While obviously arm wrestling recruits muscles in the arm such as Biceps, Triceps and Forearm. However, are they most important?
What are the main muscles used in arm wrestling?
The main muscles used in arm wrestling are Biceps, Triceps, Deltoid, Pecs, Lats, Forearm muscles (Pronator Teres & Flexor Carpi Ulnaris) and Wrist muscles. Arm wrestlers also use their lower back and legs but not nearly as much as their arms.
Sousa et al. (2008) performed a study to determine which muscles were being used the most during arm wrestling. They studied the electromyographic activity of the Pectoralis Major (PM), Biceps Brachii (BB), Pronator Teres (PT) and Flexor Carpi Ulnaris (FCU). They had 10 arm wrestlers perform dynamic arm wrestling movements and also static holds in 3 different common arm wrestling positions.
Based on their study they found that the Pecs and Flexor Carpi Ulnaris produce most of the force while the Pronator Teres and the Biceps performed secondary functions.
Let’s look at what the different muscles are used for in arm wrestling:
Lats – The lats are used to pull your opponent’s arm away from their body, while stopping your opponent pulling your own arm. A person’s arm is much easier to pin the further it is away from someone’s body.
Wrist muscles – In arm wrestling you not only want to keep a straight wrist and prevent your opponent from bending it backwards but you actually want to curl your own wrist. Arm wrestlers curl their wrist to hook around their opponent’s hand giving them greater control while also bending their opponent’s wrist backwards, placing them in a structurally weak position.
Shoulder muscles (Deltoid, Rotator Cuff) – This is where arm wrestlers get their power from. If you have seen arm wrestlers explosively pinning their opponents that is thanks to their shoulder muscles. They will quickly rotate their shoulders and create a huge amount of torque, forcing their opponent’s arm down.
Biceps – Biceps may be the most important muscle in arm wrestling. They are used to absorb your opponent’s press, maintain a powerful structure and pin your opponent by generating force. You won’t find many arm wrestlers with weak biceps.
Forearms – Forearm muscles are right up there with Biceps in terms of importance in arm wrestling. Arm wrestling is often an endurance sport and typically the losing athlete’s forearms give out. You need strong forearms to absorb your opponent’s pressure and they also help to drive and push your opponent back.
Pecs – Pecs actually play a prominent role in arm wrestling. They are mostly used when pressing and explosively pinning an opponent. They also help an arm wrestling keep their shoulder and arm aligned.
Triceps – Triceps are used heavily in the moments of an arm wrestling match. As you turn your shoulder inwards and go for the final push to pin your opponent your triceps will be activated.
Are Forearms Important In Arm Wrestling?
Forearms are incredibly important in arm wrestling, and is the second most critical muscle behind Biceps. Forearms help arm wrestlers maintain an ideal position, endure their opponent’s pressure and generate power to pin their opponent.
If you want to be an arm wrestler you better have strong forearms. They are the second most important area of the body in arm wrestling.
The two most important forearm muscles used in arm wrestling are the Pronator Teres & Flexor carpi ulnaris.
The Flexor Carpi Ulnaris is the major muscle used and is most active when driving into an opponent and also when displaying static strength by holding an opponent at bay. While the Pronator teres is also active it appears to play a secondary role and is mostly used for stabilization.
Can You Use Your Legs In Arm Wrestling?
The legs can be used in arm wrestling to reinforce your arm, create extra pressing power and in the notorious kings move to prevent being pinned.
When you think of arm wrestling you don’t often think of using your legs. However, during a match an arm wrestler will drive their legs into the ground, reinforcing their body, making their body almost impossible to move.
An arm wrestler will also climb up the table and attempt to get their body above their opponent’s arm. They will then use their legs to drive down into their opponent’s arm, creating a huge amount of force.
Arm wrestlers will use their legs by driving their body weight under the table when pressing. To create extra power they will drop their legs and duck under the table.
The legs are also used in arm wrestling as a defensive move. In one particularly infamous technique known as the king’s move, the arm wrestler will squat and drop all of his body weight under the table.
This make it almost impossible to be pinned as the opponent has to essentially pin the entire athlete’s body rather than just their arm. Michael Todd is an expert at this move and used it to prevent Devon Larratt from pinning him.
Based on scientific research the Pecs and the Flexor Carpi Ulnaris forearm muscle are muscles most responsible for power generating in arm wrestling. The Biceps and the Pronator Teres forearm muscle also play a critical but secondary role.
However, the study did not measure pulling and hooking, if they did they would find that the Lats and other back muscles are very important in arm wrestling. If you want to be a strong arm wrestler then you need to spend the majority of your training developing your Forearms, Pecs, Biceps and upper back.