Photos by Mandy Whitley
I first started bending steel a few years ago after talking with Bud Jeffries about it. I quickly worked up to bending 60d nails and then moved on to other training goals. The Red Nail from IronMind seemed light years away. Not any more. I killed it and it is dead. I must give a ton of thanks and gratitude to my mentor Grandmaster Strongman Dennis Rogers and also Jedd Johnson from Diesel Crew. Dennis guidance and Jedd’s tips and products have been an invaluable part of the journey. If you want to get started in nail bending, I highly recommend Jedd’s DVD which you can grab HERE.
My training cycled back around to bending in fall of 2010 & I successfully bent a 6 inch grade 8 bolt. I asked Jedd how far out from the Red he thought I was and he replied “About two weeks.” This got me fired up and within about 10 days I bent my first Red Nail with double leather wraps. It took several minutes and was exhausting. I kept at it for a while and got to the point that I could do it in about a minute in double wraps. Then came knee surgery and new goals that had nothing to do with bending.
A few months back, I got the urge again and started up with the double wrapped Red which went surprisingly easy. I bent a one in England this way for Paul and Damian McIlroy because Paul told me he had never seen one bent “in real life”.
Over the next few weeks, I worked into single leather wraps and then realized that I wasn’t as far off as I had thought from doing the “official conditions” certification.
I started working with less padding, since the strength was there, the limiting factor seemed to be the pain of working with soooooooo little padding. At Dennis’ recommendation I started doing several daily easy bends with 60d and a single IronMind pad to toughen my delicate little hands. A couple of times a week I would do 6-8 red nails in whatever padding I needed to get the bend for put strength work. After a few weeks of this I moved to double IM pads for the Red and gradually decreased padding to 1 & 2/3, then 1 & 1/2 IM pads. I also acquired some true 70d nails, which Red is based on. Some in the batch are easier (only slightly) than the Red and some seemed slightly harder. I only bend them in leather.
I also started doing a lot of isometric work on non-bending days in the two spots where i needed it most: The initial kink and at about 90 degrees, where I was consistently getting stuck. These were done in single IM pads, for the ever present pain tolerance work. In fact it was one of these that went ahead and bent that made me change my plan from an early 2014 cert attempt to getting it done in early November.
The nail moving is like blood in the water. Then I found a video on youtube of Justin Straussner destroying a Red in 4 seconds. I shared that vid with Paul McIloy and he said “That kinda epitomizes what I tell people all the time…too many people respect too many bench mark, weight, etc.. WAY to much, somewhere out there is someone, or several someones, who just don’t give a f…and they’re stronger than you are because of it! This guy is clearly incredibly strong, but was preceded and I’d guess facilitated by deciding one day that the red nail is joke. So it it is believed, so it shall be done!”
I decided that I would indeed start thinking of this feat as a joke. I want to make it as easy as bending 60d nail, which I can now do with no warmup, preparation or coffee. This mental adjustment driving home what I tell students all the time, was key for me.
I decided that I wanted to give it a shot in front of Dennis Rogers & Mike the Machine Bruce at Oldetime Strongman University workshop I was hosting at the StrengthDojo. My Hoshin Budo teacher Shihan James Alexander was also there attending OSU. Between these guys and the 15 other strength enthusiasts there, I blasted thru the Red in 16 seconds like Godzilla hitting the shore at Tokyo, bending nearly a half inch farther than needed. My previous best time with IM pads was about 40 seconds.
Here is the VIDEO. Please subscribe to my youtube channel.
I want to say hanks to other guys who have helped me with tips and inspiration along the way: Slim, Sonny Barry, Brett Jones, Chris Rider, Pat Povilaitis, Adam Glass, Paul McIlroy. Also thanks to Tim Dial who was my official referree.