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Does Size Matter In Arm Wrestling?

Does Size Matter In Arm Wrestling

As we all know, arm wrestling is a sport which requires incredible strength, power, and technical prowess to succeed. But how important is the concept of size? How much do you really benefit from being the bigger guy?

Size does matter in arm wrestling and it does contribute somewhat to overall strength. Having said that, being the bigger guy by no means guarantees success. Smaller, more experienced arm wrestlers can often outclass larger opponents.

The rest of this article looks at various aspects of size such as height and bone length, bodyweight, and hand and wrist size as they relate to arm wrestling.

My goal is to paint a picture of the relative importance of size and also how you can make the most of your genetic predisposition in the sport of arm wrestling.


Size Matters, But Just How Much?

It’s quite common to see smaller guys occasionally dominating significantly bigger opponents in the sport of arm wrestling. Why is that?

Size Helps, But Strength Is More Important

A perfect recent example of this is Toddzilla in his recent form where he’s managed to crush Corey West, Lachlan Adair, and Chance Shaw – all of whom were significantly bigger and heavier.

Does Size Matter In Arm Wrestling?Image Source

At the end of the day, arm wrestling is a strength sport. Being stronger than your opponent is going to make you more successful.

In arm wrestling, size is a multiplier of strength.

What this means is if you take two identical biceps which have been trained for strength (myofibrillar hypertrophy) in the exact same manner, if you make one even slightly bigger, it’ll be stronger.

It’s Impossible To Quantify The Importance Of Size In Arm Wrestling

We know that strength is key, but it’s really tough to judge strength purely by looking at size.

You can look at a 400lb Corey West, see that he’s clearly a big guy, but it’s a lot harder to see just by looking at him how strong he is.

Similarly you could look at Todd Hutchings and see a fairly normal looking guy and also have no clue how immeasurably strong the man is.

But we know that a 225lb Devon Larratt is a bad man. But a 270lb Devon is a force of nature.

Skinny Vs Big Devon Larratt

Being Bigger = Being At Least A Little Bit Stronger

Almost anyone will be stronger if they’re heavier. If you increase your bodyweight by 20% are you going to be 20% stronger? Absolutely not.

But if you put on 10lbs over the course of a year, you’re going to be considerably stronger than you were if your training doesn’t change.

There is certainly a point of diminishing returns when it comes to size gains carrying over to strength gains.

Elite powerlifters and strongmen are known for carrying quite a bit of extra fluff – it’s because being bigger gives them a structural advantage for being strong, even if the extra mass is largely fat and water retention.

Does Arm Size Matter In Arm Wrestling?

Size, including arm size, helps in arm wrestling, as we’ve established. But it generates a fairly minor advantage compared to focusing on getting those arms really strong.

I wrote an article recently discussing how much biceps matter in arm wrestling, which will give some more information on this subject.


Does Weight Matter In Arm Wrestling?

Weight plays a fairly significant role in arm wrestling which is one of the main reasons the sport makes use of weight classes.

In my eyes, weight is effectively the same thing as size. As we’ve discussed, being bigger and heavier for the most part correlates with strength, but the relationship is by no means close to linear.

Knowing how to leverage your bodyweight to gain an advantage while arm wrestling is also something to consider which is often overlooked by amateurs.

Is Arm Wrestling Done In Weight Classes?

Yes, arm wrestling is a sport which makes use of weight classes ranging from 120lbs (or 155lbs, depending on the federation) for men, right up to the super heavyweight division.

Weight classes usually go up in increments of 5-15kg, depending on federation.

While bodyweight itself is often a fairly significant advantage, one of the main reasons for these weight classes is structural differences between athletes.

A 65kg puller is probably going to have a considerably shorter forearm than a 120kg super heavyweight. Even if they weighed the same and were both really strong, the taller athlete with the longer levers will oftentimes have an advantage.


Does Height Matter In Arm Wrestling?

Height arguably plays a more important role in arm wrestling than size or weight.

Being tall means you probably have a longer forearm, bigger hands, and longer fingers. All of these things can be used to your advantage.

These attributes can oftentimes help you to establish a leverage advantage in an arm wrestling match, which I wrote about in my recent article discussing whether longer or shorter arms are better for arm wrestling.

In that article I concluded that having longer bones will at best offer a marginal advantage against some opponents. I also discuss the advantages of having shorter levers.

At the end of the day, it’s not so much about what cards you were dealt at birth but how you play them vs various opponents.

Take John Brzenk, for instance. This guy is perhaps one of the most unremarkable physical specimens to come out of arm wrestling. He has no freakish genetic advantage and yet he’s the best to ever do it!


