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Ben Edwards’ Beginner Steel Bender’s Program

This is a guest post / article from Ben Edwards, one of the smartest Grip Athletes and Steel Benders in the United States. Ben has helped me through sticking points in my training, as well as hundreds of other athletes. For more of Ben’s intuitive training approach, check out his site, Goal Oriented Training.

Beginning Bender’s Program

By Ben Edwards, Elite Bender

What is a beginning bender? In my opinion, if your best bend is below a Yellow Nail, regardless of how long you’ve been bending, you’re a beginner.

It’s assumed that anyone following this program already knows the basics of bending. If not, I’d recommend that you buy the Diesel Crew’s Bending E-book and then decide what style (double overhand, double underhand, or reverse) to use for this 8 week program. The program itself is not style-specific, but most people find that double overhand (DO) allows the best transfer of force.

This is an 8 week bending program. You will bend 2 times per week, on nonconsecutive days. The program is very simple, but will give you great results. All you have to do is test your max bend before you begin the program, follow the set bending workouts that correspond to your strengths and weaknesses, and put as much effort as you can into each workout. The payoff will be a greatly increased level of bending strength in just 8 weeks.

The first thing you need to do is test your max bend. Warm up with some light upper body stretches and an easy bend that’s well within your capability.

Test your max bend over a 5 minute time limit. 5 minutes is the time limit that John Beatty, of Fat Bastard Barbell Company (FBBC), uses for his bending certifications. It’s also the time limit that I prefer because it allows for bigger bends than a shorter time limit.

Determine what your weakest “stage” of the bend is. If you don’t have access to an experienced bender, video review is the next best thing.

Three Stages of a Bend

  • Kink: the very beginning of a bend. From about 1 degree (measured on a protractor) to 45 degrees.
  • Sweep: the second stage of a bend. From about 45 degrees to 90 degrees.
  • Crushdown: the final stage of a bend. From about 90 degrees to 2″ or less between the inside tips of the steel bar. 2″ is the standard FBBC minimum distance requirement to qualify as a “completed” bend.

Weak Crushdown: It’s relatively easy to determine what your weakest range is. If you had no trouble starting the bend and getting it to 90 degrees or less, but you couldn’t crush it to 2″ or less between the tips, you have a strong kink and sweep, but a weak crushdown.

Weak Sweep: If you didn’t have much trouble starting the bend, but the bar froze up around the 40 degree range, you have a strong kink and a weak sweep. If you sweep isn’t strong enough to take you to the crushdown stage, you don’t have a chance of finishing that bend. This is truly a case of your weakest link really holding you back.

Now that you’ve found your weakest stage of the bend, you can make it much stronger by focusing your training on that specific stage of the bend.

Click Here to Get the Nail Bending eBook

What you Need to Get Started

A Training Log: Don’t neglect this step. It’s one of the most important methods of tracking where you started and where you finish at the end of the 8 week program.

Bending Pads: Leather is the choice of most benders, and is available through FBBC, David Horne’s website, and some craft stores also sell leather scraps. I’d recommend actually buying leather pads from someone who sells them specifically for the purpose of bending steel. Cordura is also available from Ironmind, but it’s not as protective of the hands as leather is, so it’s usually not recommended for beginning benders. The more advanced guys often start training with the cordura pads so they can certify on Ironmind’s Red Nail. But that’s a topic for another article.

Goals: Set a series of progressive, but achievable goals. Don’t begin your first day by declaring that in 3 weeks you will bend the Red Nail. That’s not likely to happen, and you may be disappointed if you don’t achieve the entirely unrealistic goal you set for yourself. It’s best to set your goals after you test you first max bend. They don’t have to be big improvements over your current max. If your first max bend is a 3/16″X7″ CRS, you might set a short term goal of bending the 3/16″X6″ CRS in a few weeks. The goal of this 8 week bending program is to move up at least one “level” of steel by the last workout.

