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Under the Spotlight - Grip Profile - Carl Donati Jr.


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Today's profile features Carl Donati Jr.


"Consistency is key!" is a maxim oft quoted by Grip Legend David Horne. 

 Few people have taken this to heart like Carl Donati Jr.  At the age of 46, he has over 30 years of consistent weight training under his belt.  Seldom do people have the desire and fortitude to keep pushing towards further and further goals. Carl clearly does. 

 But this fortitude is even more present in his bending.  He chose to do something…that not only had not been done before, but no one had even "thought" about doing it.  Most of us can handle a short term goal, but when the time stretches out to months and years…we lose our resolve.  Carl held himself to an elite standard, for an entire DECADE…and thus became part of bending history. 

 Let's hear that story…





6 questions to get to know Carl.


1.  What are your stats?  Gripboard Name, Age, Height (inches/meters), Weight (lbs/kgs), R/L dominant hand size (cm/in), Country/City (or region … whatever you are comfortable with), Relationship Status, Kids?, Occupation ("international spy" is acceptable).


 Gripboard UserID:  Buccos1

 Age: 46 years old

 Height/weight:  5'9"  210

 Hand size: 7.35"

 Home: Pittsburgh, PA area

 Relationship status: married with 2 young children

 Occupation: high school special education teacher 


 2.  Why did you start training grip (and how long is it now)? 


I got started in grip around 2005.  Despite having consistently been involved in training at that time for about 20 years, my grip was weak and I was kinda getting sick of it.  I started to look at hand grippers and came-upon Ironmind's Captain of Crush grippers.  My intention was to also improve my bench press stability as I had a few issues with tendons in my wrist due to heavy bench presses.  It took me almost two years to close my #2 gripper with relatively consistent weekly closes.  I really didn't know what a set was at the time, but progress came…albeit very slowly.  Now I love training grippers (even though I've already hit my max close and struggle to maintain 90% of that number nowadays).  They are totally addicting and I have a ridiculous amount of grippers.


I started bending steel in 2008 and have been doing all forms of bending since then.  When I started, I knew nothing of bending on the internet or different forums.  So, I learned the long and hard way.  It took me a few months before I was able to bend a Yellow Nail too.  I remember how happy I was when it finally started to move.  It was actually hanging in my kitchen for years before I moved to a new place, to symbolize the beginning of this still-evolving journey.


When I was asked to be Chad Rickiki's Red Nail cert judge, I jumped at the chance as it would enable me to see someone else doing what I was trying to do in-person.  Watching Chad bend was very helpful and I left his house that day with a newfound understanding of technique and almost a demystification of the Red Nail.  Thinking back to when I got that bender's bag and was excitedly looking through all of the steel, wraps and contents, I will never forget holding the Red Nail and just shaking my head, thinking 'That's not possible.'  


Fast-forward to not long after Chad's cert day, I was beginning to take-down Reds and finally got one in single IMPs.  When my certification day arrived, I was so amped-up, my hands/fingers wouldn't stop shaking.  After my cert attempt was approved, I decided to do something unique, that had never been done before.  I made a commitment to myself to bend a Red Nail every week under official certification rules.  It started out like this and was very easy for many months/first few years.  I continued this streak into 2012-13, but was starting to experience some issues with my hands, forearms, shoulders, so I spaced out the attempts to allow for an extra few days.  Throughout the first 5-6 years, I bent a Red Nail (official cert rules) every 7-10 days nonstop.  It was around then that I began adding a few more days recovery but continued to keep the streak going.  For the past few years, I've continued the streak, but settled on every other week.  Finally, after 10 years on this, nonstop Red Nail bends, I ended the streak at the end of August 2020.  I had feared this day for a long time and truly never wanted to stop this streak, as from early on, I felt that if I did, I would never be able to get back to that Red level (or beyond) again.  In the end, though, it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared, and has actually been a huge relief as I'm not dreading some of these bends anymore on Sunday night.



3.  Before you die, what is your ULTIMATE athletic and grip goal/goals? 


A few years ago, when I was in much better shape/leaner, my ultimate goal was to hit a 600lb. deadlift, which eventually turned into a triple bodyweight goal deadlift.  When I was 39 years old, I got 550 in competition at a bodyweight of about 192.  I was never a natural deadlifter either.  I didn't start doing deadlifts until the early 2000s, mainly because they were hard and I didn't like admitting I wasn't good at and weak in something.  My first-ever dedicated deadlift session, I struggled to get 305 up for one rep.  It would be another 10 months before I got to 405.  But a newfound fascination with the lift, and slow, but steady improvements caused a complete turnaround in how I perceived deadlifts.  Although I will soon be 47 and seem to be getting a little weaker and more hurt each year, 600lbs. remains my ultimate goal and what I will keep planning and training for.  


