If you’re new to arm wrestling, figuring out exactly how you should be training your biceps can be pretty confusing. Should you be training for size or strength? What about speed and power? How many sets and reps? What about static holds? How much is too much?
I’m sure you’ve got plenty of questions just as I had when I first got into the sport. That’s why I wrote this article, to answer all of your arm wrestling related bicep training questions so you can formulate a smart training approach that’ll lead to rapid progression in the sport.
Arm wrestlers will vary their bicep training focus over time but the primary objective is on developing strength using partial range of motion exercises with heavy weights to force the muscles and tendons to get stronger.
In this article I’ll be revealing the keys to bicep training for arm wrestlers as well as answering all of your bicep training related questions along the way!
Bicep Training Should Vary Over Time
Throughout the year, arm wrestlers will have differing training focuses which mainly has to do with preparing for and recovering from competitions.
After a competition, an arm wrestler will usually take some time off to allow their muscles, tendons, and connective tissue to completely heal.
After that, they may go into a hybrid phase where the goal is to simultaneously focus on blood flow (for healing) as well as hypertrophy (getting bigger).
Following the hypertrophy phase, athletes will look to develop strength, followed by stamina, and finally speed and explosiveness before their next competition.
Which training phase you’re in will largely determine exactly what bicep exercises you’re doing as well as how many sets and reps.
Of course, not all arm wrestlers approach training this way. A lot of it depends on how frequently you’re competing and how experienced you are.
It’s perfectly fine for beginners, who are less concerned about competing, to train all aspects of arm wrestling year round.
Bicep Training For Size & Hypertrophy For Arm Wrestling
When thinking about bicep training for arm wrestling, the primary concern should be strength. However, making your arms physically bigger will help you get stronger in the long run.
There’s a reason why relatively inexperienced super heavyweights will crush most guys in the 65kg class. Being bigger is usually going to mean being stronger.
There’s a reason Levan Saginashvili is so dominant. Weighing almost 400lbs has a lot to do with it!
Keys To Bicep Hypertrophy In Arm Wrestling
Let’s take a look at some of the things you need to keep in mind when focusing on getting bigger biceps.
- Time under tension – It’s no mystery that hypertrophy gains come from time under tension. What this means is that you should be doing lots of slow, controlled reps. Keep the tension on the muscle, not on the joints.
- Full range of motion is acceptable – When focused on getting stronger, we care a lot more about partial reps that focus on ‘arm wrestling angles’. But when the focus is on getting bigger, you are welcome to do bodybuilding style exercises using a full range of motion. At the end of the day, it’s all about promoting time under tension. It’s also healthier for your joints to occasionally give them stimulus through the full ROM.
- Blood flow is great for recovery – As discussed earlier, part of the reason a hypertrophy phase is so effective after a grueling competition is that you’re filling the muscles, tendons, and connective tissue with plenty of blood and nutrients which will allow for enhanced recovery.
- Best exercises for bigger biceps in arm wrestling? – Honestly, it doesn’t matter a whole lot what you end up doing here, so long as you’re sticking in the right rep range and focusing on time under tension. My recommendation would be hammer curls (great for developing the posting muscles), supinated single arm preacher curls (ideal for the hook), and chin ups (swapping between underhand grip and neutral grip).
How Many Sets & Reps For Bicep Growth In Arm Wrestling?
Anywhere from 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps per exercise will be sufficient to grow your biceps for arm wrestling.
You could also experiment with some drop sets and supersets if you like, however this is completely optional.
We’ll discuss a bit later on how frequently you should be training your biceps each week for arm wrestling.
Bicep Training For Strength In Arm Wrestling
At the end of the day, arm wrestling is a strength sport and so our primary focus when thinking about bicep training should be to develop as much strength as possible.
There’s tons of different approaches to bicep strength training you need to be aware of in order to get those guns as strong as possible.
The Importance Of Partial Reps For Arm Wrestling Strength
In arm wrestling we often talk about ‘arm wrestling angles’ which are very specific movements within very narrow ranges of motion that we need to be super strong in.
When you’re arm wrestling someone, in the majority of cases, your elbow joint isn’t going to spend much time extended past a 90-120 degree angle.
So it makes a lot of sense to train to be really strong at these really narrow elbow angles.
Arm wrestlers often cop a lot of flack in the gym for their ‘poor range of motion’ when doing things like bicep curls, but it’s done on purpose.
I can’t tell you how many personal trainers (none of which knew the first thing about arm wrestling) came up to me trying to correct my form when I was doing partial preacher dumbbell curls exactly as coach Ray is demonstrating below!
