Arm wrestling

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Arm Wrestling
Two people arm wrestling.jpg
Two people with their arms in a starting position
Skills requiredstrength, endurance, technique, resistance

Arm wrestling is a contest between two opponents facing each other with their bent elbows placed on a table and hands firmly gripped then attempt to force the opponent's hand down to the table top. In the early years different names were interchangeably used to describe the same sport: "arm turning", "arm twisting", "arm wrestling", "Indian arm wrestling", "twisting wrists", "wrist turning", "wrist wrestling".[1] Organized arm wrestling tournaments arose in the 1950s.


Various factors can play a part in one's success in arm wrestling, technique and overall arm strength being the two greatest contributing factors. Other considerations such as the length of an arm wrestler's arm, muscle and arm mass/density, hand grip size, wrist endurance and flexibility, reaction time, and other traits can lend advantages of one arm wrestler over another.[citation needed] The sport sometimes is used to demonstrate the stronger person between two or more people. In competitive arm wrestling, as sanctioned by the United States Armwrestling Federation (USAF), a match is conducted with both competitors standing up with arms placed on a tournament arm wrestling table.[citation needed] Arm wrestling tournaments may also be divided along weight classes as well as left and right-handed divisions. There are also rules governing fouls and imposition of penalties, such as when a competitor's elbow leaves a mat where the elbow is meant to remain at all times, when a false start occurs, and attempting to escape arm pinning by breaking the grip with the opponent which may result in a loss.[citation needed] Paraphrasing USAF rules, arm wrestlers must straighten their wrists with less than a one-minute time lapse during competition.[2]

An arm wrestling competition

The World Armwrestling Federation (WAF) has been the universally recognized global governing body for professional arm wrestling and comprises 80 member countries.[3] However, due to the labeling of referees and competitors that were associated with PAL/URPA with the status of "Not in good standing" thus being suspended from WAF,[4] many countries are jumping ship.

The International Federation of Armwrestling (IFA) is a democratic non-profit sport organization registered in Zurich, Switzerland and is recognized by TAFISA, the Association for International Sport for All.


  • armwrestling
    • stand-up armwrestling
    • sit-down armwrestling
  • wristwrestling
    • stand-up wristwrestling
    • sit-down wristwrestling

Top Pullers[edit]

The Official World Rankings can be found here at

The Official U.S. Rankings can be found here at

The armwrestling historian Eric Roussin, founder of The Armwrestling Archives website, has detailed a chronology of the top pullers along the history for right hand[5] and left hand[6] pullers. The work is based on the results of the major professional events, including sit-down/stand-up wrist wrestling and sit-down/stand-up armwrestling.

Men (Right Hand)[edit]

In 1966 another organization began to hold World Championships: the International Federation of Arm Wrestlers. Few competitors competed in both, so a parallel ranking was provided. On 1971 both rankings were unified.

