Size doesn’t matter and brains are as important as brawn—maybe even more important—the truth is anyone can arm wrestle. It’s all about leverage and holding on and power.
Most sports impose multiple demands on players. Few sports, however, demand power, agility, and endurance while insisting that participants remain basically stationary, but these are the essential features of arm wrestling, a unique and complex activity that is growing in popularity and stature.
Unfolding on the smallest of playing fields, arm wrestling provides drama and excitement on a grand scale. Explosive in nature, the action never lags—competitive intensity is matched only by the enthusiasm of those embracing this highly accessible sport.
The fact is anyone can arm wrestle, regardless of age, gender or financial status. And contrary to what you might think, competitive arm wrestling is about more than just muscular strength.
“It’s not always the biggest guy who wins,” says Canadian Fred Roy, President of the World Arm Wrestling Federation (www.waf.homestead.com). “The first couple of years I competed I was beaten by much smaller men. Strength is no guarantee of victory. If you know how to grip up and pressure up, you can take away all the advantages a stronger individual has. Arm wrestling is a leverage sport, and understanding that is very important. I explain to people that the leverage applied in arm wrestling is equivalent to a class two lever. If you want to have success competing you need to perfect technique.”
The sport features a variety of grips, but the one most favored by Roy involves strategic placement of the thumb and forefinger. He teaches newcomers to place their forefinger over top of their thumbnail, which transfers pressure from the back of the hand to the top of the thumb. This grip intensifies leverage, placing opponents at immediate disadvantage. Achieving a pin then becomes a matter of power.
“With arm wrestling you have to use bicep and tricep,” explains Roy, a resident of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and one-time World Champion gold medalist. “It’s always pull towards your face, not to the side. When you pull sideways you’re using ligaments and tendons and that’s how you can hurt yourself. You’ll stretch or tear a ligament or tendon. I’ve actually seen guys break their arm. They get a spiral break in the bone because they’ve bended their body in such a way that the shoulder comes ahead of the arm and the arm starts pulling away from the body.”
Roy stresses the need for a strong wrist, and of course, good hand control. He also emphasizes the importance of learning the sport on an arm-wrestling table, which consists of elbow pads, pegs to grip with your free hand, and pin lines. It’s the only equipment required, and is utilized either from a standing or seated position.
“Arm wrestling isn’t an expensive sport,” comments Roy. “All a person needs is access to a table, nothing more. The best way to learn is on an arm-wrestling table. That’s where you put all the theory into practice.”
Competitive arm wrestling is highly organized, with areas designated as game zones with clubs in each zone. To qualify for national competition a person must attend six circuit tournaments and accumulate the required number of points. Local associations are eager to accept new members, and will happily provide access to tables and instruction.
Get a Grip:
When you go hand-to-hand with an opponent in competitive arm wrestling pressure will be directed in one of three ways, either against your fingers, thumb or arm.
Finger Attack: Pressure is applied entirely to the outside of the hand rather than the arm, with the aim of loosening the opponent’s grip.
Thumb Attack: All force is concentrated on the thumb or its base.
Arm Attack: The wrist is targeted, with pressure accumulating on the arm itself.
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