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Short bending + Kettlebells = Dominating Power

November 12, 2007 03:45 PM

The Hard style method is a proven formula for strength and conditioning. A person can take the minimalist approach laid out in several of the programs and achieve quick, lasting results. Minimal time spent working out, without the latest Nike cross trainers, $300 dollars worth of supplements and without a $500 dollar a year membership to a major gym franchise.

I wrote this article to share my experience and gains using a combination of short bending and the hard style methods. The skills required compliment each other very much. The tension techniques and training from Power to the People!, The Naked Warrior, and Enter the Kettlebell! allow you to master bends faster; the strength built bending gives you crushing power for your presses and pulls.

Short bending is a rewarding activity. Physiologically, I find it much more satisfying to set a bend PR then a dead lift or snatch record. You are taking a piece of steel designed not to bend, and turning it in to a useless piece of junk with your hands. You will find it to be a first class developer of the wrist, hands and shoulders, but you will be surprised to find how much it works the traps, abs, and biceps. Short bending makes your body rock hard. I am not a fan of body building, but I can not help to appreciate the extreme density I have built in my forearms, chest and shoulder from bending.

How do you learn to bend? I recommend checking out, or you will find all kinds of knowledge on this topic. Jedd Johnson wrote an E-book on the subject which will not be topped. It was worth every penny so I recommend you start there. I will give a short briefing on the style I employ, the reverse grip.

Pat "Terminator" Povilitis was the first man to bend anything worth talking about with the reverse grip. He has switched over to the double over hand the last few years and is bending some massive pieces of steel. Grand master strong man Dennis Rogers bends Craftsman wrenches with a reverse grip! Do not believe there are limitations to your strength.

Reverse grip is pure strength. There is very little leverage in the feat. Either your arms and wrist are strong enough to complete the bend or they are not. To start you must wrap the spike tightly. I like to use cordura wrap with rubber bands. It does not give a lot of padding, but it does let me get a tight grip. I like to feel the end of the nail in my hand. I take the nail in my left hand and hold it like a hammer and with the right hand I grab it like a knife.

I put a slight bend in my left arm and a slight bend in my right wrist. Bending the elbow in this position allows you to fully load the lat and shoulder. With the right arm I once again slightly bend the elbow to fully load the back and lat. At this point I inhale several times and focus on the bend. I take a large breath through my mouth and then more air through the nose and start.

Crush grip with every thing you have and pull the spike with your left hand and turn your hand downwards. With the right hand you are pushing down and forward one the end of the nail. The center of the nail will bend over the back of my thumbs first knuckle. It is not the most comfortable thing in the world when you first start, but you will get used to it as your skin toughens up. You MUST explode in to the nail. Mental focus is the key here. I use every single tension technique I have ever learned. The spiral, power breathing, glute and ab contraction, anal lock, crush grip, low shoulder alignment, static stomp in to the ground, spreading the floor with the feet, locking the hips forward, bracing and zipping. The nail will bend if you make it bend. I know that may not make sense now, but it is true. When the Mighty Atom was asked by Slim the Hammerman "can you bend that spike?" he replied "I can; in my mind" I am only now learning the true power of the mind.

The transition is a critical portion of the bend. You have to crush down the spike enough to get a grip for the crush down. The closer the legs are, the easier the finish will be. Jedd Johnson recommends grabbing the back of your hand for the last few millimeters of the crush to close the gap. At this stage, you really want to keep the spike moving. As it bends it heats up and makes it slightly easier to move.

The crush down is a summery of all of your upper body power. You apply pressure through both hands to drive the spike down to a U. I like to crush grip the spike with one hand and brace my other hand on the other end. As I crush, I force my elbows forward to gain leverage on the spike. The movement is both forwards and downward. This allows you to use your chest, shoulders and upper back to demolish the spike.

As I close the gap, I interlace my fingers and pull the spike up to my collar bone/throat area. This is where I feel strongest. I keep my hands close to my chest and get those elbows far out, which gives me superior applied strength. To feel the difference on this, pick up a kettlebell in the crush curl grip. The first time hold the bell away from the body with the wrists outside the elbows. Now try again and hold it closer in the manner I described. You will be strong in this position. Notice how my shoulders are shrugged up. This is critical; you will have much more power.

For the final crush I slam everything I have in to my hands. The spike is done. The only limit to how close the final bend ends up is the amount of padding wedged in between the nail and the amount of pain I am willing to endure. Crushing a ? spike is fairly easy to get very close. A red nail or a Gr 8 is very, very hard to crush down. As you get calloused and conditioned, you will feel less pain for your bends. Start slowly, remember the tortoise and the hare.

A red nail finished off.

