Pushups are an extremely popular, timeless training movement which focus primarily on developing the chest and triceps. But how useful are pushups in the sport of arm wrestling? Are they going to give you any advantage in an arm wrestling match?
Performing pushups will help slightly with arm wrestling, but they’re not the most effective exercise for improving your arm wrestling ability.
In this article we’ll take a deeper look at why pushups are kind of a ‘meh’ arm wrestling exercise, what aspects of arm wrestling they’re actually good for, and we’ll discuss several superior training exercises that’ll actually make a difference!
Pushups Don’t Contribute Much To Maximal Force Output
Arm wrestling is a strength sport. Having extremely high levels of strength and power output is often necessary to overpower your opponent and secure the pin. Pushups don’t really contribute to developing this top end strength because the force required to complete the movement is relatively low.
Another way to think of it is to compare the powerlifter to the bodybuilder. The powerlifter will often bench significantly more than the bodybuilder because their sport requires maximal force generation and power output. The bodybuilder is typically going to use more moderate weights, higher repetitions, and focus more on time under tension.
In arm wrestling, when looking for strength exercises to give us a competitive advantage, we need to think more like the powerlifter than the bodybuilder. We need to focus on low reps, heavy weights, and really high intensity. Pushups are simply not going to move the needle.
Pushups Don’t Train The ‘Arm Wrestling Angles’
‘Arm wrestling angles’ refer to the relationship between the fingers, wrist, elbow, and shoulder. The objective of arm wrestling is to keep everything tight and close to your body, so that you’re being as efficient as possible when it comes to leverages.
Because of these arm wrestling angles, when doing strength exercises arm wrestlers look to replicate these angles in the weight room wherever possible. This is known as training specificity.
An example of this would be doing partial rep preacher curls where the elbow angle stays around 70 degrees, which replicates the angle you’ll be spending most of an arm wrestling match in.
Above we have coach Ray Liepins demonstrating a single arm partial rep preacher curl where he’s deliberately not lowering the dumbbell any further than a 70-90 degree angle. This keeps all the tension on the brachialis and stimulates the muscles in a similar fashion to how they would be worked during an arm wrestling match.
This reduction in range of motion also allows us to up the weights massively to really overload the muscles, creating that strength adaptation we’re looking for.
Pushups, on the other hand, don’t really respect the arm wrestling angles. Never in an arm wrestling match will you find yourself in that fully extended pushup position. It’s simply not very specific to the arm wrestling movement and therefore isn’t particularly effective.
But Pushups Will Improve Your Hook, Side Pressure, & Flop Press
Having said all that, doing pushups is definitely better than doing nothing and developing your chest, triceps, and shoulders will give you an advantage in arm wrestling, particularly when it comes to inside pulling.
In ‘inside arm wrestling’ (think hook), one of your main weapons will be getting inside your shoulder and using side pressure to drive your opponent to the pad. Having well developed pecs will allow you to generate more sideward force.
There’s a reason big Jerry Cadorette is infamous for his flop press/dead wrist press – he also happens to have an almost 600lb bench press!
Certainly if you gravitate towards inside arm wrestling, having well developed pecs, triceps, and shoulders will be advantageous to you, and doing pushups will definitely help develop these areas.
Best Alternatives To Pushups For Arm Wrestling
As we’ve discussed, the main issue with pushups is that they don’t develop that top end strength very effectively. Training our chest and triceps is important in arm wrestling, but it’s far better to do so with heavier loads like the bench press or even weighted pushups.
The reason for that is because using heavier weights will force myofibrillar hypertrophy, meaning it’ll stimulate the muscle to actually get denser and stronger.
A far superior exercise would be one which used heavy loads but also focused on the principle of training specificity and hit those arm wrestling angles. An example of this would be using a pully machine to train side pressure.
In the above image we have Ryan Bowen working on his inside game using a pully contraption. This particular movement hits the pecs extremely hard, but it’s superior to pushups because he’s maintaining those ‘arm wrestling angles’ and able to simultaneously focus on cupping and pronation at the same time.
Essentially this movement hits multiple birds with one stone. It’s not only going to make his chest way stronger than doing pushups would, because of the huge amount of weight he’s moving, but that strength will translate to an arm wrestling match far more efficiently.
Pushups are definitely not a bad idea for beginner arm wrestlers who are new to the sport and they will probably make you considerably stronger from an overall athleticism perspective.
But when it comes to training for arm wrestling specifically, they kind of miss the mark because they don’t overload the relevant muscles well enough and aren’t particularly specific to the arm wrestling motion.
Still, if you have no access to equipment or no way of increasing the load, doing pushups is definitely going to be help maintain your overall strength.