Indian Armwrestling Federation

2/D, S.P.A,
Sector-5, Bhilai Nagar,
Distt- Durg (C.G.) India 490 006.
Cell: +91 62609 76233, 94255 64165 (WA)

Arm Wrestling Exercises

Arm wrestling is a deceptive sport. It is not strictly a "strength" sport as people often think, because technique and speed are both very important. But anyone who tells you that strength is not central to the arm wrestler's success is misguided at best. Strength matters to the extent that it allows you to execute various techniques. For instance, you cannot perform a top roll if you do not have the strength to create adequate backpressure.

So what kind of strength do you, the arm wrestler, need? If you believe that having big, strong biceps is the key to your success you are in for a surprise. The three most important areas for the arm wrester to train are (in order of importance):

1) Fingers and Hand
2) Wrist and Forearm
3) Biceps
4) Triceps
5) Heavy Bench Press

  • Fingers and Hand Exercises

  • Much of the importance of the hand is its actual physical size. A large, thick hand gives a wrestler a tremendous advantage from the beginning. It will be very difficult for someone with a small hand to control an opponent's much larger hand during a match, limiting his potentially successful moves and therefore his options at the table.

    All is NOT lost, however, if you have a small hand. Hand and finger strength to you is in fact even more important than it is to the big-handed wrestler! For while you might not be able to control your opponent's hand, you cannot afford to let him control yours either! He who controls his opponent's hand wins almost every time. If you possess the strength to fight your opponent's attacks on your hands and fingers, you will neutralize his hand-size advantage, and the match will be determined by things other than your hands (like forearm strength, speed, and technique). This helps to describe the absolute importance of the hand in arm wrestling.

    Exercises: - Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of any of the finger exercises that you should perform. Because of the difficulty of describing many of these exercises, I will have to steer you to a book that is called Mastery of Hand Strength, by John Brookfield. It has some great exercises in there. I will try to get some pictures up here soon, though, as finger and hand strength is VERY important to successful arm wrestlers.

    The exercises I do want to introduce here even without pictures are "Finger Walks" and hand grippers.

    Finger Walks: - You will need a sledge hammer for this exercise. With the weighted end of the sledge hammer on the bottom, hold the sledge hammer by the end of the handle out in front of you. The sledge hammer should be straight up and down, with the weight at the bottom and your hands at the top. The way in which you should be holding the sledge hammer is between your eight fingers. That is not very clear, so let me try to detail it more. The four finger tips of your left hand should be against one side of the handle, and the four fingers of your right hand should be against the other side of the handle. By creating adequate pressure between your left and right hand (each pushing against the other one), you should be able to hold the hammer out in front of you with just those 8 finger tips and nothing else.

    Now for the tricky part... Using ONLY your eight fingertips, "walk" your fingers down the handle until you reach the hammer head at the bottom. Basically, you will try to use your top one or two fingers to hold the hammer while your bottom two or three fingers re-grip lower on the handle. Then you will need to hold the weight with your bottom two fingers while your top two fingers move back down the handle toward your lower two fingers. Keep "walking" in this way until you reach the hammer head at the bottom. You will find that this is more difficult than you might at first believe. One of the major difficulties is of course walking your fingers down the handle. Another is making sure that each hand "walks" at the same time. If they "walk" at different paces, the hammer will soon be torque and will be very difficult to hold because one hand will be bearing the brunt of the burden while the other hand does relatively little to help.

    There are endless variations on what you can do with this exercise to make it more difficult. If you can walk your fingers up and down the sledge hammer several times, you can move the resistance up in at least one of two ways. First, you can get a heavier hammer or add weights to the bottom of it. This is most advantageous if none of your fingers is disproportionately strong (or weak) relative to the others. Another way in which to add variety to this exercise is by performing it with just three fingers (and you can switch which three you use) or, if you are incredibly strong, performing it with just two fingers. Believe me, this is EXTREMELY difficult with a 16-pound sledge.

    Grippers: - I recommend the Heavy Grips grippers, as these are like no other gripper you have tried before! Whereas sporting goods store grippers provide you with between 10 and 50 pounds of resistance, these grippers provide you with between 100 and 300 pounds of resistance! You will not believe the strength levels you can achieve by training on these grippers. If you can close the 200 pound gripper, you are able to CRUSH most people's hands in a handshake, and if you can close the 250's all the way I DON'T want to shake your hand! And don't even think about the 350's, because only about ten people in the world have EVER fully closed them!

