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How to Arm Wrestle


“You need a thick wrist and a big hand and a long forearm,” says Kent Damore, a 27-year veteran of “pulling,” which is what the pros call arm-wrestling. Endurance also plays a big role. “Cardio helps a lot,” he adds. “Thirty seconds of arm-wrestling is equivalent to a round of boxing.” He recommends starting with hand- and wrist-strengthening exercises like fingertip pull ups and push ups, as well as wrist curls.

Replace the steel cables in weight-lifting machines with large elastic cords, whose slack and stretch will exercise your ligaments and tendons in particular. Use physical-therapy bands to help strengthen the back and shoulders, which are as important as biceps (if not more so). “A lot of guys think arm-wrestling is straight side pressure to pin a guy down, but in reality it’s back pressure,” Damore says. “You have to get your opponent’s arm away from his chest.” To do that, you have to be able to spot an opponent’s weakness — a shift in stance, for example, or poor arm positioning — and then attack.

Practice in ways that replicate competition conditions: metal tables, three and half feet high with elbow cushions, two pin pads and two pegs for the free hands to grip. Once you’re in the proper position — dominant foot forward, hip close to the table — engage your opponent with a basic clasp of the hand. “If your arm is up higher on the guy’s hand, you have leverage,” Damore says.

A steely grip and strong mental resolve are essential. “I want to stress that this is not a sport that someone who cannot stand losing should be in,” Damore says. “No one is undefeated in this sport professionally.” You also have to be willing to battle for little to no glory. “Arm-wrestling is not a high-paying sport. We drive thousands of miles to get a six-inch trophy,” Damore says. Sometimes the best payoff can be an emotional one. “When I go up to the table, I don’t think of one person specifically. I think of the turmoil in my life and bind up all that energy, bring it to the table, and it’s a release. It’s the closest thing to a fistfight without going to jail.”

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