2 out of 3 Beast Challenge Events Ain't Bad

May 18, 2009 09:07 AM


The last article I wrote for Pavel detailed how my deadlift training evolved from training just a few days a month to at times training a few times a day! This article will pick up where that training left off, with almost the same result, big deadlift gains, with one caveat, I seldom trained the dead the past few years. In fact I haven't tried to pull over 400 pounds in years, so many I can't even recall the last time.

The last time I lifted competitively was in 1999, unfortunately this was a full year before I happened upon Pavel and his genius. With no real "focus" in my training, I played around with kettlebells and still did the 3 powerlifts. By 2003 however, the heavy lifting had finally taken its toll. I can remember the last time I squatted "heavy", my shoulders, elbows, wrists, lower back, hips, knees and even ankles were screaming in pain. I was 42 and after reading a disturbing article written by Jeff Everson and all the pains and disabilities he was experiencing I had no desire to continue and grind what mobility I had left with the 3 powerlifts. At that point I decided to begin training exclusively with KBs and a chinning bar.


I had Pavel's Russian Kettlebell Challenge book as my training guide. The old time Russian lifters he has pictured in the book was the new "look" I was after. Lean, big shoulders, and no gut! One of his quotes from the book talks about looking like the "Farnese Hercules". That was enough to convince me, kettlebells would be the tool for reshaping the out of shape, fat powerlifter. Only problem with that, I began training with the kettlebells like I was training for a powerlifting meet! Which was great, if my goal was to lift the KBs for singles or doubles, but was not having the effect or producing the body I was after. At this point it I felt I needed to actually attend an RKC course and get up to speed. There is nothing I can add to the experience of an RKC weekend so I won't even try. However, for me it opened my eyes to what I should be doing and where I was making mistakes and seriously limiting my gains.


Around this time Pavel issued the Beast Challenge. This was definitely a goal that piqued my interest and was right up my alley, with regards to one rep training. My goal thenceforth was to "master the Beast" and use the KB to build both muscular endurance and hack the fat off my body. My strength training was very simple and effective. I would start with the one arm press, do a pull up and then a pistol. One rep each, for presses it was 24-28-32-36-40 occasionally pressing a 44kg, for pull-ups 12-16-20-24-28-32, and pistols were done with the same weight I did presses with. Within 4 weeks or so, I managed to press the Beast, but what was really shocking was how easily I did the pistol. I really thought it might be the last to go, but it was the easiest, in fact almost any day of the week I can go out and do a pistol with the Beast. I am guessing the carry over from years of squatting being the main reason. While fooling around with my nephews, who I have written about in the past, I foolishly did a military barbell press with 205, no warm up, just tried to press it. Big mistake, I felt a burning sensation in my right shoulder from the time I got the weight near my forehead till I pressed it out. Yet I stupidly continued to press while my shoulder felt like someone had a blow torch on it. For the next 2 months I could not press anything heavier than a 24 with my right shoulder without experiencing intense pain. With some suggestions from both Pavel and Andrea Du Cane I was able to fully recover, although it took months to get back to 100%.

My training over the past 2 years has been trying to elusively "pull" the Beast. I have gotten a 44 kg but no beast as of yet. (I am always open to suggestions on any new or untried training routines). Over the past year I actually went through 2 full cycles of ETK. My last time through on the presses was with a 40kg. 5 ladders with the 40 was pure hell. But was than that was completing swings with a 24, going the full 12 minutes. It seemed every time I had to do swings at 100% , double 6s were staring back at me from the dice, mocking me. I have never been the guy that has trained "endurance", so for me 12 minutes of 24kg swings were painful. However I was able to actually get over 220 swings, which was quite an accomplishment for me.

In between ETK cycles I came up with my own version of light, medium, and heavy. On my "light day" I would do presses with 24s-28s-32s , 2 arms. On medium day, I would go as heavy as a 40kg, sometimes double arms sometimes just one arm presses. My "heavy" day was all the way to the Beast, reps on light day might be over 40+ reps, on medium days, usually in the 20-25 rep range and on heavy days, between 5-10 reps.

I would do swings and snatches, never paying much attention to weights so much, but more concerned with reducing rest between reps, never doing less than 5 reps, never resting more than 60-75 seconds.

The title of this article "2 out of 3 ain't bad" was referencing that I have "conquered" 2 of the 3 Beast Challenges. The press and the pistol; the pullup—not yet. The "what the hell effect" refers to the following.

I mentioned earlier I very seldom deadlifted anymore. A friend of mine, Jon Treon, suggested I get a deadlift/shrug bar. Indeed I did, however I just didn't like the feel of it for deads. I have found other uses such as farmer's walk, light shrugs, rows. Another friend of mine saw it, bought one and loves it. He can't do regular deadlifts at all but can go all day with the shrug bar. About 3-4 weeks ago I told Pavel I was going to start pulling with the "hope" I could pull a 500 deadlift on my 50 birthday, which is over 2 years away. (I guess this would be a longggg cycle?) Just to see where I was one Sunday, I started to pull. 245-335-425, this is where I can get a good "feel". At this point, I started to get greedy, I loaded 515, and it went pretty easy. (needless to say, a NO-NO, style, NO suit, NO belt, didn't even have baby powder!) My right hammy tightened but I didn't want to leave it with such an easy effort. I put 550 on the bar and smoothly pulled it. This was the second heaviest beltless deadlift I had ever done and did NO training for it! I had an easy 15 pounds left, probably 25 and dare I say……but hammy was screaming and couldn't risk any serious damage.

After 25+ years of weight training, including 10+ of competitive powerlifting, I can without reservation say, Kettlebell training has been the most beneficial type of training I have personally tried. One interesting side note to kettlebell training is the ability to train literally 6-7 days a week without day after soreness. It is something I can't explain. I can do snatches, presses, jerks, daily if needed, and experience no muscle soreness the next day.

In closing I have been asked what type of training I would be doing if I wasn't using KBs? I can honestly say, I don't know the answer to that question? You could take one KB, say a 32kg, and use it almost exclusively and still make tremendous gains! The unbelievable efficacy of kbs is without equal. My 9 year-old son fancy's himself a future David Beckham, little does he know KBs will soon be part of that equation!

Keep the faith,

Pat "Phil" Workman, RKC

Texas powerlifting champion and record holder, Patrick Workman, RKC is based in Mansfield, TX and is available for personal training. Contact him at patrick@ntxkbs.com.