2 Nonconsecutive Days Per Week That You Can Train: Don’t train on consecutive days. A Monday and Thursday schedule is fine. So are any other days that are separated by at least 2 days in between.

A Supply of Steel to Bend: Steel in hardware stores usually comes in hot rolled steel (HRS), and cold rolled steel (CRS). CRS is usually much harder than HRS. HRS is usually a good stepping stone to get to the harder CRS. I recommend buying both types of steel. For detailed information on types of steel that are recommended for all levels of benders, and some listings of steel calibrations, visit the bending forum on the GripBoard. The members there are more than willing to steer you in the right direction. A quick list of the readily available (at most local hardware stores) progressions in steel is: (listed in diameters) 3/16″ HRS, 3/16″ CRS, 1/4″ HRS, 1/4″ CRS, 5/16″ HRS, 5/16″ CRS. Buying a 6 foot length of every type listed here should last you a while, maybe even the entire 8 weeks. The only exception might be the steel that you use for your volume workout, since that involves 10 bends per workout. When you determine what steel you’ll be bending for your volume workouts, you can buy 12 foot or more of that to last you the entire program.

A Protractor: You’ll need to measure the degrees of bend quite often. Get familiar with this.

Bolt Cutters: You’ll be cutting lots of steel, so get the best you can afford. Best, in this case, means the bolt cutters with the longest handles to make your job of cutting the steel easier.

Bending Workouts

The following workouts won’t actually be performed in the order that they’re listed here. The schedule of bending workouts is not complicated.

Whatever your weakest stage of the bend is, do that corresponding workout as the first workout of every week. If your weakest range is the crushdown, you will always do the crushdown workout as your first workout of every week, for the entire program length of 8 weeks.

Your 2nd workout of the week will be on a rotating basis. I list and detail the workouts in this order: Kink Workout, Sweep Workout, Crushdown Workout, and Volume Workout. For the above example of the crushdown being the weakest stage of the bend, every week would have the crushdown workout as the first bend. Then the remaining workouts would be rotated according to the order they’re listed in. Remember that you won’t rotate the weakest stage workout because you’ll always be doing that workout first in each week.

For illustration purposes, I’ll use the example of a 3/16″X7″ CRS as a max 5 minute bend, and the crushdown stage of the bend being the hypothetical bender’s weakest stage. A Monday and Thursday schedule is shown:

Week 1:
Monday is the Crush Workout. Thursday is the Kink Workout.

Week 2:
Monday is the Crush Workout. Thursday is the Sweep Workout.

Week 3:
Monday is the Crush Workout. Thursday is the Volume Workout.

Week 4:
Monday is the Crush Workout. Thursday is the Kink Workout.

Week 5:
Monday is the Crush Workout. Thursday is the Sweep Workout.

Week 6:
Monday is the Crush Workout. Thursday is the Volume Workout.

Week 7:
Monday is the Crush Workout. Thursday is the Kink Workout.

Week 8:
Monday is the Crush Workout. Thursday is the Sweep Workout.

The Workouts

Kink Workout:

Warm up by bending 2 pieces of 3/16″X7″ HRS.

The focus of this workout is to kink harder pieces of steel than your max 5 minute bend. The focus is NOT on finishing any bends, except for the warm-ups.

Kink the bar to a maximum of 45 degrees, then set that bar aside for use in later advanced workouts. Start with an attempt on a 1/4″X7″ HRS. This is 1 “level” above the bender’s max of a 3/16″X7″ CRS. If you kink the 1/4″X7″ HRS at all, your next attempt will be a 1/4″X6.5″ HRS If you kinked the 1/4″X6.5″ HRS, rest a few minutes, and then attempt a 1/4″X6″ HRS.

After every attempt, measure the degree of bend with your protractor. Write everything down in your training log.

