The Best Arm-Wrestling Techniques & Workouts
Arm wrestling, which traces its roots back to 2,000 B.C., is a time-tested sport in which strength, speed, strategy and technique are keys to success. There are three fundamental moves in arm wrestling: the hook, the top roll and the press. Proficiency in all three requires strength in the fingers, hand, wrist, forearm, biceps, chest and triceps.
Good technique begins with proper foot position: one forward, one back. In a right-handed match, your forward foot should be the right foot, vice versa in a left-handed match. Your thumb should be wrapped beneath the index and middle fingers to allow for a more effective top roll and to keep your opponent guessing about strategy. Back pressure should be maintained at all times by pulling your arm toward your body, thereby enabling your to exert more side pressure on your opponent's arm. Additionally, your arm and body should be moved as a single, integrated unit for maximum power. This is achieved by positioning your arm as close to your body as possible before the match begins and by keeping your fist and arm inside your shoulders throughout the contest.
The hook is an "inside" move in arm wrestling, meaning that it is designed to beat an opponent's arm, as opposed to his hand. This is a move for those who assess their forearm and biceps strength to be equal to, or greater than, that of the opponent's. The hook is performed by curling your wrist inward as much as possible, positioning your body over your arm and exerting downward force simultaneously with your body and arm. Forearm and biceps strength needed for the hook can be developed with lever lifts and towel pullups. A lever lift, which increases forearm strength, is performed by gripping a sledge hammer or similar weighted pole at its unweighted end, dangling it weight-down by the side of your body and repeatedly raising and lowering it between a vertical and horizontal position without bending your elbow. When using a ski pole grip with the thumb on top, the weighted end is raised to the rear, vice versa when using the opposite grip with your pinkie on top. Both types of lever lifts should be performed during training. Towel pullups increase both forearm and biceps strength. They are performed by draping a towel over a pullup bar, gripping the towel at both ends and doing pullups in this fashion.
The Top Roll
The top roll is an "outside" move that relies more on leverage than sheer force. The object is to put enough pressure on your opponent's fingers that his hand opens up, thereby enabling you to work your grip closer to opponent's fingertips. This is known as getting a high position, from which a physically weaker competitor can beat a stronger opponent by obtaining better leverage. The top roll is performed by maintaining maximum back pressure, "walking" your fingers out on an opponent's hand, then regripping and repeating the maneuver until enough leverage is gained to achieve a pin. Finger walks and the use of spring-loaded grippers are good workouts to develop finger and hand strength. A finger walk is performed by holding a sledge hammer or similar weighted pole directly out in front of the body, weighted-end down, using only the fingertips (no thumbs) to suspend the pole in midair, arms parallel to the ground. The workout consists of walking the fingers down and then up the weighted pole without dropping it or lowering the arms. Workouts with grippers consist of repeating sets of handle squeezes with equipment that provides resistance in the range of 10 to 300 pounds.
The press can be an effective move if you have superior strength your chest and triceps. It can also provide a good change of pace in a long tournament when you find your forearms and biceps fatigued. The press is performed by forcing your opponent's palm into a face-up position, then using upper body and arm strength to push your opponent's hand down to a pin. The press is vulnerable to strong back pressure and can be beaten by a quickly executed top roll. But once your opponent's palm is face-up, the press is difficult to beat, even if your wrist is in a less-than-ideal, bent-back position. Wrist curls are effective for increasing wrist strength. They are performed by curling a barbell or dumbbell up and down, using only the wrist and forearm. A good workout to improve chest and triceps strength is the bench press. A modification, known as heavy bench press partials, can further increase triceps strength. Heavy bench press partials are performed by setting the weight at 125 to 150 percent of the weight normally used for the bench press, positioning the safety bar high enough on the weight rack that the barbell rests 4 to 6 inches from the top of the intended lift and then performing sets of 15 to 20 bench press repetitions in this limited-range-of-motion position.
Robert Davé is a licensed clinical psychologist, consultant and educator. He has served on the faculties of two universities, published research in the "Journal of Abnormal Psychology" and run a multifaceted private practice for more than 30 years. Davé holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Michigan State University.