Interview with a Red Dragon Slayer: Nathaniel Brous
Recently, a friend of mine, Nathaiel Brous, was successful in certifying on the IronMind Red Nail. I thought his progress was fantastic, so I asked him if he’d be interested in an interview.
If you love steel bending, I encourage you to check this out. In addition, I encourage you set your goals firmly for tackling the Red Nail. Set your date, lay out your training, and if you need assistance getting there, let me know.
Let’s get this done together in 2013!
And now, Nathaniel Brous:
Jedd: Nathaniel, Tell Us a Bit About Your Athletic Background
I was a pretty active kid and a competitive swimmer in my youth. While I was never really into weight lifting, working construction helped keep me pretty fit into my early twenties. Unfortunately at 23yo I found myself in heart failure and was diagnosed with Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy (with atrial fibrillation) which severely curtailed my activities. This basically meant I had a weakened, enlarged heart that no longer beat normally…and they had no idea how it happened. I felt I had been cut down, at the time many consider the prime of their lives.
Jedd: That is Something I Have Never Heard of. So, What Made You Get into Grip & Bending?
I have to credit my daughter Abigail with getting me into grip. Because my heart condition had forced me to be relatively stagnant, I lived vicariously through watching physical shows like World Strongest Man and Sasuke (Japan’s premier obstacle course program). In early 2011, we were watching American Ninja Warrior and she said, “You can do that Daddy!” The reality was that I couldn’t – not even close. But, I wondered what would happen if I trained for it. And so my little odyssey began.
I began researching Ninja Warrior and learned about the value of grip. I discovered the Captains of Crush Grippers and Ironmind. These led me to learn of sites like the Gripboard (anwnate) and Diesel Crew.
All successful athletes in Sasuke are slight in build but pound for pound the toughest around. I quite casually throw that in, but don’t really have any doubts of it. It would be a nice discussion in the future. A Urushihara Yuuji or Nagano Makoto interview would be an awesome addition to the Diesel files. Few people even know the insane things these guys do with their grip. Sorry, I digress.
I began my training with a focus with weight loss. I decided to drop 50lbs to get down to my high school weight of 195. I figured from there I could reevaluate. By the way, I’m 6′ 4″ so I wasn’t exactly obese at 245. It took about 6 months to shed the weight and while I felt ok – people were very worried about me. I actually appeared gaunt and sickly…but didn’t even realize it until I started seeing pictures of myself. I question the sanity of the people who created those BMI charts…
Anyway, as I trained, I found that my heart really was holding me back. Due to my intense swimming regimen in the past, I was keenly aware of how my body responded to exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I was making progress and improving, but I knew I was never going to become successful in Ninja Warrior because I couldn’t train as hard as was necessary to become competitive. However, since I had already “gotten off the couch”, I was happy enough to shift gears and my training entirely to “Grip Sport”. Over a period of a year, I built my weight back up, but it was a different (more muscle based) weight.
I can’t tell you how pleased I have been with training Grip. It is something you can get into for little financial cost and make solid gains…regardless of your age, weight or background. I had such a blast at my first event, World’s Strongest Hands 2012 (Wyalusing, PA location)…I didn’t mind getting my butt kicked in the events. I came home with a renewed sense of motivation and purpose. Over time, I have met a great network of people who are extremely supportive and helpful.
(Note from Jedd – Here is Some Footage of Nate at World’s Strongest Hands 2012 on the Wrist Developer)
One of those people, John “Wojo” Wojciechowski was kind enough to invite me to a grip training session at his place. Afterwards, he taught me how to reverse bend a nail. I managed to reverse IM Blue and put a kink in a G5 my first time out. I would say that after my first bend, I was hooked.
Jedd: What Made You Decide to Certify on the Red?
That night when I came home very pumped up about bending. I spoke with my wife Maureen about possibly going for the Red nail. She had been pretty supportive of all my grip work and in quite the Rocky-esque fashion…said “Go for it!” I decided then that I would bend on the “down low” and then do a “double cert.” like Hannes Kainzj. With her blessing, I immediately ordered a bunch of Blues, Reds, and IM Pads. There is a wealth of bending knowledge on the internet, but I would have to credit Jedd’s ebook for setting me on the correct and safe course. I think it should be standard issue for anyone just getting into bending. As it turned out, a pinky issue has really slowed my gripper progress. Just before Christmas, I decided to Cert. the Red by itself and kind of “get on board” if you will.
Jedd: As you Progressed Through the Levels of Bending, Was it Pretty Easy Progress for You, or Were There Struggles? And How Did You Get Through Them?
