Arm Wrestling Training

Arm Wrestling Training Program – For Beginners (2023)

Harvey Meale

Harvey Meale

If you’re just starting out in armwrestling, you’re probably aware that you need to be lifting heavy and developing strength in the gym… but where do you start?

Putting together a strength training program for armwrestling can be a daunting task, because there’s hundreds of different exercises and variations you could be doing.

The purpose of this program is to give you a clear understanding of the principles involved with developing strength so that your gains actually carry over to the armwrestling table.

This program was developed based on timeless strength training principles, as well as some of the individual training approaches used by the world’s best armwrestlers – and simplified for beginner/intermediate athletes.

We’re going to keep things super simple so that by the end of this article you’ll know exactly what to be doing in the gym on a weekly basis to efficiently develop strength as an armwrestler.

Let’s begin!

Introduction To Arm Wrestling Training Principles

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the program, you’ll first need to understand why we’re doing the things we’re doing.

Before we continue, I’d recommend first reading my article on How To Get Better At Armwrestling which unpacks the 6 most important things you need to be aware of in order to maximize your progress as a beginner armwrestler.

Now let’s jump into some training principles that’ll maximize your success early on.

Minimal Table Time

When you’re new to armwrestling, you will want to do table time only once per week.

This is easy for some people, yet others who really have the bug will have to be disciplined in order to stay away from the table!

Your tendons simply can’t yet recover quick enough to be doing more than 1 table session per week for you to benefit from doing any more than this.

If you don’t have access to a table or can’t attend a practice once per week, don’t worry – you can still build strength in the gym.

But eventually you absolutely will need to join a club or, at the very least, get a table and partner to practice with.

Your entire week should be focused around that table time session.

That’s your main event.

Everything else we’re doing in the gym should help us get more out of that table time session.

Avoid Hitting & Speed Work

As a beginner you should focus on developing strength and coordination.

You do NOT need to be hitting or practicing ready gos while you’re just starting out.

This program will be focused more around developing strength and a mind muscle connection that will carry over to the armwrestling table.

Once you’ve put some mileage on your tendons, we can start thinking about incorporating speed work.

Heavy vs. Light Lifting

Each of your workouts will fall into one of 3 categories:

  • Low intensity/blood flow session
  • Moderate intensity
  • Heavy

For the first 1-3 months of training, we’re going to go heavy/high intensity only once a week and this will be in the form of table time.

Our gym work will be low to moderate intensity so that when that weekly table time session rolls around, we’re fresh enough to pull hard.

When you’re completely green to armwrestling, you likely won’t be able to recover from a tough table practice AND a heavy gym session in the same week.

As you get towards the end of that baby giraffe stage and you begin to recover more quickly, you can think about adding more intensity to your gym sessions.

An example of this might be doing 1 heavy session and 2 light sessions – in conjunction with a weekly table practice.

And eventually you might step it up to 1 heavy session, 1 moderate session, and 1 light session – in conjunction with your weekly table time.

Always start out slowly and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.

Never work through pain.

Focus On Combining Movements (Compound Exercises)

The biggest problem beginners face in armwrestling is coordination, because there’s a TON of moving parts…

You’re simultaneously trying to drag your lat back, cup your wrist in, pronate your forearm, contain with your fingers, rise, and apply side pressure.

That’s REALLY difficult to orchestrate when you’re completely new to each of these movement patterns.

That’s why it’s important we practice coordinating as many of these movements together while training in the gym.

  • Instead of just doing cupping in isolation, we’re going to pair it with lat drag.
  • Instead of just doing pronation by itself, we’re going to combine it with rising.
  • Instead of just doing supination, we’re going to pair it with side pressure.

With certain exercises we can even combine 3-4 of these elements, which is where the real magic happens.

Training Frequency

To keep things simple, we’re going to do this program 3 days per week in addition to a table time session.

If that’s too much for you, you can do it twice per week.

If you can’t get table time in, consider upping the frequency to 4x per week, but only if you’re willing to optimize your recovery protocol.

