It cannot be denied that tearing a telephone book in half or smashing a rock with a fist looks nothing short of impressive. Thankfully, the path to being able to bend a heavy steel spike with bare hands is easier than you might think.
It's not exactly all mind games, but there are a few tricks behind each of these strongman stunts that make them possible even if you aren't born Ironman. With a little bit of practice, you'll not only be able to impress a little boy or show off to party guests, but also make yourself feel superhuman even on a day when all drill bits keep breaking on you.
All images & instructions from artofmanliness.com and Ottley R. Coulter's book "How To Perform Strong Man Stunts"
TEARING A TELEPHONE BOOK IN HALF
1. Grasp the telephone book with the hands on the free page side where you leaf it open.
2. Place the book firmly on your knee, and with the heel of each hand push the pages back so that they slant towards the edge of the book farthest away from your body. The more you slip the pages back, the easier will it become to tear the book, because you actually only tear a few pages at a time in succession.
3. When you have slipped the pages as much as possible, begin to tear, pulling up with the right hand as you tear downward with the left. Once the pages are broken, the rest tear easily.
You might not be able to do it first time you try. Like everything else, it takes practice. One you have mastered the trick, it will be an easy stunt for you to perform.
DRIVING A SPIKE THROUGH A BOARD
1. Wrap a handkerchief heavily around the head of a 8 or 10 penny sized nail so that the head of the nail is always in the center of the cloth which should fit like a ball in your hand.
2. Grasp the wrapped end firmly in your hand, and allow the spike to pass between the middle of the two fingers of your hand. This not only allows you to get a firmer grip on the nail, but gives it the necessary control in driving it through the wood.
3. Place a piece of board between two chairs. Allow your free hand to hold the board down to steady it.
4. Raise high the hand grasping the nail, and with all your force bring the nail STRAIGHT down upon the board. It must come straight down otherwise it will strike the board a slanting blow and spoil the stunt, so you must practice in order to be sure each time you strike, the nail descends in a straight line upon the board.
To begin with, select a rather thin board, and as you improve select a thicker board, but always be sure that you use soft wood. Your watchers do not know the difference between soft and hard wood. Also be sure to wrap the head of the nail heavily with the cloth. The larger the ball of wrapping in your hand over the head of the nail, the easier will the stunt be to perform. The wrapping acts as a surface for greater striking power as well as to absorb the concussion of the blow when the spike hits the wood.
BENDING A HEAVY STEEL SPIKE WITH HANDS
1. Begin with a sized nail well within the limit of your physical ability, and wrap it up in your handkerchief. Be sure to wrap the ends of the nail well with the cloth so that neither end cuts into the hand from the applied pressure. The best way to do this is to place the nail lengthwise across the longest part of your handkerchief, and wrap the ends of the cloth around each end of the nail. The thicker you wrap each end the better hand grip you will have, which also gives you a greater leverage. It is this that enables you to bend big, strong nails. You get your leverage from the size of the wrapping over each end of the nail.
2. Bend the penny nail over the edge of your knee.
3. When you have got the nail kinked in the middle, place one end on the knee in the palm of your one hand, and with the upper hand press down with all your might. Your knee and under hand will act as a floor for the other hand pressure. You will be surprised how easy it is once you get the right wrapping of cloth over each end of the nail.
LIFTING A MAN OVERHEAD WITH ONE HAND
1. Do not be too ambitious at the start. Choose a fairly light man. Have him stand on a chair and under his arms fasten a belt, a heavy scarf, or a rope strong enough to hold his weight.
2. Knot the belt under his shoulders then stand in front of him, and grasp the belt with your right hand about the middle of his chest.
3. Straighten the arm by bending your legs under you. At the same time turn your back to his body.
4. By straightening your legs and keeping your straight arm stiff and locked at the shoulder, you will lift him easily clear off the chair as you straighten your legs.
5. Allow his body to lean on your back so as you walk you are carrying him more on the back than with your arm.
Actually, it is your legs that lift him. They are several times stronger than your arms. When you carry him, as said before, you do so more with your back than with your arm. The main thing is to be sure you do not allow your arm to bend at any time during the feat, otherwise you will fail.
A little practice will give you an improved control over the features of the stunt, so that soon you will be able to lift and carry a very heavy man with ease. Instead of carrying him, you can dance a few steps to show how easy it is, and impress your friends more with your strength.
SMASHING A ROCK WITH A BARE FIST
1. Get a good sized piece of limestone and soak it over-night in plenty of water. Limestone is so porous it absorbs water like a sponge, which actually rots the stone.
2. Place the stone on a solid block of wood, or table, and see that the stone rests flat upon the table. It must not have any wobble, and the top should be fairly flat, as limestone usually is.
3. Raise your balled fist over your head and bring it down with all your might upon the center of the stone, and it will break into smithereens. Be sure when you strike that you hit the stone with the balled edge of your fist, and not with the knuckles.
You need not be afraid that the water absorbed will show when the stone is broken. It has become soaked into the pores of the stone which rots it by gorging the stone tissues. It is like hitting a blown up balloon. You will get a rousing cheer for this stunt. With practice, you can make it more dramatic by your approach to the act, with several mock attempts to hit the stone before you actually do.
BREAKING A SPIKE WITH TEETH
1. Prepare a 10 penny nail, a good heavy hammer for impression, and a heavy block of wood.
2. Place the ends of the wood between the seat of two chairs, and with slow, deliberate blows pound the spike into the heavy block of wood. Drive the spike into the wood about one third of its length.
3. Wrap the head of the spike with your handkerchief, and then bite the head of the nail firmly in the mouth.
4. Grasp each side of the plank, or block of wood firmly with each hand, and with the force of your neck muscles bend the nail back and forth, and the first thing you know it will break off flush with the wood.
To all appearances you have bitten the nail off, but what has happened is that the two-third nail leverage out of the wood acts as a fulcrum on the one-third firmly locked in the wood. The wood acts like a vise on the imprisoned nail end, and your neck muscles add to the leverage which breaks the nail. The trick is easy, and is quite a dramatic stunt to perform.
Which stunts would you like to try to master? Let us know in the comments below!
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