Start Date #1 Puller Defeated / (Ahead Of) Event Top Spot
February 11, 1961 United States Duane “Tiny” Benedix California Wristwrestling Championship 364 days
February 10, 1962 United States Earl Hagerman Duane “Tiny” Benedix World Wristwrestling Championship364 days
February 09, 1963 United States Duane “Tiny” Benedix Earl Hagerman World Wristwrestling Championship 364 days
February 08, 1964 United States Joe Schuler [a] Larry Cory World Wristwrestling Championship 1 year, 5 days
February 12, 1965 United States Arnie Klein Joe Schuler World Wristwrestling Championship 1 years, 3 days
February, 1966 United States Mike Rowe [b] Arnie Klein World Wristwrestling Championship 1 year, 87 days
May 13, 1967 United States Larry Finley [a] [b] Randy Petrini World Wristwrestling Championship 278 days
February, 1968 United States Duane “Tiny” Benedix [b] (Larry Finley) World Wristwrestling Championship 2 years, 90 days
May, 1970 United States Jim Dolcini [a] [b] George Witteman World Wristwrestling Championship 364 days
August 06, 1966 United States Lloyd Lampton [c] Arnie Klein IFAW World Championship 2 years, 41 days
September, 1968 United States Maurice “Moe” Baker [a] [c] John Torch IFAW World Championship 2 years, 241 days
May 14, 1971 United States Jim Dolcini Maurice “Moe” Baker World Wristwrestling Championship 1 year, 7 days
May 20, 1972 United States Maurice “Moe” Baker Jim Dolcini World Wristwrestling Championship 364 days
May 19, 1973 United States Bill Harrison(Maurice “Moe” Baker)World Wristwrestling Championship 364 days
May 18, 1974 United States Jim Dolcini [a] George Ludwigsen WWC National Championship 2 years, 194 days
November 27, 1976 United States Virgil Arciero Jim Dolcini WPAA World Championships 1 years, 353 days
November 15, 1978 United States Cleve Dean Virgil Arciero Supermatch (Las Vegas, US) 1 years, 359 days
November 08, 1980 United States Virgil Arciero Cleve Dean Supermatch (Las Vegas, US) 336 days
October 10, 1981 United States Jeremiah Christian Virgil Arciero World Wristwrestling Championship 1 year
October 10, 1982 United States Virgil Arciero [a] Cleve Dean AWI Pro Super Heavyweight World Championship 111 days
January 29, 1983 United States Cleve Dean Virgil Arciero AWI Pro Super Heavyweight World Championship 3 years, 179 days
July 26, 1986 United States Scott Norton Cleve Dean Over the Top World Championship 1 year
July 26, 1987 United States John Brzenk [a] Ed Arnold / (Richard Lupkes) Over the Top World Championship 174 days
January 16, 1988 United States Richard Lupkes John Brzenk Sands International 266 days
October 08, 1988 United States John Brzenk Richard Lupkes World Wristwrestling Championship 189 days
April 15, 1989 United States Richard Lupkes John Brzenk Can-Am Invitational (Barrie, Ontario, Canada) 1 year, 12 days
April 27, 1990 United States John Brzenk Richard Lupkes Yukon Jack National Championship 253 days
January 05, 1991 Canada Gary Goodridge John Brzenk Super Bras de Fer (Paris, France) 204 days
July 28, 1991 United States John Brzenk Gary Goodridge Yukon Jack National Championship 3 years, 30 days
August 26, 1994 United States Cleve Dean Gary Goodridge / (John Brzenk) Yukon Jack National Championship 16 days
September 11, 1994 Georgia (country) Zaur Tskadadze Cleve Dean WAF World Championships 348 days
August 25, 1995 Canada Gary Goodridge Cleve Dean / (Zaur Tskadadze) Yukon Jack World Championship 2 years, 21 days
September 14, 1997 United States John Brzenk [a] Ron Bath USAA National Pro-Am Championship 7 years, 6 days
September 18, 2004 United States Ron Bath John Brzenk Strong Arm Calling 49 days
November 06, 2004 Russia Alexey Voevoda John Brzenk / (Ron Bath) Nemiroff World Cup 357 days
October 29, 2005 Ukraine Andrey Pushkar [a] Andrey Antonov Nemiroff World Cup 35 days
December 03, 2005 Uzbekistan Farid Usmanov (Andrey Pushkar) WAF World Armwrestling Championships 140 days
April 22, 2006 United States John Brzenk Farid Usmanov Ultimate Armwrestling III (Las Vegas, USA) 2 years, 145 days
September 13, 2008 Canada Devon Larratt John Brzenk Arm Wars “Deep Water” 4 years, 262 days
June 01, 2013 Russia Denis Cyplenkov [a] Andrey Pushkar A1 Russian Open World Armwrestling Grand Prix 1 year, 55 days
July 26, 2014 Ukraine Andrey Pushkar Denis Cyplenkov A1 Russian Open World Armwrestling Grand Prix 4 years, 112 days
November 14, 2018 Georgia (country) Levan Saginashvili [a] Tsvetkov, Georgi WAF World Championship 1 year, 196 days


  • a Due to inactivity (12 months), injury or accident of previous dominant puller, the #1 spot is assumed by other one.
  • b Ranking based on Petaluma Results (1966-1971).
  • c Ranking based on IFAW Results (1966-1971).

