Ask John Brzenk
Page Two
John is considered by many to be the best armwrestler in the history of the sport. 

 Doug from Idaho again

John, first I would like to thank you for answering the questions of armwrestlers. I wrote recently about the Main Event Tournament that you attended. In the video I noticed that several competitors used a 'dropped wrist' position in several of their matches. It seems to be a hard position to beat, how would you combat it? Dropped wrist meaning their pulling back with their lat and back using there finger and hand strength to control and rolling sideways with their thumb? This is a common and a very effective type of top roll. I personally use this style on numerous types of pullers and I can tell you the most effective way to stop this move or to get me personally to change my mind on using this style is an effective posting type top roll, knuckles high posting straight up. This requires a lot of biceps strength. This move, with fingers high, give the rolling top roller no fingers and wrist to roll into. When people do this to me, I normally will change my style.

Dallas from California

JOHN I pulled with you in Petaluma I'm the guy that supposedly jumped at the start ,and we re-started to have you win...My question to you is I am extremely strong If I could get a chance to apply it.. Should I already have my strength applied before the start since my opponents are so quick? John I admire your will and heart and I want only one thing in Life and that is to get a chance to pull with you again and have you remember me and my strength...I never competed and I managed to place 2nd In the heavy weights...I now need technique and training...Do you now of some help in my area ...Perhaps YOU could personally give some pulls and techniques? BODY BUILDING HAD ARNOLD AND ARM WRESTLING HAS JOHN...I WILL BE A NAME TO REMEMBER AND I APPRECIATE YOUR TIME

Alper from Turkey

(the following answer is without a question as I lost a hard drive but it regards John's competition in the super match the day after he won the Gold Bear tournament in Moscow last April)

The tape is as I remember the matches, thanks Alper. I believe after watching it I did everything I could do against Alan and the matches were good considering the pump I had. The frustrating match and the one I have a hard time watching is my match against Erekle. I failed to move hard to the pad after the go, which resulted in a much longer match than I care to pull, especially when there is a 300 plus armwrestler waiting to pull you next. I hope to perform a little better the next time we meet. As far as your wrist problem, there are two ways to top roll. First by keeping your knuckles high. This move works great in the strap and also for guys that have shorter arms or who are not blessed with large powerful hands. The second is allowing your wrist to drop and rotating through your opponent's fingers with the muscle of the thumb. This move requires superior hand strength with great side pressure, and a lot of triceps, lat, shoulder and back muscles. The first type, the posting type, requires more biceps, curling strength verses the pulling type motion. I suspect your wrist my not be the problem You maybe trying to pull naturally with your back, triceps, and lat while keeping your wrist up, this is very difficult. Try working on those hammer curls. This move requires different muscles than the ones normally developed for a dragging type pull.

Doug from Idaho

John, first I would like to thank you for answering my other questions. It means a lot to have access to someone of your caliber for information. I wanted to clarify the question about wrist position that I had Asked previously. From your response I assume that you interpreted my term of 'Dropped Wrist' to refer to the topping technique that you covered in an earlier question (SiRiuS from Malta). By 'Dropped Wrist' I meant that the competitors hand is in a position such that the fingers are being bent back towards the forearm. In this position the fingers can extend back past the shoulder and the palm is facing the ceiling when the competitor's forearm is perpendicular to the tabletop. One of the competitors that uses this position is Jacob Abbott; another is the winner of your class left handed in the first Main Event. This seems to be a hard position to beat, and you are the only competitor that I have seen win against it. Thank you for your time. You very welcome Doug. I’m sorry about the misunderstanding. Dropped wrist or sometimes referred as a flopped wrist is normally a disadvantage. And unless you absolutely have to I would avoid this position. Although I have been beat in the past with my opponents wrist bent back. There are different positions one can be in with a dead wrist but for the most part when this happens the person is trying to press with his or Her triceps with a shoulder roll move. The person that has the wrist advantage has the leverage advantage, the key is not letting the dead wristed opponent get an offensive angle on your arm, meaning you want your arm straight up in down or slightly pulled to your side of the table, once here the easy win comes with a shoulder press of your own. You should be able to accomplish this because of the leverage advantage. I see so many armwrestlers hanging out in a top roll position after they have achieved the wrist advantage develop your press this is a time when you should use it. If you can predict this move off the start by your opponent I would try attacking his press with a press of your own while using his dead wrist position to your advantage hand and wrist position can make a victory against this style so much easier off of the start. Bow your wrist but do not rotate your hand let his flopped wrist come across on the lower part of your wrist instead of your hand this should make things very awkward for the flopped wrist puller.

Question from Russia

Hello, John. You am one of the best armwrestlers in the world. I live in Russia. What can you say about Russian armwrestling, and especially about my friend Alan Karaev? I participated in the first Gold Bear tournament in 1990 and armwrestling in Russia has come along way, as I new it would. Armwrestling takes years to develop even for athletes with great upper body strength and speed. As for your friend Alan Karaev he has more potential in becoming unstoppable then anyone I have seen. He is built for armwrestling and I’m sure if he decides to stay with it people will be hearing his name for a long time. He is big ,strong, quick ,and young. And as good as he is right now. I can assure you he is going to get a lot better.

Aaron from Canada

1. I know it is hard to be motivated sometimes to keep up the training etc. How do you keep focused?
Armwrestling has been a part of my life since my early teens and its automatic for me to give it the little bit of time each week to maintain what I have been able to build . I’ve reached a point in armwrestling were I’m trying to maintain the strength that I have and to stay healthy. As you now Aaron because of The incredible stress put on your arm during practice training does not require a whole lot of time. I will pull once a week and sometimes now once every 2 weeks. For me personally I have found this works best and for this hour, or two a week. I can stay motivated to pull as hard and work as many styles as I can. Even with nothing big on the horizon. I guess its still fun for me, I enjoy getting together with my brother Bill and the guys here in Utah for our once a week pulling secession.

2. I see you pulling in 198 LB class do you find you lose much strength or is there much effect at all to do this for you. I feel the difference when I lose weight I feel stronger at 220 than at 200. I’m not sure I’m in better shape though. I have more energy and am healthier at 200. No its not hard for me to weight 200 its a good healthy every day weight for me.

Doug from Alaska

First off I wanted to thank you for the picture of you with my wife Tina and son Ryan berry at Petaluma. also it was a great pleasure for me to talk to the legend in person. the presentation made to you during last weeks tournament will be something we will always remember. by the way my son is still trying to understand how a guy who is only 198 lbs is the best of the best. Your welcome and thank you.  

My only question is will we see a fresh 100% john Brzenk in the supermatch in Russia next year? As I told you in person in my opinion the supermatch should be set up like an overall and they shouldn't be placing the top USA guys against each other before the finals. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to Russia next year, or if I would pull only the Supermatch. Maybe I will skip Russia next year? And try and meet up with Alan at my first WAF Worlds in Japan. Or hopefully maybe even sooner?

Dallas from California

JOHN I pulled with you in Petaluma I'm the guy that supposedly jumped at the start, and we re-started to have you win...My question to you is I am extremely strong If I could get a chance to apply it.. Should I already have my strength applied before the start since my opponents are so quick? John I admire your will and heart and I want only one thing in Life and that is to get a chance to pull with you again and have you remember me and my strength...I never competed and I managed to place 2nd In the heavy weights...I now need technique and training...Do you now of some help in my area ...Perhaps YOU could personally give some pulls and techniques? BODY BUILDING HAD ARNOLD AND ARM WRESTLING HAS JOHN...I WILL BE A NAME TO REMEMBER AND I APPRECIATE YOUR TIME .  Dallas, armwrestling definitely is a combination of strength and speed. I believe that there are many armwrestlers out there that feel as you do. Strength is measured so many different ways and in armwrestling if you can’t trigger everything you have built in an instant, you will most likely be beat by someone who can. I also believe that with armwrestling. Every thing has to work together. You are only as good as your weakest link. This, among other things, is what separates us from weight lifters. Sounds like you have just started armwrestling. Give it time. There are lots of people with the potential to be great but have given up, or lost hope because they didn’t give the body enough time to adapt and build. Armwrestling is a long and sometimes painful process but the strength acquired will stay with you a lifetime. Depending where you live in California. I’m sure there is a group near by that pulls on a regular basis. If not build a table and start your own group. You don’t need a expert to show you what works and what doesn’t with time you will build and realize this on your own. Look forward to pulling with you again in the future.

Todd from California

John, I am 32 and used to compete in amateur meets until about 10 years ago when I had an experience that has negatively affected my motivation to compete. I had 2 matches in a row in which my competitor's arms' broke at the elbow. Neither time were they in a "broken arm" position nor was I "doing" anything that would have caused this, according to the refs. None-the-less, I feel bad about it. I'd like to get back into armwrestling and with minimal risk to my arms. Have you had any similar experiences and/or can you offer any ideas as to how this might have happened so that I can avoid it happening to myself? Also, would you share the routine you use on your grippers and your thoughts about armwrestling as an Olympic sport?  Thank you in advance. I’m sorry Todd I have never armwrestled someone who has broke his or her arm. I however have broken my own arm armwrestling a friend of my fathers, at age 14, and it was the elbow. I would have to agree with the referee's analysis that it's not your fault. Armwrestlers brake their own arms either from bad positioning or just simply being to strong for their own bone strength. The most dangerous time for an armwrestlers is within the first couple of years of competition. Especially if they are well built and have the strength to overload their bones. Armwrestling is very unnatural and puts a very unusual torque on the upper arm and elbow. I believe the repeated stress of armwrestling does eventually strengthen the bones and tendons and the chance of hurting ones arm diminishes. I very seldom if ever hear of an armwrestler braking their arm after a couple years of involvement. Armwrestling is a long process, and if you want to be careful, take it slow at first give those bones time to adapt. Hand Gripper I have one in my car and once a day normally on my way to work I will crunch as many as I can until I can’t hold the steering wheel. And its one of the wimpy kind and I normally try to get 200 to 240 reps as fast as I can. I have been involved in armwrestling as a competitor for almost 20 years now, and have heard talk about trying to make it an Olympic sport for about just as long. I have absolutely no idea what’s involved and if anyone is any closer than they were 20 years ago. I would love to see it, as I think any armwrestler would. My involvement with armwrestling has been strictly as a competitor. Maybe someday this will change.

Ross from California

I just wanted to pick your brain a little. A couple years ago Virgil Arciero showed me a few exercises that he did with a sledgehammer. Have you ever done any of this type of training? Also, Clay Rosencrans was known to train with inner tubes as opposed to weights. What is your opinion on that? Also, you known to have a good set of lats, do you do any pull-ups? Lastly, you mention what you are currently doing to train in some of The other questions, what have you done in the past? No, I have never trained with a sledgehammer. I have trained with springs and inner tubes. Although I haven’t done any pulling against these devises in a long time I realized as I got older it took away from my recuperation time between hard armwrestling workouts plus an inner tube never pulled on my arm as hard as another armwrestler. No, I don’t currently do pull ups, but I do have a couple of exercises that I do for my back and lats. It's a rowing type motion machine. I have no, or never have had, an unusual exercise that I believed was the key to being a successful armwrestler. What I do now is what I have done my whole life. Which is very intense armwrestling, with an occasional single set work out in-between. Armwrestling has so many variables I don’t think there is any one special technique, sledgehammer etc… that can effectively translate to a noticeable difference on the table. In my opinion there is no better stimulation than full blown, tendon wrenching matches against plenty of good armwrestlers? Workout hard on the table. Remember to work different techniques/directions, even if it's not your best style, and it's uncomfortable. Get plenty of rest and then do it again and again and again and again…there is no such thing as a off season for a armwrestler.

Kirk from California

I pulled against you at the Patterson Apricot festival back in '96 and then the next year you were not there. I took third that year behind Eric W. and Bill C., you know who they are. While pulling with Bill I went inside and in good position I heard everything go and my arm hasn't been the same since heck I cant even straighten it out completely anymore. Any suggestions? I mean everything I do it grinds bad? Thanks. Can't straighten it anymore?  It sounds like you have an average armwrestlers arm. Grinding in the inner part of the elbow? Maybe you should have a doctor look at it. Depending how long its been and much it bothers you I would definitely get a professional opinion.  When I hurt my arm the elbow made a loud   snap like a gun going off.  I also could not straighten my arm, and after several days of walking around with my arm half cocked I had it x- rayed, and yes the elbow bone was cracked.  So go have it looked at. It may be nothing more than   badly strained tendons, but they also my require professional help/rehab to eventually heal.

Joe from AOL

John this is probably a touchy question and I will understand If you would rather not answer it.. It concerns the AAA and United States Armsports thing.. I have not been in the sport for all that long and have just recently started taking it seriously. As far as I have seen every time I have a question or need info I write both organizations and only United States Armsports answers it. I have been a member of the AAA for about 3 years and probably will always pay my dues just so as to support armwrestling and my state directors.. just curious.  Joe I’m not sure what your question is? I personally know Dave Devoto, and I can understand why your questions would be answered personally by him. As far as the AAA I’m not sure who you are writing to when you have a question. If you are asking me what the conflict is between the two organizations I personally do not know that. I am a competitor and although I have an interest in seeing the sport move forward I have not been involved in any talks between any of the representatives from here or around the world. I do know the sport hasn’t been moving forward like it should, and maybe we as competitors are all to blame for that. I wish I understood all that is involved in organizing and selling this very intense, and exciting sport to the world, but I don’t. I do know there are people out there that do, and they should be allowed to contribute what they can, if and when they wish to support our sport. I personally do not care who our representatives here in the United States are, or the World. As long as they put the armwrestlers first and do what is best for all that wish to participate. As far as your AAA dues are concerned if you believe that money is being well spent on improving the sport keep on paying your taxes, but until I am given a ballot and a choice, I will hang on to my money. It bothers me that there hasn’t been any support for the armwrestlers in the United States. Its very discouraging to see the European countries win so many of the classes knowing the best from the States are not participating. Maybe someday the armwrestlers of the USA will be able to compete in the Nationals and then in the Worlds without it costing a small fortune to compete? Surely we can do better than having an organization that is financially supported by the competitor.

Krono from Italy

There's a myth about armwrestling: You understand right from the start of the match, by your opponent's catch, if you can win or you can't. Is it true even in high professional level as yours?"
What do you mean when you say his catch? Do you mean when loading before the start? Or the beginning stages of a match? There are times when setting up before the go, that I feel confident that I can win, these can be dangerous matches, and can end up being much tougher than you thought. While there are other times the set up feels horribly uncomfortable, but the win was an easy one. There is also the fact that some armwrestlers have explosive starts and fade quickly while others have great endurance and seem to become stronger the longer the match goes. Being confident at the start goes a long way, but depending upon the circumstances hanging in there, even if it feels hopeless, a little longer than you might think you can, could be all the difference in turning the match into your favor. Use running as an example, the sprinter wins the first 100 yards but does that mean the miler can’t beat him? If it goes a mile he will. The only problem with this example is that most armwrestling matches don’t last longer than 10 yards!

