2018 StrongFirst Updates

As 2017 moves rapidly into 2018, I want to update you on some changes and suggestions for the coming year.

If any of you have picked up the book Legacy, then you have had the chance to read one chapter in particular: Be a Good Ancestor. Be a Good Ancestor is all about a team or organization having a mindset of leaving a better “place” for those who follow. Meaning, my actions not only impact us in this moment, but they also have a lasting impact on our StrongFirst Team and Community.

2018 StrongFirst Updates

There is an old Chinese proverb: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”

We at StrongFirst are planning for a lifetime—educating people that strength has a greater purpose.

Since you are likely looking ahead to 2018 and beginning to lay out your training year (seriously, you are—aren’t you?), I want to update you on some changes and/or clarifications to the Simple & Sinister standards and the Beast Tamer/Iron Maiden Challenge.

You know, just in case those may be in your 2018 training plan.

2018 StrongFirst Updates: Simple & Sinister

I will go ahead and put myself out there in announcing that achieving the Sinister standard is my goal for 2018. (No pressure.) In planning for this goal and reviewing Sinister submissions, it became apparent that a couple of areas needed some clarification and standardization.

The one-arm swing goal of 100 reps in 5 minutes as written in S&S is 10 sets of 10 reps. And the protocol that is truest to the intent of the goal as written is 10 reps every 30 seconds x 10 sets, switching hands each set. This accomplishes the 100 reps in 5 minutes while maintaining a high-power output for the 10 reps along with a rest to minimize the acidosis and clearing of the metabolic waste products. This will be the standard for Sinister submissions moving forward.

As we have been reviewing submissions for the Sinister achievement, it has also become clear that filming angles need to be standardized. Some students are filming S&S attempts by placing the camera/phone on the floor and from that upward camera angle it is hard to validate the height of the swing and other standards. Swings are to be chest level, for example, and if we cannot properly observe the height, then we cannot approve the submission.

The camera should be placed at a 45-degree angle to the student and on a surface height that allows a more level view (waist height for example). A 45-degree angle to the body allows us to see that the back is neutral and that the other standards for the swing and get-up are being met. The video should still allow for a full view from the feet to the head.

A couple of tips and areas to watch for:

  • Video yourself and make sure you can check off all the standards for the swing and get-up when you watch it back. Ideally, review the video with an SFG instructor.
  • On the swing, be sure the working arm stays packed on the hike as well as the top of the swing.
  • The handle of the kettlebell should pass above the knees on the backswing. We see submissions where the kettlebell drops too low.
  • On the get-up, make sure you can confidently complete the repetitions. Own it; don’t just “do it.”

2018 StrongFirst Updates: Beast Tamer/Iron Maiden

To better standardize and judge BT/IM attempts, some improvements to the rules and standards have been made:

  • Judges’ commands: A “press” command has been added to the military press and a “go” command has been added to the pull-up. The pistol remains as is.
  • Pull-up: A change now allows touching the upper chest to the bar instead of throat only
  • Approving attempts: Two judges will stand on the sides and one at the front (similar to powerlifting). All judges will confer to approve an attempt, and two out of three thumbs up are necessary to approve an attempt. In cases where there are not three clear thumbs up, the video will be reviewed to confirm the attempt.
  • Video review: A video of all attempts will be made from a 45-degree angle from the front. The video will be used in the case of a judges’ review and in documenting successful attempts for use by StrongFirst. Videos will be filmed by an appointed individual for official use.

What follows are the complete rules with the new updates in red.

Beast Tamer/Iron Maiden 2018 Rules and Standards Update

There are three events: the military press, the tactical pull-up, and the pistol. The candidate may attempt them in any order and is allowed two attempts per lift. Two failed attempts in the same lift disqualify the candidate from continuing the challenge.

The press and the pistol are performed on the side of the candidate’s choice. Men lift a 48kg kettlebell; women a 24kg kettlebell. Chalk is allowed for all the events. Supportive gear of any sort (lifting belts, wrist wraps, knee wraps, etc.) is not.