Men (Left Hand)[edit]

Start Date #1 Puller Defeated / (Ahead Of) Event Top Spot
September, 1977 United States John Woolsey Dean Christensen NAWA National Championships 2 years, 7 days
September 22, 1979 United States Cleve Dean [a] World Wristwrestling Championship 7 years, 22 days
October 12, 1986 Canada Gary Goodridge [a] (Canada) 1 year, 131 days
February 20, 1988 Canada Garvin Lewis Gary Goodridge Ontario Provincial Championships 2 years, 243 days
October 20, 1990 Canada Gary Goodridge Garvin Lewis Canadian Stand-Up National Championships 1 year, 237 days
June 13, 1992 Canada Steve Morneau (Gary Goodridge), (Garvin Lewis) Gloucester Fair International Armwrestling Championship 364 days
June 12, 1993 Canada Gary Goodridge Steve Morneau Gloucester Fair International Armwrestling Championship 364 days
June 11, 1994 Canada Steve Morneau Gary Goodridge Gloucester Fair International Armwrestling Championship 364 days
June 10, 1995 Canada Garvin Lewis (Steve Morneau), (Gary Goodridge) Gloucester Fair International Armwrestling Championship 1 year, 364 days
June 08, 1997 United States Eric Woelfel [a] Mairbek Gioev Golden Bear International Tournament (Russia) 180 days
December 05, 1997 Russia Alan Karaev Eric Woelfel WAF World Championship (India) 337 days
November 07, 1998 Georgia (country) Vakhtang Javakhadze Alan Karaev WAF World Championship (Egypt) 264 days
July 29, 1999 Georgia (country) Erekle Gurchiani Vakhtang Javakhadze European Armwrestling Championships 1 year, 1 day
July 29, 2000 Russia Alan Karaev [a] Vakhtang Javakhadze World Armsport Championship 65 days
October 02, 2000 Canada Len Houghton Earl Wilson Canadian Nationals 336 days
September 03, 2001 United States Dan Victor [a] (Earl Wilson) Harley Pull 230 days
April 21, 2002 Russia Alan Karaev [a] Cleve Dean World Armsport Federation World Championship 165 days
October 03, 2002 United States Christian Binnie [a] Eric Woelfel Harley Pull 65 days
December 07, 2002 United States Travis Bagent Christian Binnie All-Niagara Armwrestling Championship 35 days
January 11, 2003 United States Christian Binnie Travis Bagent Reno Reunion Armwrestling Championship 140 days
May 31, 2003 United States Travis Bagent Christian Binnie AAA Nationals 1 year, 300 days
March 26, 2005 United States Earl Wilson Sylvain Perron / (Devon Larrat) Mike Gould Classic 364 days
March 25, 2006 United States Travis Bagent Earl Wilson Mike Gould Classic 4 years, 264 days
December 13, 2010 Canada Devon Larratt Travis Bagent Supermatch - Arm Wars “Sin City” (Las Vegas, US) 64 days
February 15, 2011 United States Travis Bagent Devon Larratt Supermatch - UAL Backyard Brawl 241 days
October 14, 2011 Ukraine Andrey Pushkar Travis Bagent Nemiroff World Cup 258 days
June 28, 2012 Canada Devon Larratt Andrey Pushkar Supermatch - PAL Armfight 42 (Las Vegas, US) 2 years, 119 days
October 25, 2014 United States Travis Bagent Devon Larratt World Armwrestling League Atlantic City Qualifier 3 years, 240 days
June 21, 2018 Ukraine Oleg Zhokh [a] Andrey Pushkar Lviv Open Cup 146 days
November 14, 2018 Georgia (country) Levan Saginashvili [a] Osmanli, Ferit WAF World Championship 1 year, 196 days


The following table summarizes the accumulated time on the #1 spot. John Brzenk and Cleve Dean have been the most dominant pullers with the right hand. Travis Bagent and Cleve Dean have been ruling more time with the left hand. Very few pullers have succeeded to get the #1 spot with both hands for several years: Cleve Dean, Devon Larratt and Gary Goodridge.

