Arm Wrestling Theory

Arm Wrestling Techniques (Demonstrated & Explained)

Harvey Meale

Harvey Meale

In the sport of armwrestling, there’s a hundreds different ways you can skin a cat, but we can simplify the various techniques into 2 categories: inside and outside armwrestling.


Inside armwrestling techniques include the hook and the press, whereas outside armwrestling refers to the top roll (and its variations).

Each technique is very different yet all of them can be effective ways to win an armwrestling match.

In this article we’ll run through each of the main techniques, compare their strengths and weaknesses, and help you decide which approach is right for you.

Let’s begin!

Inside vs. Outside Arm Wrestling

As mentioned earlier, there’s basically two approaches to armwrestling: inside and outside.

Inside vs. Outside Armwrestling

Think of these as the 2 major categories that contain each of the individual techniques we’re about to unpack.

Let’s first start with inside armwrestling.

Inside Arm Wrestling Techniques: Hook & Press

Inside armwrestling is all about coming forward and getting behind your shoulder.

The inside school of armwrestling generally requires more absolute strength and also utilizes more of your frame, bone structure, and connective tissue to get the job done.

Let’s take a look at the two major inside techniques.


The hook is an inside technique that involves cupping your opponent in towards you and getting behind your shoulder to use your frame and/or bicep to overpower your opponent.

It’s called the hook because you’re essentially creating a hook with your arm.

As with anything in armwrestling, there’s plenty of different ways you can execute the hook: there’s offensive and defensive hooks, the high hook, and within each of those there’s more than 1 way to go about pulling it off.

Some hookers pull using a ton of muscular (bicep) strength whereas others position themselves to use more of their frame and bone structure.

The hook really lends itself to athletes who have a ton of overall upper body strength, and we tend to see pullers with slightly shorter forearms gravitating towards this technique.

Shorter forearms generally allow you to produce more force which, when you’re already really strong, can often be enough to completely overpower your opponent.


The press is another inside armwrestling technique which requires much more shoulder commitment, tricep/chest strength, and chopping strength (down pressure).

The idea of this move is to get your body behind your arm and essentially shoulder press your opponent to the pad.

The flop wrist press (sometimes called the dead wrist press) is a particular type of press which requires sacrificing your wrist in order to fully commit yourself to the press.

The press is a fantastic move for anyone who is stronger in pushing movements (i.e. bench press) as opposed to pulling (chin ups)

This is why we’ll often see powerlifters who enter the sport of armwrestling gravitating towards the inside style with a focus on the press.

Although the press can be an entire strategy from the word go, it can also be used as a finishing move you can transition to from the top roll or hook.

The press can put a bunch of stress on your elbow tendons and can cause injury if you aren’t able to pull it off, so be extremely cautious doing this as a beginner!

Outside Arm Wrestling Technique: Top Roll

Moving over now to the outside school of armwrestling we have the top roll and its many variations.

And yes, outside armwrestling can indeed be done indoors!

Top Roll

Outside armwrestling is all about attacking your opponent’s hand and fingers and establishing height.

In armwrestling, height = leverage.

The top roll is also all about pulling your opponent towards you and less about driving sideways towards the pad.

Outside armwrestlers seek to win the match through establishing a biomechanical leverage advantage, which will oftentimes enable slightly weaker armwrestlers to defeat stronger opponents.

Devon Larratt is a great example of this.

When he competes against super heavyweights, he’s almost always the weaker of the 2 armwrestlers, but if he’s able to get enough height and can avoid getting pinned within the first few seconds, he’s usually going to win the match.

The longer an armwrestling match goes, the more of an advantage the outside armwrestler will usually have as they’re constantly looking to extend their leverage advantage.

Top rollers rely a lot more on rising strength, pronation, and back pressure to win than hookers do.

Low Hand Top Roll

The low hand top roll is characterized by taking a slightly lower grip on your opponent’s thumb than you would a typical top (full hand) top roll.

The goal with this move is to cup in aggressively, drag through your lats, and pronate through your wrist, attacking the bottom 2 fingers of your opponent.

Low Hand Top Roll

Instead of rising aggressively and trying to climb over your opponent’s first two fingers, we’re targeting much lower on the hand with this move.

The low hand top roll works particularly well against the hook and 1 of the best ways to counter a low hand top roll is with a posting top roll.

Posting Top Roll

The posting top roll is all about height.

You want to get your forearm as vertical as possible in the setup with your wrist as close to directly above your elbow as possible.

Posting Top Roll

We call this ‘posting’ because your arm is almost upright, like a post sticking out of the ground.

Your knuckles should also be pointing towards the roof while setting up for a posting top roll.

The posting top roll is a great counter to a low hand top roll, but it doesn’t do quite as well vs. a hook as the low hand top roll does.

Open Top Roll

The open top roll (or open arm top roll as it’s sometimes referred to as) is what we’d refer to as a defensive style top roll.

It’s characterized by an elbow angle of more than 90 degrees, requires tons of bicep strength, and extreme amounts of pronation.

This move often looks quite similar to the king’s move, although there are differences.

King’s Move

The king’s move is where you ‘fight from under the table’, so to speak.

Your arm is usually very open (like in an open top roll), and oftentimes almost completely straight.

The main difference between the king’s move and an open top roll is that the upper arm (humerus) also rotates inwards, allowing you to pronate even further.

This causes the puller to effectively be on the side of their elbow.

The king’s move is almost impossible to pin because that rotation of your upper arm creates an absurd amount of pronation, but also because the tension shifts from your musculature to your bone structure, which is far more efficient.

This is one of the most dangerous techniques in the sport of armwrestling and should definitely be avoided by beginners!

Should You Learn Both Techniques?

When you’re new to the sport, you should definitely experiment with both the hook and the top roll just to get an idea of which one feels better to you.

But the vast majority of the time you’ll want to ‘pick a team’, so to speak, and focus on developing one technique to be your weapon of choice.

So play around with both inside and outside pulling initially, but aim to figure out where you want to spend most of your time.

If you’re unsure which technique to choose, go for the top roll as it’s easier to learn and will teach you more about technical armwrestling.

Which Technique Should You Choose?

There’s a number of factors that influence which technique you should choose to focus on, and many pullers will be genetically better suited to a certain style.

Height & Forearm Length

Taller pullers with longer arms are typically better suited to the outside/top roll technique, as they’re naturally able to generate more height, which is key to the top roll.

Strength Background

Anyone who excels in ‘pushing’ movements more so than they do pulling movements, will often be suited to the inside style of armwrestling.

If you’re coming from a powerlifting/bench press background or happen to have really strong triceps, the hook/press might be for you.

Perhaps you were once a shot putter and you’re already absurdly strong, you might be really well suited to inside armwrestling.

For pretty much everyone else, outside armwrestling will probably be the way to go, but it’s extremely individualistic so you’ve got to play around with it to see what feels right for you.

Which Technique Is Better?

Remarkably, no one technique has a massive advantage against another – otherwise everyone would be doing the same thing.

So it really doesn’t matter too much which technique you end up focusing on, so long as you put the time and effort into developing it.

If you’d like to learn more about the intricacies of each of the various techniques, I highly recommend joining our email newsletter where we go into much more depth on all of this stuff.

We’ll also help you figure out the optimal way to train based on your chosen technique.


    Harvey Meale

    I'm an arm wrestling superfan and the founder of Armwrestling Advice. I'm currently training full time to become the best puller I can be. When I'm not in the gym, you'll usually find me researching and learning about the training methods of the world's elite professional armwrestlers.

    Harvey Meale