This program is centered primarily around forearm, hand/wrist, back pressure, and bicep strength, but having a strong chest/shoulders is also important.

I’d recommend doing a chest + shoulders workout once a week, as well as legs once per week.

An example week might look like:

  • Monday: Armwrestling Workout 1 (Full ROM)
  • Tuesday: Chest + Shoulders Workout
  • Wednesday: Armwrestling Workout 2
  • Thursday:
  • Friday: Armwrestling Workout 1
  • Saturday: Table Time Session
  • Sunday: Legs

There are certain armwrestling specific chest/shoulder exercises you could do, but so long as you’re doing any half decent chest/shoulders routine once a week, you’re going to do a decent job at covering all your bases.

If you’re already gravitating towards being a heavy presser/side pressure/hook style armwrestler, you might want to consider replacing one of the armwrestling workouts with a second chest/shoulders workout.

Leg day is optional for armwrestlers, but I recommend it especially for natural athletes as it’ll boost your testosterone and increase your overall stability at the table.

I wouldn’t recommend doing super heavy squats or deadlifts because introducing that level of CNS fatigue is going to be counterproductive to our goals as an armwrestler.

Should I Take Days Off?

There’s always something you can be doing.

People think they need to take a day off so they can recover, but the best way to help your muscles and tendons recover is actually by doing some very light bloodflow work in high rep ranges.

I’m not saying you NEED to be working out 6-7 days per week, and I appreciate that some peoples’ schedules won’t permit this, but if you’ve got a completely empty day, you’d be better off doing a light session, even if (especially if) you’re feeling really beat up.

I personally will do armwrestling training 7 days a week, but that doesn’t mean I’m red lining every workout…

Half of my sessions are very light and are geared towards recovery more than anything.

Your hands/wrist/forearms respond very well to high training volumes, and that’s the bulk of what we’re working on in this program.

Rep Ranges

Strength can be developed in many different rep ranges.

During our low intensity/bloodflow sessions, we’re going to be working in the 20-50 rep range.

The idea here is primarily to get some movement in – this helps blood flow to the joint which promotes healing.

We’ll almost always do our lowest intensity workouts after our heavy session.

During our moderate intensity sessions, we’re going to be working in the 6-10 rep range.

This rep range is excellent for developing strength and getting in volume, yet is much easier to recover from than high intensity sessions.

During our heavy sessions, we’re going to be working in the 1-5 rep range.

These sessions are designed to increase our absolute strength which involves using the maximum weight we can safely move with good form.

I would classify table time as a high intensity day as well, though it is possible to take it easy on the table.

Notes On Isometric Reps

On the moderate and high intensity days, we’ll also be incorporating isometrics (or static holds).

We don’t typically ‘count’ these reps and instead hold the lift for a set period of time, usually 6-20 seconds.

Mobility & Athleticism

Maintaining healthy joints and being able to move through the complete range of motion is critical in preventing injuries.

Less injuries = way faster progress.

You should also aspire to be an armwrestler capable of fully extending their arms!

Devon Larratt Can't Extend Arm

You do NOT want to end up like Devon or Denis, completely incapable of extending your arms, and potentially requiring surgery down the road.

There is no biomechanical advantage to be gained by abusing your body in this way – it’s pure neglect.

Guys like John Brzenk, RVJ, as well as Janis Amolins are all world class pullers who pride themselves on maintaining flexible, healthy elbows – and you should too!

Occasional Full Range Of Motion Training

The key to maintaining mobility is to include some full range of motion training each week.

Most of our volume will be done at shorter, armwrestling specific working angles, but it’s really important you include some full ROM movements as well.

A simple way of incorporating this is to exclusively do full range movements on your chest/shoulder day and then once a week (Monday in our above example), do all of your armwrestling movements using a full ROM.

Warming Up

Always warm up before diving into any moderate/heavy lifting.

The simplest way to do this is to do the same exercise for an extra set before your working sets using very light weight for 20-40 reps.

