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Bending Steel Is Hard. Bending Steel Is Fun. | World's Strongest Librarian

Bending Steel Is Hard. Bending Steel Is Fun.

by Josh Hanagarne on July 30, 2009

I’ve always thought I’d make a terrific addict at something, but my vices have always remained…mere vices.

But hold everything!  Maybe it’s not too late!

Hooray for bending nails!

Hooray for bending nails!

On and off, I’ve mentioned the strange and wonderful hobby of bending steel. Jordan Vezina wrote a big fat guest post about this very thing. This week I took a step I’ve been thinking about for a long time and bought the Ironmind Bag Of Nails. Then I took some out and started trying to bend them.

I’m a sick man, a junkie, already addicted to bending nails.

Now, before you start laughing, crying, rolling your eyes, or unsubscribing to the RSS feed and Newsletter, hear me out. Hear me out, yo.  There’s a reason I don’t say yo.

Bending is fun. No, it really is

People smarter, cooler, and handsomer than myself have said that not every workout can be fun. Not every workout can be extraordinary. You can’t always be hitting personal bests and you won’t always want to be pushing yourself.

I humbly submit those statement to be true for me–except for bending.

I’m only a few days into this strange trip, but I can’t imagine a day when I won’t want to get up and bend something in half. Does that sound strange to you? It sounds strange to me.  Oh well.  As Kurt Vonnegut might say, “so it goes.”

How to do it

About a year ago I bought Jedd Johnson’s Bending E-book. I was planning on getting started right away, but some things intervened, other goals formed…it didn’t happen. But I kept reading the book. I started doing the pre-conditioning routine so that when I finally bought those nails I’d be ready to start bending.

Now, I”m sure plenty of you have no idea what I’m talking about. This video below will serve as a brief introduction to this wonderful activity my good friend Adam Glass occasionally refers to as “Dumb and Dangerous.” (And Fun!)

See? Wasn’t that just exquisite?

You can see the effort it takes to do even the smaller nails. But hopefully you can also see how much I love to do it. And I’m not the only one. It is the evangelizing of Jedd, Adam, Jordan, and tons of people at Dragondoor who first peaked my interest. They talk about bending just as passionately as some people talk about donuts or alcohol or their sinister urges.

But what are the benefits?

One thing was immediately apparent even on the easy white nail: bending takes an amount of sustained effort that is not like anything else. The closest thing I could compare it to (that I’ve done, anyway) is a slow, heavy deadlift.

Your body has to be completely linked up from your feet grabbing the ground to your glutes squeezing the life out of you to your abdomen being pressurized to the white-knuckle pressure your hands have to putting out.

Isn’t this exciting!

Stop reading right now and tense up every single cell in your body. Clinch everything that can be clinched and now hold it for 30 seconds. That’s what bending that yellow nail felt like. Meaning it felt good, of course.

Like the one-legged squat and the one-armed pushup, bending will teach you tension. Tension equals strength and strength equals tension.

It’s a difficult thing to do. Most things that are difficult are good for you in some way. I am now looking forward to decades of destruction and I know that it will build my body, mind, and willpower every single time.

And it’s fun! It really is!  It hurts and it’s exhausting but…are you still listening?

Good!  I’d love some company. The only thing I’d say is to make sure you do it right. You don’t want to get injured because you prepared inadequately or because or went too far, too fast. If I’ve sold you on the joys of bending a piece of metal until your face turns purple, pick up Jedd’s book and you’ll be well on your way.

If you’re interested in bending, or if you are a bender already and can add to the discussion in the comments section, please do it! Let’s go!


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Casey July 30, 2009 at 8:09 am

I’ll be totally honest and say that bending nails has no draw on me. (Don’t worry; there will be plenty of other commenter’s whom it does) But the hand strength required does intrigue me.

I’ve seen guys who can do pull-ups using only a pinch grip. That’s something I could get into. What kind of pre-conditioning did you do Josh?

I sort of disagree with the idea that not every workout can be fun or extraordinary. I humbly submit that if you aren’t enjoying your workout daily, then you are doing it wrong. It sort of goes back to your “Hell” post. Of course not every workout will be a bag full of unicorn giggles, but in some strange sick way you should enjoy it.

If you’re not enjoying it, then you need to go find something else to do. Some people get zero fulfillment from weight lifting, my brother is one of those people, however he gets all sorts of highs from running, which is an activity I consider tantamount to torture.

I guess it goes back to my “Find your happy” theory. :)

Ben Owens July 30, 2009 at 10:18 am

I have been flirting with the idea of bending for a while now, but haven’t yet pulled the trigger. From what I have seen and heard and read, it sounds like a heck of a lot of fun. Since I usually end up trying everything that you tell me to, I figure my days of bending are on the horizon. :-)

Josh Hanagarne July 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm

@Casey. Agreed. When I spoke about not enjoying every workout, 99% of the time I’m parroting prevailing wisdom. I do look forward to almost each and every time I do anything.

