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Guest Post: The Journey into Nail Bending

When it comes to bending, there are some questions that seem to get asked over and over…

  • What is the typical bender like?
  • How does somebody get involved in Nail Bending?
  • Why would someone want to bend nails in the first place?

Recently, Carl Donati Jr put together a guest post that answers many of these questions. If Bending Nails is something you’ve heard about, thought about doing, or wanted to pursue, have a look at what he says about his beginnings with Nail Bending, how he’s progressed, and what he has done to be at the level he is right now: A recently certified Red Nail Bender…

The Journey Into Nail Bending

Carl Donati Jr, Bending the Red Nail

I am writing this article to both generate interest in and provide a “push” to those that may be on the fringe of taking on steel bending. I hope to contribute something that may help in some small way. This information is aimed primarily at the beginner or intermediate. As I am writing this, I will be making my official certification attempt at bending the IronMind Red Nail in less than a week. I have come a long way in my bending skill, but still have a lot to learn and a long road ahead.

I have trained with weights consistently since I was eleven years old. I have come full-circle from a decade (+) long affair with bodybuilding to my current path as a competitive powerlifter. When I began competing as a powerlifter in my early thirties, I quickly found out my wrist strength was not up-to-par, as I obtained a moderate wrist strain when doing heavy doubles on bench one day. At this point, I began looking at ways to build up my wrist strength in a way that this type of injury would not happen again and derail my training as it had.

I did the typical stuff you’d expect in a commercial gym (wrist curls with a dumbbell and barbell, reverse wrist curls, fat bar holds … etc.), but didn’t really find what I was looking for until I came across information on the Captains of Crush Hand Grippers and later the IronMind catalog. I started to train with the grippers, doing OK over the first year. I think I was able to close the # 2 at this time. (My progress stalled but incremental gains here have me working toward the #2.5). I began to explore the IronMind catalog and incorporated several things into my training, including the Hub Pinch, the Rolling Thunder, and the Wrist Lever. About two years ago, I purchased the Bag-of-Nails. The rest is history, as I became hooked that first night!

As I think back to the day the Bag-of-Nails arrived, I remember excitedly looking through all of the contents and visualizing what I was going to do that night with the stock (nails). I looked at the white and green nails and thought, “Ok, these are definitely possible.” I looked at the yellow and blue and thought that it would take a lot of training to get to that level. When I held up and examined the Red Nail, I really did not think it was possible to bend this behemoth!

I bent double underhand with my pinkies touching using single IronMind Pads (IMP’s) for the entire first year. My first month consisted of folding the wraps into a square and putting the nails into the pads, then folding them over. It was only after doing some research that I began to roll the wrap around the nail and secured it with a rubber band. In retrospect, what I have learned and would do differently those first few months would be to seek out someone who is experienced and observe and train with them. If this is not possible, I would join the Gripboard and read/view videos, then submit my own bends for critique.

Double Underhand Bending Technique

Getting back to the double underhand (DU) style… I focused on technique and took small steps for that first half-year. It wasn’t until the last quarter of my first year I finally bent the yellow DU (Double Underhand). My progress from the yellow to the blue was very quick, unlike that first eight months. At this time, I was unaware of the Fat Bastard Barbell Company (FBBC) and their steel stock. If I would have incorporated their steel into my training, my initial progress would have been a lot smoother. The FBBC has a wide selection of steel and bolts to help facilitate your road to the Red (if that is what your goal is) in jumping between the IronMind stock and chasing other certifications such as Bender’s Battlefield, FBBC, or the Gripboard. Local hardware stores are another great location to purchase bolts and nails. For a great list of online steel/bolt suppliers and ranking of bending stock difficulty, read the appropriate sections in the Diesel Crew Bending e-Book.

After my first year, I became aware of the Diesel Crew blog and read some of the bending articles. The tips were helping me immensely and I decided to buy the Bending e-Book. After reading the e-book, I began to experiment with the Double Overhand (DO) style. The contents in Jedd Johnson’s book, along with advice I was receiving on the Gripboard enabled me to make excellent progress in the DO style of bending.

Double Overhand Bending Technique

I continued to bend DU and DO, with good progress in both techniques. It was soon thereafter I bent my first graded bolt and then a harder grade 8 bolt. At this point, I focused more on the DO style and began working my wrists with the 8-pound sledgehammer and Rolling Thunder. I also worked on my shoulder flexibility with stretches and bar hangs.

