4.4lbs Away From the Iron Maiden Challenge


We all have some strength feat or endurance challenge that psyches us out.  For some of us it is pull-ups, for some kettlebell instructors it is the snatch test that we have to do in order to receive and maintain our certification, for me, and some others, it is heavy pressing.  In order to overcome these challenges and achieve the goals that we set out to do, it is about finding that mental focus, that thought or those thoughts that helps us to overcome these mental obstacles.

Before I began training for the Iron Maiden Challenge I didn’t even know that heavy pressing was or would be something that I would have to work extra hard to achieve.  I love everything heavy lifting, squatting, deadlifting, pushing, pulling, swinging and certainly didn’t expect my mind and body to shut down when I started to approach pressing half my body weight.  But, it happened as I started pressing weight that was close to half my bodyweight (~115lbs) and I had to persevere in order to get past this mental and physical breakdown.

In January of this year I decided it was time to start crossing lifts off the Iron Maiden Challenge lift list.  The first to go was the 24kg (~53lbs) pistol squat.  I verified that I had this lift on January 20, 2013.  Now I just needed to train to maintain it and ultimately make it clean and easy.


Next was the 24kg pull-up.  I started to train weighted pull-ups in September 2011 and made significant gains from May 2012 to May 2013.  For example, in May 2012 I was training 5 sets of 2 pull-ups with 15lbs.  In May 2013 I started to train 5 sets of 2 pull-ups with 16kg (~35lbs).  I more than doubled my strength in one year.  You can read more about my pull-up training program in “Why I Choose Strength – With Program Guidance”.

I successfully tried a 22kg (~50lbs) pull-up on May 4, 2013.  Therefore on June 19, 2013 I decided to see where I was at with the 24kg pull-up.  Subsequently I was able to cross another lift off the Iron Maiden Challenge lift list.

I have had to work harder for my press.  Unlike pull-ups and pistols, I have good press days and really bad press days.  I first pressed the 20kg back in October 2012.  Then by May 2013 I was pressing the 20kg for 3 sets of 3 for my heavy pressing training sessions.  But that didn’t mean that I still didn’t have my days where my mind would want to screw with me and I would battle to press the 20kg for 10 sets of singles.  I write about this in my blog post “Comfort Zone Free”.

As a result of my mental battle with heavy pressing, I became obsessed with pressing to the point that I stopped progressing back at the end of March begin of April 2012 and realized that I needed to make a change.  Subsequently I decided to start to train my one-arm push-up.  I decided to get away from pressing a bell all together and work on my max body weight press strength.

In April, I started training one-arm push-up progressions three times per week, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and then one day per week on Sundays I would train heavy pressing with 20kg.  I also incorporated some light half kneel bottoms-up presses twice a week on Thursdays and Sundays right after I warmed up and before I got into the meat of my training session.

Training the one-arm push-up was the best program change that I made for my heavy pressing.  It helped me to change my focus to another press variation, to move away from pressing a bell even to the point that if I missed a Sunday heavy press day and didn’t press heavy with a bell for two weeks, I was OK with that.  Subsequently, every time I went to press heavy, I would generally have a great heavy press training session.

Training the one-arm push-up also forced me to really stay focused on proper progression.  I would not reduce the elevation for my one arm push-up until the height that I was training at was really easy and manageable.  So when I went to see if I had achieved the goal of a one-arm push-up on July 6, 2013, it was really easy and I was able to complete 5 singles with great form.  I am sure that I had achieved the goal of a one-arm push-up prior to July 6, 2013, but I never thought to try it from the ground because I was focused on making one-arm push-ups at each elevation feel very easy and manageable.

Training the one-arm push-up propelled my heavy press strength.  On June 5, 2013 I pressed the 22kg (~50lbs) for the first time on the left side.  It wasn’t pretty, but I got it up.

By July 12, 2013, I had achieved my one-arm push-up from the ground and was able to clean up my press with the 22kg so that it was good enough to post.  Not only does it look easy in this video, but also it actually felt strong and easy.  It was so rewarding because I finally felt like I overcame the obstacles that I have had with pressing.  I finally had confidence in my heavy press strength and skill.

Soon I will see where I am at with the 24kg press and I feel confident that I will feel good about where I am at when I go to press the 24kg.

Don’t let your mind interfere with your strength and endurance goals.  Persevere through even the toughest training days and find the thought that helps you to stay focused on the end result… and sometimes, walking away and letting go for a little while is the best thing that you can do.

2 Comments on “4.4lbs Away From the Iron Maiden Challenge

  1. Dave – Thank you! It feels great and I’m confident that the 24kg press is not far away. I look forward to having all three lifts together so that I can attempt the Challenge! 🙂 ~Artemis

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