You don’t need to overthink your warm up, but just make sure you’re never pulling cold and always have plenty of blood flowing to your muscles before going heavy.

Equipment Required

To keep this program as accessible as possible for people who don’t have access to equipment, I’ve tried to keep the equipment required fairly minimal.

Having said that, there are a few key pieces of gear you absolutely will need to pick up in order to get the most out of this program.

Firstly, you will need access to a cable machine or an adjustable armwrestling table pulley attachment.

Almost all gyms will have a cable machine, so that will work fine.

The only other equipment you’ll need is fairly inexpensive and you don’t even need an armwrestling table!

Essential Equipment
Judo Belt
$6.95
A simple martial arts belt is an arm wrestler's best friend. You WILL need to pick one of these up in order to complete this program.
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05/17/2024 09:42 am GMT
Essential Equipment
Multispinner
In addition to the belt, you'll need some sort of a cupping handle. You can use a wrist wrench instead of a multispinner, but I find the multispinner makes the most sense as your second piece of arm wrestling equipment because of how versatile it is.
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If you absolutely can’t get your hands on a multispinner, it’s not the end of the world as long as you have access to any old handle (if your gym has a cable machine, they’ll have handles).

You can also make these fairly inexpensively with some PVC pipe and a strap.

The absolute bare bones equipment setup would be judo belt + gym.

Having said that, a multispinner will make training your fingers/containment much easier than going without.

Specificity Is KING

All good armwrestling strength programs aim to mimic the movements performed on the armwrestling table as accurately as possible.

The closer you can replicate actual armwrestling, the more effective your strength program will be.

Having the right gear allows us to more closely replicate armwrestling, which is why I think investing in equipment has a huge ROI.

While the above gear is all that you need to complete this training program, I’d highly recommend checking out our Equipment recommendations page, which walks you through all the essential armwrestling gear and explains what order you should purchase it in.

On Testing & Tracking

You might also like to consider tracking how each of your armwrestling strengths are developing over time by implementing a testing routine every 5 or so weeks.

It’s not completely necessary, especially when you’re a beginner, as you’re going to make good progress in the gym for a while and shouldn’t really encounter any plateaus.

Having said that, it’s a good habit to get yourself into and will provide you with data that’ll allow you to see your strengths and weaknesses as well as what’s progressing quickly vs. slowly.

This data should inform the areas you focus on going forward.

Having said that, not all lifts make sense to do as a 1 rep max and can be difficult to safely test.

For pronation, side pressure, supination, and rising, it might be easier to test your absolute strength using a static hold or even by doing a 2-4 rep max with more manageable weights.

Back pressure/hammer strength, lat drag, and cupping can generally all be tested using a dynamic 1 rep max.

Because this is a beginner friendly program, we’re not going to worry about testing or tracking our lifts, as it’s not really something you need right away.

Arm Wrestling Training Program: Structure

We’re going to break this into 2 separate workouts with slightly different exercises.

Since we’re going to be doing 3 armwrestling workouts per week, simply alternate between the two workouts.

For example, week 1 would look like the following:

  • Monday: Armwrestling Workout 1
  • Wednesday: Armwrestling Workout 2
  • Friday: Armwrestling Workout 1

And then week 2 would look like this:

  • Monday: Armwrestling Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Armwrestling Workout 1
  • Friday: Armwrestling Workout 2

And then week 3 would look the same as week 1, etc.

There’s a long list of different strengths you need to train as an armwrestler, including:

  • Lat drag
  • Bicep/hammer
  • Cupping
  • Pronation
  • Supination
  • Rising
  • Wrist extension
  • Side pressure
  • Down pressure/chopping
  • Fingers/containment

You could add things like speed, reaction time, and endurance to this list as well.

While that might look somewhat intimidating, the good news is that we really only need to focus on 3-4 of these to get 80% of the results.

Which areas you should focus on more will be determined by,

  • Style – are you an inside or outside puller?
  • Natural strengths and weaknesses – what are you bringing to the table already?