If you’re successful in kinking all 3 of these bars, to any degree of bend, you can move on to harder steel. If you decide to keep going in the Kink Workout, your next attempt will be a 1/4″X7″ CRS. This is your 8 week goal. So the sooner you start attempting it, the better.

If you kink your goal bar, then congratulations! That means you’re that much closer to being able to bend it within the 5 minute time limit. Keep progressing in that workout, assuming that you’re kinking the previous bars to any degree, by attempting 1/2″ shorter pieces of 1/4″ CRS each time. A 6″ bar is the shortest you’ll go in the kink workouts. The reasoning behind this is there is some flexibility required to bend the 7″ bars, compared to the 6″ bars which most guys can bend with very limited flexibility.

When you’re able to kink a 1/4″X6″ CRS to any degree, it’s time to move up to the next level of steel. Next up will be a 5/16″X7″ HRS. Then 5/16″X6.5″ HRS, and finally 5/16″X6″ HRS.

After you’re able to kink a 5/16″X6″ HRS to any degree, you will move to the 5/16″X7″ CRS. If you make it this far in 8 weeks it probably means you’ve catapulted yourself from a beginner to an intermediate bender.
The stronger your kink, the less energy you’ll have to expend to get into the sweep and crushdown stages of a bend.

If you are NOT able to kink the 1/4″X7″ HRS in that first workout, don’t let it disappoint you or bring you down. Attempt it a few more times in that workout and keep focusing on keeping the bar up high under your chin. You are still building strength just by doing isometrics. Soon you will build enough strength in that position to kink that bar. Just keep pushing and trying! Your next kink workout you’ll just use the same 1/4″X7″ HRS bar until you kink it to any degree. It’s an indescribably neat feeling to kink a bar that totally stumped you a few weeks previously.

Stop the Kink Workout when you: run out time, run out of energy, or run out of motivation.

Sweep Workout:

Warmup by bending a 3/16″X7″ HRS.

The focus of this workout is to increase your strength in the 45 degree to 90 degree stage of a bend.

Cheatkink a 1/4″X7″ HRS to about 45 degrees. It doesn’t have to be exactly that, but try to make it as close to 45 degrees as you can. This is when a protractor is invaluable. Cheatkinking means using a hollow steel pipe, or any other long lever, to slide over your steel bar and “cheat” bend a piece of steel to whatever degree you want to bend it to. I don’t have the time to explain too much about how to cheatkink, but if you need more direction you can visit the bending forum on the GripBoard.

Slide your pads on the ends of the bar and bring the bar up high under your chin. Now push hard into the tips of the bar, while using your wrists to “lever” the bar towards your neck. The higher above your pectoral line you can keep the bar, the better able you’ll be to transfer force into the bar.

The main goal in this workout is to bend the 1/4″X7″ HRS down to the 2″ mark. You might not be able to get it to 2″, but that’s okay. As long as you’re pushing as hard as you can, and hopefully moving the bar a little, you’re getting stronger.

Before each attempt, measure the starting angle of the bend. After each attempt, measure the angle again to see if it has changed. Be sure to write this all down because detailed record keeping will take you far.

Set a timer for 30 minutes. Make as many attempts to bend the 1/4″X7″ HRS as you want to during the 30 minute time limit. This is 6 times the FBBC time limit, so it’ll give you a better chance of being able to bend harder steel. When the timer rings, your Sweep Workout is done.

If you bent the 1/4″X7″ HRS to 90 degrees or tighter, you will cheatkink a 1/4″X7″ CRS to 45 degrees and then attempt that in your next Sweep Workout.

Once you succeed in bending a 1/4″X7″ CRS to 90 degrees or tighter, in the next Sweep Workout you will cheatkink a 5/16″X7″ HRS to 45 degrees and then attempt that. The progression from the 1/4″X7″ HRS level for the Sweep Workouts is: 1/4″X7″ CRS, 5/16″X7″ HRS, 5/16″X7″ CRS.

Crushdown Workout:

Warmup by bending a 3/16″X7″ HRS.