Kurt from Alaska

John, congratulations on your triumph at Petaluma, you won once again, without a doubt! John, there is going to be a Championship held in Hawaii; I am curious if you are going to compete in this particular championship?
It sounds like a great excuse to go. So yes, I will probably try to be there.

Chad in Texas

Why is armwrestling not an Olympic sport yet, It is a sport done all around the world and yet we do not yet participate. Do you know what the problems are in getting this done. If armwrestling becomes an Olympic sport everyone knows the sport will surely grow, but my main question is what are the problems and how do you think we should address them. Thank you for listening.

P.S. You should come down to Texas and pull sometime, there are some excellent heavyweights that are relatively unknown that would love to compete against a great competitor like yourself.

This question should be addressed to someone involved with the Olympic Games. The information to the armwrestling public has been slim to none on the subject, and I personally have no idea what or if there are any
obstacles. Will we ever be considered? And if not. Why?  You would think there would be some information posted on the subject, but there is none? Who is currently representing the Armwrestling World to ask these question?
I do not know that either. If you can get a response form somebody that knows the required steps to be considered. I personally would love to read it.  How do we address these questions? By asking. I’m just sorry to say I am
not the person with the answers.

Chris from SC

John, I noticed while checking out the website(s) that you pulled in the SC State championships for 98, so I'm really hoping you can help me out. I'm in the military, stationed in SC, Charleston area. I've been pulling for about15 years now, 34 yrs of age. I'm a little guy, 'bout 175. I've won several state titles through the yrs, NY, Alaska, and Hawaii, multiple times. Won International Cup events, and many military titles. Had good matches against Steve English and a guy named Hal Pittman. Got to pull against Cleve Dean during his comeback in 93(I think), it was the year, or one of, that you beat him in a title match. Anyway, I regress! What I'd like to do is realize full potential, and help the sport before I'm too old. Do you know of anyone in SC, pref. near Charleston, who I could hook up with to get involved here? What are the upcoming 99 major tournaments in the south that I could go to see where it is that I stood in the scheme of things (against the "big boys")? Really appreciate your time, and good luck! Admired your 'work' for a long time!  Chris. I’m sorry but I live about 2000 miles from Charleston and I do not know if there are any clubs in the area. I know Georgia has some very strong armwrestlers but that would be a little bit of a drive. As far as pulling tougher competition you need to hit some of the smaller money tournaments. This normally will bring out some of the tougher armwrestlers. The only problem is, they are very hard to come by. Any in the Southeast? Not that I know of.

Cwbys from SC

Mr. Brzenk, tell me about your matches with Cleve Dean. Also, there was a guy who played for the Orlando Renegades football team who almost beat Cleve in a tournament I was in, do you know who that was? Thanks for this forum! I have known Cleve for about 15 years now. We have only pulled against each other at three different organized tournaments. The first in 1986. It was at an Over the Top qualifier event in Houston Texas. That was the first time I felt the awesome power of Cleve Dean. His hand to say the least felt very uncomfortable to me. We slipped grips on the first go, and after being put in the straps he beat me easily. Later that same year I got a chance to spend some time with Cleve in New York at a toy show that had to do with the dolls made of us for the movie Over The Top. During this time we spent a lot of time on the table and I soon realized what would work and what to avoid. I didn't pull Cleve for 10 years after my experience at the toy show, but I knew in my mind I would have a chance the next time we would meet. That next time would be in the finals of a Yukon Jack tournament in I believe 1994. My strategy was to grab him a little lower an the wrist and hope my hand strength was enough to turn him into a hook, forcing him to beat me inside with his Arm strength verses that incredible hand that he has. This worked, and I won that Tournament...Later that same year I pulled Cleve in a small tournament on the East Coast using the same strategy I beat him there also. They guy your thinking of, I think is Bobby Hopkins it was a Steve Simonds WPAA tournament with the two go system, there was no strap, and once the competitors slipped they were required to pull to the end in a hook. I also was at that same tournament. If I remember right, I think Cleve was fouled out for not staying in a hook and Bobby did win that tournament.

Joe from Indiana

John I was wondering if you have ever heard of or pulled another Dean that owned a gym in my hometown. His name was John Dean and he was supposed to be a world champion. I’m sorry Joe the only Dean I can remember pulling is Cleve Dean.  John Dean? Does not ring a bell for me.

Kurt from Alaska

John, with respect to weight training, when should a wrestler rest from training before entering into competition? At one time, I had a rest period of seven days before a state competition, and the end result, I lacked strength--so it seemed. I feel as if I had lost some of my strength because I took so many days off of training. If there is any help that you could provide, it will be greatly appreciated.
Kurt I also wonder what that perfect formula is for being your very best at tournament time?
Everyone has their own theory for what works best for them, and I’m sure everyone is a little different. This is what I do and what seems to work best for me. My last pulling work out is normally 10 days to 2 weeks before a big tournament the worst thing you can do is go into a tournament with inflamed tendons. And even a full two weeks may not be enough so work light on that last pulling workout. As far as weight training I don’t put as much effort into this so I will work out up to 4 days to one week before the tournament with my last work out being light. I know its difficult as the tournament approaches to do nothing. With that much rest you start to feel smooth and you may start to question yourself . Their isn’t anything your going to gain by pulling or working out any closer to a tournament.    I personally at times have gone Months without doing anything and then started pulling again that first workout I feel awesome, of course the next couple of days I’m hurting.  Being well rested is more important that getting that last workout in before the big match.

Casey from Florida

I met you at the 98 Pro-Am, You probably don't remember me but I was sitting right in front of you and came there with Bobby Hopkins, from Florida. Having seen you beat all of the best armwrestlers in nearly every weight class, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that you are the greatest arm wrestler of all time. Any weight class, any time, anywhere. With that being said I would like to ask you a few questions and also respond to "CWBYS from SC". First of all you are right; Bobby Hopkins did in fact win that tournament by beating Cleve Dean twice I presume. He also beat Cleve in another tournament a while later. Also, as you know, Bobby is making a comeback after a ten year layoff. I know you have beaten him before, but I would like to know how you would approach a match with him. What do you think his strengths and weaknesses are, and where do you think he is among the top10, 20,50, or so in the world, and where do you think he could be with more training. Thank you for your time. Casey I would approach Bobby very carefully!!! He is a big guy and shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone. It's been a long time since I’ve pulled Bobby so I’m not sure what I would do. I remember he has an extremely thick hand, which is always very uncomfortable to deal with. From watching some of his current matches with other armwrestlers it looks like he still may be vulnerable to the top roll so I probably would choose this move first. A lot of questions for me would be answered on the set up. Strengths? Bobby was his best pulling outside in a hook. As far as a current ranking I would place him in the top 10 to 20 armwrestlers in the world. How good can he get? Time will tell. Bobby verses Cleve. WPAA was single elimination back then.


I want to know what I can do to get my arm back in shape. I broke it back in 91 at a tournament. My fault as I opened up and he hit hard. Anyway I have won small tournaments since then but not with any authority like before. The tendons seemed to have moved from their normal position and now I'm in pain for weeks after and I cant go more than 3 to 4 matches without having to pull out of the tournament from the pain. Any suggestions? Where was the break? How long have you been pulling before and after the injury? Do you pull on a regular basis, say at least once a week? Weight training is good to help heal injuries caused by armwrestling but I would suggest you pull lightly as this can be a very long process.  If you have damaged your tendons to a point where you feel you are aggravating them when you work out you may look into some professional help in rehabilitation. Inflamed tendons can be difficult to heal without some medical help. The key is time and to continue to exercise all the components that are involved in armwrestling take your time getting back into it you can get a good pump without going 100 percent.

Willy from India

Dear John, First of all thank you setting up this forum. I have started arm wrestling after a break of three to four years. However  I have been fortunate to win a small tournament only after preparing for three weeks. I have few questions and would be grateful if you would kindly answer them.

1.   Could you please describe in detail what you do during your weekly armwrestling workout?
2.   Could you recommend any specific exercise for developing hand strength ?
3.    Could you describe in detail how the wristcurl exercise is performed?

I currently try to armwrestle once a week. The pulling session will last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. I will pull different armwrestlers also concentrating on different directions and styles. I don’t pull a certain style for any length of time. I normally will go until I can’t continue. I like to warm up slightly then pull the strongest arm there, normally my brother Bill, while I am still fresh. After that I will pull whoever steps up until I am completely exhausted. It's important to concentrate on pulling different techniques even if at first they feel uncomfortable.

Hand strength is probably best developed from armwrestling. I do a few extra exercises for my hand and wrist. The hand gripper, on my way to work, and basic wrist curls when I workout with the weights.

I personally use a dumb bell exercising one wrist at a time. I will use a bench to rest my forearm on and curl the weight with my wrist at slightly different angles with my thumb underneath the bar along with the fingers.

From Mike:

John, has your brother ever beaten you in a tournament? How much further does he have to beat you? Do you ever see him working on the toproll during your workouts? Do you know why he never pulls left in tournaments? Thank you again for being a good standard and hero for many. Yes, Bill has a victory over me in a tournament. In Las Vegas and in Reno about two years ago. Although recently he has had some problems with his arm, he is probably capable right now of beating me if the conditions are right. If we are both fresh my hand strength is superior but his arm strength is very close to mine. He works on his toproll as much as anyone can. We pull both toproll and hook during practice. He doesn’t train his left. He claims he wants one good arm when he gets older.

From Cwbys9

John, two questions.. First, the Southeast Armwrestling Championships are being held at the Mudville Grille in Jacksonville, Fl. on February 13th, any chance you'll be attending? Since I was in Hawaii last year, I don't know the size or reputation of this event. Do you have any input on it? Second question: What are your views on hand position on the peg prior to the start of the match? Any particular position better for a particular strategy? What about hip and leg placement? I never hear much about this from the more experienced pullers. I understand the basic rules for positioning, but in your opinion can a distinct advantage be gained for a particular style, say working someone with a top roll? Thanks again to Dave and yourself for this forum!  No, I currently have no plans on attending the tournament in Jacksonville. I normally find myself resting my hand on top of the peg at the start and adjusting depending on the outcome of the start and depending on which side of the table I happen to be pulling from. I don’t believe hand position on the peg will produce any big advantage that would warrant thinking about it before a match. Normally my leg placement at the start will be staggered. With a comfortable shoulder width distance, (pulling with the right arm), I will have the left leg slightly behind the right ready to dip to the left. This sometimes doesn’t go as planned and I will have to adjust depending on the match and balance shifts. The only time I shift my hip tight into the table with wrapping my leg to the inside of the right table leg is when I’m attempting a shoulder roll press. I don’t think leg position is as important as keeping your body in a good position in relation to the position of your arm sometimes hard hits cause some separation that may make your arm more exposed to a hard hit from your opponent.

From TW Indy

I have been armwrestling for about a year now off and on. The problem I have is that all the tournaments I get in I am out weighed by 20 lbs and there is a definite arm length disadvantage. I weigh 136 lbs and my weight class is 0-154 lbs. Every one of my competitors barely make weight. I guess my question is what kind of strategies and techniques can I learn to get these guys down? The best I have placed is 3rd in a sanctioned tournament. I did win 1st in the0-150 and 2nd in the 151-180 class at a Big bikerfest with about 50 competitors in each class. I went 11-1 for the day.;) The officials weren't too sharp. Anyway back to my question can you give me advice on how to match up to these taller and heavier guys? Thank you for you time. Weight definitely helps, but isn’t the deciding factor in becoming a good armwrestler. There are genetic factors that make some better armwrestlers than others, but weight wouldn’t be on the top of this list. Shorter arms actually have a leverage advantage, but are usually accompanied by smaller hands and fingers. If you are blessed with a short arm with large wide powerful hands you are made for armwrestling. With only one short year of on and off armwrestling you will find you have a few more years before you reach a sticking point in the amount of noticeable gains from pulling. My recommendation is to keep pulling. Be consistent, pull at least once a week hard, and in different directions. Keep working on your hand strength to the side and also protecting your hand and wrist by keeping your knuckles high and posting back (like a hammer curl).

From CM

I was asking what type of routine; do you do for your forearms? I envy people with great forearms. I lift weights 5 days and I have for years. I know what routines there are for forearms and I was just wondering if you did anything unusual that might help me. Do you do high reps low reps and how often? I'm 5 feet 5 weight about 180 but no forearms can you send me some in routines. I think a lot of my forearm size is genetics, my father, grandfather, and brother all have large forearms. A lot of the size in my right forearm is from years of armwrestling, because there is about a two inch difference between my right and my left, and I’ve always weight lifted equally between the two arms. I don’t do a whole lot of forearm exercises. Hand grippers every day, and dumb bell wrist curls, normally at the end of my work out, which is twice a week. I do one set with 50 lbs until I can’t do anymore. Along with once a week training on the table armwrestling this is my training for hand and wrist strength.

From Daniel

PLEASE GIVE A DESCRIPTION OF A PROPER SET-UP AT THE TABLE (i.e. FOOT PLACEMENT, ELBOW PLACEMENT, ARM PRESSURE). ALSO, PLEASE GIVE A DETAILED EXPLANATION OF HOW TO PROPERLY PERFORM A HOOK AND DRAG. THANK YOU FOR TIME, JOHN. The rules, along with most referees, will for the most part dictate how you will set up before the go. Shoulders will be square, hands in the middle of the table, with hand and wrist position equal and straight. After the go is were the movement begins. Foot placement, elbow location, direction of arm pressure and hand position is dependent on the technique you decide to use, and sometime of your opponents dictated direction. There is no set right or wrong way. The pad is large, use all of it depending on the direction and outcome after the go. As far as arm pressure, and hand pressure, including load. Sometimes it is appropriate to feel your opponent out before the go, but be wise not to let your opponent know the direction your intending on pulling. One of the biggest advantages for a well-rounded armwrestler is the uncertainty of the direction you might be pulling. Its much more difficult for someone to defend against an unknown hit. Hook. Defined as two armwrestlers pulling wrist to wrist (hands turned in). When this happens the opponent that is winning the match is normally pulling down on the wrist of his opponent with his triceps back, lats, shoulder and pecs. The defensive armwrestler uses these same muscles along with some biceps. I have seen people use their biceps when pulling in a hook offensively, this maybe used to put added pressure on your opponent's hand, and sometimes will end up turning into a top roll move. Its very difficult to explain what I feel is good hook and drag technique. But maybe this example will help...Extend your right arm in front of you with your palm rotated up wrist curled now pretend your hanging onto a rope. Now pull that rope toward you, elbow will eventually be at your side this movement along with your body movement to the side would be about the same muscles used, as you can see triceps lats and shoulder strength becomes very important. Pulling, is just that, pulling, not curling. A good comparison would be to the movement in a tug of war. Hope this helps...

