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Isometric Hammer Work for Bending Success

Double Overhand Bending

I’ve done a great deal of steel bending in my time. I’ve bent nails, bolts, steel stock, horse shoes, widow makers and more. I’ve bent alongside some of the best steel benders in the world in grip contests.

How to Improve at Bending

When it comes to building strength for bending, there is no doubt that the best option is BENDING. Buying the piles of nails, ordering the stock , wrapping the bolts, and bending the hell out them all on a regular basis. This is the number one way to get better because it is the only specific type of training for it.


However, improving in bending doesn’t always have to be about making consistent jumps up in steel. It also has to do with longevity.

Let’s face it, for most of us, it takes months if not years to make huge jumps up the bending ladder. It’s tough enough to set new PR’s when we are healthy. If we experience injuries along the way, it just makes it harder for us to progress.

This is where isometric hammer work can be so valuable.

Sledge Hammer Training for Bending

Sledgehammers have been a popular cross-training method for benders for years. For many benders, hammers are what they start out using in order to prepare for bending. I know I did.

Hammers are great for getting the lower arms, wrists and hands used to the stresses placed on them, and now they can also be used to keep people in top bending form.

Sledges are so great for this because we can use them to work a variety of joint angles. We can pick a sledgehammer up to the vertical position, then lower it slightly and hold it there, all the while isometrically strengthening that point in the wrist movement, plus or minus 15 degrees (research shows isometrics effectively strengthen the joint angle over that range).

Important Points for Hammer Training

A few things to remember going in:

  • Make sure you are warmed up before doing these lifts. They produce high levels of stress, so prepare for the work sets with some lighter work ahead of time.
  • Train throughout the range of motion, not just at the extremes. Stop and hold half way through from time to time. Get strong at all angles.
  • If you can’t get the hammer in position by concentric wrist strength only, then use your other hand, momentum, or a training partner to get it there.
  • If you can’t hold the sledge in position by gripping at the end of the handle, then CHOKE UP. Do what you need to get the benefit of the training stimulus. These are not official attempts, so don’t treat them that way.
  • Work both of your hands. You bend with both hands, so make sure to work both hands as well.
  • Know when you are done. If you’re feeling serious fatigue, don’t push through it. Remember, these lifts are for keeping you away from injury, not to bring you closer to it.

Hammer Isometrics

Here are a handful of movements that can be done with sledgehammers isometrically that will both build strength for starting and keeping a bend going, as well as keeping you resilient and safe, and maintaining your momentum in your bending training.

Partial Hammer Deadlift

With the sledge laying flat on the ground, bend down and grip it by the handle and pick it up, but stop half way and hold it there. It can be a lot harder holding a hammer in the parallel position, when you are bent over like this.

Weaver Stick Row

partial hammer deadlift for building bending strength

The Weaver Stick involves picking a stick with weight hanging from it up off a surface parallel to the ground and breaking parallel with it. We can do it with a sledge hammer as well, but in this case, pick it off the ground and hold it level with the ground and then slowly move the arm back and forth, all awhile controlling the momentum of the sledge.

Multi-Stage Front Nose Lever Hold

sledge hammer training for nail bending strength sledge hammer training for increased wrist strength for bending

With this one, raise the hammer up to the vertical position, then lower it. Every few inches, hold the hammer for a few seconds, then let the hammer ride down a bit further and hold it in that position. Turning it “on and off” like this resembles what goes on during a bend with the joint angles constantly changing and how the hands shift from being and anchor hand to a driver hand.

Front Hold

front hold hammer training for grip and nail bending

This movement is great because not only do you have to hold the weight of the hammer out in front of you, but you also get a great stretch through the top of the wrist and forearm.

Taking Action

These are just a handful of ways to use this isometric concept in your training that I shot over the span of about 5 minutes, and they only cover ulnar and radial deviation movements. You can also use sledge hammers to train wrist flexion and extension as well as forearm rotation (pronation / supination). The only limit is your imagination.

If you’re looking for more guidance with your bending, my Nail Bending eBook is the best place to start. I’ll show you a ton more exercises for nail bending as well as a ramp-up program to get your strength levels up to speed, plus all of the techniques you need to know to put a hurting on steel. Pick it up here = = > How to Build Hands Strong Enough to Bend Steel

As always, I welcome any questions you might have, so feel free to contact me through the form at the top of the page, or leave me a comment below. I check the comments added to the site each day, because they are important to me, so fire away!

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All the best with your bending,


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5 Responses to “Isometric Hammer Work for Bending Success”

  1. tnthudson Says:

    Good stuff, as usual! I did the hammer exercises as outlined in your NailBending book for awhile but backed off…how often should I hit those if I’m getting back into it? Once/week is about what I was doing previously, and I did notice some gains. Now I want to get into actual bending, but I’m assuming I’ll need to keep up with the exercising in addition to a weekly bending session (?)

  2. Jim Smith Says:

    The frequency of how often you do bending and sledge work is completely dependent on what your body can handle. With that in mind, I suggest trying one bending workout per week and one sledge workout per week.

    If this seems too much to recover from, you might switch it to bending first one day and then hit some extra sledge work.

    If that seems like too much, you might go for bending once per week and then sledge once per week.

    If that feels like the best option for your body, then you can look at increasing the bending workouts or the sledge. Either way, work up slowly. Don’t try to over do it too soon.


  3. tnthudson Says:

    Awesome, thanks, Jedd. BTW, I re-watched the video of you going for the 405 lb. stone (youtube) while I was playing with my new Droid phone, I forgot how much fun that video was..I’m just aiming to lift a 175 lb. stone sometime. Those cats in the background were cracking me up!

  4. Mike Rinderle Says:

    Tried some of these this morning after watching the Road to the Record for the 3rd time. Good stuff as always!

  5. Jim Smith Says:

    Awesome Mike. How’d you like the DVD?

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