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The Steel Bending Power of Isometrics

The Strongman Todd Jones displaying bent spike 1080px
The Strongman Todd Jones displaying bent spike
"Isometrics can LITERALLY make you strong enough to bend steel!"

Sounds like an exaggerated marketing ploy right? Nope.

I’m not exaggerating, and I’m not selling anything. I am living proof that isometric training can make you strong enough to bend steel.

Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Todd Ryan Jones. I am a professional stuntman and traditional, feats-of-strength-performing strongman.

If you’re reading this, chances are that you are familiar with the recent isometrics movement of the last several years, thanks in no small part to "Coach" Paul Wade and the amazing training manuals by Dragon Door.

It was, in fact, the early publications by Dragon Door, with their frequent references to the old time strongmen from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, that first made me aware of those guys, and the traditional feats of strength they performed like bending nails and various other pieces of steel.

I’m talking about guys like Arthur Saxon, Alexander Zass, and of course, Joseph Greenstein, "The Mighty Atom" (who happens to be a part of my "strongman lineage").

I was fascinated by these men and decided that I wanted to train to be able to do all of those crazy feats of strength myself.
Todd Jones nail bend Mighty Atom Truck
Todd Jones nail bend at the Mighty Atom Truck
One of the most common feats that the old time strongmen performed was bending a 60D nail. In fact, that was what you would call the "gateway feat" of those times. If you wanted to even call yourself a strongman, you had to be able to bend a 60D nail, and do so in the presence of a reputable member of the strongman community.

So that’s where I decided to start. I went to a hardware store, got myself a 60D nail, took it home, wrapped the ends of it like the guys in the old pictures did, picked it up, and with a glorious, Braveheart style yell gave it everything I had AND….nothing. Couldn’t budge the thing. At all.

Turns out that bending a 60D nail is a legit feat of strength, and I was not prepared for it. After quite a few frustrating, unsuccessful attempts, I decided to go buy some 40D nails, figuring of course that they would be easier and a good starting point to work my way up from.

What I didn’t realize was that the nails I bought were specially tempered to be absolutely rock hard and were actually much harder than the 60D that I couldn’t bend. I’ll let you guess what kind of result I had.

It was at this point that I put nail bending on the back burner for a while. I didn’t get rid of those rock hard 40D nails though. Someday, I was going to revisit those suckers.

That day came years later. I had found a coach (Chris Rider), who taught me the proper way to train in the art of bending steel.
The Strongman Todd Jones long bar bending
The Strongman Todd Jones long bar bending
In a nutshell, the way one trains to bend steel is by simply picking up a piece that is slightly beyond your current ability, and you try to bend that unmoving sucker with everything you’ve got until finally, one day, it moves!

In other words, you train to bend steel ISOMETRICALLY.

I restarted my journey to bend the elusive 60D nail. This time, instead of getting frustrated that the nail was not bending, I embraced it, and looked at it as the isometric workout that it was.

It took me about 3 to 4 weeks of consistent training until that fateful day. I picked up the nail that I had been training isometrically with for the past several weeks, and…holy $@#%!
Todd Jones Red nail bend
Todd Jones Red Nail bend
I bent it. My first thought…after "holy $@#%", of course, was that I had weakened the nail by training with it for all those weeks, so I grabbed another one and gave it a go. Smashed it.

Picked up another one... smashed it.

After a mere 3 to 4 weeks of isometric training, I could, from that day on, bend a 60D nail with authority.

I didn’t stop there though. Remember those specially tempered 40D nails that I held onto? They were right over in the corner of the room that day…waiting. They had stopped me in my tracks so definitively before that I knew they would be the true test of my new-found nail bending ability.

I picked one up and gave it a go, but I didn’t bend it…I straight up SNAPPED IT IN HALF. I picked up another one, and the same thing happened.

I have since progressed to bending much tougher pieces of steel than a 60D. In 2018, I even certified on the IronMind Red Nail, which to this day less than 200 people in the entire world have done.
The Strongman Todd Jones bending 60D spike
The Strongman Todd Jones bending 60D spike
I did it the same way I trained to bend a 60D, simply try to crush that piece of steel with all your might, and let the rapid strength gains that come from isometric training do their thing.

I wrote this article primarily for anyone who is skeptical about whether or not isometric training works. As I said before, I am living proof that it does.

Not only does it work, but the strength gains one can acquire from isometrics can come on so quickly and intensely that you almost need to experience it to believe it.

There are many different ways to train isometrics. Whether you want to bend steel or use the good ol’ IsoMax, get after it SERIOUSLY for at least a few weeks and see what happens. I’ll bet you anything you’ll be pleasantly surprised!