From Mike in the Midwest

JOHN, I DON'T HAVE A QUESTION REALLY JUST WOULD LIKE YOUR INSIGHT ON SOMETHING. I HAVE COMPETED IN ARMWRESTLING TOURNAMENTS FOR THE PAST SEVEN YEARS MOSTLY IN THE MIDWEST (NEB, IA, IL, WI) WITH SOME REALLY GREAT COMPETITION. I AM A FIRM BELIEVER IN THE IDEA THAT YOU ONLY IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS AT THIS GREAT SPORT WITH TONS OF TABLE TIME AND THE ABILITY TO LEARN FROM YOUR LOSSES AND ADAPT QUICKLY! I FELT I HAD STALLED A LITTLE IN MY PROGRESSION UNTIL I STARTED WORKING OUT WITH ARMS MUCH STRONGER THAN MINE. AS LONG AS I DID THIS SAFELY I MADE SO MUCH MORE PROGRESS AND BECAME MORE AT EASE IN MY WEIGHT CLASSES. IS THIS SOMETHING THAT HAS HELPED YOU TO PERFORM WITH THE BEST OF THEM NO MATTER WHAT SIZE? I’m with you Mike. I don’t think there is any other way around becoming a great armwrestler without armwrestling. I also go along with the idea that pulling with someone stronger and better will provide faster results than someone that you can easily control, especially at the beginning stages. The only thing I would watch out for would be over training. When I was younger pulling with my father and many other armwrestlers that were better and stronger than myself, I was able to heal and become stronger on a daily basis. (I think a lot had to do with age and my size, or lack of it). As I have gotten older and stronger this recuperation time has gotten a lot longer (up to two weeks). Pulling someone better and stronger will require more rest, and as you become much more advanced it's easy to over train and sometimes hurt yourself. Occasional tournaments are great for that added extra effort and shock to your arm that you just don't seem to get pulling in practice, no matter how much stronger your opponent is. In armwrestling lightweights are sometimes as good and sometimes better than some of the heavyweights. And with experience you build confidence to compete against anyone no matter the size. I think half the battle in armwrestling is the confidence factor. I grew up armwrestling, so most of the time guys I pulled were bigger.

Luke from Canada

John, my question is about countering a toproll. I understand that, if you cannot resist your opponent's hand, then you can grip low around your opponent's wrist and try for a hook that way. However, I am weakest at hooking, and usually depend on my ability to resist my opponent's hand, rather than his arm. Several people have told me that the best way to resist a toproll is to position the end of your first finger against the side of the first knuckle on the opponent's first finger. This works for many people. They effectively stop my toproll this way, apparently with one finger. However, I need an alternative to this. When I try stopping toprolls this way, almost anyone can easily crumple my first finger into an acute zigzag, and toproll right through. My middle and ring fingers seem vastly stronger, though. Is there something I should try to do with these fingers instead? I am thinking of stacking my (ineffective) first fingertip over my middle finger, thereby making room for my middle fingertip higher on my opponent's hand. Do you see any potential in this experiment? Here is another question that is somewhat related. Are fingers put to best advantage, generally, by stretching them out and wrapping around the opponents hand, or by bending them down, and pushing against the opponents hand closer to the side? Is this just individually relative? Thanks for all the answers you have given people to date! Your question is a little confusing but I think your asking how to out top roll someone who is good at a top roll? There are two different approaches to top rolling. Knuckles high, protecting your own fingers. Index finger normally floats and tries to capture an advantage by covering your opponent's index finger. I’m not sure anyone would willingly allow starting with there index finger being covered this would be an extremely high grip and I’m sure your opponent would complain. This move with good back pressure will normally aggravate a top roller that hits to the side, because with fingers high there is nothing to roll into, and if you can keep your arm posted upright they are going to almost have to hook a little before they roll. To be successful top rolling like this you need great hammer curling ARM strength. Fingers and wrist not as important. This may be why this style is awkward for you. Build also will hurt this style if you're pulling someone smaller or if your forearm is long you maybe at an angle disadvantage. The second type of top roll would be the superior hand and wrist strength move. Rolling with the thumb with great side pressure and good hand strength to keep your opponent from rolling out. If your good at this move but people are stopping this move by posting you might want to experiment with positioning yourself for a hook. Once your opponents arm is at a slight angle then roll with the thumb. Clamping down with finger pressure is something I do not do. The fingers should be well positioned as far around your opponent's hand to keep him from rolling away. This is better accomplished I think by a comfortable cup, not with crushing finger pressure. I wouldn’t spend too much time with your experiment but it can’t hurt to try. Keep working on the arm strength and don’t be afraid to briefly go into a hook.

From Mike

Hey John. Congratulations on your recent victory at Reno. I'm wondering, what do you think about this Kenny Hughes kid? I don't know if you know who I'm talking about, but he's a 17-year-old "Kid" who's just tearing it up! He's beaten world contenders like Karl Wiggins, Dave Hicks, Bill Ballinger, and most recently, Allen Fisher! Do you think that he's going to be the next "John Brzenk" in the lighter division? Have you ever actually locked up with him and felt how strong he is? I wasn't at the tournament, but did you see if he hooked Fisher? Thanks John. I know Kenny, and in fact I have had a chance to pull him a couple of times now, in overall competitions. He is a rock. At seventeen years old your guess is as good as mine on how good he will become, or how big he will get. Even if he quits armwrestling right now he is going to get bigger and stronger just because of his age. Forget about being great in the lightweight division, he is going to be dangerous in any weight class. Yes, he hooked Allen. From what I have seen and felt from Kenny he seems most comfortable with a dragging hook.

From Loula

John what's your opinion on over lapping the thumb over the 1st finger versus the way most grip thumb under 1st finger? Is that a better way to hook or stop the top roll? Are you going to the meadowlands NJ tournament June 26 and 27? I feel most comfortable locking my index finger over the top of my thumb. Especially when I feel more dominant with back pressure and hand strength. I don’t believe I ever lock my index finger down with my thumb. I will however grip low and sometimes real low so I won’t cover the thumb. I do believe gripping like this will effectively stop some superior top rollers. I was planning to attend the tournament in New Jersey but it has been cancelled.

Dave from Lodi

Do you think armwrestling will ever become an Olympic sport? If not would you consider using your influence to help promote such an idea? Do you know an armwrestler named Stretch Sherato? Yes, I think eventually it will become a popular Olympic sport. The question is, will it be within our lifetime? My influence? With my salary, I don’t think I have much. But yes, I would do what ever I could to help promote the sport. Yes, I know Stretch.

From Stan

Mainly we pull each other for the resistance. We don't pull or practice starts as a tournament would. I guess you could say we are programming ourselves for sloppy starts. There are times I feel I pull badly at tournaments because of our slow deliberate pulling during practice. This may be a bad approach but most of us feel better pulling slow at practice without the hard-hitting starts in fear of injury. Most in our group are strong enough that we always go for a win at the end, but do purposely prolong a match to get a good full pump. We all try numerous styles during practice even though it may not be right for the person you are practicing with. It helps with total endurance.

From Cowboy

John I've been having a Problem with a guy when we start to pull he will either bend my wrist back or his
palm is sweaty and I lose my grip, he also thinks that when you Grip that you don't both get Gripped at the
same time, I guess my Question is how do I Cheat him using a Goose-Neck (or locked or bent wrist). Or do
you know of a way I can pin him with out Cheating, this guy is twice my size in shoulder and Bi-cep but I have a fore arm advantage and a 90lb grip in my right hand.
I have never heard of the term Goose-neck. It sounds like if he is bending your wrist back he is top rolling you. I wouldn’t worry about the twice my size problem. Plus I would rather have a superior forearm and hand than upper body / biceps strength. As far as knowing any cheat moves. There is no such thing. You're going to have to figure a way to pull him into your best position. And the way you describe it you probably should be doing the top rolling. If your toproll leads to a dead wrist on his part with a slippery hand you may need to introduce him to the strap!

From Tim in Idaho

John- May I ask what you what you do for a living? Doe's it have any effect on your armwrestling, like help it? and do you make much money from arm wrestling? I am currently employed by Delta Airlines as a Lineservice Mechanic. It isn’t physical so I do get plenty of rest from my workouts. Don’t get involved in armwrestling for the money. Currently there is little to no money in the sport. Occasionally there will be a tournament where if you win or place you can break even after your expenses. There are exceptions to this. I did win a $100,000 Volvo White Semi truck in 1986. Over The Top movies aren’t a common occurrence.

From JHB

I am a newcomer to the sport of armwrestling and I would like to know how many times a week should I pull and How do I develop my side pressure. Your answers will help me greatly. Thank you very much.  If you are just starting out, and you are young. You may be able to pull, as I did growing up, almost everyday. As I got older and more advanced I had to cut back and give my body more rest. You will be incredibly sore from the sport for the first couple of years this is normal, my arm felt like it was ready to fall off many times. Warm up before each workout session and keep aspirin close by.

From Dan in Texas




In my opinion there is nothing gained by squeezing down hard with finger pressure. I am not sure if fingers are important in maintaining hand and wrist position. I would almost bet with fingers missing most would be able to maintain wrist position, (definitely in the strap using a posting toproll), it would become difficult to keep your opponent from bailing out when he felt in trouble. I find myself using finger pressure when I want to control or inhibit his move outside. This is dangerous because if you can’t control but you commit to try. It usually ends up with your wrist being topped. I attribute my tendon strength from the isometric / eccentric forces that are put on your arm in all direction from the sport itself. It's been a real long time since I’ve pulled Gary Ray. At one time he was definitely one of the best at 180 lbs. is he still pulling? He was always in great shape with excellent endurance. Stronger on the inside than top rolling. I never felt Gary had the hand strength or blazing speed to flash off the start but you definitely didn’t want to get into a long pull. He would probably outlast most, including me. I can’t recall how many times I have pulled Gary although I do remember getting beat by him in a hook at a Over The Top qualifier in Houston.

Kurt from Alaska

John, congratulation once again on your victory. I just have a few questions: What is going through your mind before you pull your opponent to the pin pad, for another victory? Are you thinking about whom is going to win? Or are you thinking about how you're going to beat your opponent? Or, is there more...Thanks John for your time and expertise. I think about the same thing before and during a tournament. And that is. What is going to be the easiest approach to keep my arm fresh. . That means expending the least amount of energy during the set up and after the go. So during the set up I concentrate on feeling comfortable and sometimes giving my opponent enough to make him feel comfortable. This will hopefully lead to a quick and almost effortless setup. After the go I'm also thinking about being quick and making the match as effortless as possible, but this normally means pulling in a direction that makes him feel helpless. To control your energy and release it only at the exact moment, normally keeps me at my best. Sometimes the safest direction isn't the easiest technique for a victory. I normally will take that chance, verses being safe. Have I given up on matches early in the day that weren't going well? Yes. Sometimes its better to walk away with only a small amount of damage than to get into an early battle that will ruin your whole day.

Ross from SoCal

John, Thanks for taking the time to address all of the questions that we are all submitting. I have read all of your responses and noticed you didn't really mention Al Turner or Fred Decker. Can you please share any information as to
memorable pulls with them? (including what their strengths and weaknesses were if you know of any).

Also, just curious if you have ever pulled Lester Zollman from SoCal? If so, could you elaborate on the pull(s). And are you going to pull in Las Vegas this year over Father's Day Weekend? Thanks in advance.
  I can only remember pulling Al Turner once. It was at a Steve Simonds tournament, WPAA, it was in the Semi Finals, I believe in Buffalo, New York. I had a lot of respect for him and was very nervous. I hit him as hard as I have ever hit anyone. I did win, then pulled Danny Stone in the finals. I never had the opportunity to pull around with Al to see where his strengths and weaknesses were. I do remember he had a large thick hand. Fred Decker? The first time I met up with Fred he flashed me! I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I learned quickly. Fred has a large powerful hand with a great top roll. His inside strength isn’t bad either. I am sure I have pulled Les before he has been around at least as long as I have been in the sport. But to be honest I can’t recall any specific matches.
Watching Les you can tell by his build and style that he is most comfortable inside and he likes to press with a shoulder roll move. I would try to keep him from getting behind his arm. I have yet to receive any invitation to a Las Vegas tournament. Lately I get the feeling I am not welcome there.

From Christian

Who do you think are the new up and coming armwrestlers? And I know you pulled Jason Vale at the Main Event in 97; and the two of you pulled after the meet was over. What do you think of him?
Out West here Kenny Hughes looks impressive...Haven’t pulled in many small tournaments especially back east to know who the new young guns are back there. Jason Vale has no problem holding his own against anyone. He has
unbelievable hammer curl positing strength and becomes even stronger in the straps. Looks can be deceiving.

From Daniel

WHEN YOU HOOK, ARE YOU HITTING WITH SIDE PRESSURE FIRST OR PULLING YOUR ELBOW BACK ACROSS THE PAD? WHEN BACKLOADING DO WEDGE YOUR ELBOW INTO THE PAD LIKE A CROWBAR OR DO YOU FLOAT AND HAMMER BACK? BY THE WAY, GARY RAY IS RETIRED. HE CURRENTLY SUFFERS FROM "GET-ON-WITH-MY-LIFE-ITIS". HE DOESN'T PULL THAT MUCH ANY MORE ALTHOUGH I WISH HE WOULD. HE IS AS STRONG AS HELL (NOT TO MENTION A SUPER GUY). IF YOU'RE EVER IN TEXAS LOOK ME UP. MAYBE WE CAN TALK HIM INTO PULLING. I HAVEN'T FALLEN ASLEEP SOBBING SINCE I STARTED ARMWRESTLING! I normally pull the elbow back driving into the pad towards my mid-section. As far as loading for a Top roll, both are acceptable, and I do both, depending on the style and my opponent. This depends on type of top roll you are working on. I classify them as the (Dave Patton posting top roll), or the (Andrew Cobra Rhodes hand control to the side top roll). Both are good depending on your strengths and the strengths of your opponent. I am sorry to hear Gary hasn’t kept armwrestling part of his life.