(Minimum 4 years with any hand)

Puller Height Weight Right Hand Left Hand Total
United States Duane “Tiny” Benedix 6'4" / 1.92 m 260 lb / 118 kg 4 years, 88 days 4 years, 88 days
United States Jim Dolcini 6’0” / 1.83 m 200 lb / 91 kg 4 years, 20 days 4 years, 20 days
United States Cleve Dean 6’7” / 2.01 m 460 lb / 209 kg 5 years, 189 days 7 years, 22 days 12 years, 211 days
Canada Gary Goodridge 6'3" / 1.91 m 240 lb / 109 kg 2 years, 225 days 4 years, 2 days 6 years, 227 days
Canada Garvin Lewis 242 lb / 110 kg 4 years, 242 days 4 years, 242 days
United States John Brzenk 6'1" / 1.85 m 198 lb / 90 kg 13 years, 243 days 13 years, 243 days
United States Travis Bagent 6'3" / 1.91 m 265 lb / 120 kg 10 years, 350 days 10 years, 350 days
Ukraine Andrey Pushkar 6'4" / 1.92 m 276 lb / 125 kg 4 years, 147 days 258 days 5 years, 40 days
Canada Devon Larratt 6’5” / 1.96 m 278 lb / 126 kg 4 years, 262 days 2 years, 183 days 7 years, 80 days

Competitive styles[edit]

John Brzenk was known mostly for his array of techniques which changed almost every time he engaged in competition, even with the same opponent in the same match. In the summer of 2008, John Brzenk was ranked #1 in North America.[7] Ron Bath is known for his use of the Top Roll technique which emphasizes a 'roll' of the wrist as he brings an opponent's wrist down.[citation needed] Devon Larratt is well known for his endurance and tenacity. He uses a wide array of techniques during his matches, one of them being holding the first "hit" of his opponents and draining them out, and then counter-attacking afterwards. He was the 2017 WAL (World Armwrestling League) Heavyweight champion left and right-handed. Travis Bagent, like Brzenk, was known for a wide array of techniques coupled with his massive strength and explosive style.[citation needed] Many of Bagent's matches have ended in seconds. Bagent was considered the best left-handed arm wrestler in the world and ranked second overall in North America,in the summer of 2008.[8]

Other competitors such as Matt Girdner, Michael Selearis, Sean Madera, Marcio Barboza, Christian Binnie, and Anthony Macaluso are known for their reliance on strength, coupled with the hook technique, where the wrist turns into a hooked grip after the referee has started the match.[citation needed] "The hook" or "hooking" is any move derived from the inside system of arm wrestling. The second generic system or style of arm wrestling is known as outside arm wrestling "the top roll" or "top rolling", while the "triceps press", "shoulder pressing", or "shoulder rolling" is often described as the third generic system or style of arm wrestling.[citation needed] Certain arm wrestlers depend on the straps,[clarification needed] such as Jason Vale, who won the 1997 Petaluma World Championships in the super heavy weight class at only 175 pounds using the strap technique.[citation needed]

The contestant on the right is in an injury-prone or "break arm" position. His shoulder must be in line with or behind the arm, as seen with the contestant on the left. This is cause for a referee to stop the match.

Many arm wrestlers will have a signature style or favorite technique, while others have enjoyed success by becoming well rounded. Within each of the three broad technical systems of arm wrestling there are clearly identifiable techniques developed and enhanced over time.[citation needed] Great Britain's most successful arm wrestler and former two-time European and World Middleweight Champion Neil Pickup is one of today's leading arm wrestlers, widely recognized as having originated and developed techniques to suit the make up of individual arm wrestlers. Neil Pickup has enjoyed an amateur and professional career spanning over 20 years, during which he has won over 60 International titles across five different weight classes with both his right and left arms. He has also trained several world champions, male and female. His success has been attributed to his technical prowess, experience, and understanding of an athlete's whole body as a lever. He now also hosts a podcast for the WAL.[9]

Common rules[edit]

The rules and regulations for arm wrestling are designed to create an even playing field and to prevent broken bones. Different leagues have their own variations, but most use the same table specifications.[10] Below are some of the general arm wrestling regulations:

