When most people thing of arm wrestling, they immediately think of great big biceps. But once you dive deeper into the sport, you’ll come to realize that bicep strength isn’t quite as important as you’d expect.
The biceps do play an important role in arm wrestling, however they are only one of many factors that contribute to overall arm wrestling success.
In this article we’re going to look at what role the biceps play in arm wrestling, just how important they are to an arm wrestler, and what other areas of arm wrestling are more important to focus on.
The Importance Of Bicep Strength In Arm Wrestling
For amateurs and inexperienced pullers, quite often the guy with bigger and stronger biceps will end up winning the match. This is simply because a bigger and stronger bicep usually correlates with being bigger and stronger everywhere else (forearms, back, shoulders, triceps, etc).
However for more advanced arm wrestlers who understand technique on a deeper level, the biceps play a key role in 4 of the major components of arm wrestling which we’ll unpack in more detail below.
But first, let’s make sure we understand the different roles of the biceps.
Posting Strength & Supination Strength
Brachioradialis & Long Head = Posting Strength
The brachioradialis is the big thick muscle at the top of your forearm that connects your forearm to your upper arm.
The brachioradialis works together with the long head of the bicep (the one on the outside of your arm) to create ‘posting’ or upward arm pressure.
Think of a hammer curl (depicted below).
The hammer curl is a perfect example of the brachioradialis and long head of the bicep working together to create upward, posting pressure.
Biceps Role In Posting Strength
In arm wrestling, posting refers to ‘upward arm pressure’ which is where you’re trying to establish the ‘high hand’.
The higher and more upright your hand/arm is, the smaller your elbow angle will be and conversely, the larger your opponent’s elbow angle will be, giving you a significant leverage advantage.
In the above example, we can see how the posting athlete on the left very clearly has the higher hand. The angle at the elbow is very narrow which allows him to keep the match close to his body and retain a significant leverage advantage.
Posting causes the athlete on the right to have a larger elbow angle which puts him at a significant leverage disadvantage.
As mentioned earlier, the biceps play a significant role in establishing posting dominance in arm wrestling, namely the brachioradialis and the long head of the bicep.
Elbow Flexors Also Contribute To Back Pressure
Back pressure involves attempting to pull your opponent closer to you which will also increase the angle between their upper arm and forearm, giving you a leverage advantage.
The primary muscles involved in back pressure are the rhomboids, lats, rear delts, as well as the biceps and brachioradialis.
Being able to drag your elbow toward the back of the pad while maintaining post and rise is a crucial part of establishing a leverage advantage in arm wrestling and requires strong biceps.
Short Head = Supination Or Hook Strength
The short head of the bicep is engaged whenever the elbow is supinated (see the above image of Devon Larratt doing a front double bicep pose). You can see how his forearms are twisted outwards (supinated) which causes a noticeable ‘peak’ in the short head of the bicep.
This supination strength is primarily useful for inside arm wrestling AKA a hook.
Biceps Role In The Hook
The hook in arm wrestling is characterized by a combination of shoulder commitment, cupping, as well as supination at the elbow joint.
Because of this supination, if you’re able to establish a hook, most of the pressure will be on the short head of your bicep.
While the long head of the bicep technically has a larger cross sectional area, when in a supinated position the short head is able to produce more torque than the long head can. This is why you can bicep curl heavier weights in the supinated position compared to the hammer curl.
Typically arm wrestlers with really big strong biceps will favor inside arm wrestling or the hook because they’re able to overpower sometimes technically superior athletes via brute power generated from having really strong arms.
Outside pulling, on the other hand, relies more on hand and wrist dominance and doesn’t benefit as much from that raw horsepower.
Biceps Role In The King’s Move
The biceps play a key role in the King’s move which is where the athlete is typically low to the ground often with their arm almost fully extended.
When in this position, the bicep is taking an absolute beating. The more extended the arm is, the more force the bicep will be absorbing.
The tendons and connective tissue are also working in overdrive when deep in a King’s move and at times it can feel as though the King’s move is ‘unpinnable’ because of the biomechanical advantage being in this outstretched position yields.
At this point your bones and ligaments are doing a good amount of the work.
If the King’s move is part of your repertoire, bicep strength is of course going to be really important. If your opponent is really strong and you find yourself in a King’s move vs them, you risk completely tearing your bicep off the bone. Your muscles will usually break well before your tendons and ligaments do.
If your opponent manages to transition into a press while you’re in a fully outstretched King’s move, you run the risk of tearing your bicep.
Training Biceps For Arm Wrestling
I recently wrote a complete guide to bicep training for arm wrestling in a separate article that I’d highly recommend you check out if you want to learn how how arm wrestlers train their biceps!
There’s So Much More To Arm Wrestling Than Bicep Strength
Arm wrestling undoubtedly requires a solid amount of bicep strength and they need to be trained frequently, but there’s many other components of arm wrestling that are just as important.
Cupping, rising, posting, pronating, supinating, gripping, finger and hand strength, pressing, side pressure, back pressure, down pressure, etc…
To be a well rounded arm wrestler you need to train all of these areas.
You could reasonably argue that the forearms are significantly more important overall than the biceps simply because that’s where 80% of the aforementioned arm wrestling forces are being generated.
In arm wrestling, your arm is a kinetic chain that is only as strong as its weakest link.
If you have overdeveloped biceps but a weak forearm, and a good opponent will attack your weakness relentlessly, neutralizing any strengths you may have.
Bicep strength definitely plays a big role in arm wrestling, especially if you’re an inside arm wrestler or lean on posting as a major part of your game.
It’s mandatory to develop strong biceps by training both the brachioradialis and outer head (responsible for the ‘posting’ movement), as well as the short head (responsible for the hook).
It would be unwise, however, to obsess over the biceps and neglect the myriad of other super important arm wrestling muscle groups that are also vital to success in the sport.