From Josh in Idaho

Hey John, just had a few simple questions for you. I just recently turned twenty and have been pulling now for about 4 years. I noticed that my arm strength has improved drastically, because it has given me 3 Idaho State trophies and a Washington State open class trophy that I just recently won (Amongst others). But the reason I'm writing is I have a tournament coming up in Oregon for the Oregon State championships. I would be pulling open, so I will probably meet up with Eric Woelfel, and I've heard a lot about him. I generally train 4 times a week before a tournament and then rest a week before, but could you give me helpful hints on his style, I wouldn't mind having a win over him under my belt.

P.s. I met your brother Bill in Aberdeen, Id, you guys are great. I have a brother myself and he is also a good puller. Eric is a very tough competitor; he has a great posting top roll. With a larger than normal hand. It will feel extremely uncomfortable during the setup. Because of his style he is also very effective in the straps. Not knowing your strengths I couldn’t say what would be best for you. I find when I pull Eric I have two choices. Take a risk, gripping a little lower, and hopefully controlling the match inside. This is dangerous because you may get top rolled. Or second, fight fire with fire and post with him which normally leads to a slipped grip then the straps. I would recommend not gripping palm to palm with the notion of pulling through his hand to the side, unless your built with the hand size of Cleve Dean. Good luck.

From Steve

My name is Steve and I was wondering if you knew where I could get some armwrestling videos that teach technique and I was also wondering would there be a way for me to beat one of my friends that always beats me with the hook without weight training because he's a lot stronger than me when it comes to armwrestling right hand. Thanks for the time.
As far as I know there is very little on the subject. I have seen a couple of videos made in Canada. I also helped on a video about 10 years ago, but I’m not sure any copies are still available. As far as beating your friend in a hook, armwrestling, believe it or not armwrestling requires a lot of strength, its not weight lifting strength, But it does require years of conditioning. You're not going to find some trick or secret technique to beat your friend without the strength to execute it. Keep working out, concentrating on the armwrestling. I will guarantee you unless your friend is working out just as hard and armwrestling religiously, it won’t take long to surpass him even if he can out lift you in the gym.

From Dave:  Hi Steve, the best tape I know of is available is from Bill Morrison in Canada. bmdis@fort-frances.Lakeheadu.Ca

From Ken

When I try to arm wrestle this guy who is probably stronger than I am, he pushes forward in little drives and beats me in the same amount of time every time. What can I do to prevent this? Also I have heard that there is a method for winning arm wrestling matches that you twist your wrist a little and it becomes easier. Is there any truth to this? If there is could you explain? It sounds like he is beating you with his triceps this move is sometimes referred to as a shoulder roll move. Are you pulling on an official table? Technique may be difficult to use on a flat coffee style table. Elbows move and most matches on this arrangement come down to the guy with better endurance than the guy with more speed and power. There is a way to take some of the leverage away from your opponent that is normally built for a inside pressing move. It's called the top roll and it is very effective on people that push with the triceps. Attack his hand by applying pressure on his fingers by pulling in a reverse curling motion. Research the dimensions and build an armwrestling table if you don’t pull on one already. All the hand strength and backpressure is useless if he follows your movement by repositioning his elbow.

From Fred Decker

Hello John, Have you been wrestling left-handed much? I would like to try your left. Someday we will meet again. Are you going to Tony Celestes' tourn. in Las Vegas? (Pro Football classic) Hi Fred, no I haven’t been pulling at all, either arm, for about the last three months. Decided it was a good time to take a much-needed healing spell. But I will be starting up shortly. When I do pull now I try to include the left, but it's difficult to put the same amount of energy as the right. Haven’t received anything from Tony on the Las Vegas tournament. I would probably go if invited. But I’m not holding my breath.

From Dan in New York

John, I am fairly new to this sport and I don't think that I've found my spot yet. I mean my style and position. Usually during practice, I will try out all different stances and body positioning at the table that I pick up from watching others, just trying to find what is comfortable and works well for me. Some people try to get there body as close as possible to the center of the table in a very tight and stiff position, some load up with a ton of back pressure and almost have there tricep lying on the pad with there forearm straight up, some have a seemingly relaxed position were you don't notice anything in particular about it. I don't know if you've ever heard of Jerry Cole, but he has, what I think is a very unique position were his shoulders are very high and it looks like his back is hunched over the table. It looks and feels very uncomfortable to me, but he has tremendous strength that way. My question to you is what sort of stance and body position do you prefer and how do you hold the peg in that position? Also, do you know of Jerry Cole or ever pulled him? He is a great practice partner and has beaten some of the best, like Dave Patton, Cobra Rhodes, Chad Silvers, and Mike Selaris. Thank you very much for your time and answers to all the questions. P.S. I would love to watch you pull. Are you planning on attending any tournaments out this way? I think the key is getting comfortable using numerous positioning and techniques. I don't think it's ever helpful to let your opponent know what direction and style your using by your stance. Sometimes you can’t help it, and it may not be important if your opponent knows where your going, but for the most part I would try to keep them guessing. I have been known to try an occasional shoulder roll, which requires getting closer to your arm and getting a little higher. (it is normally when I have nothing left in the other areas). If I’m going to post with the triceps flat on the table it will normally be after the go. The style I am most comfortable with is a square straight away stance either controlling a side hitting hand control top roll, or a hand control hook and drag. Neither of this style requires pulling on the peg my hand will rest on top of the peg and body movement is at a 45 degree off to the corner of the table. Keep pulling remember there isn’t only one right style. Certain styles work better against certain pullers. Everyone has their weak area its up to you to expose them, and to get the match over with quick. So you can sit down and rest. The name Jerry Cole does not ring a bell for me. I don’t know if we have ever pulled.

From Floyd

John, Do you have any special method for chalking your hand. Do pay special attention to certain area of your hand, or do you just cake it on.  Normally I apply chalk only on the fingers and a little on the pad of the palm near the little finger. I feel there are some special cases were it may be desirable to have a little mobility (or slippage near the thumb area). Definitely no chalk on the back of your hand or in the thumb area. No sense helping your opponent get a better grip to control the match!

Rick from Canada

Hey John, When Pulling, how can you concentrate better? When I pull all I feel is my heart pumping and I am jacked right tight, I cant think of technique all I think of is bicep and power, how can I overcome this? I feel it is killing my potential on the table and not to mention killing my bicep, ok thank you for your time.  Experience hopefully will take some of the nervousness away. Being nervous and having tons of adrenaline flowing is not a bad thing. Learn to control it. Be confident in your abilities. Try to remain calm but sharp. I find when I try to get psyched up that little extra, it hurts my performance more than it helps. I know what you mean though, there were times when I first started competing that I thought I felt I was near passing out. With time and experience it will lessen. Try this experiment in the gym load up some weight more than you can handle hold it out in the mid position relaxed. Now use the same weight and try pulling it up but still not moving it. It's a lot of extra effort isn’t it? In armwrestling it's important to know your competitor and when to pull hard for better position or for a win and when to hold. This can make a difference in the outcome. Sometimes the little extra effort causes much more fatigue and damage to your own arm than the damage your inflicting on your opponents arm. As far as not being able to think, practice and experience will finally get you to the point where it will become second nature to you and you won’t have to think, you will just automatically react.

From Jeff T.

A posting move works on some people with larger hands, but it would also depend how he or she is pulling also. Are they posting, or are they trying to control the match with knuckles down to the side? If he is loading back with a hammer curling posting move and you can’t match his hand size, yes I would try the approach of grabbing a little lower and forcing the match into a hook or try going to the straps this helps negate hand size. Its difficult for someone to post and protect from good side pressure if your successful getting there post move to an angle you can work with.

Dear John,
Was Jim Williams ever a World Champ at armwrestling? Have you ever locked up with him on the table before? If so who won?
I don't recall ever meeting or pulling against a Jim Williams?


Have you ever armwrestled Rick ZumWalt? If so who won?
I have pulled Rick ZumWalt numerous times through out the years. And as far as I can remember he has one victory against me. It was the very first match we had against each other. 1985 in an Over The Top qualifier, Beverly Hills, Ca.

From Public

John, you have said many times that armwrestling strength is different from the weightlifting strength. But what about the actual amounts of weight involved? If one can do strict curls with some really big weights -say, 150lb. with one hand, without dropping the wrist- does that not at least translate into the holding ability at the table? And then what about the grip strength three times that of an average person on a training device?
I think a good armwrestler, with good armwrestling strength and technique can benefit from added strength by weight lifting , obviously it can’t hurt. But living in the gym, becoming a great weight lifter, lifting record amounts of weight will not make you a competitive armwrestler. Weight training strengthens the muscles and joints at natural angles. Armwrestling requires support and strength in very unnatural directions, and is difficult to achieve lifting weights. Just as in any sport, you must spend most of your time at perfecting your mind and muscles for that sport, using weight training as a supplement. Would the difference of curling or pressing twice what you normally would by getting in great shape produce twice the performance on the table? In my experience it does not. As in any other professional sport there are many other variables. You wouldn’t automatically assume the strongest in the gym would be the best football player, boxer, etc. Why then do most want to compare weight lifting strength to armwrestling strength and ability?

Richie from Canada

Hey John, I have a couple of questions for you. My first one is in the movie OVER THE TOP, how did it feel to be part of a movie?, my 2nd question for you is this, Did you get to meet Mr. Stallone? and finally I have been in contact with some people and I am going to form a new club, what would you charge me for a seminar? I can get American money for you as well. Well that experience is about 13 years old, but as you could guess it was a very exciting time for armwrestling, and me. The movie created attention to the sport, and the timing was perfect for me. Just beginning to pull extremely well. The movie atmosphere was exciting but competing was what I was most excited about. Yes, I did meet Stallone, about one year before the tournament, and then again a few times during, and after the tournament. It was a thrill to see him involved in the sport, its to bad he didn’t continue, but I guess he had this acting thing going for him. When you get closer to setting something up, give me a call and I’m sure we can work something out.

From Ryan

John, Hi, I am 14 from a medium sized town. I am first place in my school. I was wondering how good you were when you were a kid? I don't really know how good I am on the large scale, so I am nervous to go to a competition and lose in about 3 seconds. Its not like I have never been beaten, but when you were 14 do you think you could beat everybody in the high school. I can beat them all but 3 so I don't know if I should compete. Thanks. My real beginnings in armwrestling would include the years I pulled with class mates in Junior High School. I was about age 13, and we would pull across hard flat tables during the 10 to 15 min of roll call. There were also about three classmates that would normally beat me. I was very athletic in my younger years but hadn’t developed as early as some. The pulling we did was great for developing some early tendon strength but we all lacked any real knowledge of the sport. Pulling on a professional table in itself took time getting use to. I wouldn’t worry about winning or loosing at this stage. Enjoy competing and learn from your losses. The strength and technique will come quickly, especially at your age. You have a huge advantage for future years if you start pulling now. Through out the years I personally have lost hundreds of matches learning the sport. Looking back it was the most exciting time of my life.

Tim from Illinois

First, let me start out by saying how much I've enjoyed watching you compete in tournaments on T.V. through the years. You're by far the best I have ever seen pull! My question is this: I am twenty years old, and have been competing in tournaments for two years now, and I have real long, thin forearms and small hands, but my biceps, triceps and shoulders are really strong and well-developed. However, in tournaments my opponents are able to easily flip my wrist back into an open position and top-roll me. It seems that no matter what I do or how hard I work on hand strength and my forearm development, I never substantially improve my strength in these areas. In the few tournaments I have had victories in, I've won in a hook position. What advice can you give me to help keep my opponents from flipping my wrist back and top-rolling me? Are there certain exercises that would help, or is it something with setting up at the table? I was thinking of strictly using a hook or shoulder-roll, since I have had the best results using these techniques. I do have really good hammer curling strength, however, and I know you have recommended people use a post-type top-roll with this kind of power, but because my hand and wrist are so weak, I don't have too much success. Any tips you can give me will be greatly appreciated! Also, did you see that Cleve Dean was a guest on Jay Leno? He said he has been training for a comeback in armwrestling--what do you think? And, do you know why Gary Goodridge is not pulling anymore? One more quick thing, do you know of any tournaments you will be competing in that will be on T.V.? I'd really like to see them! Thanks for your time! 
Thanks for the complement Tim. Physical build may be the problem, but it also could be mental mistakes. Do you find yourself being defensive trying to control your opponent by hanging onto his hand? This may be why they are able to roll into your hand and wrist. If you are trying to control matches inside it also makes it easier for someone to attack your hand and wrist. Try keeping the knuckles of your fingers pointed up. Protect your hand by bowing your wrist and rotating into their hand with your thumb, at the very least you should be able to end up with a thumb pull, with may be a slip. Doing this correctly will test the strength of your opponents hand and fingers to control you from rolling. I have seen armwrestlers that were effective in a hook and press with large forearms but it would normally go against leverage logic. I would really have to see how your pulling to make any recommendations. Posting effectively with a long forearm is also difficult because of the angle of your arm compared to your opponents at the start. Yes, I heard Cleve was on Leno, but I didn’t see it. Gary I think has been busy training for ultimate fighting. So he has gotten away from pulling a little. I expect we will see Gary around in the future. T.V coverage has been slim, nothing coming up in the near future that I know of.

Yes, the Over The Top tournament was double elimination. I armwrestled, I think about 5 matches. I did not compete against Cleve Dean in the Over The Top tournament. He lost both of his matches to Scott Norton an extremely powerful heavyweight, (now turned professional wrestler). There were numerous weight classes for the armwrestlers, but only one Open division for the Semi truck. Ron Bath is by no means easy to beat. He is one of the best heavyweights currently competing. He has earned an occasional win against me, but I don’t believe I have given him my number. Yes, he has beaten Bill every time they have pulled. I have pulled Dave Patton hundreds of times. Yes, he has beaten me several times. In fact, way to many to count. Being tremendously stronger by staying away from sex for four weeks? I don’t think I will ever know the answer to that one.

From MIJA999

Todd and Vance DEMASSEO? I keep in touch with Todd, and he has not been armwrestling much lately. Is he still really good? Not as good as he could be, but better still better than 99.9 percent of the strongmen out there. I don’t know about Vance we don’t keep in touch. Thanks for the confidence booster.

From Richie

Dear Mr Brzenk, I was wondering what your thoughts were on steroids? Are they in the sport of armwrestling? Do they test? And if not do you think you have as much chance on the table against someone using substances like this? And an even better question to you sir, have you ever competed against a steroid user before? Sure, I have fantasized about the, what if I…but have never seriously considered the use. So, I know very little about them. I won’t judge whether its right, or wrong, or what someone else decides to do with their life. But being very competitive, I can surely understand the desire to win at all cost. Are they in armwrestling? I think it would be very foolish to think armwrestling would be any different than any other sport. But I don’t think its use is common. In my almost 20 years in the sport I’ve been tested once, back many years ago, at a tournament in Canada. I understand the testing is too expensive for our sport. Do I think they will make a good armwrestler better? The evidence would suggest, yes. Would it be more difficult to beat someone who has the added strength because of this drug? Why certainly. Would the claimed user intimidate me, or would I pull him any differently? NO. I have never personally seen anyone that I have competed against take the drug. I have had people claim that they have, but have never actually witnessed its use.