Partial rep bicep curls force our biceps to get strong throughout the range of motion critical to arm wrestling success.
In the above image we have coach Ray Liepins doing a partial ROM bicep curl. He’s only coming down to around the 90 degree elbow angle before going back up.
His arm is also supinated at around a 45 degree angle, so it’s right in between a hammer curl and a fully supinated curl and is therefore able to train both the long and short head of the bicep at the same time.
Short of being in a King’s move, you’re rarely going to have your bicep extended past 150 degrees. At that point it’s often too late to save the match and you’re probably going to concede, so there’s not a lot of point focusing on being strong here.
The training concept of ‘specificity’ plays a major role in bicep strength training for arm wrestling. When training in the gym, you’ll do best by mimicking how the muscle will be worked on the arm wrestling table.
Partial ROM hammer curls, partial ROM supinated bicep curls, and even partial ROM chin ups are all highly effective ways to develop highly specific bicep strength for the sport of arm wrestling.
The Benefit Of Doing Cheat Reps For Arm Wrestling
Cheat reps are similar to partials in that they focus on the range of motion most important to arm wrestling success, the eccentric phase.
Focus On Eccentric Phase For Strong Biceps In Arm Wrestling
In a bicep curl movement, the eccentric phase is the ‘lowering’ movement where you’re resisting the weight on the way down. In arm wrestling, when not attacking your opponent, almost the entire process is one long extended eccentric resistance exercise.
Studies have shown you’re up to 1.75 times stronger during the eccentric contraction as opposed to the concentric movement.1Schoenfeld, B. (2011). The use of specialised training techniques to maximise muscle hypertrophy. Strength Con J, 33(4), 60-65.
A cheat curl refers to swinging or jerking the weight back up to the starting position, before controlling the weight slowly on the way down during the eccentric movement.
Since we really only care about being really strong during the eccentric phase, it makes sense to cheat or bypass the concentric movement to save our energy for more time under tension during the eccentric portion.
When doing an EZ bar cheat curl (shown above), we’ll look to slowly lower the weight in the eccentric but as soon as we hit that 90-120 degree elbow angle, we’ve passed the ‘arm wrestling angle’ and can use our body to jerk the bar back up to the starting position.
Another decent exercise to try is a seated dumbbell bicep curl where your elbow rests on your thigh. Start the movement with the dumbbell near your chest/under your chin, and slowly lower it down til your elbow reaches a 70-120 degree angle.
Then use your back to swing the dumbbell back up to the starting position.
You can do a variety of different ranges of motion for this exercise. It’s effective because it teaches you to keep your arm and wrist inside your shoulder, nice and close to your body. It also turns on all the same muscles involved in back pressure and the lat drag.
Isometric Holds For Bicep Strength In Arm Wrestling
Isometric training is one of the keys to maximizing bicep strength in arm wrestling.
You can think of isometric strength as a ‘static hold’ which is where there is no movement at the elbow joint.
Think of an arm wrestling match which gets ‘stuck in a hook’ in the center of the table. There’s actually very little movement going on here. Both arm wrestlers are effectively in a static hold, with their biceps locked out.
When in an isometric hold, where your muscles are neither contracting nor lengthening – you’re simply focused on holding position against your opponent. Or in the weight room, holding steady against gravity.
Because of this, you can really load up on the weights.
You can perform isometric holds for biceps in a variety of ways. The simplest way is to use a preacher bench and hold a dumbbell in a hammer or supinated curl position at a 90 degree angle.
You should hold the isometric contraction for 4-15 seconds.
It’s really important to vary the angle of your isometric holds. Isometric training will only make the muscle strong in specific position that it’s held. That means if you only ever do static holds at a 90 degree angle, your bicep will only be strong at this angle. Or rather, your bicep won’t necessarily be much stronger at the 70 or 110 degree angles…
I’d suggest doing holds at 120 degrees, 90 degrees, 45 degrees, and even at 30 degrees.
Isometric Holds With Resistance Bands
You can also perform these exercises by dangling weights from a resistance band. The idea here is to simulate real-world arm wrestling conditions as closely as possible.
In an arm wrestle, your opponent will never apply completely consistent static force. They’ll push and pull and the force they apply into your arm will vary greatly throughout the bout.
By using a rubber band, you can replicate this instability and create a more realistic environment for static training.
Start at the top and lower the dumbbell quickly so that once you lock into your static hold, the weight continues bouncing creating instability.
Isometrics For Insane Tendon Strength
The beauty of isometric training is that it not only makes your muscles really strong, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to develop your tendon strength.