Hand Size: Do Big Hands Help In Arm Wrestling?

Hand size plays a pretty important role in arm wrestling.

John Brzenk is famous for suggesting that the ideal arm wrestler would have a short forearm and large hands. The big hands would allow the athlete to access their bicep (via cupping) and drive directly to the pin pad using the least amount of work possible.

Generally speaking, having bigger hands will give you a slight advantage in arm wrestling because you’re able to wrap your palm and fingers around more of your opponent’s hand.

The more surface area you’re able to latch onto, the more finger, hand, and wrist control you’ll have, and the more options you’ll have at your disposal during a match.

Having said all that, there are advantages to having smaller hands as well. As with all of this stuff, it’s less about being configured a certain way, and far more about understanding how your attributes match up against your opponent’s.

Advantages Of A Big, Long, Skinny Hand

These athletes often have long, wiry fingers. The longer your fingers are, the further you’re able to wrap them around your opponent’s hand.

These guys will often have a really strong cup and should look to focus on cupping and dragging.

Guys like Jordan Davis as well as Devon Larratt come to mind when thinking about hands like these.

Advantages Of A Big, Thick Hand

There’s not really any disadvantages of having a bigger hand, that’s for sure.

Thickness and length simply allow for more coverage and control.

Oddly enough, the biggest, thickest arm wrestlers tend to have the biggest, thickest hands. Think guys like Levan, Cyplenkov, and Khaled.

Overall strength, power, and dominance are the attributes often correlated with hands like these.

Can You Be Good At Arm Wrestling With Small Hands?

While generally speaking having a smaller hand is not going to yield a tremendous advantage, there are definitely some ways you can make the most of having a smaller hand.

Athletes with smaller hands shouldn’t worry about wrapping their fingers as far around their opponent’s hand as possible, since they have such short fingers to begin with.

Focus On Pronation

Instead they should focus on aggressive pronation by grabbing hold of their opponent’s thumb, dragging and twisting inwards.

You’ll Be Naturally Strong At Rising

Having a smaller wrist to knuckle measurement also gives you a clear advantage in rising strength. Rising refers to the ‘hammer flexion’ at the wrist, i.e. the ability to keep your knuckles nice and high.

Rising Strength In Arm WrestlingImage Source

Above you can see Devon working on his rising strength which is considered by many to be the second most important strength in arm wrestling after cupping.

When the distance from your wrist to your knuckles is shorter, it’s a lot easier for you to maintain this rising integrity throughout the wrist.

Focus On A Quick, Offensive Hook

You can use this to your advantage by maintaining that fully risen/knuckles up position during the setup. This will create an air pocket on the underside of your hand which gives you room to swiftly snap your wrist into a hook at the ready-go.

Being able to quickly establish a hook can make you a very strong offensive hooker which is an avenue athletes with a smaller hand should explore.

I have to shout out Ryan Bowen for helping me research some of these excellent points which he discusses more in this video.


Does Wrist Size Matter In Arm Wrestling?

Many athletes, myself included, worry about their skinny little wrists when it comes to arm wrestling. Are we doomed to mediocrity in the sport purely because of our genetic predisposition for thinner bones?

It’s unclear how much of an impact wrist thickness has on arm wrestling ability. And when I say wrist thickness, I’m referring mainly to the bone size.

With adequate training, you can pack on a ton of muscle around the forearms which will make your wrists thicker. But if you start with really skinny bones, even if you gain a lot of muscle, will you still be at a disadvantage versus someone like Levan who started with big thick bones and still gained a ton of muscle?

The simple answer is we just don’t know.

I do remember Devon Larratt saying a while ago that if, at the highest level, your forearm measurement is below a certain point, it’s going to be really difficult to succeed, but I’m not sure there’s a ton of evidence for this.

Guys like Devon Larratt and Matt Mask may look huge to you and I, but compared to the giants of the super heavyweight division, they have relatively skinny forearms and wrists. And they still manage to do exceedingly well.

At the end of the day, you can’t change how thick your wrist bones are but with proper training and diet, almost anyone can attain forearms considered big by anyone’s standards.

Overall, I’d say wrist size is not something you should be overly concerned about, especially since it’s not something you can do a lot about.


So, Does Size Matter? What’s The Verdict?

Put simply, size does play a role in arm wrestling, but it’s really not as important as you might think.

We’ve seen champions in all divisions of all shapes and sizes.

Ask any top arm wrestler about this subject and they’ll all say the same thing: it’s less about what you’ve got and more about how you use it.

Know your strengths and play to your advantage while exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses. Doing that is infinitely more important than being a genetic freak.