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A Brief History of (my) Steel Bending by Jordan Vezina, RKC

This is a guest post from Jordan Vezina, RKC.  Jordan is the owner of Average to Elite Kettlebell Training and the creator of the upcoming Kettlebell DVD The Corrections.  Today Jordan is talking about how got into the world of steel bending.  He’s really funny and a great coach who has helped me out a lot.  Enjoy!

A brief history of (my) steel bending

By Jordan Vezina RKC

I remember watching some youtube videos of Adam Glass bending steel back in 2007 and thinking that this was something only mutants did. The ability to bend nails, bolts, horseshoes, etc. was something you were born with. You couldn’t train to get that kind of strength.

Then I came across Jedd Johnson’s Nail Bending E-book. The emphasis in the ads seemed to be that anyone could do this, and it was (contrary to what I had thought) just a matter of proper training. So I took the plunge and bought the e-book. I then went online and bought one of Ironmind’s Bags O’ Nails.
I got the bag of nails and was let’s say… intimidated. I kept the white and green nails out, but tossed the yellow, blue, and red nails in a box. I didn’t think I would have a need for those anytime soon.

Months passed. I read the e-book and began to absorb the information. I still wasn’t mentally or emotionally connected to the idea that I could do this. Emotionally… that’s kind of a weird thing to say, isn’t it? Not really, and I’ll tell you why.

I’ve always been weak, and I mean really weak. In my twenties I generally weighed 130-140 pounds and once was as low as 114 pounds for a while. I wasn’t small and wiry with more strength than you would expect. I was as strong as I looked. I had decent endurance because I started running 30-50 miles a week and built up to 28 dead hang pull ups while I was in the Marines, but that isn’t hard when you’re pulling so little weight over the bar. When it came to lugging around my combat gear, humping a pack and usually part of a crew served weapon I was always fighting for survival.

I like relating my past because it lets you know that I am not just some freak, and that I built up to this from a position of extreme weakness. It wasn’t until 2006 when I started using kettlebells that I built any real strength. I know now that my work with kettlebells laid the foundation that allowed me to begin bending steel.

Back to my bag o nails. I started working through the white nails, which are 3/16 inch stock. Then I moved to the cut down version of the whites, the green nails. I spent months on these. I worked up to some volume bending, taking down 20 greens at a time trying to get the yellow nail. I thought the yellow nail would never go down.

Then it went down. It didn’t take long for me to work through the yellows, then the blues. Then I tried to bend a Grade 5 Bolt. I seriously thought my biceps and my head were going to explode. No joke. I wondered if I could seriously injure myself doing this? I decided to make an example of the blue (sixty penny) nails before really attacking the bolts. How so? I had an idea… how about I bend 50 in a row?

So I did it. I was originally targeting 50 in 30 minutes, but it took me 50 minutes instead. It was hard.

The aftermath

The aftermath

Then onto the Gr5’s. Other things began happening during this process. I bottoms up pressed a 28 kg. kettlebell at 170 pounds bodyweight. I quartered a deck of cards. I was just generally getting stronger, and I knew much of it was a direct transfer from my bending. I also had something I had never before had in my life… a chest. The final crush down of a hard bend is like a pec deck to the Nth degree. Except it’s not lame. Another thing was just the thickness of my hands. I have always had small and slender hands, now they are thick and muscular. My forearms are like baseball bats, and butting up against being bigger than my upper arms.

Grade 5’s started going down more easily. Then 14 in a row. Then a goal was finally reached that even in my bending frenzy I wasn’t sure I could actually do. I bent a horseshoe.

That was a horseshoe once

That was a horseshoe once

I am not at the end of my steel bending, card tearing etc. I don’t even think I am at the middle. I believe I will have a talent for taking down short pieces of stock, one of the few areas where having small hands actually pays off. My current goal is to get on Ironmind’s Red Nail roster. It will happen, it’s just a matter of time, and staying on task.

You can visit Jordan at Average to Elite or on the Dragondoor Forums where he posts at 0311bravo. He is available for personal instruction in Palo Alto, California, and also offers online training options.  Please go say hi.

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  • Bill Long July 14, 2009, 7:45 am

    Great post Jordan!

  • Stephen "Steve" Ruiz, RKC July 14, 2009, 8:21 am

    Jordan, you are an inspiration (and a heck of a kettlebell trainer, too)! I always am amazed at your journey from a formerly “little guy” to where you are now. As a current “little guy” (133lbs) I am encouraged — not only by your posts — but by my own strength gains from kettlebell training. After a recent workshop that featured David Whitley — and reading your excellent post — I know that bending is in my future…THANKS! Now I think I’ll head over to Ironmind for a bag of nails! Can’t bend ’em if you don’t have ’em! Right?

  • Al in Vancouver July 16, 2009, 10:05 pm

    Nice one. Jordan, if you are reading this, do you feel that steel bending has a significant crossover to other areas of strength? You do allude to this in your piece. I would like to hear more on this.


    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2009, 11:02 pm

      Hey Al. I have very little bending experience. I do remember in Jedd’s book he says “You bend a nail with your whole body.” That definitely implies some crossover. I’d like to hear more about it too.

  • Jordan July 19, 2009, 9:56 pm

    Hi everyone, sorry I’m late. 🙂
    Al, I do feel there was a strong carryover to my other strength work. I just became stronger in general, and I believe better able to handle random tasks. Another aspect was just ‘mental strength endurance’ if that makes any sense.

  • Al in Vancouver July 19, 2009, 11:29 pm

    “Mental strength endurance.” That’s a great one. You’ve coined a new phrase!

    Thanks for your reply Jordan. I have been becoming more interested in bending and I am just trying to figure out benefits and drawbacks of choosing to commit myself. So thanks for your response.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 20, 2009, 7:18 am

      @Al. I’ve seen different beginner’s kits. Do you know how you’re planning on starting?

  • Al in Vancouver July 20, 2009, 11:15 pm

    @ Josh

    If I go tat route I will order Jedd’s ebook and then be a cheap guy and go to the hardware store first. But I guess I need to read the ebook to know what I am looking for.

    I am in one of those priod where my direction is a little up in the air. Hopefully I will have more clarity soon. Too damned many interesting training philosophies out there and I want to explore them all!

  • Kris Wragg December 29, 2009, 5:32 am

    At 5′ 10″ and 150lbs I’m pretty close to where you started Jordan, until about 21 I was even skinnier at about 135lbs, the extra 15lbs from 21 – 24 was mostly fat!

    With kettlebells I’ve dropped some of that fat and turned into muscle, and now I’ve just started with bending nails. Reading your post is an inspiration, I know I can bend a nail, its just a matter of time.

    But it is nice to know that I won’t be stuck with feeble nails, if you can demolish grade 5 bolts then I’ll get there too, it’ll probably take years, but hard work always pays off in the end!

    • Josh Hanagarne December 29, 2009, 11:05 am

      Kris, you’ll be there before you know it. Just decide to go, then march forward until you’re there.

      • Kris Wragg December 29, 2009, 11:10 am

        Thanks for the encouragement Josh! Worlds strongest Software Engineer? Maybe one day 🙂

    • Jordan Vezina December 30, 2009, 12:43 am

      Kris, anyone can do it, it is just a matter of staying on task and figuring out a logical progression. Since this was published I have bent Grade 8 bolts, a 12″ Timber Spike, and can bend the lighter horse shoes at will. It just keeps getting better. 🙂