Since there’s no movement at the joint, the muscles aren’t having to work as hard and you’re able to shift a lot of the load onto the tendon.
Having strong tendons is a requisite for becoming an exceptional arm wrestler.
A word of caution, however… Tendons take a lot longer to recover than muscles do, so be sure not to over do it.
You’ll probably find your arms ache for days after doing this type of training, so be sure to listen to your body and keep the isometric training to 1-2 times a week with relatively low volume.
Dynamic Static Training For Biceps In Arm Wrestling
Dynamic static training for the biceps involves keeping your bicep contracted or locked in at the desired (static) angle but then shifting your bodyweight around it to increase stimulus.
It’s easier if I show a few gifs of this type of training so you understand exactly how it works.
Devon Larratt is well known for doing this type of training in the past. In the below clip you can see how he keeps his elbow angle locked in that static position, but then rolls his body around that position leveraging momentum to make the lift tougher.
Below we have another example of dynamic static bicep training from coach Ray Liepins as he performs a very similar movement.
Integrate Static Holds Into Regular Sets To Exhaust The Muscle
It’s entirely possible to combine your static holds with your standard strength training for a greater stimulus.
By performing a 4-8 second static hold at the end of a 1-5 rep strength focused bicep curl set, you can really tax the muscle and force adaptation.
You can also do static holds in the middle of a set. An example of this would be 4 hammer curls, followed by a 6 second hammer curl static hold at a 90 degree angle, followed by a further 4 hammer curls.
These last 4 reps will be particularly difficult because the static holds take a lot out of you! You’ll find you may have to use some of that ‘body English’ for the last few reps and they’ll probably closer resemble dynamic static reps.
How Many Sets & Reps For Bicep Strength In Arm Wrestling?
When focusing on strength exercises, it’s recommended to shoot for 3-4 sets of 1-5 reps per exercise. This will vary depending on how frequently you’re training this muscle group each week as well as how many exercises you choose to do.
You can probably get away with doing 3-5 different bicep exercises in any arm workout.
Another approach which is quite popular is to begin the workout with a couple warm up sets of ~15 reps. After that you begin tapering your number of reps down as you get further into the workout. For example,
- Set 3: 10-11 reps
- Set 4: 8-9 reps
- Set 5: 6-7 reps
- Set 6: 4-5 reps
- Set 7: 2-3 reps
- Set 8: 5-10 second static hold
If you opt for this approach, you may want to do slightly fewer exercises in the workout.
Again, it’s important to gauge how you feel, don’t push past pain, and analyze how long it takes you to recover from this sort of training.
How Often To Train Biceps Each Week For Arm Wrestling?
How often you should train biceps each week as an arm wrestler is highly discretionary and depends on whether you’re focusing on size or strength, how heavy you’re lifting, how much isometric work you’re doing, and so on.
If you’re focusing on hypertrophy, you should train your biceps no more than 2-3 times a week, with an optional additional lighter session focused around rehab and blood flow.
Of course, I’m referring specifically to weight room training here. If you’re doing table time 2-3 times a week, then you will need to massively reduce how much lifting you’re doing in the gym.
If you’re training for strength, 3 times a week is plenty. Again, you need to balance this out with the right amount of table time.
If you’re doing super heavy dynamic iso holds, chances are your tendons are going to be hurting for a while, so you might not be able to train your biceps more than a couple times that week.
As you become more experience in arm wrestling, your body will get used to higher training frequencies and you’ll be able to train harder for longer.
Factors To Consider Regarding Bicep Training Frequency
These are most of the variables you need to be thinking about when figuring out what the right amount of bicep training for you is.
- Am I training for size or strength?
- How heavy am I lifting?
- How much isometric training am I doing?
- How much table time am I getting in per week?
- How often am I doing really heavy dynamic static training?
- How sore do my bones/tendons/muscles feel after I train?
- How optimized is my diet and sleep?
- How did my body respond to my previous bicep training frequency?
At the end of the day, you’re the only person who can answer the question of frequency and I’d suggest experimenting until you find something you feel works really well for you.
Feel free to check out my full article on how often arm wrestlers train for a little more information on this subject.
4 Best Bicep Exercises For Arm Wrestling
Below is a list of my top 4 bicep exercises for arm wrestling.
I’ve selected these exercises based on a combination of what I find personally beneficial as well as recommendations from notable figures in the industry.
Most of these exercises focus around training the biceps for arm wrestling strength, however all of them can easily be modified to be hypertrophy exercises.
I’ll discuss a little bit about what specific aspects of bicep training these exercises are good for, and how to execute them perfectly.
