Arm wrestling (or armwrestling), also known as “armfighting” is a sport involving two participants. Each places one arm on a surface with their elbows bent and touching the surface, and they grip each other’s hand. The goal is to pin the other’s arm onto the surface, the winner’s arm over the loser’s arm. In the early years different names were interchangeably used to describe the same sport: “arm turning”, “arm twisting”, “arm wrestling”, “Indian arm wrestling”, “twisting wrists”, “wrist turning”, “wrist wrestling”.Organized armwrestling tournaments started being held in the 1950s.
Various factors can play a part in one’s success in arm wrestling. Technique and overall arm strength are the two greatest contributing factors to winning an arm wrestling match. Other factors such as the length of an arm wrestler’s arm, muscle and arm mass/density, hand grip size, wrist endurance and flexibility, reaction time, as well as countless other traits, can add to the advantages of one arm wrestler over another. It’s sometimes used to prove who is the stronger person between two or more people. In competitive arm wrestling, as sanctioned by the United States Armwrestling Federation (USAF), arm wrestling is performed with both competitors standing up with their arms placed on a tournament arm wrestling table. Arm wrestling tournaments are also divided into weight classes as well as left and right-handed divisions. Furthermore, strict rules such as fouls given to penalties (such as the competitor’s elbow leaving a matted area where the elbow is meant to remain at all times, or a false start), and trying to escape a possible arm pin by breaking the grip with the opponent may result in a loss at the table. Paraphrasing USAF rules, arm wrestlers must straighten their wrists without a time lapse of one minute during competition.
The World Armwrestling Federation (WAF) was the universally recognized global governing body of professional arm wrestling and comprises 80 member countries. However, due to the labeling of referees and competitors that were associated with PAL/URPA with the status of “Not in good standing” thus being suspended from WAF, many countries are jumping ship.
The International Federation of Armwrestling (IFA) is a democratic non-profit sport organization registered in Zurich, Switzerland and is recognized by TAFISA, the Association for International Sport for All.
John Brzenk was known mostly for his array of techniques which change almost every time he engaged in competition, even with the same opponent within the same match. As of summer 2008, John Brzenk was ranked #1 in North America. Ron Bath is known for his use of the Top Roll technique which emphasizes a ‘roll’ of the wrist as he brings the opponent’s wrist down. Devon Larratt is very well known for his endurance and tenacity. He uses a wide array of techniques during his matches, one of them being holding the first “hit” of his opponents and draining them out, and then counterattacking afterwards. He was the 2017 WAL (World Armwrestling League) Heavyweight champion left and right handed. Travis Bagent, like Brzenk, was known for his wide array of techniques, coupled with his massive strength and explosive style. Many of Bagent’s matches have ended in seconds. Bagent was considered the best left-handed arm wrestler in the world and ranked second overall in North America, as of summer of 2008.
Other competitors such as Matt Girdner, Michael Selearis, Sean Madera, Marcio Barboza, Christian Binnie, and Anthony Macaluso are known for their reliance on strength, coupled with the hook technique, where the wrist turns into a hooked grip after the referee has started the match.”The hook” or “hooking” is any move derived from the inside system of arm wrestling. The second generic system or style of arm wrestling is known as outside arm wrestling “the top roll” or “top rolling”, while the “triceps press”, “shoulder pressing”, or “shoulder rolling” is often described as the third generic system or style of arm wrestling. Certain arm wrestlers depend on the straps, such as Jason Vale, who won the 1997 Petaluma World Championships in the super heavy weight class at only 175 pounds using the strap technique.
Many arm wrestlers will have a signature style or favorite technique, while others have enjoyed success by becoming extremely well rounded. Within each of the three broad technical systems of arm wrestling there are numerous clearly identifiable techniques which have been developed and enhanced over time. Great Britain’s most successful arm wrestler and former two time European and World Middleweight Champion Neil Pickup is one of today’s leading arm wrestlers, widely recognized as having originated and developed techniques to suit the genetic make up of individual arm wrestlers. Neil Pickup has enjoyed an amateur and professional career spanning more than 20 years, during which time he has won more than 60 International titles across five different weight classes on both his right and left arms. He has also trained numerous world champions, both male and female. This success has been largely attributed to his technical prowess, experience, and understanding of the athlete’s whole body as a lever. He now also hosts a podcast for the WAL.