3 Keys that will help you with Feats of Strength
Hello everybody. It’s great to write for the Beast Skills site. Jim is doing some awesome stuff here. I love watching his videos and I really enjoy his writing style. Hopefully, I can help his readers out with this post on one of my specialties, feats of strength.
I love doing feats of strength. It is the thing that keeps me going in my training. While I am just now getting into some of the bodyweight feats that Jim is dominating these days, my long time favorite feats of strength are the ones that involve bending, tearing and twisting.
If you are intrigued by feats of strength as much as I am, here are a few things for you to keep in mind when you try them out that will get you off on the right foot. It took me a while to learn a lot of this stuff, so hopefully they make a big difference for you.
When ripping, bending, and tearing, it’s very important to prepare your hands properly for the feat. The most important element related to grip strength feats is controlling the amount of moisture on your hands. This can be controlled very easily with chalk. But the question is, how much chalk should be used?
In most cases, a ton of chalk is not necessary for doing grip strength feats. You do not have to coat your hands like you were painting the addition on your house. All that is needed is a light layer of chalk to make the surface of your palms, thumbs, and fingers a uniform level of dryness.
To get the amount of chalk right, I like to get chalk dust onto my hands, rub it around, and then just clap my hands together until no more chalk cloud comes off. That’s when I know the chalk is coating well, but is not caked on. Caked chalk on the hands can act more like miniscule ball bearings on the hands and that is NOT what you want when you are trying to maximize your grip on something, like a deck of cards or phone book.
However, there are some spots on the hands that people tend to neglect when performing feats of strength. The first area is the back of the hand. A very light layer of chalk should be applied to the back of the hand as well, because in some feats, the fingers of one hand can touch the back of the other hand. If the back of the hand is moist and sweaty, you could ruin the chalk application, if your fingers touch it.
The spots on the back of your hands are particularly important for feats like nail and bolt bending. In the crush down portion of the bend, the finger tips of one hand often crawl over and harness onto the knuckles of the other hand in order to create the circle of tension that is so important in finishing off a steel bend.
In order to chalk the back of my hand, I like to put a heavy amount of chalk on my palms and then just rub the backs of my hands. You should feel the moisture of the back of your hand dry up almost instantly. Make sure to get the knuckle area as well, because this is the part your fingertips will touch when doing the crush down.
It’s also very important to apply chalk between the fingers when doing a feat of strength. The area between the fingers is important to take note of because the moisture between them can build up pretty quickly. When you are squeezing your hands tightly, the skin between the fingers is in very close contact, so the temperature there increases and sweat production goes up. The moisture can then bleed out into your palms and clear the chalk off where you really need it. Also, if you interlace your fingers at all, the moisture there can end up wiping off all the chalk on your fingers, lessening your ability to get a tight hold on something.
Proper tension in your body is very important for doing feats of strength. It is a common misconception that grip strength feats are done by the strength of the forearms, wrists and hands, only, but really the feats are much easier if you create core and upper body tension as well.
Upper body tension yields two benefits when doing feats of strength. First off, it actually makes your grip stronger and more secure. When you flex your core and torso, the tension flows down your arms and into your grip. This allows you to perform stronger and longer contractions when you attempt to get a feat started, as well as when you continue through the feat.
A perfect example of this is tearing decks of cards and phone books. If you are not properly tensioned in the upper body, you will only be able to exert force into whatever it is you are tearing for short bursts, and your hands may actually slip off pre-maturely. However, if you engage strong radiant tension from your torso and down through to your grip, you will be able to grasp the book or cards more strongly and continue the initial tear over a longer distance.
If you have trouble understanding how to incorporate tension, what I suggest to the people I work with is flexing your arm pit. If you think of flexing your arm pit, you should feel your pecs and lats tense up as well as the deltoids and the musculature surrounding your scapulae. This movement should bring your upper arm and elbow closer to your body. This also leads to better stability during the feat and better leverage because the implement is closer to your body, too.
It has been said that in relationship to generating strength, “Speed is King,” and “Speed Kills.” While this is just as true in the realm of grip strength feats as it is in other more conventional movements like Powerlifting (Bench, Squat, Dead), this speed and explosiveness must be done under control.
To illustrate this better, think of the deadlift. Naturally, you want to perform the lift explosively, but it must be done under control or else you will waste energy and possibly throw off your technique. Remember, the plates don’t always fit 100% tight on the loading surface of the bar sleeve – there is actually space between the two surfaces. When you begin your pull, you can hear the clang of the sleeve hitting the weights on the way up. To negate this, just pull the bar slightly upwards to bring the sleeves in contact with the top of hole of the plates, and then begin the rest of your deadlift pull in the proper bar path, gradually increasing speed as you move toward the top of the movement and fire your glutes.
Blasting through a deck of cards or a phone book is the same concept. However, if you grab n’ go with these feats, there is less stability and tension involved and more chance of your grip slipping off and missing the feat on the first try. Instead, I like to apply my tension into whatever it is I am destroying, load into the deck of cards or the phone book slightly and then once the tear begins, I try to pound the rest of the way through.
This technique is also applicable to nail bending, especially with Double Overhand Bending. By gradually loading into the nail, you can apply your hydraulic tension through the torso, arms and grip, securing your grip on the nail and optimizing the force you can direct into it. If you start out loose and then explode into the nail, a lot of times the nail moves around and no bend takes place, because not only are you focusing force into the bend, but you have to use some of the energy to steady the nail and bring it back to your power position.
These three things may seem very trivial, but they will actually help you out a great deal when you work on performing feats of strength. Like I said earlier, it took me a while to learn all of these things on my own and it held my progress back somewhat. I want to get this information out there for you all to benefit from right now. So remember to chalk up properly, all over your hands and in between your fingers, and remember the proper way to load tension with your upper body and to explode on the feat in a controlled manner. Also, look for ways to employ these techniques in your other lifts and exercises as well. They will help increase your performance as well as keep you safe and injury free.
Thanks and all the best in your training.
Jedd Johnson is the co-founder of Diesel Crew and has competed in various sports and strength competitions over the years. His specialty is Grip Strength and has written two world renowned manuals on Grip Feats: The Card Tearing eBook and the Nail Bending eBook. He has written countless articles on Grip Training all over the internet and runs The Grip Authority, a site dedicated to building world class grip strength. Check out The Grip Authority today and join for just $7.