  • Wrist and Forearm Exercises

  • Take one look at an experienced arm wrestler, and you will see just how important forearms are to arm wrestling! Forearm and wrist strength is absolutely vital to the arm wrestler for several reasons, the first being leverage. Arm wrestling is a leverage sport. You try to obtain leverage with your body position, your hand position, your arm position, and even your foot position.

    The leverage gained by superior forearm and wrist strength is perhaps the most important leverage of all. I am no physics major, but I know that the force a lever can exert varies inversely with the distance from where the force is exerted to its fulcrum. In arm wrestling, being able to curl your wrist reduces this distance and therefore increases your force tremendously! If you don't believe me, try arm wrestling someone who curls their wrist while you do not curl your own wrist. Now try again, but this time, curl your wrist as well. It should now be obvious to you how important this leverage is to an arm wrestler.

    The wrist is also of tremendous importance to the arm wrestler. Being able to torque your wrist more forcefully than your opponent will result in your gaining better (and higher) hand position. Lever lifts are great for this type of strength. Additionally, this sort of wrist strength is extremely important to creating backpressure. If your wrist strength is not able to match the strength of your forearm and bicep, your wrist will bend unfavorably toward your opponent. This will put your wrist in a weak position, which is quite common in arm wrestling due to weak wrists. Top rolling in this position is not comfortable, to say the least. It can result in slipped grip, which leads to the straps. In rare cases, it can even lead to injury. Most importantly, it is difficult to win if your hand is not high. For this reason and others, developing great wrist strength is very important!

    Just in case you are not yet sold as to the importance of forearm strength to arm wrestling, try this experiment. Perform a gruesome forearm workout and, at its immediate conclusion, arm wrestles someone of comparable strength and experience. Now, wait a few days, perform a gruesome workout for any other muscle groups (making sure your forearms are fully recovered), and arm wrestle the same person. Experiment with as many muscle groups as you like; in the end, you will find that forearm fatigue affects the outcome of these matches more than any other muscle group!

    Exercises: - Let's start by getting one thing straight: Wrist curls, by themselves, are NOT sufficient! You must do more than that if you intend to be a good arm wrestler!

    Lever Lifts: - For this exercise, you need a lever with a weight on one end, such as a sledge hammer. I recommend that you purchase the Hammer Bar, as it has a 2.5 inch thick handle where you grip it and was designed specifically for this exercise, or the Heavy Handle Dumbbell with the 2-inch thick handle. The Hammer Bar is the device in the pictures below. It is better than a narrow handle because it better simulates the feel of gripping up with someone and will therefore lead to more functional strength.

    The exercise itself is very easy. Lift the weight by pivoting at the wrist rather than moving the arm.

    The next exercise you should perform is lever lifts to the back rather than the front. Again, keep the arm stationary and only move at the wrist.

    Hercules Bar Reverse Wrist Curls: This exercise will absolutely BLAST your forearms! I guarantee you that your forearms will never have burned like they will burn after a couple of sets with the Hercules Bar! Not only will your forearms be tired, but even your fingers will be worn out. Don't do this exercise if you need to type something on the computer shortly thereafter, because your fingers just won't move like they normally would!

    If you do not have a Hercules Bar, you can try to perform this exercise with just a regular barbell. The problem with a regular barbell, though, is that when you use heavy weights the bar will slip out of your hands at the midway point. This is caused by the fact that only your thumbs are below the barbell. Because your thumbs are significantly weaker than your forearms, you will not be able to build strength with only a traditional barbell. In other words, your thumbs are the limiting factor and you won't ever really hit your forearms.

    The Hercules Bar works much better, because there are pads that go across the back of your hands. The pads spread the weight of the barbell across the back of your hands, so that your thumbs no longer limit your forearm development! It is impossible for the weight to slip out of your hands, enabling you to really blast your forearms.

    Lying Lever Lifts: - The next exercise you should perform is what I call lying lever lifts. I don't have a very good picture of these, but the basic thing is that you take your lever (probably with a much lighter weight on the end) and perform the exercise.

    Towel Pull-ups: To perform this exercise, you will need two small towels. Place each of them over a pull-up bar so that they are spaced on the bar a distance about equal to your shoulder width and so that equal portions of each towel hang over each side. Now, grab the part of each towel that hangs over the bar so that your palms face each other and your thumbs would point up if you extended them and perform pull-ups. Not only will you be strengthening your lats and biceps, but you will also be strengthening your grip as well as your wrists!

