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How And Why To Tear Cards

Why would somebody want to do that? What’s the matter with you? Those were two early responses I received when I started telling people I wanted to get strong enough to tear a deck of cards in half. First it was the kettlebells, then it was the grippers, then it was the pinch block, and so on. “Quit spending your money on this dumb stuff. It doesn’t matter.”

Why it matters to me

I’ve spent more money on my strength pursuits than will make sense to most people. Kettlebells aren’t cheap, that’s for sure. Moreover, time is precious, and I choose to use a lot of my free time getting stronger. But: after I’ve met the day’s obligations, put food on the table, et cetera…who’s to say I shouldn’t spend my evenings ripping things apart? Tearing cards isn’t a cheap habit either, but it sure is a fun one.

It is a fun workout that will make you feel like a superhero

That’s the main reason I tear cards: it’s a fun feat of strength that not many people can do. It’s also a great workout and makes you feel like a superhero: maybe a B-list superhero whose power is to tear decks of cards in half. But then again, what would The Joker have been if someone had torn all of his little cards in half before he could use them?

You probably already know if you have any interest in tearing cards or not. Maybe you’re smarter than me and you can teach yourself to do it. I wasn’t able to make it far on my own. I tried for a couple of months, but didn’t make much progress. I could tear 15-20 cards at a time, but that knocked me down to a D-list superhero, if not an outright sidekick.

Dont let this happen to you

Don't let this happen to you

Card tearing requires:

  • extreme hand and forearm strength
  • knowledge of the techniques and which technique will be best for you

I learned from Jedd Johnson

Jedd “Napalm” Johnson of the Diesel Crew is an American grip champion (yes, there is such a thing as a grip championship). His Card Tearing E-book was what took me from tearing 15 cards with great effort to tearing complete decks without too much trouble.

Here is what you will learn from Jedd’s e-book

  • How to develop the necessary strength in your pinch grip and wrists
  • The different techniques you can use to tear cards
  • How to take care of your hands
  • How to make a deck harder to tear so you can keep increasing you strength, or easier so you can practice without getting discouraged.

There’s a lot more in there too. It sounds pretty simple, but Jedd takes over 130 page to demonstrate the variety of exercises (40 pages worth) and techniques used in tearing cards. I needed the exercise examples because tearing cards in an unusual activity–and so it requires some unusual, specific techniques to work up to it. I was guessing at what I should be doing. Sometimes I was close, but usually I was just wrong.

Steady progress, constant results

That’s the whole story. Once I read the book, I was able to diagnose my weak links, pick the exercises best suited to my weaknesses, and get after it. Two weeks after buying Jedd’s e-book I tore my first full deck. I was stronger than I thought, but my technique had been heinous.

If you have a serious interest in being able to tear cards, this is the best place to start, unless you live with Jedd or Dennis Rogers. It’s a foolproof map to steady progress. But be warned: once you get bitten by the feats of strength bug, it’s hard to turn it off.

Jedd is a cool guy who has always been patient in answering my many questions. You can check his book out by clicking on the link below. If you pick it up I’d love to hear about your progress in the comments section. 

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  • flagmonkey May 5, 2009, 8:05 am

    Great, i love the posts about grip strength. My father told me last week he could break folding rules ( those things: http://www.werbegeschenk.de/images/produktbilder/002p6012.jpg) with his bare hands when he was younger. Is this a well known strength feat? Can you do it? I can’t even bend it right now, so this might be a great challenge.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 5, 2009, 8:31 am

      I never heard of someone breaking the folding rules. I’m sure I couldn’t. As much as I love this stuff, I’m still very amateur. I can tear a decent-sized phonebook without too much trouble, but cards are definitely my best, my consistent feat right now.

      Have you seen John Brookfield? he can tear a tennis ball in half. Next time you’ve got a tennis ball, give it a twist and think about what that means

      I’m also working on rolling up a frying pan. So many feats are upper-body intensive, and my healing shoulder and the upcoming RKC is making me a “little” more conservative. Get me a video of your dad!

  • flagmonkey May 5, 2009, 10:41 am

    I’m pretty sure he could break them 30 years ago, perhaps he could still do it now with a little training. I guess that’s the difference between people that work physically hard for a living and those sitting all day.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 5, 2009, 10:47 am

      Absolutely. Google Slim The Hammer Man if you’ve never heard of him. Slim swung a sledge hammer for about 10 hours a day, then came home and trained with it. Heavy leverage work became his specialty. He was eventually able to leverage a 53 lb hammer!

  • flagmonkey May 5, 2009, 11:55 am

    great, i will google those feats and people.

  • Erik May 5, 2009, 4:52 pm

    Tip for supporting your card-ripping habit: Casinos sell used decks of cards used in previous games of poker and blackjack for about a dollar. Next time you’re in Wendover or Elko pick up a bunch and rip ’em for less.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 5, 2009, 5:26 pm

      Thanks Erik. That’s a great tip. Casino cards rank pretty high in the difficulty hierarchy. also, dollar stores sell two-packs for $1. They’re cheap cards and much easier to tear than something like Bicycles, but not bad for practicing. You can always add cards to a cheap deck to make it more challenging.

  • Rob May 6, 2009, 5:45 am


    I got this book the day it came out! I must say it’s fantastic and a brilliant resource for card tearing and also endless homemade grip devices (for next to nothing).
    It got me from about 1 min per deck to 14 secs in a week on technique alone.

    I also get the ‘why so much strength apparatus?’, why not if you’ve put the bread on the table etc and it’s your hobby. Many people spend 3 times that amount per year on beer alone.


  • Jeff May 13, 2009, 1:38 pm

    You can get really good deals on used cards on Amazon – the breakdown is usually around fifty cents a deck or less and they are Casino quality cards. I bought a few batches when my fascination with tearing cards began and it was a heck of a lot cheaper than running to the store and buying a three dollar deck of bikes every time I wanted a challenging tear

    • Josh Hanagarne May 13, 2009, 3:09 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Jeff. I’d never even considered Amazon. Will check it out right now.