Nail Bending, Card Tearing Champion, Grip Specialist

By David Gentle

Anyone who turns up at your house with a sack of six inch nails, a bag jammed with packs of playing cards and three formidable looking hand grippers should immediately be viewed with suspicion. Having just had problems opening the “child proof” top on a bottle of aspirin (yes, I take drugs!!!) I certainly wasn’t up to being beleaguered by constant challenges of “Bend this, tear that!!…Hell why pick on me? I thought…

Anyway, it appears I am to blame for young Paul’s commendable hobby of demolishing a pack of playing cards into quarters before you can say “Caesars Palace” or of his ability to outgrip some of the world’s strongest men, twice his size. In the distant past when the world was young and I was just a kid, I had written an article on POWERFUL FOREARMS in BODYBUILDING MONTHLY and Paul, reading the feats of many old timers (who were mentioned in the article as examples) had been inspired enough to specialize on grip strength and thus emulate his heroes…

I suppose I have met more than my share of strongmen over the last half century of involvement in PC and Paul Shaw rates very highly in his chosen field of strength. Size in fact has very little to do with pure rip strength as the MAN WITH THE IRON GRIP, i.e. CHARLES VANSITTART proved, outgripping the giants of his day.

Some huge men have very weak grips in comparison to their bodyweights often failing better lifts (dead lifts) through lack of hand strength. Paul is rapidly becoming a master of the art, a strength much appreciated and understood by the layman who knows by familiarity how much effort it must take to bend six-inch nails or tear a pack of cards in half. No trickery…sheer CONCENTRATED power.

Paul Shaw was born 8th April 1958 (in York) weighs just 11 stone (154 lbs) and has been training since he was 19 years old. One of the first P.T. courses he undertook was the famous MAXALDING muscle control and self resistance course. Graduating to the weights he soon discovered that he made BETTER PROGRESS by training ONCE A WEEK, choosing eight basic exercises, for again just 2 sets…first set heaviest…of 5 to 8 reps, second set lighter, never warming up (we do not advise that you follow this example), everything in fact opposite to what most advise and follow…yet it brought optimum results for Paul. He especially likes working weighted chins and dips…

Forearm/grip stunts by contrast were practised daily. Although being right handed and stronger in that hand, Paul always trains both hands equally.
Convenient to carry around, although make sure you wrap them up in canvas to avoid injuries, or just holes in your pocket.

Six-inch nails are a good test of your commitment to training for strength. Paul bent and broke nails as suggested in some of my articles e.g. ARNOLD DYSON (a former MR. UNIVERSE famed for his ability to bend nails who could bend four at once in his teeth) he commenced by at first bending welding rods, then real nails, with tubes on the ends to assist leverage…gradually progressing to bending them without aids, but always he ensured the nails were wrapped tightly in canvas or leather cloth to prevent damaging the hands on the points. He bends them all, and there are several grades of nails…some in z-shapes…bending them with SPEED… at chest level, using total upper body power.

Paul Shaw carrying weighted blocks

I timed him breaking a real TOUGH (brittle) nail, which he snapped in 13 seconds… not believing my watch, I asked him to repeat it, which he did, this time taking JUST 10 SECONDS TO BREAK THE NAIL…Paul developed the ability to tear cards by constant PRACTICE from the obvious few cards at a time up to a full 54 card deck (i.e. including JOKERS).

Cards like nails vary in quality…Waddingtons for example, high quality are tough and slippery, some chain stores sell foreign imported cheap cards…far easier to tear and better and more economical to practise withIn leverage lifts, Paul learnt a lot from his visits to the old master of grip the late BILL HUNT, who maintained most of his fabled power even into his 80’s. Pinch gripping is another popular test, easily practised in any gym by gripping barbell discs (the ones without ridges) with just one thumb and fingers pinch grip…only smooth sided discs count and its best to chalk or at least wash your hands to avoid slip…Paul lifted 80 lbs. or more in this manner. To see just how good that is, try it yourself on a couple of large barbell plates…but mind your toes. Paul believes that with all grip strength tests “The mental aspect is of utmost importance”. Perhaps the most usual exercise or test of strength for the hand is by using “grippers” normally of the steel spring variety.

The super star of old SANDOW made much of using dumbbells combined with spring grippers inside the handles…all of 80 years ago, many of these old dumbbells survive in good condition..(Any reader who has a set to sell, contact the author). Sports shops sell hand grippers of various strength, some good, others wouldn’t tax a Girl Guides’ grip.

Paul Shaw carrying weighted blocks

Becoming universally recognized as THE standard grippers are the tough chrome sets sold by IRON HAND (Milo) USA…ranging from already tough to start with, to “who are you trying to kid” and Paul is already working his way up these…having beaten No 1 and near closed no. 2 gripper which is more than a lot of “wanna” be World’s strongest men contenders could shift…so the way to get a tough grip, is simply to practice such stunts.

As for Paul, I made sure I avoided shaking hands when he left…and it’s not all bad news.. Paul gave some chocolates to the wife when he left…and I managed to snap a YORKIE bar in half…so the training paid off after all…get a grip on yourself.

©The Mighty Mitts of Paul Shaw by David Gentle

User Comments ( 1 )

  • Peter yates

    A few years ago on a trip to the UK Paul came to visit me.No sooner had he got through the door, and without even a cup of tea to fortify him, he produced a bag of 6″ nails and a couple backs of playing cards. all the while a big smile on his face he demolished the nails, quartered one pack of cards and tore the corner off another with his thumb. Talk about an entrance. Paul is one of the nicest blokes you would meet and a fountain of knowledge when it comes to strength and its history.

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