Hadland has grip on growing sport

When looking for ways to build his strength, Mike Hadland found nail bending. Three years after he first started bending nails, Hadland has climbed the international rankings on various types of grip bending. (Courtesy photo)

When looking for ways to build his strength, Mike Hadland found nail bending. Three years after he first started bending nails, Hadland has climbed the international rankings on various types of grip bending. (Courtesy photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- In most aspects, many people who retire after 20 years of active duty settle down to a more quiet life. "Most," however, is not something that describes Mike Hadland.
   Throughout his life, Hadland, a retired master sergeant who now works in the 564th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, has always been interested in sports and strength building. Three years ago, at the age of 47, Hadland looked for ways to get stronger, particularly after watching videos on the Internet about grip bending.
   His interest grew into a passion.
   "I soon also discovered that there was a little more than meets the eye in bending," Hadland said.
   When he first started, he remembers bending objects he found around the house as practice.
   Grip bending is a process in which demonstrators use their hands, wrists, forearms and upper body strength to bend nails, bolts and bars of differing lengths, widths and strengths. The strength of a nail, bolt or bar is dependent on the width and particular kind of steel. The difficulty of the bend also relies on the length of the object.
   In spite of finding bent household items, his wife and family have been his greatest supporters. As he continued to teach himself, he moved on to compete in a regional competition in Fort Worth, Texas.
   There are different categories for methods of bending nails. Differing hand positions distinguish the different categories. Rules and regulations are set for each category. There is also a time limit, but most experienced or professional benders can bend nails in a matter of a few seconds, Hadland said.
   Cushioning material is placed on both ends of the object at stake to protect the bender's hands. However, without proper technique, bending can be dangerous and accidents are possible. Most people only practice a few times a week because over-practicing can lead to injuries.
   Accordng to Hadland, bending nails is an enjoyable and efficient way to improve grip strength and demonstrate hand, wrist and upper body strength. In recent years, the sport of bending has grown immensely and continues to gain more popularity.
   Bending can require hundreds of pounds of pressure, but it is not based solely on brute strength. It requires focus, concentration, mentality and technique.
   "It's a highly mental sport," Hadland said. "You have to have that mentality to get over the edge to focus all your strength."
   After only three years, Hadland has climbed up numerous international ranking lists for various types of grip bending.
   He is also an American record holder in grip competition. Hadland is also one of the few people on the official Red Nail Roster, a record of those who have succeeded in bending a Red Nail, which is an infamously difficult nail to bend.
   "It's nice to get a little notoriety and be recognized for something that not many have done or can do," Hadland said.
   At 50, Hadland said he continues to push harder and faithfully practices twice a week.
   His 20-year-old son, Russell, has now started bending and has also been recognized on international rankings. Hadland said it is this unique passion that has brought them closer together in recent years.