A great demonstration of strength of the hands, grip and the ability to brace against your leg – bending horseshoes is a great party trick (if you party in a barn) and also a good goal to aim for if you are a strongman or someone who is looking to increase grip strength.
Know Your Horseshoes Before You Attempt to Bend it
A horseshoe is only as strong as it’s weakest point – a bit like a chain.
Some horseshoes have ‘fullers’. Fullers are the grooves that allow for the insertion of nails. Some horseshoes have deeper & wider fullers than others – from a strongman perspective, this can weaken the horseshoe significantly – making it easier to bend.
Technical Tips for Horseshoe Bending
The Strength comes from the triceps at the end of their range-of-motion.
Known as “lockout strength”, the more extended and near full extension your arms are, the stronger force you will generate against the horseshoe.
Padding or Not to Pad?
Padding the horseshoe may help with limiting damage and pressure on your hands but it will also dissipate some of the pressure on the horseshoe – certainly it will spread the pressure that would otherwise be isolated to a specific section of the horseshoe.
An abrasive material such as a (very) thick and wide bandaid/sticking plaster, or even a thick tissue, appears to be the best way to bend horseshoes without cutting your hands.
Twist and Shout
Referred to some as “the crushdown” – the rotational force of bodyweight, bracing from the shoulders and pushing from the triceps and arms is a universal movement in pretty much everyone on youtube seen bending a horseshoe.
A Word of Caution about HorseShoe Bending
This movement will put a lot of stress on your shoulders, elbows and wrists. The movement is partially (kind of) isometric – i.e. static, in that the horshoe moves very little or doesn’t move at all.
When a movement is isometric, the forces will ‘push back’ more on the body, causing more stress on the joints and ligaments.
You can see below, how by bracing and pushing down with his bodyweight and lowering his head, the abdominals come into play quite significantly:
Not everyone appears to incorporate the abs when bending however. This guy has more of a lateral movement:
Training to Bend Horseshoes
Firstly, if you want to bend horseshoes – you will need a horseshoe!
You will need a horse shoe to practice on, to build the specific type of strength required to bend it. Unless you use something very similar to bend, like a bar or rod etc and build up to a horseshoe
The SAID principle dictates it – Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands.
Purchase one of the weaker horseshoes – with a fuller groove in it.
Here’s a website that sells horseshoes – ones that a great for starting off and achieving your first horseshoe bend!
St. Croix Ultra Lite are good for beginners. But still very difficult!
St Croix Polo are amongst the ‘second easiest’ level of horseshoe to bed.
Following on, go for a St. Croix Forge Lite Rim 10.
Training Grip Strength to Bend Horseshoes
A great way to build grip strength is to, well, grip things.
Chin ups are a good start for beginners, even just hanging from a bar as long as possible is a very effective way to build your general hand strength.
Bottom up kettlebell presses are also great for building grip strength – as you have to balance the weight as well as push it upwards.
Training with a sledgehammer, or even a broom can be effective too. Doing curls and extensions with the bar:
A word of caution about grip training – you should work you wrist extensors (muscle for gripping) as well as your wrist extensors – otherwise you are likely to get some nasty over-use and imbalance injuries such as golfer’s elbow.
Holding 1 or 2 weights plates for as long as possible is another great way to train grip.
Training Lockout Strength
Probably the best way to build lockout strength for horseshoe bending, is heavy dips on parallel bars.
Heavy bench press, using bench press blocks and/or bands or chains that make the resistance greater at the top of the movement, are also great tools & exercises for building lockout strength.
Abs are used in some way, pretty much regardless of your horseshoe bending technique. Hanging leg raises and weighted crunches will help develop specific core strength.
Using cables can make the exercise more specific to horseshoe bending. Kneel down and hold the cables overhead, as you crunch downward.