became easier.

I passed the HKC with acceptable Goblet Squats.

My hate for squats was still strong; I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me for the RKC. My mind was set I was going to conquer these damn squats! Next week I will send out part two of this blog, training my squats for the RKC.


Filed under Kettlebells, Training

The Three Week Curse

A few months back I told my Kettlebell Coach Andrew Read from Dragon Door Australia that I wanted to do what Val Hedland has done. Val is the third woman in 10 years to successfully complete the Iron Maiden Challenge that was held at a RKC in San Diego August 2011.

The challenge consists of 3 exercises – 1 pull up, 1 pistol squat and 1 press using a 24kg Kettlebell.
After finding out about it on Val’s blog  and watched a couple of videos, I was so inspired by it that I thought I wonder if I could do that? I also found out that my coach Andrew wrote her program, so who better to help me achieve such a huge goal but him.

I started Andrew’s 4 week program on the 2 March 2012, the program is fantastic, I really enjoy doing it. Every time I train I keep thinking I am one step closer to my Iron Maiden goal. Everything was going well, my weights were going up in my squats, chin-ups were slowly improving, then at the 3rd week I had an accident and cracked my head open quite badly. So I had to take a week off training, I was bummed out. I spoke to Andrew and he told me I had to start the program from the start again after having a week off.

Second time through, everything was going really well, my squats were up to 60kg which is my body weight, my chin-ups were getting heaps stronger I felt awesome!! Then at the third week I got sick with the flu. I couldn’t believe it; I had to take another week off. I spoke to Andrew and he told me off for not getting enough sleep at night, well deserved. My enthusiasm is starting to diminish, my goal seems to be fading away into the distance but I pulled myself back up again and started the program all over again but with less enthusiasm.

Third time through the program, this time I am determined to finish it. I got back into the swing of things; I felt like I had lost all my strength that I got only a few weeks prior, I was a little down on myself for that but I kept telling myself I will get it back, stay focused, stay positive, keep training, no excuses – I kept going. Then at the third week; last Sunday we had a big storm come through and I wanted to check out my friends house who I am house sitting for. I was walking down the stairs, missed judged the last step and rolled my ankle quite badly and it let out this almighty crack. As I sat on the floor holding onto my ankle that I thought I’d just broken, all I could think of was I’m not going to be able to train, this is something else that is going to hold me back. I was devastated!

Luckily it isn’t broken plus I don’t think there is going to be any major damage, will be getting it checked out on Friday. I think being fit, strong and healthy has helped with this. I honestly believe if I didn’t exercise as much as I do, the damage would have been a lot greater. It is still swollen and bruised but I can walk fine. It only hurts if I point my toes or push on it. I am a bit tentative with some exercises, but yesterday and today I did squats and it coped well.

My two main goals for this year was to get my blue belt in BJJ and to get seriously strong to work towards the Iron Maiden Challenge and the RKC II. These goals seem so far away right now but I am not giving up. I am going to refocus my energy back into my strength/BJJ training and to reinforce my goals mentally. I know I can do this, I am determined – I will get there.

My short turn goal for me right now is to finish this program, then sit down with Andrew and work something out from there.

This is the end of the 3 week curse.

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