Devon Larratt is going to train in a completely different manner to someone like Jerry Cadorette, for instance.

To give you a better feel for a very rough breakdown of which strengths matter the most in armwrestling, check out this pie chart.

Note: The following will vary A LOT from style to style and athlete to athlete, so it likely won’t make sense for anyone on an individualistic basis, but it’s a decent description of armwrestling as a whole.

This gives us a pretty clear picture of where we need to be focusing in the gym: primarily on cupping, back pressure, and pronation.

You could do those 3 alone and get fantastic results.

Devon Larratt once said that 2/3 of the training volume beginners do should be on cupping!

While it is important to cover all your bases, 80% of your results will come from just a few key lifts, so we’re really going to focus on those in this program.

Arm Wrestling Training Program: Exercises

Let’s not waste any more time and get into the program!

Workout 1

I recommend following the order of the exercises as they’re listed below.

I’ll include some notes on sets and reps after I’ve listed out the exercises for both workouts.

Chin-up static hold

Hold the top position of a chin-up for ~6 seconds and slowly descend back to the ground.

Using either a neutral or supinated grip is fine for these.

You can use a box to make it easier to get back to the starting position.

This exercise is fantastic for building isometric strength in your lats which is going to help develop back pressure.

Preacher Hammer Curl (w/ Body English)

The idea with these is to keep your elbow locked at close to a 90° angle throughout the whole lift.

This is another fantastic compound back pressure lift.

It doesn’t make a ton of sense to do this movement on a low intensity day (since the body English enables heavier weights), so save these for moderate/high intensity sessions and instead just do regular preacher hammers to about 90° on your low intensity days.

Cable Cup & Drag

This one can be done a number of ways, either seated or standing up and with any number of handles.

You can use a high attachment point, medium, or even a low one – and I recommend switching it up from time to time.

I’d recommend using a wrist wrench for this exercise, but a multispinner works just as well.

If you don’t have either of those, you can just use any regular handle you have at your gym, but these won’t train your fingers like the wrist wrench/multispinner will.

If you’re just using a regular cable machine handle, you’ll need to include 1-2 other exercises in this program to target your fingers.

I’d recommend doing a couple sets of really heavy static holds with dumbbells, farmer’s walk handles, or on the smith machine.

If you’re not using a multispinner/wrist wrench, there’s nothing else in this program for finger/containment strength, which is why adding some supplementary exercises would be beneficial.

Dumbbell Wrist Curl

These can be done in a variety of ways: resting your arm on your thigh or on a bench are the most popular ways.

Unless you’re doing your full range of motion day, there’s no need to extend your wrist beyond the straight-wrist position.

Just focus on wrist flexion in the range that we’ll actually be using when cupping our opponent.

Seated Belt/Strap Rising

For this one you’ll need either a judo belt (with a knot tied in it) or an armwrestling training strap.

Here’s how you get the strap on your wrist.

You can do ‘pulses’ like Devon’s demonstrating above or you can do heavy singles and everything in between.

Try to keep your forearm parallel to the ground at all times to keep maximum tension on your riser.

Banded Supinated Side Pressure

These can be done using just a resistance band, but using a cable machine is fine also.

Wrap the band over your thumb so that the tension forces you to supinate in.

At the same time as you’re supinating, apply some side pressure, being careful to keep your elbow inside of your shoulder.

Do not continue if you begin to experience elbow or shoulder aggravation.

After that it’s a good idea to finish off with some external rotations.

This helps keep our elbows and shoulders healthy by balancing out all the internal rotation we do in armwrestling.

Workout 2

Again, I recommend following the order of the exercises as they’re listed below.

Notes on sets and reps are listed after this section.

Supinated Isolateral Pulldown

This is my absolute favorite machine for the lats.

If you don’t have an isolat machine, you can just use a regular lat pulldown machine using a supinated grip, but I’ve found it near impossible to get the same isolation of the lats.

You can do this exercise bilaterally or unilaterally.