    Forearm curls: I am sure you are familiar with these, so I will not go into much detail here. A barbell or dumbbells will work just fine, but the best feel of all is probably the Heavy Handle Dumbbell. Make sure to switch it up on your range of motion. One set, you should go to full extension and full contraction, and then the next set you should add weight and perform only the middle 3/5ths of the movement. To find out how your forearm curl strength stacks up to some of the best arm wrestlers in the world, click here!

    Power Wrist Curls: This exercise is just like regular wrist curls, except that you perform only the top half of the movement. In other words, you start the movement with a straight wrist and curl all the way up to full contraction.

  • Biceps Exercises
  • The main task of the biceps is to maintain overall arm and body position while the forearms, wrists, and hand work to establish a position from which you can win. Aside from actually holding your arm position on the table, the biceps are remarkably unimportant to almost all moves. This is not to say that they do not play a significant role in winning; rather, the biceps' role is more a supplemental role rather than a primary role (as played by the forearms and hand).

    Exercises: - Most everyone knows how to perform bicep exercises, so I will not waste time and space rehashing it all here. The only exercises that I will mention are the dumbbell hammer curl and partial preacher curls. Note that although both exercises are pictured with traditional dumbbells, both exercises are far more effective if done instead with the Heavy Handle dumbbell. Due to the extra torque the Heavy Handle puts on your arm, the hardest part of this exercise is not curling the weight but rather fighting to keep your wrist straight. This is fantastic for arm wrestlers, because it is EXACTLY THE TYPE OF RESISTANCE ENCOUNTERED IN A TOUGH ARM WRESTLING MATCH!!! By building up this type of strength through training, you will absolutely dominate your opponents!

    The first exercise is dumbbell hammer curls, and it is absolutely vital if you want to possess the backpressure necessary to perform a good top roll. To find out how your strength compares to the sport's best wrestlers in this lift.

    The second bicep exercise is the partial preacher curl. The limited range of motion allows you to use heavier weights and to develop the functional strength necessary for arm wrestling. Going to full extension has little benefit, as successful arm wrestlers never reach a position of full arm extension.

    The third exercise you should perform is Heavy Barbell Curl Partials.

  • Triceps

  • Triceps strength is very important for most inside moves. Even if you do not generally try to press but instead prefer a top roll or hook, you are likely to find yourself in a position where you are forced into a press. If you don't have the triceps power to win in the press, you have to develop massive triceps power... and fast!

  • Heavy Bench Press Partials in a Power Rack for Powerful Triceps!

  • The Issue: How to build ultra-powerful triceps?

    Triceps strength is very important for most inside moves. Even if you do not generally try to press but instead prefer a top roll or hook, you are likely to find yourself in a position where you are forced into a press. If you don't have the triceps power to win in the press, you have to develop massive triceps power... and fast!

    Heavy Partials (Bench Press): Heavy Bench Press Partials in a Power Rack are the absolute best exercise out there for building ENORMOUS strength in your triceps. Triceps strength is a must for many inside moves, such as the press or shoulder roll.

    You should note that this exercise will NOT add tons of muscle to your triceps, because the range of motion is so small. However, this exercise DOES add HUGE amounts of raw power to your triceps, and that is exactly what we are after!

    One additional great benefit of this exercise is that it will build extreme power in your triceps that is likely to add 15-20 pounds to your bench press in only about a month! How is that possible, you ask? Your bench will increase, because you will now be able to do more reps in each one of your sets before failing. By building awesome power in your triceps, you will be able to lock your arms out and take a short "rest" at the top of the movement! In other words, when you hit the last rep or two in your set, you can give your Pecs a 3-5 second "rest" by locking your arms out at the top of the rep and holding the weight over your chest. This "rest" will lead to your Pecs being able to crank out one or two more reps. more reps equals more gains in strength and size! If you don't believe me, then just try it and see what happens!

    How to Perform Heavy Bench Press Partials It is vitally important to go HEAVY on this exercise. You should load the barbell with 125-150% of the weight you could normally crank out for 10 reps on the bench press.

    For example, if you can normally bench 300 for a set of 10, then you would want to use between 375 and 450 pounds on this exercise. You should use that weight to crank out between 15 and 20 reps per set.

    Safety Issues Note that because the exercise requires huge amounts of weight, you cannot safely perform this exercise without a power rack. Even having a spotter (or three) will not ensure your safety - only a heavy duty power rack will do the trick.