The focus of this workout is to increase your strength in the 90 degree to finished stages of a bend. This is the stage that gives most benders the most trouble.

Cheatkink a 1/4″X7″ CRS to about 90 degrees. Use your protractor and get as close as you can to that angle.

Slide your pads on each end of the bar. Bring the bar up high under your chin. Smash into the bar as hard and fast as you can.

Multiple attempts will probably be necessary to move the bar even a little bit, but each attempt will build your strength, even if it is just an isometric push. Be sure to write down the results of each attempt. You’ll need to measure the bar in between each attempt to see if you’ve made any progress. Interlock your fingers as soon as possible because it will help you crush harder steel by giving you better leverage.

If you’re successful crushing the 1/4″X7″ CRS to 2″ or less, the next workout you will cheatkink a 1/4″X6″ CRS to 90 degrees and attempt that.

You don’t have to wait until the next Crushdown Workout if you’re successful on the 1/4″X7″ CRS and you have enough energy and motivation left to attempt the 1/4″X6″ CRS also.

You probably won’t finish a crushdown bar every Crushdown Workout. If you can’t crush a bar to 2″, just use that bar for your next Crushdown Workout.

When you’re able to crush a 1/4″X6″ CRS to 2″, it’s time to move up to a 5/16″X7″ HRS bar, cheatkinked to 90 degrees of course, in your next Crushdown Workout.

Move up to a 5/16″X7″ CRS when you’re able to crush a 5/16″X6″ HRS to 2″.

If you get strong enough in this 8 week period to crush a 5/16″X7″ CRS to 2″ you’ve made huge strides!

Stop the Crushdown Workout when you: run out time, run out of energy, or run out of motivation.

Volume Workout

No warmup is really needed for the volume workout, since all the bends should be well within your capability. The focus of this workout is to improve your bending technique. Perfect practice makes perfect. This means you have to focus on each bend and make sure you’re keeping the bar high under your chin each time. Just because the bars you use for your Volume Workout won’t challenge you as much as the other workouts, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put a lot of focus into the entire workout.

Your goal is 10 bends of a 3/16″X7″ HRS.

The Volume Workout is over when: you bend 10 of the 3/16″X7″ HRS, you run out of time, run out of energy, or run out of motivation.

This workout is a “form polisher” and will help you “dial in” your bending technique. Technique improvements in bending equate to huge increases in ability to bend harder steel. Rest as long as necessary between each bend to ensure you have the strength to finish each one. If you don’t reach your goal of 10 bends of a 3/16″X7″ HRS in that workout, just try to bend 10 of the 3/16″X7″ HRS in your next Volume Workout.

When you succeed in bending 10 of the 3/16″X7″ HRS, your goal for the next Volume Workout will be to bend 10 of the 3/16″X6″ HRS. After you’re able to bend 10 of the 3/16″X6″ HRS in a workout, you might be able to use 3/16″X7″ CRS in your next Volume Workout. 3/16″X7″ CRS was your old max, so be very proud of yourself for getting to the point where you can bend this without much difficulty.

The Volume Workout is over when: you bend 10 of the 3/16″X7″ HRS, you run out of time, run out of energy, or run out of motivation.

Congratulations, You’ve made it through the 8 week Beginning Bender’s Program! Pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve done and for the progress you’ve made. There may be an Intermediate Bender’s Program to follow.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginning bender’s program.


Ben Edwards

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3 Responses to “Ben Edwards’ Beginner Steel Bender’s Program”

  1. johnnyboy Says:

    Saweeeeeet!!!! Great stuff Thank you!!! “If your going to walk thru a mine field it’s better to follow someone”

  2. Ben Edwards Says:

    Thanks for posting this again Jedd! Enjoying the good feedback that I’m getting still from this free bending program.

  3. My Beginner’s Bending Program featured on Diesel Crew website « Goal Oriented Training Blog Says:

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