What Muscles Are Worked Out in Arm Wrestling?

Man and young woman arm wrestling, close-up

Arm wrestling has become a fairly common sport among young people. What many people know is that the sport is simple, requiring only two opponents and a hard surface. What’s less known though, are all the muscles worked in the process.


There are several muscles used during arm wrestling, including rotator shoulder muscles, deltoids, biceps, pectorals and more.

Muscles Used in Arm Wrestling

A 2012 study by Medical Science Monitor performed a biomedical analysis of the forces that act during arm wrestling. In this study, researchers were able to pinpoint some of the key muscles used during the sport, while explaining why it can lead to injuries, especially of the humerus bone.

According to the study, some of the muscles that undergo maximum contraction include the deltoids, biceps brachii, brachialis, subscapularis and pectoral muscles. Other internal rotator shoulder muscles, such as the latissimus and the teres, are especially important in the exertion of force from both participants.

Moreover, it should be noted that the bone should be strong enough to sustain pressure applied by the muscles. Otherwise, continuous force can lead to a fracture.

Hand Muscles and Grip Strength

A 2017 study by the Journal of Education and Training Studies sought to evaluate the change in hand grip strength of male arm wrestlers before and after strengthening exercises. The exercise program consisted of a warm up, cool down and five sets of weight lifting with 12 repetitions.

The study found there was a decline in hand grip strength of the arm wrestlers after the strength training, which researchers believed to be due to the exhaustion expected after exercise. However, despite the immediate decline in strength, the study found that exercise did increase grip strength in the long term.

Arm Wrestling Performance Factors

According to the Journal of Education and Training Studies, there are several factors that affect arm wrestling performance besides for strength from muscle building. They can be separated into internal and external factors. Internal factors can include:

  • Reaction time
  • Concentration
  • Psychological condition

And certain external factors may be:

  • Sufficiency of materials used
  • Weather conditions
  • Quiet environment 

Exercises for Arm Wrestlers

There are a number of muscles you can work to build your arm wrestling strength, including the deltoids, biceps brachii and pectorals. For certain arm wrestling exercises, dumbbells can be used.

Bicep curls, which can either be done with a barbell or dumbbells, can be performed by holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms face up and curl them upward with the upper arms tight to the ribcage and the forearms lifting up, hinging at the elbows. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends slowly lowering the weight to return to starting position.

There are several exercises that can be done to work the pectorals, located in the chest region. One classic exercise is the barbell bench press. ACE lays out the steps, which include laying flat on a bench with your feet on the ground, hands spread slightly wider than the shoulders, placed on the barbell. The forearms should be perpendicular to the floor and elbows at a 90-degree angle. Grasping the bar, lower it to touch the chest, then push it upward. Repeat this motion.

To work the deltoids, try a shoulder exercise suggested by ACE: diagonal raises. Standing with your feet hip distance apart, hold a dumbbell in the left hand in front of the right thigh, then extend it outward to the left side so that the weight is held at shoulder height. Lower the weight and repeat this movement for eight to 15 repetitions, then switch sides.