I was fairly lucky to start where I did with bending, but no matter where you start, there will always be your first wall. For me, that wall was the G8. I struggled with that bar week after week and had almost no visible results. It was quite disheartening. I figured (correctly) that I was missing something pretty basic…but really didn’t know what it was.
I finally decided to slap double IMP’s on the G8 and see what happened. I melted that sucker down to like 80deg (finished it later). This was the beginning of what I’ve named “Reduced Padding Progression.” I certainly didn’t invent the idea, but I may have coined “RPP” as an expression.
It’s a very similar idea to people who progress in grippers. Ideally, you have like 100 rated grippers that you can slowly move up the ranks with. But reality dictates that we don’t have the money, time or luck to collect such a comprehensive collection, so we make do with other means (Vulcan’s, forced closes etc.). In the same vein, an ideal bending situation would mean acquiring slightly harder steel (baby steps) that progresses you from one piece to the next.
RPP provides an alternative route to that. I cut down a pair of IMP’s to 2/3 and 1/3 total length and then a single pad in half. So then I had the opportunity to bend the same piece of steel in 2′s, 1 2/3s, 1 1/2, 1 1/3 and 1′s. While it’s true that bending in doubles and singles are very different beasts…there is not a tremendous difference in technique between any one of these steps from the one before or after it. And…all of them work the same muscles to some extent…particularly the sweep and crush. You could literally take this idea to the extreme and cut the pads down to any fraction that you thought would help.
I took this idea and ran with it. It turned out, I wasn’t bending the G8 because it was “uncomfortable” to hit it hard in the kink. I never (a long time anyway) would have realized this, if I hadn’t de-mystified the G8 by bending it in doubles. A week later I managed the G8 in singles. Right then, I immediately tried and succeeded in bending a Red in doubles.
Over a few weeks, I gradually worked my way down to singles and eventually without bands. I didn’t immediately stop using bigger pads…I took it slow. After a bunch of bends in doubles, 1 2/3 became my “big” pads and this went on until at the very end I was doing the majority of my bends in singles. The hands need time to condition to the stress, and I’m of the opinion that this allowed me to continue training when I otherwise would have bailed. My cert. day actually saw me bend my 100th Red nail.
Jedd: What Would You Recommend to Others Who Might be Interested in Bending Steel and Certifying on the Red Nail
If someone is interested in getting into bending, the first thing I’d recommend would be to learn as much as you can. Again, I must pimp Jedd’s book. It’s really required reading for the beginning nail bender and will save a ton of time, money and possibly doctor’s bills (bending steel carries it’s own risks)
Next, make use of the internet… Youtube, Gripboard, Benders Battlefield. There are a lot of good people out there, more than willing to lend a hand. All you have to do is reach out. Thirdly, don’t skimp on padding. It’s super cheap and (in my opinion) can to get you from point A. to point B.
Since I’ve got the pulpit…there are two more important things I’d like to impart. One I would like to borrow from the poker world. Leaning. When you “lean” on your opponent, you keep pressure on him and generally, the longer you do it, the more of an advantage you gain…until you have all his chips.
There will be times you will want to be more aggressive…there are time you’ll be less aggressive. It won’t be linear, and it won’t be stagnant, it’ll be like an ever-changing and ever-flowing river. But it will always be moving forward. Basically I advise that you “Lean” on your goals. Find out what it is that you want, how you are going to approach it…then start leaning. Any time you can adjust your strategy to exploit something, do so. Whether that be incorporating a new technique, or adding a workout, or subtracting a workout…keep the pressure on your goal. It will have no choice but to fall to your will.
The last thing is just a thought to keep in mind. You don’t get stronger by working out…you get stronger by recovering. Try and stay in tune with your body…call audibles if you have to. We don’t recover based on a chart or our peers, we recover at our own rate…a rate that changes as we age. Know your body and figure out what kind of rest it requires…then allow it to get stronger.
“The most productive and the most difficult thing about grip training is waiting until your body is ready to train again.” – me
Nathaniel’s Red Nail Certification (First 40 Seconds)
Jedd: Nate, thanks for the interview and for sharing that awesome wrapping progression with my readers. That is the first time I have heard anyone lay it out in that way. Very nice work and I wish you well in your pursuit of the Gold Nail. Please keep us posted!
Jedd: Diesels, if you are looking for guidance to get you to your Steel Bending goals, look no further than the resources below for all the information you need on conditioning, wrapping, technique, and progressing…
Free Report on Oldtime Strongman Feats = > Sign up for it Here
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