From Daniel P.

Do you feel that the u.s.a.a. tables lend themselves to some techniques better than others? The tables feel real tight like an old wristwrestling table. I feel a little more comfortable diving in with a shoulder roll than going outside with a toproll. Do you have any suggestions for this style of table from your experience pulling on it? Thank you.
  I really haven't noticed anything unusual about the usaa tables. Or felt uncomfortable pulling any style. This is probably because I pull on them more than any other. To be honest I'm not even sure if or how they differ at all from the AAA table dimensions? But I would agree the closer you can get your body to your arm the easier it would be to shoulder roll. It becomes very difficult to shoulder roll on the AWI table because of this distance. But then again no matter the dimensions both competitors have to deal with it and adjust.

Chris in SC

 How and why did you drop to 177 ??? Did you pull Kenny Hughes at the Pro -Am, Left, that is? Is it better to drop the last 5-10 lbs right before the contest, last few days, presumably in water weight? Any chance you'll be going to the AAA Nat'ls in Baton Rouge, or the SC State Champs this yr ? I'd love the honor of pulling against you. I've pulled Cleve, Bobby, and would like to lose to you!! Thanks for the forum. I wish I could still make 177 lbs. Haven't been there since about 8th grade. (Currently l weight 200lbs) No I didn't pull Kenny at the Pro Am. Left or Right. If I am close on weight, Yes I will try to drop 5 to 10 pounds of water weight by not drinking and or eating much of anything on the day of weight ins, this especially works good if weight ins are the night before. Currently I do not plan on attending the Nationals in Baton Rouge. I'll probably have to pull you somewhere else! You're welcome.

From kkimler

As an avid weight trainer I find that one of the biggest obstacles to gaining is proper recovery time. From what I understand, proper and adequate recovery time and practice is imperative to building bigger and stronger muscles/tendons/ligaments. In other words, it is probably not a good idea for a power lifter to go to the gym on a Tuesday night and squat until he can barely walk to the locker room and then go to work the next day and carry sheet rock up and down flights of stairs all day. True, that many power lifters/bodybuilders do engage in heavy physical labor as a vocation, but I would guess that their progress is hampered to some degree by using their muscles to earn a living day in and day out over long periods of time. Over the long term, I would guess that a guy who sits in a chair at a desk all day would experience faster gains in size and strength in his/her leg workouts than someone who is on their feet all day. Modern training wisdom dictates that those of us who engage in resistance exercise need proper diet and periods of "inactivity " between working the same muscle groups.

My question to you as an armwrestler is ......" How do you allow your arm/wrist/elbow to heal after hard training or a long tournament ?" Considering the interview with you and Dr. Strossen in an issue of "MILO", you comment that sometimes after you train hard or pull hard at a tournament you couldn't even raise your arm over your head. You also comment that much of the trauma or stress sustained from armwrestling is to the tendons, ligaments and bones of the hand, wrist, and elbow. I also understand that such damage takes more time to heal than muscle trauma. In another issue of "MILO", Merle Meeter wrote an article that states that you are an airline mechanic by trade. How does a guy whose job requires daily use of all those muscles involved in armwrestling allow his armwrestling tools to heal and mend? Thanks for your help!
I agree with your thoughts on recovery and over training. I have experienced my share of soreness from probably pulling way to hard and way to long, especially in my younger years. Lately I haven’t felt that same soreness/pain I used to feel. Either I’m not pushing myself as hard, or my nerves are dying off? I pull the same as I always have. As long and as hard as I can knowing that I’m probably exceeding the necessary amount of time necessary for muscle stimulation for growth. Habits are hard to change. I have never experimented with light armwrestling workouts mixed in with intense workouts. This may provide increased gains but it's hard to do when you are pulling against other armwrestlers. My job as an Airline Mechanic for the most part is not physical. I seldom stress my muscles after a work out that causes that aching feeling. But it has happened on occasion and when it does my solution is ibuprofen with ice. A factor I have left out for most of my life is the proper diet and supplements for recovery. Maybe with the right supplements one could push themselves harder and more often. Without changing my workout habits, I did try creatine last year with some pretty noticeable results. Never felt better on the table and lifting was noticeably stronger. But then again I became 20 lbs heavier. Maybe I could have pulled harder and more often with its use? Its something I didn’t try.

From Doug

Hello John, I have a question that I would really appreciate your advice about. I have been having trouble pulling against armwrestlers that hook. I usually top and am pretty strong both in my wrist and arm. I try to keep my wrist bent at about 10 to 15 degrees when pulling in a top. I am also pretty strong in a dragging hook, but cannot take a lot of side pressure. My question is this: When pulling against someone that I know has strong hands and likes to hook, should I bend my wrist more in the top to prevent being turned, or would it be worth the risk to try a quick dragging hook? Thank you again for your time. Everyone is a little different in his or her strengths and weaknesses. What works against one person may not work against another. If experience tells you are going to get hooked by a certain individual it may be better to be more prepared for it by hooking also. Meaning you can put your arm in a weaker position by attempting a failed top roll. Its very difficult to set up for a top roll pulling back while also defending against a hard hit to the side by someone who may control the match inside. If the top roll is your strong point use it most of the time against people who are easily top rolled. But there will come a time when your best is someone else’s best. Try to be well rounded and adjust depending on who you're pulling at that particular moment. The answer to your question may be for now which style gives him the harder match or puts you in a position to make adjustments to have a chance on winning. You may find that top rolling is the answer. But with a little added strength. It doesn’t hurt to try new directions. Experiment, he may have a weakness there.

From Richie (again)

Hey John, are you having a good summer? Anyway on with my question, Mr Brzenk, have you ever been intimidated by any armwrestler? You seem so very calm on the table its spooky almost, and also maybe you could tell me what the difference is between wrist-wrestling and arm-wrestling? Thanks again for your time John.
Summer? I don’t think it's arrived yet here in Utah, a little cold still. Intimidation? Maybe a little before the tournament. Or this maybe just nerves. Size, talk, aggressiveness, yelling and screaming. No these things do not intimidate me while I’m on the armwrestling table. Afterwards ???? Maybe. The thing that will set me on my heels slightly is someone who truly steps up to the table with the confidence to win. They are always tougher to beat, no matter what there size, or capabilities. Wristwrestling and Armwrestling? Maybe Dave could answer this question best. In my mind Wristwrestling referred to a certain style table and set up. The most notable difference being the left hands clasped in the middle of the table verses the peg on the left. I think currently the words could mean the same thing? Dave? (Dave) Right on John. In Petaluma we changed to a peg table to conform to other nations using the armwrestling table with peg. There is no difference in Petaluma between Wristwrestling and Armwrestling although there are still many pure wristwrestling tournaments with the original peg-less tables still in existence. (Dave).


I popped some tendons about 6 weeks ago. When I first start practice it really hurts, but after awhile it stops. Then the next 4 days it kills, is this ok? I wish I could tell you its OK to work through the pain. But I don’t know what you are personally going through, and how much damage your particular tendon pop was. I have had extremely sore, inflamed tendons through out my armwrestling years, and no matter what I have done my body has been able to rebuild and get stronger. I would suggest you warm up extremely well before pulling with any minor soreness. If the pain is extreme I would think it might be wise to quit for awhile and maybe have a professional look at it. Especially if it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. There are months and sometimes years of tendon pain that goes along with becoming a good strong armwrestler. This is normal.

From Bubba

My name is Bubba, I pull with Jim Battles and Red Allison in FL. I'm a big guy (265lbs.) and they both slaughter me. They tell me that I rely on natural more. I read most of your answers and you say that armwrestling workouts are where your strength came from. I quit pulling with them and started hitting the weights hard. My question is, should I back off the weights and put all my efforts in really good, hard armwrestling workouts? Also, are you going to the nationals in Baton Rouge?
The reason these smaller guys are beating you is because they are conditioned armwrestlers that have been armwrestling many years. You may have tons of potential with a lot of natural strength and size, but to realize your full potential you need to pull. Weights are OK for becoming a good weight lifter but you need to spend some time conditioning on the armwrestling table. Then after about three years or so of consistently pulling week after week see how you match up. Weights are still good but you need to squeeze at least one hard armwrestling workout during the week. No I am not going to Baton Rouge.

From Nunya Nunya

John, can you close a #3 gripper or even a #2 because of your great grip strength I have pondered this question? I don’t own a number 2 gripper. And I can’t remember ever trying to close it. A friend owns a number 3, which I tried to close about 2 weeks ago. No, I didn’t close it. About ¼ of an inch short. It left blisters on my fingertips. I guess I need more practice with this devise.

From Greg

Hello John, I would like to know what type of armwrestler has the best advantage in a strap. And also would you recommend going to the big armwrestling workout at Allen Fishers, are you going? In my opinion the posting style top roller uses the strap to its fullest. One that hammer curls well, protecting their hand and fingers by keeping them posted high. The reason I believe this move uses the strap to its fullest is it allows pressure to be put on the strap at the low point on the wrist where the leverage advantage is the greatest. Any move can be used with the strap, but I think with a lot of practice using the strap in this manner it makes it very difficult for an opponent to defend without using the same move. By the way, the backpressure move is to protect ones hand side pressure is still required for the pin. Take time each work out to pull in the straps its worth the extra effort.
Many, otherwise hard fought matches can be won easily once in the straps. I’m not planning on going to Allen’s this year, but I heard it was a great event last year with many armwrestlers attending. Their are some great pullers out west, and I bet with out the pressure of winning at a tournament you will meet and get to practice things you wouldn’t at a tournament. This would probably be more beneficial than any tournament you might decide to go to. Although you might not get that same adrenaline rush a tournament provides, I would recommend going if your able.

From Jonas in Sweden

Hi John. I'm a Swedish armwrestler and have just broke my arm on training, and my question to you is have you ever broken your arm? And if so how long time did it take for u to come back to armwrestling? I broke my arm armwrestling at age 13 or 14. It was an unusual break. The attachment point on the inside of the arm were the tendons of the forearm attach cracked the bone away from the inside of my elbow. It wasn’t painful. In fact I went three days with my arm half cocked, not being able to straighten it before we decided to have a doctor look at it. I thought that I had just popped a tendon or something). I wasn’t armwrestling steady at the time. I was in a cast for 6 weeks and don’t recall how long it took before I was brave enough to start putting full pressure on it. I think each case would be unique and it would depend on a lot of different factors. I have been around people that have had much more severe breaks. Some stopped. Some kept with it and are pulling very well. I would take your doctors advice, when he feels it is safe. They usually lean on the very cautious side. Then start slow if you feel ready, and are willing to continue. A knowledgeable doctor may correct me if I am wrong, but I think bones heal back much stronger after being damaged. Much more so than muscles and tendons.

Ohara from U.K.

I stopped arm wrestling over a year ago and am just getting back to training due to a very shocking incident where I broke a colleagues arm. This made me very uneasy and stopped training. My question is, has this ever happened to you and is it common in competitions in the states. The surgeon told us that this was a freak accident? What's your opinion? Keep at it, you are the Boss!  I personally have yet to be pulling against someone that has broken their arm while I was pulling with them. The reason maybe the people I pull against are veteran armwrestlers, that have been in the sport many years, and if their not. I’m normally very cautious to keep them from positioning their arm and bodies in a position where they could hurt themselves. Breaks are not common once you have conditioned your body for armwrestling. I believe the danger exists when you have a stronger then average person beginning in the sport with their weight lifting muscles being much stronger than the bone. I have been around maybe half a dozen breaks in the 20 or so years I have been in the sport. I have been hesitant at times because of this exposure, but then I ask myself what in life doesn’t come with some sort of risk? For me the excitement of competition far outweighs the very small recoverable risk involved. This is from someone that has been on the receiving end. I healed. So will your friend probably stronger than he was before the break. You didn’t break his arm. He did it to himself you just happened to be the one gripped up with him at the time. Hope you can get over it.

John, you say that the best way to get good is to armwrestle with a lot of guys every week. My question is how do you continue to be better than the guys you train with? Also, I'm training with two guys that are better than I am. How do I get better than them, if we are all pulling against each other every week won't they continue to get better and always be better than me? Help please. I wouldn’t stop pulling with other armwrestlers because of the worry your making them better. Even though this is probably true. Everyone progresses at different rates. I think you will find the guys you armwrestle with always seem to be a lot stronger and harder to beat than the other competitors at a tournament. This is because they get strong in areas that you are strong in. This will also be the case of them having a harder time beating you. As I grew up. My main and sometimes only workout partner was my father. He knew me better than I knew myself. We would go to tournaments and pull the same class. I would kill guys that would beat my dad, but I still had a very difficult time beating him. Unless your main goal is to beat one of the guys you normally pull with. I wouldn’t worry about it. You are all benefiting from pulling against each other. And are slowly progressing to higher levels. You would benefit by pulling as many different armwrestlers as possible, the more in the group the better. This will strengthen your arm in different areas because everyone has a little different feel and strengths. If the guys you're working out with consistently put you in awkward positions, ask them if they could let up a little. Work on that certain offensive position maybe they could use two hands until you feel you have worked that position. I will ask this of the guys I pull with. Sometimes when you get to a position you want to strengthen your opponent will give up. Its amazing the extra support an extra arm will provide until you feel completely exhausted.

From Oliver

John I live in Utah between Sandy and W. Jordan and I was wondering if you are ever going to do and armwrestling demonstrations in Utah because my friends and me would love to attend. Also I broke my right wrist at wrestling practice last year and have been trying to regain my grip strength and forearm strength that I use to have I use to pull quite often but the last good match I had my wrist hurt forever any suggestions? I can close the #1 gripper about 15 times and I turned 17 this last July. I don’t currently have any demonstrations scheduled. But would be glad to if there is interest. I have done some small clinics in the past for local kids, boy scouts, etc, which have turned out well, and were a lot of fun. Let me know where and when and I’m sure we can get together. Or if you would like, you and your friends can attend one of our practices. We normally pull on Wednesday night. Let me know my number is listed in the phone book in Sandy. I do hand grippers, but I am not sure it helps with my armwrestling. But it can’t hurt. The hand and wrist strength for armwrestling comes from a lot of hard fought top rolling matches. Keep pulling the wrist strength will come.