The Press

  • 2018 StrongFirst UpdatesThe candidate shall clean the kettlebell or place it in the rack in any manner.
  • Once the kettlebell is in the rack, the knees must stay locked and the feet planted until the candidate has locked out the press.
  • The fist of the hand holding the kettlebell must be below the chin level before the start of the press.
  • There may be no downward movement of the kettlebell after the pause in the rack.
  • Following the clean the candidate will await the command to press. The command will be given as soon as the girevik and the kettlebell are motionless.
  • A minimal back bend is allowed but may not increase in the course of the press.
  • A moderate side bend is allowed.
  • The candidate may not roll the kettlebell onto the shoulder and press from there.
  • The candidate shall press the kettlebell overhead until the elbow is locked and pause motionless until the head referee’s “Down!” command.
  • The candidate may lower the kettlebell in any safe manner of his choice.

The Tactical Pull-Up

  • 2018 StrongFirst UpdatesThe kettlebell will be placed on a waist belt. The candidate may receive assistance.
  • The candidate will grip the bar with an overhand thumbless grip.]
  • There is no restriction on the grip width.
  • The candidate shall pause motionless in a dead hang, with the elbows locked, before the pull-up and await the Judges command to begin the attempt.
  • The knees and hips may be flexed.
  • The candidate shall pull up without kipping or swinging.
  • The neck (not the underside of the chin) or upper chest must touch the bar on the top of the pull-up. The body should maintain a near vertical orientation.

The Pistol

  • The candidate must be barefoot.
  • The candidate may pick up the kettlebell in any manner and hold it in front with two hands by the horns or with one or two hands in the rack on either side.
  • The candidate shall raise one leg in front of him. From that moment on, the foot of the working leg must stay planted.
  • The airborne leg has to stay in front for the duration of the attempt. It does not have to be straight. It may not touch the ground or the working leg.
  • The candidate shall pause motionless long enough to demonstrate balance, then lower himself at least to parallel: “the top surface of the leg at the hip joint lower than the top of the knee.”
  • Neither the kettlebell nor the arms may touch the working leg at any time.
  • A pause in the bottom position is not required. The candidate shall stand up until the knee of the working leg is locked and the hip is extended.
  • The pelvis may not rise faster than the kettlebell.
  • The candidate shall stand on one foot exhibiting control until the head referee’s “Down!” command.

2018 StrongFirst Updates

Own It—Don’t Just “Do It”

The addition of the “press” and “go” commands will assist in making sure the press is strict and the pull-up begins from a dead-hang. This will mean that those training for the BT/IM will need to incorporate these commands into their training.

Whether a training partner calls out the commands or the individual gives themselves the commands, the student training for the BT/IM should own the lifts not just “complete” them. Use video in training to make sure your attempts will pass.

2018: What’s in Store for You?

“I am looking forward to getting to do things I have never done before.”—Tony Danza

My next article will lay out my 2018 training plan and give you some insight into programming for achieving the Sinister standard and more. What are you looking forward to doing that you have never done before?

Here’s to a Strong 2018 for us all.

Brett Jones
Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Director of Education. He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally.

As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching—e-mail him for more info.

Brett is the author of Iron Cardio.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.
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9 thoughts on “2018 StrongFirst Updates

  • Thank you Brett,
    Good luck on your Sinister! Going to film mine (hopefully) in a couple of months, so this was very helpful and timely.
    All the best in the new year!

  • Thanks for the updates and clarifications. I assume that the standards for Simple are the same as for Sinister?
    Aiming for Simple Goal and the OAOL Push Up this year.
    Best of luck on your road to Sinister!

  • I like the part about being a good ancestor.

    I did have one comment about the swings standards for Sinister. I observed some videos and it looks like some of the swing standards were lenient. Perhaps the people doing the judging decided it is perfectly acceptable. I don’t want to make too much of it, but I saw one video and it seemed like the person had a lot of bend in the elbow on some of the swings. It looked like maybe their upper arm was next to their chest and the elbow are bend. I wonder if that reduces the range of motion of the kettlebell’s distance from the body and makes the swing easier. I don’t really know, that is just a question I had.
    Best of luck in the coming year.

    • Robert
      The update is meant to assist in the standardization.
      Filming angles and confirming the set/rep protocols will help us in judging Sinister attempts.

      The tasks and standards are well laid out on the Sinister page.

  • All good info. Came over to the US for 2002 R KC. Whilt I can still complete the Beast Challenge at 53 yrs old and 155 pounds. The new standards are welcome and will bring back a little more attention to detail. New year nee cjallenge – thanks

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