  • The shoulder of both players must be in a square position before the match starts.
  • All starts will be a “Ready…Go.” The cadence will vary.
  • Competitors must start with at least one foot on the ground. After the “go” players may have both feet off the ground.
  • One's opposite hand must remain on the peg at all times.
  • A pin cannot be made if the elbow is out of the pocket.
    Arm wrestling match in action
  • To make a winning pin, a player must take any part of the opponent's wrist or hand (including fingers) below the plane of a touch pad.
  • A false start is a warning. Two warnings equals a foul.
  • Competitors will forfeit the match with a second foul.
  • If opponents lose grip with one another, a strap is applied and the match is restarted.
  • Intentional slip-outs are fouls, which occur when both player’s palm completely loses contact with competitor’s palm.
  • Competitors may not touch their body to their hand at any time.
  • Shoulders may not cross the center of the table at any time.
  • Competitors will always conduct themselves in a sportsperson-like manner while at the tournament.
  • The most important arm wrestling rule: the referee’s decision is final.


Many training resources available to help in the sport of armwrestling.[11] One way to become involved in the sport is to find a local club and join their team. Often a club will have experienced competitors to teach safe and strategic play on the table. Local tournaments take place throughout the US, offering novice and/or amateur divisions for those setting out in the sport.[12] You can find U.S. events on the Armfighter Event Calendar or join their social network to connect with other pullers.

Associated injury[edit]

Typical fracture

Arm wrestling puts substantial torque/torsion stress on the upper arm's humerus bone, to a degree seen in few other physical activities.[13] Generally speaking, the bones involved in arm wrestling are not designed to accommodate the stresses imposed by the sport, and severe injuries can occur. An arm bone may fail in a diagonal break at or below the shoulder and elbow midpoint, which is known as the 'break arm' position. Common injuries include humeral shaft fractures, shoulder trauma, muscle strain, golfers' elbow, and less commonly pectoralis major rupture.

Major organizations[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In The Old Man and the Sea (1952), the character Santiago recalls winning an arm wrestling match that lasted for a whole day.
  • In the episode "Dead Lift" of the series The Streets of San Francisco (first broadcast May 5, 1977), where Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an important role, one sees his friend Franco Colombu, himself a high-level bodybuilder, and also a competitor of athletic strength and "strong men" contests, make a showdown in a bar.
  • At the beginning of the film Predator (1987), the characters played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers improvise a showdown after a vigorous handshake.[15]
  • The film Vendetta dal futuro (1986) features arm wrestling.
  • The film Over the Top (1987) features a wrestling champion, played by Sylvester Stallone.
  • The film Addams Family Values (1993) opens with a showdown between Gomez and Thing.
  • The Fly (1986 film) features an arm wrestling scene in which one competitor's arm suffers a compound fracture.
  • In the episode of The Simpsons "Marge's Son Poisoning" (2005), Homer enters an armwrestling tournament.
  • The documentary Pulling John (2009), focuses on the battle for pre-eminence between heavyweights John Brzenk, Travis Bagent and Alexey Voevoda.[16]
  • The reality TV show Game of Arms (2014) showed teams of American competitors sacrificing to become the nation's best armwrestler.[17]
  • In Italy, the term used for arm wrestling is braccio di ferro, and the cartoon character Popeye is also called Braccio di Ferro.
  • The term "Chinese Arm Wrestling" is sometimes used to refer to a battle of inches.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ WAF/USAF - Armwrestling Rules
  3. ^ WAF MEMBERS. World Armwrestling Federation
  5. ^ Chronology of the top armwrestlers of the planet (right arm), retrieved 2020-05-29
  6. ^ Chronology of the top armwrestlers of the planet (left arm), retrieved 2020-05-29
  7. ^ "Chronology of the Best Armwrestlers on the Planet (Men - Right Hand)". THE ARMWRESTLING ARCHIVES. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  8. ^ "Chronology of the Best Armwrestlers on the Planet (Men - Left Hand)". THE ARMWRESTLING ARCHIVES. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  9. ^ "Podcasts –". Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  10. ^ "Regulations –". Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  11. ^ "Training Information –". Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  12. ^ "Event Calendar –". Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  13. ^ BJSM - Sign In Page
  14. ^ "World's Wristwrestling Championship - Part 2: 1962-1969".
  15. ^ Guile's Theme Goes with Everything (world's most epic handshake)
  16. ^ Pulling John, retrieved 2020-02-26
  17. ^ Game of Arms, retrieved 2020-02-26

External links[edit]