Sledge Hammer Levering

I feel that the most important accessory in my own training that helped me keep my wrists healthy and improved my all-around wrist and hand strength were the sledge levers. In doing these, I typically do 3 sets of front and rear levers for 6 – 8 reps. The levers are done in between bends. I am not very proficient in the Rolling Thunder but do this 2 times per week for ten second holds and singles.

Looking back through my training logs, one interesting point to make is that many of my PR bends were done in between sets of heavy squats and deadlifts. I did not do a strictly dedicated bending workout until I started bending the 5/16” diameter stuff. I have compared my intensity on heavy S/DL days with specific bends to that of the same stock on non-lifting days and the former wins by far. Personally, I am in a better mindset on my heavy days to explode into the steel, though have been bridging the gap in recent months.

This takes me to the pre-bend psych-up. I have worked on focused deep breathing exercises and visualization techniques. Prior to the bend, I consciously track each breath in and out until I am in a relaxed, but focused state. At this point, I briefly rehearse what I will be doing with the outcome being the destruction of the steel.

Reverse Style Bending

As mentioned above, I started to bend double underhand and then switched to double overhand. Several months back, I began to experiment with the reverse grip. To me, this style of bending (hands low with thumbs touching) feels better and more natural then DU. And reverse bending is a lot of fun! At the current time, I am getting better at reverse grip, where I am now bending grade 5’s to almost 40 degrees. I hope to continue my progress with this style and will continue to work to improve it as much as I can. As my bending progresses, I will continue to work all three styles of bending: double overhand, double underhand, and reverse style.

bending wraps
IronMind Pads

Lastly, I would like to touch briefly on the types of wraps I used and continue to bend with. As mentioned previously, I bent exclusively with the IronMind pads (IMP’s) for the entire first year. Although these pads were tough on the hands – I had many blisters and cuts those first few months – I think by doing this, my hands became conditioned to the point now where the calluses protect against almost any problem. When I jumped up to the 5/16” bolts and CRS (Cold-Rolled Steel), I bent using the IMP’s with a small piece of leather wrapped around it for a total diameter of about 1.2.” Upon taking the bolt/bar down to 2″, I would cut a small piece off from the leather and work with until I was proficient… and so on until I was bending using just the IronMind wraps.

I hope I was able to provide you with some tips that help with your bending or enable you to reach another level of stock. To me, bending has permeated many other parts of my life (powerlifting, work, motivation, etc.) in a positive way. It has taught me how to focus intensely on one specific thing and transfer my energy in an explosive manner. A great aspect of steel bending is the many short-term goals you end up setting and achieving, and the mental effect of that success on your psyche. Many days, I find myself rushing home to start bending or skipping my off days because I just can’t wait.

If you are thinking about getting started, don’t waste any more time and just do it! Going all the way back to one of my original reasons to start bending – to help prevent wrist strains for the bench press – I haven’t had a problem with my benching since I started to bend steel.

Carl Donati, JR – Certified Red Nail Bender

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Carl, thanks so much for submitting your guest post and congratulations on your recent certification on the Red Nail. Also thanks for the props on the Nail Bending eBook. I am glad it has been helpful to you in your Journey in Steel Bending.

P.S. If you’d like to get started with Nail Bending safely, there is no better resource that the Nail Bending eBook


Ultimate Forearm Training for Baseball | How to Bend Nails | How to Tear Cards | Feats of Grip Strength Explained | How to Build Your Own Equipment | How to Lift Atlas Stones | The Sh*t You’ve Never Seen | Sled Dragging for Athletes | The Road to the Record DVD

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2 Responses to “Guest Post: The Journey into Nail Bending”

  1. How to Train for Hand Strength and Health Says:

    […] MORE INFORMATION: The author has hundreds of free articles on how to build hand strength. This is a process that can be fun and rewarding in many ways, especially along the lines of learning how to bend nails. […]

  2. How to Train for Hand Strength and Health | Says:

    […] MORE INFORMATION: The author has hundreds of free articles on how to build hand strength. This is a process that can be fun and rewarding in many ways, especially along the lines of learning how to bend nails. […]

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