This is going to be one of the best ways to develop killer back pressure through the lat drag.

Cable Cup & Drag

Refer to the instructions posted for this exercise in Workout 1.

We’re doing this exercise in both workouts because cupping is so incredibly important.

If you have multiple different handles, switch it up from workout to workout.

Cable Belt Pronation

My all-time favorite way to train pronation is to use a martial arts belt with a cable machine.

This is the best way I know of to train pronation because of how well it replicates what actually happens on the armwrestling table.

Attach one end to the cable machine and wrap the belt around your thumb as shown below.

There’s so many ways you can work pronation here:

  • Pronation + hammer curl
  • Pronation + lat drag
  • Pronation + lat drag + hammer curl
  • Pronation ‘pulses’
  • Alter the height of the attachment (lower works much better)
  • Heavy isometric holds

The beauty of this exercise is that your pronator is locked in that fully pronated position, regardless of whether you’re doing pulses, hammer curls, or isometrics.

On your full ROM days, you can fully supinate your arm and pronate through the full range.

Cable Belt Riser

I find this one works best while sitting down.

Attach your belt to the cable machine and wrap it around your hand as shown below.

Perform the rising movement.

You’ll notice I’m cradling my elbow to ensure I’m keeping elbow flexion to a minimum, which isolates the riser more.

Pronation Isolation

I like to use kettlebells for this, but you can use weight plates as well. You’ll also need a relatively high bench to rest your forearm on for this one.

You can pronate either through your wrist, thumb, or knuckles.

I MUCH prefer going through my thumb and would recommend you start with that variation.

Resting your arm on the bench, complete the pronation movement, squeezing at the end of the contraction.

Standing EZ-Bar Curls

You can do these with an EZ-bar or a straight bar, whichever you prefer.

I prefer to do these standing up as opposed to sitting down as I find you get much better activation of the stabilizer muscles in the upper back (subscapularis and rhomboids).

Focus on really digging your elbows into your sides and getting as much of the tension onto your biceps as possible.

Perform the reps using a slow and controlled eccentric.

Sets?

As a general rule, aim for between 3-5 sets of each exercise.

Start out with 3 sets per exercise and as you develop work capacity, you can increase your volume to 4-5 sets per exercise.

Be super mindful of how well you’re recovering, how much soreness you have the next day, etc.

If you’re real beat up, keep the intensity low and volume low to moderate.

To develop strength it’s said that we want between 10 and 20 sets per body part per week (depending on a multitude of factors).

Most of you will get close to the volume you need to maximize strength gains just from the 1x per week table time session!

For this reason, most of your ‘strength’ training sessions in the gym should be low intensity and are really there primarily to speed up recovery so you’re in good shape for the next table time session.

So when you’re starting out, for the first 1-3 months, keep your gym sessions purely focused on bloodflow/low intensity and then go hard during table time.

After 1-3 months of training, if you are pain free, you can switch one of those low intensity sessions into moderate intensity.

And eventually you can experiment with 1 heavy day in addition to your table time session.

Again, a lot of this depends on your training age and ability to recover quickly.

Reps?

See the principles section where we discussed rep ranges.

Arm Wrestling Recovery For Beginners

Recovery is EVERYTHING in the sport of armwrestling.

If you recover super efficiently, you’ll be able to train more frequently with higher performance in the gym.

Higher performance = better adaptation.

The biggest issue beginners face in armwrestling is overdoing it.

Less is almost always more in this sport.

John Brzenk never really lifted weights at all and was able to become the GOAT solely from table time.

After his really early years, he was only pulling 1-2 times per week!

Let’s take a quick look at some of the keys to recovering more quickly.

Diet, Sleep, & Supplementation

Getting adequate sleep is going to trump virtually anything else you’re doing to recover.

If you’re not sleeping around 8 hours per night, you need to sort that out immediately, otherwise your training will suffer.

As for diet, you need lots of carbs and protein, but still should be eating clean, whole foods.

Avoid low carb diets like carnivore, keto, and also avoid fasting protocols like OMAD.