From Steve

I was in the tournament in Petaluma in 1991. We pulled for a very short period of time. I noticed you place your right leg back on every match, telling me your legs are very important in your technique, What other little quirks do you do say with your knees or other parts of your legs. Also, you said NO CAMERAS, are you still camera shy at tournaments?. I really believe that my training has made myself better in all categories of the sport. I'm 6/2/ 250, 18in. forearm, lots of speed, great hook, and press. The Petaluma tournament was my last. I wanted to make sure I was ready for a good match with you because I know in my heart I can pull with you and put you on the pad. Thanks, see you in Petaluma on October 9th. Thanks. Normally if I am pulling right handed my right leg will be positioned in the middle of the table and the left will be dropped back slightly and in line with the left table leg. I don’t give proper stance much thought nor do I think it's very important, as long as you are comfortable and balanced with your movement to the side. I don’t have any superstitious setups or special quirks that I do before setting up for a match. I am normally focused on hand position and direction of any movement from my opponent. No Cameras? I can’t say I remember saying that? I am not camera shy, but I am shy in nature and normally feel more comfortable keeping to myself. What works best for me in the psyche department is staying relaxed, and being confident in my abilities. That means no last minute second guessing your readiness or working out too close to the tournament. Whenever I have tried to psyche myself up that little extra it has normally lead to some losses. Maybe its because I expend a lot of extra energy that I don’t have? I’m not sure. But it never seems to work as well as remaining calm. Good luck and I’ll see ya in Petaluma!

From Andrew

I am an avid kick boxer and good all round sportsman, I am 26ears of age and in very good shape, my upper body and arms especially. The other day however I was beaten by overweight thirty something, am I a complete failure in the realms of your sport or is there a chance even for a beginner, in what I thought was an easy sport. Yours most admiringly and with all respect. Overweight thirty something? Hey that's me! Andrew It doesn’t matter how fast or how strong your upper body is or what kind of natural strength, or potential you think you might have. Armwrestling takes years to develop. Don’t be discouraged especially if you were pulling against someone who has been pulling for a while. You won’t begin to know what you're capable of without at least a minimum dedication of a couple of years. And it's not about learning the trick its about conditioning your arm to do some pretty unnatural things. If you posses the quick twitch muscle fibers and enjoy the strength and speed combination armwrestling might be something you will enjoy, its an easy sport that anyone can do but to become more than the occasional bar room armwrestler it takes time to develop.

From Vincent

John have you heard of Harold "Viper" Owens? If you haven't, you better ask someone. He's going to force you and many others into early retirement. For Harold is an armwrestler whom you and the rest of the world shouldn't underestimate. You should be seeing Harold shortly for he was invited to go with you and the USA team to Japan. I wish you and the team the best! No, I’m sorry the name Harold Owens does not ring a bell for me. Who should I ask about him? Your probably right about retirement, it wouldn’t take a whole lot to push me there. I can assure you I would never underestimate anyone with the nickname, Viper. I look forward to meeting him in Japan. And thanks for the warning.

From John

I am not an Armwrestler, but have recently started pulling in my stock room at Sears, during the slower times. My question is, I have beaten all the guys I Armwrestled against but in my last "match" the guy I went up against said I was not conforming to rules. The technique in question was the fact that I put my body so low to get the pin (since we didn't have pads raised up, we had a greater range of motion to get a pin). Basically I had almost my entire left shoulder and head under the plain of the tabletop to get the pin. Is it possible he Wrist wrestles and was not used to the freedom of movement. Was what I did legal, as far as armwrestling is concerned? If he has done some wrist wrestling he would know that it is perfectly legal to drop your body, shoulder, head, etc below the plane of the table. This would be much more difficult with the left hands clasped underneath, and I’m not sure I would recommend getting that far away from your arm but it is acceptable. As long as your elbow remains down on the pad, or in your instance the table top, and isn’t being moved around more than would be possible on a table with regulation pads. Sounds to me like you're the winner. With out a regulation table what are you doing with your left hands? Are they being clasped underneath? That would be the old style of Wristwrestling. If you enjoy the sport. Construct a professional table it's easy to do, and it will make you a much better armwrestler. Plus it will save you from damaging your elbow on the hard tabletop.

From Caroline

John, have you heard of the competition of arm grappling? No, I’m sorry Caroline I am not familiar with the term arm grappling.

From Rick

Hello Mr. Brzenk, I was wondering what you did with that Volvo truck you won in the over the top tournament and I was wondering if you ever felt like taking someone under your wing and training them as a protégé? Almost like passing down your knowledge? Thank you for your time. I won the Over The Top Volvo White truck in July of 1986 and about one year later I received it. It had about 20,000 miles on it when I took possession of it. I kept it for awhile, almost one full year, with someone I knew very well driving it. About a year later it was sold to someone living in Florida. I have no idea where it is currently, or what’s being done with it. I drove it once. It was in a parking lot. I train with about a dozen different armwrestlers here in Utah including my brother Bill. Most of them know what I know. I keep no secrets from them, but I believe that in armwrestling you have to experience situations for yourself. You have to personally have the experience pulling many different arms to be able to react. I think most of them learn more from pulling each, and going to tournaments, than pulling against me. If I were looking for someone to train for the future it would be a 12 to 13-year-old with a lot of natural potential. My daughter, Megan who is currently 9 may fit, if she is interested.

From Marc

I am 18, I have been armwrestling for about 2 years now. I like to top roll, but a lot of the time I can't get the guys hand back. I know how to top roll, and I can get their hand back a lot of the time, but their are a lot of people that can just force a hook in. I am ok in a hook, but it's a lot easier to win with their hand back. Can you tell me any exercises that could give me better power for pulling back on their hand? And can you tell me how to force somebody into a
hook? And do you know any exercises that would help me get stronger in a hook? Thank you for your time, and your help. There will always be someone better in your favorite style, and because of build they will hopefully be weaker in other areas. Would you believe I also like to top roll, and yes I love it when I can break someone’s wrist back. But guess what? There are a lot of guys I can’t do that to. Because they are larger and stronger in the hand, it makes it
very difficult and risky to try. But how are they in a hook? Or in the straps? As for exercises Pull, Pull, and PULL! In all directions, and then in some you would never believe you could possible get into. Pull using they straps. Have someone rip your arm down with both hands while you try and post. Purposely pull to the side with your wrist straight. Purposely grip low and curl to the side. Then rest for at least a week and do it again. It takes time, but you will slowly get stronger in all the areas and directions you pull. If you want to mix in some basic weight lifting, for the dumb muscles. Go ahead. It helps to do something different, and I think it helps speed up the damage caused by hard armwrestling workouts. But I don’t believe the power of armwrestling can or should try to be copied in the gym. Don’t get frustrated and feel you have to work out more or harder in the gym, armwrestling is very strenuous and it's very easy to overtrain. You want to be better in the hook? Then dedicate some hard pulls each week there. Practice forcing some one into a hook each week that can roll away from you. Don’t get discouraged it takes time for the body to respond.

From Jim

I just want to start by saying thanks for taking the time to respond to all these questions, and I'm sorry for all the guys who write in and challenge you, and should pay you the respect you have earned in this sport!! Anyhow, I am trying to hook from the start, and it seems my hand gets taken away from me. Is this because my fingers are not strong enough? How do you stop a guy from pulling you out of a hook? My move is like Jerry Cadorrete's, I think you are familiar with his move. Thanks John, and good luck in whatever you do!! Thanks Jim. It has been fun, and I even enjoy the occasional intimidation talk. It makes competing that much more exciting. Although I find it's normally someone else besides the armwrestler stirring the pot. You are a shoulder roller? It's very difficult to maintain hand and wrist when you are pushing. It doesn’t seem to bother Jerry, in fact I think he prefers his wrist back with the triceps move. The shoulder roll move is the one move I very seldom practice nor am very good at because of this phenomenon. It's nice to have to finish someone at the end of a long hard pull, but I have always thought there were better choices at the start. Yes, it will take a lot of extra hand strength to maintain your hand. The hand and wrist is much more difficult to maintain then pulling outside in front of your arm. I will always pull back when some one is pushing. It's automatic. The people that are successful at this move are normally strong enough to push on their opponent's wrist to force a quick pin before they can try and roll. With speed and surprise this move works. But if it's all you do, most will successfully defend by dragging or rolling back. Keep working on some straight away styles. I think you will eventually find you can pull better and stronger dragging than you can pushing.

Question #1

Hi John! I am curious on what championships you are looking forward to competing in the future.

I am currently scheduled to go to Japan in a week. Then I will probably be in Reno in January.

Question #2

John, have just written a book on hand strength and I am would like to pick you as one of few to implement the training formula that I have just created. I am just a little apprehensive on whether I should publish the book; what I would like to do is create a video showing the market, specifically, how to train with my hand strength training formula. I would like to create a video instead of publishing my book, at least at this point. Would you be interested? It's free....and it only takes no more than an hour and a half to train. If you are interested, I'd send all the relevant documents via mail. Please, let me know what you think about being in a video, too. Only 1 ½ hours to train the hand? WOW. I don’t spend half that time on my whole upper body. I am not sure I could be dedicated to that kind of a work out for the hand alone. The few things I do along with armwrestling, are sometimes borderline for over training. But Yes, I am curious, and would love to hear and see what you have discovered.


From Rick Ellis

Hey John, Happy Holidays from my family to yours as Christmas is fast approaching. I have a question for you that you might find interesting. What do you think of the armwrestlers of the world joining up with the WWF and WCW? I mean you have Big Scott Norton who was a champion {I think}, Terry Bradshaw was a good puller from what I heard and then you have guys like Gary Goodridge fighting in NHB fights, do you think that might in actual fact bring down the reputation of your sport you love? I am interested to hearing your response.  Yes lately I’ve wanted to join these organizations and kick some butt, but I can’t get any other armwrestlers to follow. Just kidding! Armwrestlers joining wrestling and fighting organizations? As participants? I’ll pass on that one. I’m assuming you mean armwrestling as a whole being promoted by the promoters of these organizations? They would have to decide to do that. It's not up to the armwrestlers to say, "hey I want to be a part of your show". I would be in favor of anyone, especially a highly recognized and established organization promoting the sport of armwrestling. No, I don’t think it would hurt the sport. Why would it? Any thing that would increase awareness and participation would be favorable.

From Jeff Marin

What's up big John stud! You are my hero! I missed you at Petaluma this year...anyway I've only been armwrecking for about a few months now with a friend of mine. We've been creating new moves every week! So look out I think there's a new generation of arm wrestlers growing in the Southland! With new moves like, Honolulu Special, The Cobra, The Thumb Tackler, Pinky Pusher, and many more to come! It's all about having fun with this sport and not breaking any arms... thanks for your time. Hi Jeff. Yes, I’m sorry I missed Petaluma this year. I was invited to Sweden the week before to pull, so I needed the rest. Sounds like some serious techniques being developed there in sunny Cal. I think the Cobra has already been patented. But the others sound interesting.

From Mike G.

Hello John, I am very impressed with your ability to beat men quickly that are much bigger and seemingly stronger than you. I was wondering what you thought of the armwrestling match in 1995, I believe, at the Worlds Strongest Man preliminary heat. It involved a European armwrestling champion (Magnus Sammuelson) and a powerlifter type Nathan "megaman" Jones. Obviously Jones had no technique and a big ego. He seemed to break his own arm as much as anything. What do you think of Sammuelson's ability? Have you ever pulled him?
I’m sorry Mike I haven’t had a chance to see the match your asking about, so I can’t comment on the technique used, or lack of it. But I would agree that injuries are more common with individuals that are strong enough to hurt themselves. In my experience weight lifters or strongmen in general that have developed great power from areas other than armwrestling, can easily pull, or break something before the average Joe would beginning in the sport. That’s why a well conditioned weight lifter should start armwrestling slowly. With a little less intensity then they are probably used to exerting. This will condition their body to this unusual motion. The more time spent on the table, the less chance these injuries will occur. As far as your question about Magnus Sammuelsons ability as an armwrestler, I don’t know. We have never met but my guess would be that with the power and speed he posses it wouldn’t take much to train that strength to work for him on the armwrestling table.

From Jim

John, how important is diet and supplementation (creatine & protein powder). Do you do any cardio work? Until about three years ago I spent most of my life armwrestling and eating pizza and cookies. I did all right with a terrible diet and little to no supplements other than the occasional vitamin. As I have gotten older and slower, and with the competition getting better and better, I have experimented with a few supplements that you can find at your local GNC. I have loaded on protein and many other Amino acids. Do they work? It's very difficult for me to tell. There are so many other factors to factor in during the long term. I can honestly say as far as the short term goes the only thing that I can honestly tell a difference taking would be the creatine. Then again with all the weight I gain using it I should see how I feel at 198 without creatine and then at 220 without it. I may just be feeling stronger because of the added weight this product will put on you. No, I do not do any card work outs for armwrestling. But it can’t hurt, and I wish I wasn’t too lazy to get out and do some running. I know it would make me feel a whole lot better.

From Carola

My 14-year-old son is interested in arm wrestling and would like to know if you could explain what a toproll and hook are. Any information would be appreciated, Thank-you.  
To top roll is simply a move which attempts to gain a leverage advantage be pulling out on the end of your competitors hand/ fingers. This can be attempted several ways. The move is normally directed more towards your own body verses into the arm going to the side. Although it is quite possible top roll someone breaking their hand back hitting to the side. The trick is to accomplish this move without losing grip / control of your opponents hand. Many times two top rollers will lead to a slipped grip, then the straps. The term hook is used when both armwrestlers hands are turned in, and they are pulling to the side wrist to wrist. A hook can be accompanied by a drag or by pushing with the triceps which armwrestlers normally refer to as a shoulder roll.

From S.P.L.

While opening my x-mas gift (GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS 2000, MILLENNIUM EDITION) I noticed on page 249 that you are the most successful Arm Wrestler in the world. Being an armsman myself for 10 years I agree and thank you for leading our sport to the next level of respectability. My question. Could you give us a quick rundown on your Supermatch Win?
The Guinness recognition was a surprise. And I was thrilled to see the sport of armwrestling mentioned. But as far as leading the sport to new levels of respectability? I’m a competitor and though we all try to make the matches as exciting as possible. None of it would be possible without the hard work of the promoters who organize tournaments to allow us to enjoy competing. My hats off to the real driving force behind our sport, the people that promote and organize the tournaments for us. Supermatch? To be honest I feel a little guilty pulling after many others pulled so hard during the Worlds. But I have had some previous experience pulling in Super matches that were after tournaments where some didn’t pull. As far as the tournament it went great and most were excited. I personally was well rested, in great shape, and was very confident to the end. I think as far as spectators go most enjoyed the free for all class this provides. Most enjoy watching big guys against little guys and are sometimes surprised at the outcome. As usual it was a lot of fun. I also want to thank the Japan Armwrestling organization, and the many others that have worked extra hard to provide cash prizes to the armwrestlers. I don’t think anyone can argue this will raise the level of competition.