Short bending will you make you incredibly strong. This is one the key elements of being stronger then you look. Go grab that big 240lbs body builder over there doing his 16th set of preacher curls and ask him to bend a Gr5. He will probably fail if he has not been doing the real work. Bending has nothing to do with your body weight. Two of the best benders in the world are 170lbs. The power you will build in your arms, back and chest will directly impact every other lift and drill you do. The tension you generate and harness will carry over to other high tension drills such as one arm push ups, bent presses, bottoms-up presses, janda sit-ups, and pistols.

I recently in the last month completed some heavy duty bends-Reds and Gr8's. In the past week, I have increased my military press, bottoms up press (now pressing a 62lbs with 35lbs of chain) and snatch numbers (I attribute that to better conditioning of the hands and grip, allowing more reps) I attribute my rapid success in bending to the last year of high ballistic reps whipping iron over my head and max tension grinds. Most people have the strength in their torso to complete an IM yellow nail their first time, but will take months to build the strength in their wrist to endure the stress of the bend. I think people who train with kettle bells have an unfair advantage over those who only lift barbells and machines when it comes to short bending.

There a few assistance exercises KBs offer to those of us who only train with KBs that directly assist short bending.

- The bottoms-up press is a good start. I like to use a very explosive clean to really force myself to crush the bell for the press. The BUP teaches you to tense every muscle for the press.

- The KB floor exercise from RKC. Lay the bell on the floor with the handle facing towards you. Grab it, tense up the whole body and roll it on to the top of the handle.

- Around the body pass with a heavy bell. Very simple, and very effective. Take a heavy bell and swing it around your body. Throw the bell out and grab it explosively. Crush grip the bell and force it over and around.

- Soap snatches. There is a product I use called body glide. It looks like a stick of deodorant. It is a non-greasy stick used mainly for runners to prevent thigh chaffing. I highly recommend it, because I think it works better then hand soap or something oily. It's great because it is very easy to clean off during a work out. Rub the slippery stuff on your hands and go to town. You will find your hands don't take the trashing they do during the rotation of the handle, but your fingers are strained to the utmost to maintain a solid grip. Make sure your front and rear area is clear before you start. Heavy swings are great with this because you have to death grip the handle or it will fly right out.

- Crush lift with a kettle bell. You will need at least two kettle bells, two carabiners, a 12-18 inch chain and a few JS bands. Hook the handles together with the chain. Turn one KB up-side down and crush grip it. Lift it up with a crush grip pinning the bell in a similar position for the spike crush down.

I like to loop a JS band around the second bell and place a few JS bands on my shoulders to add resistance. It requires a lot of pressure to lift and hold; I love this drill.

There is also a body weight drill which is of great value to short bending-The goose neck chin up. Make a tight fist and hook your arms to the bar in a goose neck. Brace your self, then get up that bar. All of the fine points of the tactical pull up apply here. You will find it is an enormous load on the forearm tendons, flexors, biceps, chest and lats. It is not the most comfortable thing to do, but you will get over it.
There are a few other types of bending which will help you out. One of which is braced bending, usually used for pieces longer then 10" inches or for pieces which are extremely strong like the crescent wrenches Dennis Rogers bends. Braced bending is more upper back and chest then grip and wrist. Your hands are still important, but the power for the bend will be from your large muscle groups. Braced bending can be a painful experience when you first start, because you are forcing the steel to bend over a body part. I usually bend over my hip or my femur bone at the top of my thigh. It is not so fun. You have to focus on the completed bend and not the discomfort.

This was a torsion bar from a M-35. I think it is ? inch. This was extremely hard to bend because it flexed a lot before it kinked.

Scrolling work is an artistic approached to braced bending were you roll and twist a long piece of steel. John Brookfield and Erik Vining are the two guys to look to for the hows and whys of scrolling. I have done a few 25 foot sections of grade 3 and 4 rebar, and I will tell you it is an incredible upper body work out. You have to attack from unusually angles to kink and twist the steel and I believe this type of training builds truly nasty strength.

This is a 15 foot section of Gr4 rebar. It took about 10 minutes and I hurt for about a week. Pain is good. Now that I know more I could have gotten in 10 more spirals out of it. Experience in this really allows for some amazing designs.

I hope you give this unique training a try. I believe you will find it to be some of the most satisfying training you do. Steel bending remains a true test of strength. No tricks, no cheating, and no room to nay say a completed bend. Either you are stronger then the spike or you are not. Any kettle bell lifter will benefit from it, and I believe they will make a natural progression. With this powerful combination, I see the IM red nail roster filling up fast in the next few years.

Adam T Glass, SSgt, USAF is a Security Forces Craftsman. He competes in arm wrestling, strongman and Greco-roman wrestling. Feel free to contact him at