Arm Wrestling Theory

Are Longer Arms Better For Arm Wrestling? Maybe.

Harvey Meale

Harvey Meale

Armwrestling is all about leverages, angles, and position, so you’d expect arm length to play a pretty important role.

So is it better to have longer or shorter arms?

Does it really make much of a difference?


Typically, the athlete with longer arms will benefit from a slight biomechanical leverage advantage in armwrestling, however this isn’t always the case and there’s many factors to consider.

In this article I’m going to explain the advantages and drawbacks of different arm lengths in armwrestling as well as teach you how to make the most of your own biomechanical hardware, so that you’re more effective against different types of opponents.

Arm Length Has A Relatively Small Impact On Outcome

While arm length is an interesting and important factor to consider, it’s not some unexploitable biomechanical gift from the Gods that’ll make you win every armwrestling match forever…

It’s impossible to quantify just how big of an advantage or disadvantage your arm length will yield in a match, but it’s usually going to be quite small either way.

Really good armwrestlers are able to identify unique strategies and approaches for opponents who possess different characteristics.

Top armwrestlers don’t approach a really tall top roller with huge long forearms and giant hands the same way as they do a shorter inside puller with tiny hands and massive side pressure.

The best guys are looking at each individual opponent as a completely unique puzzle which requires a tailor-made strategy to solve.

Figure out where they’re longer, bigger, stronger – and weaker than you – and then devise a plan to leverage your own unique strengths to maximally exploit their weaknesses.

We’ll get into this in a little more detail shortly.

Advantages Of A Longer Forearm In Armwrestling

Having a longer forearm in armwrestling is often seen as being advantageous, and it certainly can be if you know how to use it.

If you think about the objective of armwrestling, it’s to apply force to move your opponent in the direction of the pin pad.

A longer forearm allows an armwrestler to establish greater height which forces their opponent to have to essentially ‘climb over’ the top of your hand or go straight through it with sheer side pressure.

A longer forearm doesn’t make it any easier for you to pin your opponent, but it can make it a lot tougher for your opponent to pin you.

Ryan Bowen describes this biomechanical advantage as “denial of your opponent’s pin route”

With a long forearm, you’re essentially putting a road block in front of your opponent which says “detour ahead” if they want to win the match.

If your opponent has a shorter arm, they’ll struggle to get over the top of your hand without lifting their elbow off the pad.

In the past, John Brzenk has described those with a longer forearm having an advantage in “getting over the top” and that these athletes should focus on establishing a leverage advantage by attacking the fingers and wrist of their shorter opponent.

In essence, the longer arm lends itself toward top rolling and outside pulling.

When these athletes find themselves inside, the high hook is going to be one of the most dominant positions.

Check out our full article explaining the difference between inside and outside armwrestling.

These pullers also tend to benefit more the longer a match lasts.

They’re often happy to sit on that high hand advantage and bleed their opponent out, because they’re not having to exert as much force to stay in the match.

Devon Larratt is a great example of one of these armwrestlers.

If he isn’t pinned within the first couple seconds, he’s going to establish a height advantage and then wait for his opponent to tire out.

One other advantage of longer arms is when your shorter opponent is at the back of the pad, you still have a lot of height, making it difficult for the athlete with shorter arms to pin you.2

Disadvantages Of A Longer Forearm In Armwrestling

The primary disadvantage of having a longer forearm is the inverse of its biggest advantage…

That means it’s harder for you to drive your opponent to the pin pad.

The force required to drive your arm towards the pad is a multiplier of the length of your forearm.

In the below diagram, we have one long arm and one short arm.

Forearm Length In Arm Werestling

The arrow represents the total distance (or work) to the pin pad.

You can see how having a shorter arm requires less work to reach the desired outcome.

Think of it like this: imagine having a 10 foot long forearm…

Imagine how difficult would it be to generate the force needed to move your arm towards the pin pad.

The amount of work required is going to be a lot higher to get the pin.

You’ll notice that armwrestlers with longer forearms tend not to gravitate much towards inside pulling, because they’re biomechanically less efficient at driving to the pad.

Advantages Of A Shorter Forearm In Armwrestling

John Brzenk once claimed that the ultimate biomechanical setup in armwrestling is having a short forearm and a large hand.

The large hand will allow you to access your bicep through cupping and the short forearm will allow you to drive your opponent to the pad as forcefully as possible.

Bacho is a great example of this exact athlete.

This is the opposite of having that hypothetical 10 foot forearm we discussed above.

To get to the pin pad requires significantly less work, which means you can produce more output with the strength you have.

Todd Hutchings is the best example of an armwrestler with a short forearm who uses it to his advantage extremely well.

Todd Hutchings Forearm

Todd’s forearm is only 10 inches in length.

Many armwrestlers have measurements of over 13 inches, but Todd is oftentimes able to completely dominate guys with very long arms.

How does he do it?

Side pressure.

We’ve been talking a lot about ‘driving to the pin pad’ and side pressure is the most direct route for doing this, especially if you have 10″ long forearms!

The distance Todd has to cover to go from the center of the table to pin pad is almost always going to be slightly less than his opponents.

Side pressure, inside armwrestling/hooking will be the biomechanical strong suits of armwrestlers with a shorter forearm.

It’s rare to see these guys looking to take the match outside because outside pulling requires height, which is really hard to get when you don’t have much length.

These athletes usually want to finish a match as quickly as possible.

They want to swiftly overpower their opponent and not give them a chance to establish a leverage advantage, which will be harder to overcome the longer a match lasts.

Disadvantages Of A Shorter Forearm In Armwrestling

If the short armed athlete is unable to quickly secure a pin, they will often be somewhat handicapped the longer a match goes on due to fatigue and conceding a leverage advantage to the longer athlete.

As the match draws on, the taller athlete will constantly be looking to climb and establish the high ground/leverage advantage.

Every second that the match drags on presents another opportunity for the puller with the longer arm to gain height and position.

Once they have it, it’s extremely difficult to get it back.

Play To Your Strengths & Isolate Your Opponent’s Weaknesses

The best armwrestlers understand their strengths and select strategies that compliment them.

If you want to take things further, you’ll also need to understand your opponents strengths and the strategy they’re likely to select.

In the end, you’re left with two athletes making full use of their God-given attributes while at the same time desperately trying to exploit their opponents shortcomings.

Are Longer Or Shorter Arms More Suited To Hook/Top Roll?

Longer arms will tend to gravitate towards outside (top roll) armwrestling and shorter arms typically find themselves pulling inside (hook) more often.

But this doesn’t by any means imply that you can’t be a great hooker with long arms or a great top roller with short arms.

Certain long-armed pullers like Kevin Bongard have used the hook extremely well, whereas shorter-armed pullers like Arsen Liliev have similarly been successful top rollers.

Arm length is just one of many factors to consider.

What’s The Verdict?

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot how long your arms are…

As Toddzilla and Liliev have shown us, having short arms is by no means a death sentence in the sport of armwrestling.

What’s most important is that you really lean into your strengths.

Aim to maximize the effectiveness of the one lane where you really excel and with enough time and consistency, you’ll come to dominate.

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    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