Your fast twitch muscle fibers NEED carbs to function at their full capacity.

I’d recommend eating carbs and protein prior to all of your training sessions (basically not training fasted).

I’ll be writing a much more detailed article on diet advice for armwrestlers in the near future.

When it comes to supplementation, there’s plenty you can take to help speed up recovery as well as increase performance:

  • Fish oil – Great for joint health
  • Collagen – Great for tendon health
  • Vitamin C – Great for enhancing recovery
  • Creatine – Great for increasing performance

I’ll also be writing an article on supplementation shortly, so stay tuned for that.

Low Intensity Bloodflow Work

The most important thing you can do to assist recovery is to drive blood into your joints to give your tendons the nutrients they need to heal.

Quite a bit of this is baked into the program in the form of low intensity, high repetition exercises multiple times per week.

If you’re super sore after a tough table time session, the very next day you should be getting blood flowing to those areas as soon as possible!

Prehab Exercises

There’s all sorts of physical therapy exercises you can do to prevent injuries and ensure your joints stay healthy.

For example, an armwrestler will do a TON of pronation and radial deviation (rising), yet will often completely neglect supination and ulnar deviation.

You need to make sure you’re doing some sort of routine to ensure your joints stay healthy and you don’t develop imbalances.

Once or twice a week include a few prehab exercises alongside your regular workouts.

This includes external rotations of the elbows,

Rotator cuff internal/external rotation,

And supination.

There’s plenty more you can experiment with as well.

Stay tuned for our full guide to physical therapy for armwrestlers!

Use Ice Correctly

Ice can be a great way to reduce inflammation, however it’s this inflammation that is actually helping us drive adaptation.

For that reason, I will use ice only after really brutal training sessions for the express purpose of reducing soreness over the next couple days.

If I can reduce soreness by 25-30%, I’ll be able to start training at a higher level more quickly.

It doesn’t make sense to jump in an ice bath after every workout, since it’s somewhat counterproductive to the muscle development we’re going after.

Massage & Myofascial Release

Massage is another great way to reduce soreness to help you get back in the gym or on the table sooner.

If you don’t have access to massage therapy, you can use a barbell or trigger point ball to roll out your biceps and triceps, which will help release knots nd will lead to less soreness.

I’d also recommend spending $15 on a cheap massage gun which will help you work your forearms and triceps.

Red Light & Cold Laser Therapy

Red light therapy has some absolutely incredible effects on muscle and tendon recovery times.1https://a1athlete.com/red-light-therapy-muscle-recovery/

It’s super easy to use, unbelievably convenient, and the payoff is actually pretty unbelievable.

I use the Kineon MOVE+ Pro every single day as it’s the absolute best wearable device that’s perfect for hitting the elbow joint, forearms, and shoulders.

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I’ll do up a full article on red light therapy and how it can benefit armwrestlers in the near future!

Limitations Of This Program

This program was developed to be super simple to follow and easy to get started with as a beginner armwrestler.

But there are a ton of limitations…

  • It doesn’t explain how to modify your training before a competition,
  • No hitting/speed/power work is included,
  • No reaction time training is included,
  • It doesn’t tell you what to do during your table time sessions to get the most out of them,
  • It covers most of your bases, but omits aspects like down pressure, wrist extension, and thumb training,
  • It doesn’t teach you how to test or track your lifts to optimize your progress,
  • It doesn’t specify whether to choose isometrics or dynamic training, and when to use each,
  • It could make better use of periodization for enhanced results.

For those of you who really want to optimize your training to maximize how quickly you progress in the sport of armwrestling, in the near future we’ll be releasing a far superior training program that is more extensive and will yield better results.

It’ll still be geared towards beginners and intermediates, but even advanced athletes will get a ton out of it.

I’ll also be collaborating with some of the best armwrestling coaches in the world to produce this thing!

If you’d like to get your hands on this new training program, make sure you sign up to our email newsletter below so you can be notified as soon as it’s available!

    About

    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