A few years back, I did RRBT and then KTA after having stalled-out at around 130 RGC in grippers (MMS).  After doing RRBT, I handily closed my 136lb. #2.5 and began making attempts at my 139lb. #3.  I was at the point that a #3 close was seeming like a real possibility, which seemed pretty crazy to me after all of the time spent with grippers making very slow progress.  When I got into KTA, I had already closed my easy #3 a few times and was feeling very strong.  I made a few attempts at the MM0 and got two solid closes, but unfortunately, my filming and then my wife's was subpar and couldn't be judged effectively and/or submitted.  So the goal remains a MM0.  I'm having a very hard time getting back into the 130-range, but might give RRBT another go with the hopes of making this run again before I get too old to do it.


I would also like to officially certify on the SSP 8x18 #000 horseshoe.  I have been after this since 2012, getting a lot of attempts to the 150 degree range.  After having officially certified on the St. Croix Forge Regular Plain #000 shoe about five years ago, I thought my competitive, serious horseshoe bending days were over.  But seeing this bend get knocked-down the horseshoe ranking list the past year reignited the drive to do this again seriously.  I actually got my first SSP #000 full bend back in May, bent to about 182 degrees.  Of course, I didn't film it.  I hadn't thought I had a realistic chance after making two attempts at it in the weeks prior, none of which were past 90 degrees.  I made a few more serious attempts at it since then, with the best being about 170 degrees.  This shoe has become my nemesis and I plan to keep attacking it and try to get back into the Top 20 list.  It's crazy to think that a SCF Regular Plain shoe will not even get you on the list anymore.  



4.  How do you currently structure your overall training/how do you incorporate your grip training? 


I train 5-6 days/week.  Thankfully, I have a fully equipped gym and never have to leave my basement for anything.  I do all of my own programming, which nowadays amounts to what I can actually get-in with trying to supervise my kids and not having any free time to do this.  But I try to stick to the following schedule:

Monday - Bench/triceps/pullups

Tuesday - Overhead presses/Curls

Wednesday - Deadlifts (conventional, sumo, trap bar - alternating each week)

Thursday - Off

Friday - Mix day - light presses/curls/triceps/pullups

Saturday - Squats

Sunday - bending (braced/unbraced)

I work-in grippers usually 3 days/week.  Now that I am scaling back my double-overhand bending, I hope to begin including more specific grip work into my routine 1-2 days/week.  I'd like to get back in to thick bar, the Hub and the GripTopz lifts.  



5.  What hobbies (other than grip/bending/lifting) do you enjoy?


I love to read.  If I had the time, I'd be reading 4-5 hours per-day.  I like spending time with my wife, kids and pets.  We have a new puppy which has made things pretty wild too.  I had really got into craft beers the past few years and like to travel to different breweries/locations.  Some breweries let you take your kids which is really cool and turns into the perfect weekend.



6.  Do you have a personal anecdote, topic or thoughts you'd like to include in your profile?


I never thought as myself as anyone particularly strong or talented.  Just someone who could be consistent over the long haul and make slow, steady progress.  Nothing (aside from bench presses) came easy to me.  Training was just something that I always loved to do and has always been a part of my life.  If you remain committed and consistent, the gains will come.   


I have always pushed myself too, often at the expense of recovery.  Although I know I should schedule deloads, I absolutely love the challenge of lifting heavy weights.  Back when I was serious (and decent) with bending, I was always all-out and really hitting the double-overhand bends.  But around 40 years old, weird things started to happen to my muscles and tendons.  And these things were starting to hurt and not heal correctly.  I would always amp-up and go 100% into a bend attempt but was finding that I was beginning to accrue different injuries that were not going away.  Through my 40s, this became even more apparent.  I think the wear-and-tear finally caught up with me.  So, I scaled a few things back, as it just wasn't worth it to me to develop a debilitating, life-long injury (although I do have a few of those from everything).  I just don't want to make it worse. 


Be smart about your training.  I am going-on 35 years of consistent weight-training and 12 years of steel bending due to good planning and having a long-term outlook on my training.  I hope to keep adding to these numbers and don't want to think about what things would be like without them.



Thanks Carl.  Your dedication and perseverance is an inspiration to all of us. 

To see Carl bending (or squatting 500lbs)…click HERE.

Carl's "Beyond the Bend Interview," click HERE .


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Great interview. Carl @Buccos1 is an inspiration in the bending world. I have been lucky enough to meet and bend with Carl on a few occasions. He is a blast to hang out with and very strong!

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Thanks Nate for the time to put these together!

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5 hours ago, Donc101 said:

Great interview. Carl @Buccos1 is an inspiration in the bending world. I have been lucky enough to meet and bend with Carl on a few occasions. He is a blast to hang out with and very strong!


5 hours ago, Wannagrip said:

Great interview!

Thanks guys!  Appreciate it Don.  Hopefully another time this spring!

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