by Lisa Maguire
Grip strength. It’s not something most people think about very often, if at all, but it’s something we use every day. At the most basic level, it’s a measure of how much force the muscles in your hands and forearms are able to exert. Any time we pick things up with our hands, grip strength is exercised.
As unsurprising as it is surprising, the hype and advocacy for grip strength resides within a pretty small community. A quick google search returns mostly studies on the relationship between poor grip strength and other health concerns, such as cardiovascular disease, increased risk of complications from surgery, and increased risk of stroke and heart attack. However, most people with above-average grip strength are also generally more active and oftentimes lift heavy objects regularly through exercise or work. Thus, it’s possible that better overall health and not grip strength specifically could be the cause of the associated positive health benefits.
Outside of that, there are some forums, YouTube videos, equipment, and even some small competitions for grip strength, but that’s about as far as the grip strength community reaches on the internet. So why’s it on our radar today?
There is a very small, very niche group of grip strength enthusiasts, known as steel bar benders, (yes, you read that right – a community of people out there, just bending metal to their will like Superman), and one of the most proactive enthusiasts happens to be a HAC member!
Enter Matt Armiger. Matt works in the construction industry as a cost estimator, swims laps five to six days a week in the pool, and spends his free time working on building awareness about his hobby-turned-passion for steel bending.
“I’d been doing a lot of running on the treadmill, and was never really into lifting, and I just wanted something different. When I first got into [steel bending], it was just this weird thing, you know? But I really liked it, so I kept doing it. Kept learning about it” Matt recalls.
“Bending steel with your bare hands will tear them up pretty quickly,” he warned as he prepared to show how it was done, “so you use wraps around the ends. Then, you hold the bar up, just about to chin-level, and engage your core, up through your chest and shoulders, then down through your arms and hands to bend the steel into a ‘V’ shape. It’s a full body workout,” he explains.
He joked a bit about the sport, as it catches most people off-guard, but his passion for it was only laced with humor to explain the small community. It’s uniqueness is certainly intriguing, albeit “weird,” as he referred to it a few times.
As the size of the steel-bending community indicates, it really takes some digging and some passion to learn about the art and figure out where to start and how to get better. Matt saw an opportunity to become a resource for both products and information.
Where Matt was having to guess at weights and lengths when he was on his steel bending journey, he’s now curated a progression from 20-pound steel bars all the way through 810-pound bars, offering a 38-interval progression from absolute beginner all the way through King Kong level strength.
“It can take some guesswork to figure out where to start; 20 pounds is the lightest bar I offer, which a middle-schooler ought to be able to bend,” he states. The pounds of each bar refers to the pounds of pressure it takes to bend the bar into the signature “V”. “Most women can start around 60 pounds, and most men around 100,” Matt says. Though for convenience, Matt has added beginners’ bags to his offerings, that feature a smaller amount of each progression.