Luke from S. Dakota

I have been pulling in competition for about a year now. Just plain love it! I have picked up what I can from competitors and refs. I now have a table and training partner, I am trying to develop my top roll but find I have trouble absorbing the other guys hit, I do not think it is a power problem because I am quite strong. I would like any ideas on overcoming this little problem, and look forward to beating you on the table. Why would you be trying to absorb someone else’s hit? It is very difficult for anyone to let another hit them after the go without moving themselves. It would be difficult to suggest anything without watching you pull and observing your build, hand size, arm length, etc. Do you feel better top rolling in the strap? Do you post to top roll, or do you roll with the thumb hitting to the side? Sometimes all the hand strength in the world won’t keep someone with a larger hand from being able to gain hand position. Try using the strap and protect your hand by using arm strength. Loading back. This will help against people that are bigger and are moving quickly off the go. Good luck.

Yuval from Isreal

Hi John, How are you today? I have been Armwrestling for about 9 years now and i used to practice with Sharon Remez. My Q is if you meet this guy and have you ever armwrestle him? Bye Yuval. Yes I have met Sharon. And I have felt his incredible strength. Its been a while since we locked up, and both times where after a tournament. Once in Paris and several times a year later in Florida. We have never actually pulled in competition. But from pulling around with him, he would definitely have my full attention if we pulled in a tournament. He is a very good armwrestler.

Darryl from Canada

John! First of all I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. My question is: Why isn't the top roll used more often? This technique is simply incredible!! It works so well with such little effort!! So why isn't this Amazing technique used more? 
Well I think it is used quite often. Especially against non-armwrestlers, or someone that is one dimensional and only knows how to try and control the match into a hook. But there are times when it's easier to use other styles. Especially when up against another equally good top roller. Remember the name of the game is to keep as fresh as possible. This sometimes means not fighting with someone that will eventually lead to a finger pull, followed by a slip, and then the straps. This all expends energy, which make later matches tougher.

 From Marc

I know you only lift weights 2 times a week for about 30-min. But i don't under stand how you get that strong from just armwrestling. I mean I have read that Dave Patton lifts weights alot to get better back pressure for top rolling but you said it is better to just armwrestle. I have seen your arm on a web page and it looks real big. I don't know how you got your arm that big without lifting weights. Can you just tell me what days you lift weights, and what day you armwrestle. I just want to know your how you train. And one more thing, I know you are strong in a hook, can you tell me any thing to help me get stronger in a hook. Thank you alot for you help. I know it will help me alot. Well first of all you are one of the few people that would say I have a big arm. Most of the guys I hang out with at tournaments are much bigger. Could I look bigger by lifting more weights? I’m sure it would help. But I am not a body builder, and to be honest never really enjoyed competitive weight lifting. But if I did, I would concentrate hard on the weight lifting. As far a building strength, what would be the biggest shock to your arm as far as building strong static strength in all directions, (even backpressure)? Would it be lifting a dumb bell with say 50 or so pounds working against gravity at a not so favorable angle? Or would it be setting up on a table having somebody ripping your arm down with a force equal to 6 times that weight. Personally I feel the body will respond to the incredible stress and force delivered from another equally powerful or stronger armwrestler. This negative resistance pull is extremely hard on the body and will take time to heel, but I believe with plenty of time this will lead to strength unachievable by weights. Currently I pull once a week with an occasional skip. If I pull real hard I will try to lift 3 days later then sneak a light workout in before the next practice. If I elect to miss armwrestling practice I will lift more often every other day until the following week. To be stronger in a hook? Pull in a hook. I have said it many times but with persistence your arm will get stronger at that angle. Doing more sometimes isn’t better, be intense with your pulling sessions then rest its going to take time.

Casey from Florida

I had the privilege of watching you at the Reno Reunion. I have seen you pull several classes before, but what I saw you do in Reno was with out a doubt the most awesome display of armwrestling I have ever seen or heard of. Due to the other big names that were there, I have to admit I had my doubts if you would win every class, but once again you proved why you're the best ever. My question is have you ever defeated so many high caliber opponents in one evening before, if so, when? And, have ever beaten Jerry Cadorette before. It seems to me like he came there just to pull you and find out how he stacks up against "The Legend". Also, when it was coming down toward the finals, I presume fatigue must have really been setting in. Were you still as confident as in the beginning, or did you to start to have your doubts also? Thank you sir for your time.  
Yes Casey the Reno tournament was quite the challenge. About three weeks prior to Reno I decided to lose a bunch of weight that I had gained purposely for the Tokyo, Japan Worlds. There were many times before Reno that I thought about giving up on making the 198-LB class. (It wasn’t coming off as easily as I had thought). But I committed myself to do it, so I followed through. I have pulled numerous classes before, and it would be very difficult to rate the greats of today with the greats of yesterday. But you are right the competition was very good in Reno, as it has been many times in the past. Was I as confident at the end as I was at the beginning ... Hum...First of all I can say I have never been embarrassed to lose. I have never felt I was putting my reputation on the line if, so in so beat me. I guess I look at the challenge of a tournament as a whole, verses beating, or losing to one individual armwrestler. Looking at it in that respective I would have been satisfied with any outcome. The end of the tournament is always easier for me no matter what kind of condition my arm is in. When I can see the finish line I stop thinking about strategy, and saving my arm for the next match, and just simply pull the best way I know how. Its a lot less pressure for me to just react instead of trying to take a chance for a easy win, early on. Or to force a match into a bad position because you are worried about future matches. Yes that was the first time Jerry and I have pulled in a tournament, but I’m sure it won’t be the last. Fatigue? Yes that would be an understatement. I can still remember how my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth. Still think I was a little dehydrated.

From Erin

My name is Erin and I am from Utah. I was wondering have you been to any tournaments in Utah lately? Particularly ones in northern Utah. My coach talks about you all the time. And I thought at the last tournament I heard him mention your name or it could have been someone else. Thanks for your time, Erin   No, Erin it's been a long time since I have pulled in a small local tournament here in Utah. In fact since I have lived here which is about 16 years now I have participated in less than a handful of tournaments. But when I first started back in the Chicago area I would pull almost every week at some small tournament. There is no substitute for table experience.

From Jim

I would like to know your opinion on using resistance bands to train for the sport of armwrestling. Have you ever used them and how would you rate them as opposed to using free weights. Thanks. I used to play around with springs, bands and tubes. They can’t hurt, but I don’t think your going to receive the power needed for armwrestling from these devices. I have been told by many that they help working out the soreness caused from hard armwrestling matches. And half the battle is staying healed. As far as which is better weights or resistance with bands, I don’t know. I have been using weights lately. I guess what ever you prefer, but I would use the same logic in using both. For stretching, and to promote healing. Not used for breakdown for the power of armwrestling.

Hey John, I'm fifteen years old and just like to armwrestle people at school. I have never lost to anyone my age; in the past I just slammed everyone down as hard as I can. But now that I am in high school I have been armwrestling people a lot older and bigger than I am. I was wondering if at the start of a match if I should try to pin their arm down as fast as I can or if I should start slower and try to put more force behind it. Do you run track? Are you good at sprints or are you a long distance runner? Personally I was better at sprints, so I always felt the quicker the better for me. There are others that get stronger the longer the race goes on. No matter how good of shape I’ve been in I couldn't run a mile to save my life. And if an armwrestling match went for any length of time I would normally loose. But as you know everyone is a little different with their strengths and weaknesses. Who knows maybe your stamina is better than most. If it is, hang in there a while, this strategy works for one pull, but makes it real difficult to continue with other matches to win a tournament.

From Mark

In all your talk of great armwrestlers, I haven't heard the name John Walker of Georgia. During my years of competing I rarely saw him lose. I don't know if you ever had a chance to pull against him, but if you did, you would surely remember. He has to be the best 200 pounder I have ever seen. I watched him toy with Ed Arnold at the 79 Worlds in Petaluma. I lost to him in the semis the same day, a match I will never forget. The sport seems to have declined since that time, more tournaments maybe, but the competition doesn't seem as tough. I am forty now and trying to re-enter the sport I loved so much in my twenties. In my many years of competing I also very seldom saw him lose. Did I ever have a chance to pull him? Only a hundred or so times. . He was a major driving force and goal for me for many years. You are absolutely right though in and out of his prime he was still the man to beat. I always had tons of respect for Johnny and his attitude. I can only dream and hope I can have the same attitude and incredible strength he had in his later years.

From Sheldon

I never use to hurt my arms, but now almost every time I break-arms, I can't lift weights for about 2 weeks. The pain is between my biceps and fore arm, but also by my inner elbow and tri-cep muscles. I was just wondering why this never used to happen. I still remember the first time this happened, and the next day my arms were stuck in a slightly curled position, and my tendons always seem to crack and pop often since. It took a long time to heal the first time I hurt my arms, but now it takes less. And also, do you think reverse curls and hammer curls are good for building strength for armwrestling? What other weight training will build arm strength? Thanks!   Sheldon I wish I could answer your question about what seems to be a tendon injury, or just soreness, but I don’t know much technically about them. I would suggest having a doctor look at it if it bothers you. Maybe he would recommend some rehab. I know from experience aggravated, inflamed tendons at times will just not go away without professional help. Maybe this soreness is getting worse because you are getting stronger and pulling harder? I do believe the stronger and more advanced you get, the more rest your body is going to require. Your efforts in working out may be just aggravating your injury? If it hurts to work out then have it looked at. As far as your question on hammer curls and reverse curls sure they can’t hurt, but there is much more then having a strong upper arm, in becoming a good armwrestler. Maybe you should think about pulling a little softer for a while. Until those tendons start coming around.

From James

Hey John, have you ever pulled a guy from Connecticut named Reggie Ward? Well him and Jerry Cadorette have a silent rivalry going. If you have, who won?  Yes, I know Reggie we pulled last year in The Reno Sands tournament. And I am sure we have pulled back a few years ago a couple times at least just messing around. Good armwrestler and I am glad to hear there is some friendly competitiveness back east. It makes it a lot more fun.

From Mike in Canada

I was wondering if you have ever done any gripper training. Namely with the Iron Mind Grippers or similar type grippers. If so what is a typical routine consist of and what gripper can you close. Thanks for your time. I use the cheap store bought grippers on the way to work for about 150 to 200 reps depending how aggressive I am feeling. I will work hand out on a daily basis with this devise when I am getting in shape for tournament. No I don’t own any of those nearly impossible to close (for me). Iron grippers. Although I was trying to tackle a friend of mines number three for awhile, but never could get it closed all the way.

From Ditchie in Maine

Hi John, I've been armwrestling for 20 years and love the sport. I've entered quite a few meets and have gotten first place numerous times. I have my own stand up armwrestling table here at home to keep up on my pulling. I'm so glad that i have a way to be in touch with you because I consider you to be one of the best and I'm always looking to better myself and what better way to do that then to chat with the top dog himself. I'd like to know if you do a full extension arm curl or do you do table curls? Thanks John and you'll be hearing from me again. Hey Ditchie thanks for the compliment….Biceps? Don’t work them very hard, but when I do I will normally try to do first set of 10 to 12 in a full range motion. Then occasionally I will add a second set bouncing it half way. This is always done on a machine. Not free-weights. Two sets would be max I would ever do with palm facing up. I will do curls reverse and hammer style on the same machine, still only one set.

Tim From Iowa

I am getting started in armwrestling and I have a few questions for you. First, I have really long forearms. If it helps, I have a build very much like Kevin Bonguard, but with smaller hands. My question is, is there a certain way a guy with long forearms should pull? I feel comfortable in a hook, but I've heard that because of leverage or something, it isn't a good technique for people with long forearms. What technique do you think generally works best for someone with long forearms?

I have also see that you said that in the Over the top tournament, Scott Norton beat Cleve Dean twice. Did you ever pull Norton? How strong was he? What were your matches with him like? How did he beat the "monster hands" of Cleve Dean twice? Did he have a technique that he specialized in? Finally, I'd like to congratulate you on your wins in Reno. Winning three weight classes is just awesome. How tired was your arm?
(Editors note: It was 5 weight divisions) I would also agree that individuals with long forearms would be at a leverage disadvantage than someone with a more stocky build for a hook style match.  But don't tell that to Kevin, his strengths go against  everything you would assume by looking at him.  And maybe you are similar.   But yes, someone with a longer forearm generally has larger hands, and is better suited for hand control with a top-rolling move.  If you have long forearms and small hands.  Now you’re at a disadvantage.  With smaller hands I would recommend protecting with a posting type hammer curl, but having  longer forearms than your opponent it becomes very difficult. Yes,  I have pulled Scott in two  tournaments.  Both were over 15 years ago.  Once in a Super Heavyweight tournament in Minneapolis and the other at a Reno Sands tournament.  Both times he beat me.  He is one of the few armwrestlers that quit the sport before I could get even.   Strong?  Yes, very strong...I don't recall what he could bench but I know it was a lot.  He was extremely good at a shoulder roll.  Pressing move. His hands were thick and powerful, but he didn't try to control the match with his hands.  He would rather get you wrist to wrist and press through you with those tremendous triceps. Thanks for the congrats on the Reno tournament.  The arm is fine ....the shoulder is still a little sore though.

Paul and Sylvain in Canada

This is Paul Maurais and Sylvain Perron, up here in the northern part of the country. Great job in Japan. Sylvain’s finger is now healed and feeling better. Training hard to try and bring it back to peak performance. See you at the next big tournament. Congratulations. Paul and Sylvain.
Hey its good to hear from you guys.  I am glad to hear Sylvain's finger is all right.  He sure has a lot of guts to keep pulling after he did that.  I didn't even know he broke it until after the tournament was over.  Wish you guys best of health, and yes we will see you at the next Big One.

Rene from WY

John: Who kicked butt at Reno, I wanted to go but it was not a good time
for us to get away. This is Rene Layher from Douglas WY. Are you going to be at Belle Fouche, we will probably be there just to keep in shape. Hope to see you there.
No, Rene I am not planning on attending.

Hi John I saw you in Elko the last two years and I hope to se you again on
April 8 2000 most of your answers to questions about getting better at arm
wrestling end in you need to practice do you know anyone in the Elko area
that I could get in touch with? Or any ideas on getting a team started or
raising some interest in the area thanks and I hope to see you in a couple
of weeks.
No I am sorry, but I don't know anyone in the Elko area that armwrestles. But you may want to try to hold a small local tournament and then talk with the guys who show up.  It will take time, but with a few interested guys it won't take long for you to progress to the next level.