The preconditioning was lots of sledge levers and leverage in every plane the wrist can go through. Very simple.

Josh Hanagarne July 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Ben, I know you won’t be able to resist once you come over and see the bag and try a couple.

Jon Owens July 30, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Well done on the Yellow Josh! When I saw Jordan’s guest post a week or so ago, I was intrigued, took the plunge and purchased the Bending Manual. Since I have the wrist strength of an 80 year old woman with arthritis I figured I’d start slow and do the conditioning program with an 8lb sledge, a pinch block I made and the wrist curls you demonstrated on video. I haven’t gone so far as to buy the “Bag o Nails” but I’ve picked up some stock from the Home Depot and it’s calling my name.

Pull the trigger Ben, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Josh Hanagarne July 30, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Jon, what did you make a pinch block out of?

Jon Owens July 30, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Josh, I found what looks like a piece of an old railroad tie that was around 10″x12″x3″, sanded the edges and the gripping surface, took a couple of those screw in hooks from Lowes and put one on either side. I run a 3′ length of chain through some olympic plates and hook the ends of the chain to each hook. I think a 10″ length of a 4×4 would work just as well with the hooks in either end. You could even do a single hook on the bottom and attach the chain ends to the one hook. Not pretty, but functional.

Jessica Marie July 30, 2009 at 4:49 pm

That was a startling display indeed. I love the suit and tie color though. Sorry to say, I don’t think I will be bending nails.

Josh Hanagarne July 30, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Jessica, don’t be so sure. As to the suit, my wife dresses me so all thanks to her. Funny story: when we bought that suit the fresh-faced salesboy asked if my mom was going to paying for it. He was referring to Janette.

Chris Mason July 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Good bend Josh! You will be taking down blues and 60d’s in no time. Bending is fun and addictive as you say. I hit myself in the face when I was starting. The second time I bent a pole barn nail it snapped, and I punched myself in the face.

Josh Hanagarne July 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm

@Chris. thanks for the encouragement. I tried a blue just for kicks and it would not budge at all. Not even a tiny bit. I hope you’re right. I’ll keep at it.

Your Mother July 31, 2009 at 7:02 am

Like the mother in The Christmas Story warns “You’ll put your eye out”. Where are your safety goggles kid?

Josh Hanagarne July 31, 2009 at 7:11 am

@My mom. Hey mom. Strong guys don’t use goggles. Or is it blind guys?

Stephane August 3, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Great post Josh. My interest was peaked as well after seeing some of Diesel Crew’s material, and Jordan Vezina’s intro, as well as some of Iron Tamer’s feats of strength.

I started training with CoC grippers… and soon after purchased the Nail Bending E-Book from Diesel Crew. Just started the conditioning routine last week. I don’t have a sledge hammer, but I do have a 36 inch pipe clamp, which works for now, and I can always add a 10lbs plate to it, to increase intensity if required.

Congrats on the bend… I went to Home Depot and bought a 60D galvanized spiral nail… thought I’d “try” it… took out some old rags, wrapped it, and went to town. Hmmm… I think I managed to kink it about 1/64 of an inch.

Makes me appreciate a lot more what you guys accomplish, and realize I have some ways to go.

I’m gonna work through the Diesel Crew E-Book, and keep training on my grippers, hoping to eventually close a #3 or heck, dare I say a #4?

Ultimately, bending a nail in the Heslep style would be sweet!

Keep the posts coming, I enjoy the read!

Josh Hanagarne August 3, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Stephane, thanks! I got into all this stuff for most of the same reasons you did, and because of the same people. I’m planning on going up to North Dakota for a week in September to train with Adam Glass and just can’t wait. I’ve got just as far to go as you do, so let’s stay in touch and compare notes. Which gripper are you working on right now? I’m just about ready to move up to the #2 from the #1.5.

Stephane August 3, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Hey Josh,

I bought 2 grippers 3 weeks ago.. a trainer and a #1… couldn’t close the #1 fully back then… now I can close it fully for 4 reps! Once I can get a solid 15-20 reps on it, I’ll try the #2… might jump to the #1.5 to progress quicker… we’ll see.

Randall August 21, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Man, you are strong being able to do a yellow right away! Wow!!!

Josh Hanagarne August 21, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Randall, I don’t know about that, but thank you. I moved on to blues a couple of days later, but they never feel easy. For that matter, even the yellows still feel kind of difficult. I tried a red nail just for fun yesterday. Ha! It wouldn’t budge even a tiny millimeter. That at least is months away. Are you doing a lot of bending?

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