1. Heavy Hammer Curls
Hammer curls are one of the most effective bicep exercises for arm wrestling because of how they train the long head of the bicep in conjunction with the brachioradialis.
This promotes a super solid connection between your upper arm and forearm and is probably the single best exercise for developing posting strength.
Heavy hammer curls are best performed on a preacher bench, but you can use just a normal upright bench if you don’t have one. A flat angle preacher bench or one closer to 45 degrees will work fine.
You can also perform hammer curls standing up or sitting down with your arms to your sides.
2. Dynamic Static Supinated Curls
This exercise allows you to really load up with some big weights.
It’s training the tendons at least as much as the muscles and is going to develop your top end bicep strength like nothing else!
If you’re an inside arm wrestler or want to develop your hook, this is a really great exercise to include occasionally.
Make sure you warm up well beforehand, never lift through discomfort or pain, progress slowly, and expect to be sore for days after doing these!
3. EZ Bar Cheat Curls
This is another very popular way of focusing on that all-important eccentric range of motion.
The key is to control the weight on the way down and use some ‘body English’ to hoist the bar back up to the starting position just below your chin.
Another superb exercise for developing top end bicep strength.
4. Supinated Grip Chin Ups
This is one of the best exercises you can do for bicep hypertrophy for arm wrestling.
Ever noticed how Olympic gymnasts have inanely big biceps? It’s because they do a ton of these.
You can strap some weight to your belt and do these in a lower rep range to develop strength as well.
Slap some Fat Gripz on there and you’ve got yourself a beast of an arm wrestling bicep exercise!
Make Your Bicep Training More Arm Wrestling Specific
Whenever you’re training your biceps for arm wrestling, you should always be thinking about ways to make your training more specific to arm wrestling.
Use Fat Gripz
The easiest way of doing this is to grab a pair of grip attachments like Fat Gripz, stick them in your gym bag, and use them whenever you pick up a dumbbell or barbell during your bicep workouts.
These grips will improve your wrist flexion as well as finger strength and force your forearms to work harder during your bicep workouts.
They’re simply a must-have product for anyone taking arm wrestling training seriously.
Focus On Arm Wrestling Angles
It’s unwise to go into an arm wrestling bicep workout with the intention of training like just any gym bro doing a typical bicep workout.
While it’s fine to occasionally include full range of motion movements during your hypertrophy phase, the majority of your bicep work should be centered around partial ranges of motion, cheat reps, and statics.
Focus On Strength
You should also spend way more of your time training for strength as an arm wrestler. We’re talking maybe 75-80% focus on strength exercises, and the rest on size and recovery.
If you want to get better at arm wrestling, you have to get stronger at arm wrestling movements, which means you need to be lifting heavy the vast majority of the time.
Things To Remember When Training Biceps For Arm Wrestling
I wanted to go over a few last minute quick-fire tips to keep in mind when thinking about bicep training for arm wrestling.
- Remember to vary the angles when performing static holds – As I mentioned earlier, isometric training is great at making the muscle really strong in the specific position in which you train it. Be sure to vary the angles of your static holds from 30, 45, 90, and 120 degrees while focusing primarily on the smaller angles.
- Listen to your body when selecting bicep training frequency – If you did a really heavy dynamic static bicep workout on Monday and you’re still sore on Wednesday, maybe don’t hit biceps again until later in the week. Or if you absolutely need to train, make it a super light session and include tons of blood flow work.
- When doing heavy bicep exercises, never lift through pain or discomfort – Avoid this to begin with by warming up thoroughly. If you get into some heavy supinated preacher curls and your wrist feels a bit icky, don’t push it!
- Training biceps for arm wrestling is all about statics – The biceps in arm wrestling are all about isometric strength. How good are you at locking that bicep in and holding position? If there’s one thing to focus on when it comes to bicep training, it should be on isometric strength! This means doing tons of static holds and really developing that tendon strength.
- Lifting weights doesn’t replace table time – It’s understandable if you don’t have access to an arm wrestling club and have no one to train with, but you need to realize that getting reps in on an arm wrestling table is going to be the superior form of training every day of the week! Well maybe not every day, but you get the idea. Do your best to get at least an hour of table time in per week if you’re serious about progressing in the sport of arm wrestling.
- There’s a lot more to arm wrestling than just the biceps – I recently wrote an article discussing just how important biceps are in arm wrestling which looks at the significance of this muscle group compared to others. It also explains what strategic aspects of arm wrestling the biceps contribute the most to, so be sure to check that out if you want to find out more about biceps in arm wrestling!
That’s all I’ve got for now.
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas about how you should be approaching your bicep training for arm wrestling!