From Tyson

My name is Tyson and I have just taken an interest in armwrestling. I have
done it in the past but never on a real table and I have always relied on
weightlifting to get better at it. Now after reading of your question and
answer column I realize that the best way to get better is to actually
practice with a partner. Well, I am in the process of buying a table from
this website and my weightlifting partner says he is willing to train on the
table with me once per week. I am also looking into buying a gripper to
increase my grip, hand, and forearm strength. My main two pieces of
equipment will be a table, a gripper, and of course my partner. I will train
at least once per week. Can you give me a routine that uses these three
resources? (Table, Gripper, Partner)
Hey Tyson I would recommend starting slow on the table especially if you are a hard-core weight lifter. Give your arm and body some time to get use to the table.  Then depending on age, and how much of a beginner you are. Once or maybe even twice a week would be great.  Practice different techniques even if they feel awkward. On average I would pull up to a couple of hours on a session ....I have cut back on this as I have gotten older.  As far as the gripper goes, I try to crunch that every day.  But here again I think the hand, finger and wrist strength is going to come mainly from the pulling sessions. If possible try to get a third, forth and more for work out partners. The more different arms you can pull against the more rounded you will be.  

From Leoni

My name is Leoni and I just started armwrestling 4 months ago. I have been to 2 local tournaments here in Florida. I have been table training with someone here in Miami who has 15 years experience. He is good in the hook but I would like to know more about the toproll. Which is better, to cover your thumb or not to cover? And do you think I can develop a lot more power and strength at the age of 28? I admire your talent and I would appreciate any tips/advice you may have.  Thank You. Whether or not to cover ones thumb is personal preference. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. It depends on whom I am wrestling, how it feels, and what type of puller they are. If my opponent is strictly a hook style puller and that’s all they do I would consider wrapping the thumb. It’s also wise to keep your opponent guessing. When you grab high and wrap your thumb you are basically telling your competition where you are going. If you’re also good in the hook it may add that bit of uncertainty before the go by not wrapping. I don’t think any age is to late to develop some great armwrestling strength. With time and dedication you will see huge improvements over the next few years.

From Marvin

Are armed wrestling dudes usually jacked??---How much can an average one bench? What muscle bestly affects your prominence on the arm wrestling-table?? --the forearm??tricep??--which is it? My friend is 100 pounds less than me, can bench half of what I bench, and just a little pip-squeak son-of-a-bitch but he woops me in arm-wrestling and I am just memorized every time he defeats me please write back.   Usually jacked? Do you mean are they excited before the match, high on adrenaline? Yes, I would definitely say Yes. Or do you mean are they easily excitable with quick twitch reflexes with the ability to lock up and fire hard in a high-strung moments notice. Yes, I would say yes most are that also. As far as how much the average armwrestler could bench…the range would be huge any where from hardly anything to testing world records. I don’t think there is a direct link to how much one can bench to how strong they are on the table….Where bench pressing and many other lifts are testing the muscles ability to move a mass through a set range positively. Armwrestling requires the ability to statically lock out a tremendous amount of weight in an unnatural direction. What muscles are important? Forearms, hand, triceps, biceps, lats, deltoids…. yes yes yes and yes. They all are important, and they all have to work together. If one of these areas is hurt or weak the others won’t matter.

From Jon

My question is: I've heard that technique; as well as arm strength can be the biggest factor at winning an armwrestling match. In your opinion, on a percentage basis, which do you consider more important?  Strength is required to execute technique. Once you have both then the question becomes which technique is appropriate for the current match. All the knowledge and experience is worthless without the strength to execute. There are no secret tricks in the sport the trick is finding out your opponents weakness and attacking that area. But to answer your question I would rather have great strength in all directions then I could use the technique that felt the easiest. 

I was arm wresting someone twice my weight (I'm 135 pounds, he was 270 pounds). He tried over and over to put me down but couldn't, and I couldn't get over on him either. When I finished, my forearm was cramping really bad and I noticed my ring finger was folded down (from the knuckle) and I couldn't move it. I grabbed it and moved it and rubbed the severe cramp out of my forearm. Now it cramps up very easily after just a little arm wrestling. Is there a work around for this or is my arm wrestling fun days essentially over? Do you think I should see a doctor? It only hurts when I wrestle. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks. I have had that happen before…and no I don’t think your armwrestling days are over it sounds like you have strained a muscle or tendon in the forearm that controls that finger. Yes maybe you should have the doctor look at it. He may be able to recommend some rehab on it too quicken the healing process. You might want to try stretching it more often to workout the cramping. 

What tournament are you going to attend next? Also are you going to be In Tahoe in May?
John: I am 17 years old and am interested in getting into the sport. Could you tell me how to do so and if there are any organizations in south central Indiana? 
The next tournament is in Ohio and then yes I am planning on attending the Lake Tahoe tournament in May. I am sorry but I don’t personally know if there are any active groups pulling in Indiana. But if there isn’t you should start one. First step is getting a table its easy to do. 

From Daniel

Do you have any tips for using the strap? Thanks.  I pull the way I do in the straps because of one individual….his name is Dave Patton. Even though at times he would avoid getting into the straps in my opinion he was the master at using them. His style of pulling was so effective in the straps that it has become the only way I will attempt to pull in them. This same style is also the style that makes Jason Vale so effective in them. I am sure there are other techniques that could be used with practice but with the limited time that I personally spend practicing with them I use this same posting style top roll.  And to be honest this style of pulling has never been one of my stronger areas. I very seldom try pulling this way out of the straps ….but in the straps it has never failed me. This style is best set up with the strap loop as low on the wrist as possible and with the palm as far through the strap as you can get it, knuckles high and pull back with biceps, hammer curl style. Not with the back and lats, dragging style. This will keep pressure or the leverage point on the lowest point on the wrist and keep the strap loop from rising high on the hand. Then once the pressure is low and the hand and wrist is protected by staying high superior side pressure is required for the win.  

Jason from Canada

ohn, I'm 5'6'' tall and weigh between 170 and 190Lbs and want to compete at 175lbs? I guess I would be classified as "stocky". I have good arm curling strength and can bench press 300lbs on any given day. I do have a table and practice regularly with my cousin. Anyway John my question to you is what would be more in my favor, toproll or hook? I know with everything I have read a hook would favor my shorter arm medium to small sized hands but find with the locals and my heavyweight cousin can get an easier win with less arm strain with the toproll. My cousin also has a very strong hand because he hits to the side toprolling and dominated the competition at our biggest local tournament. Your thoughts and advice would be greatly appreciated!! PS We were also wondering what would happen in a match between you and the Big Show (WWF wrestling) 7'2" 475lbs and what you would do to overcome his HUGE !! hands? (we would bet on you John!) Thanks for your time!  Well Jason from my experience I would personally avoid pulling someone with a stocky build in a hook.  That's not to say you couldn't feel more comfortable pulling certain armwrestlers using the top roll.  But in my experience someone with a shorter arm with a large chest and shoulder are normally more comfortable and give me a tougher pull wrist to wrist.  So if we were to grip up for the first time I would attempt to get a leverage advantage by top rolling you.  Armwrestlers with shorter arms and less than large hands generally have a difficult time top rolling  to the side of someone with a taller arm and larger hand..  But anyway if  from past  experience  you know you can get the leverage advantage by top rolling  an individual by all means you should continue to use this move.  Remember the name of the game is winning as easily as possible. I am not familiar with the BIG SHOW but if he is anything like Cleve Dean with a longer than average arm  with extremely large hands.  I probably would  attempt to equalize the match  by  grabbing a little lower on the wrist and controlling the match inside.  I have had better luck pulling armwrestlers  a lot taller than me in a hook than trying to fight a possible
losing battle through the hand.

It's an honor to talk to you. I greatly appreciate your valuable time. My question is, have you ever found looks to be deceiving in arm wrestling? I have known several armwrestlers who don't look like they are strong at all. But I have seen them win against much bigger opponents, who looked like they should have been easy winners. In your experience have you found it better not to judge an arm wrestler by his physique? If so, are there any "small" arm wrestlers that can give you a tough match?  Thanks again!! 
I have been around long enough to know not to be intimidated by size. Or to under estimate the lack of it.  Yes their are many great armwrestlers that are very deceiving if your looking at muscle size or weight alone.  As you know their are many other factors for strength other than size.  I can remember watching as a kid the NFL strength competitions where  small running backs would do feats of strength that linemen twice their size couldn't do. Size definitely isn't everything.  But  I do evaluate build and technique when  possible.  Especially if  I haven't had any experience wrestling  them.  You can tell a lot about someone by watching them pull.  But if you happen to be their first match you have to assume things by their setup and build.   Thinking back through the years, and my many loses.....Don't tell anyone, but I have been beaten many more times by guys smaller than me then bigger.  Smaller armwrestlers are dangerous off the start they normally seem more rigid off the go, and yes I can think of many that could give me a match if I am not careful and staying very alert.

From John Santoni

Hello John,
I wrote to you earlier, asking you about the techniques for a newcomer. I have recently gotten into the sport, I started with a couple of tournaments in Florida. My question is this: Is it too late to start at the age of 28, and or does age have a lot to do with conditioning and strength. Second, Should I be pulling once or twice a week? Thanks in advance for your advice and time.
   28 is not to late and if your just starting out you may be able to pull twice a week, but as you get stronger and more advanced you may find your going to need to cut it back to once a week.

From Brian

Mr. Brzenk first of all thank you for your time and dedication to the sport! My Question is ... what do you think is the best way to develop back pressure? Do you think that pulling strait back on the table when training will help improve back pressure? Finally what exercises do you suggest to help a top rollers wrist strength? Again thanks for your time and I hope to pull with you again someday. Thanks. Sure, their is no doubt that pulling in the direction on the table that you want to improve will greatly strengthen the muscles used to perform that technique... the question is how to work this movement and for how long.  Do you pull your back pressure move first, after a short warm up, while your arm is still fresh? ( I would.)  Do you mix in a occasional workout where someone  can rip your arm open in that direction causing a tremendous negative shock to this group of muscles.  Using 2 arms if needed.  ( I would.)  I have often thought while leaving a practice that I pulled way to long and not nearly as hard as I should have while I was fresh. More is sometimes not better,  but its very difficult to stop early when there is a good group of pullers who want to pull. Try mixing your table workouts up one week short and very intense....then the next week a longer marathon style with many matches but no real negative tear downs.  Wrist strength will come from pulling...but if you feel you can add  to the damage caused from your armwrestling  workouts try the basic hand crunches and wrist curls.  I believe that hand and wrist strength for a top roll is only partially in the hand  a lot of added support comes from the arm, shoulder and back.

From Stan

What can you tell us about Johnny Walker? You've mentioned him several times in different articles. How did he like to pull? What were his strengths and his weaknesses? Thanks, John.
Johnny Walker was one of the most dominate armwrestlers  in the history of the sport. He was for the longest time, the man to beat. His hand strength and size gave him the ability to control armwrestlers to the side without really top rolling them.  As a opponent this was a very difficult position to be in.  He kept your  hand flat, and straight, and would power you down with  awesome side pressure.  It was a style that worked very well, and unless you had enough hand and arm strength to turn him to a more natural position you would feel like you hadn't even put up a fight. Trying to top roll him was next to impossible,  (and most people I think tried this),  I learned after getting beat many times trying the top roll that  the easier move was trying to catch his hit in a hook.  If timed properly  he might get  a little out of position after the go trying for the pin.  If this happened I would try to drag on his biceps to the pad.  He always felt very awkward during the set up, and after the go. The key was stopping this straight handed hit. There was a time that I would practice pulling to the side with my wrist purposely straight to strengthen against this move.

John. I was pulling against someone in a tournament and he lifted all his fingers and put them over his thumb during the countdown. Is this legal? Also, is it legal to do such things during the pull as demonstrated in Over The Top? Finally, I plan to compete in the Texas State Championship this year. I haven't competed in several years and when I did they were small, local tournaments. I am a little nervous (well, really a lot) because I arm-wrestled someone before and people were telling me to watch out, that he'd try to break my arm. Though he was about 50 pounds bigger, I managed to slam him before he had a chance. Anyway, have you ever heard of an arm wrestling technique that people try to do just to cause damage? Thanks!
Lifting your fingers right before the go is not allowed, and the referees should have called a false start....moving your hand or fingers after the match has started, as was done in the Over The Top movie is on the other hand perfectly legal. Sounds like there was a little intimidation talk before your Texas tournament.  I'm glad it didn't get to you, and you were able to win despite the fear that was implanted in your head.  But no, in my opinion the only one that can break your arm is You.   There isn't any technique that I know of that can purposely injure someone.  Armwrestlers get hurt when they are mentally stronger than their current physical ability. Although there are directions depending upon the position, or lack of good position of your opponents arm that you can execute that will make it extremely uncomfortable and could lead to damage if he or she doesn't submit.

From Bob in Michigan

John, First I just want to say congratulations on your new Harley. I competed in the amateur event in Ohio may second event in my life my problem is I win the first two matches and then my arm starts feeling sore and the tendon in my forearm is pulled (which I believe is due to holding my opponent from pinning me) I have been working hammer curls to try and help this is that what I want to do is stretch the tendon. Next is the purpose of using a sleeve between matches very effective. I was told it was to keep your arm warm what effect does this have on performance. Bob Sturgeon Michigan  Thanks for the congrats, it was a great tournament and I am already looking forward to next year. You are in the building stages of a sore inflamed tendon, or tendons?  They take a long time to repair and even longer to heal when they are severely injured.  In my opinion stretching your tendons and muscles is a good thing to help in the recovery process, but I am not convinced doing this right before a match is going to help with their performance. I think with enough rest a properly healed tendon is its strongest without the small pump you will get from stretching it.  It may not hurt as bad stretching before a pull, but I think a lot of that would be due to the fact that you weren't able to lock it up as well without the stretch...But what about pain and what effect that would have on your performance. If you are not completely healed and you are against taking any painkillers before a match stretching may actually help you to get over the mental shutdown caused by the pain. I don't know if arm warmers do anything functional other than identify to others that you are an armwrestler.  Even if they are keeping more than the surface of your arm warm..I don't know if this would help performance.  Actually after a long hard match I will ice or at least put it under cold water to speed up the recovery for the next match....cold has helped my performance...warm other than preventing a possible injury hasn't.

       Final page in the John Brzenk series.
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Thanks for your years of taking questions John.  The sport owes you so much!




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