Fitness Tips

What Muscles are Used in Arm Wrestling?

There’s something primitively masculine about settling arguments by clasping your mate’s hand and pinning it down into the dust.

Arm Wrestling has evolved into a sport these days and there’s no better choice if you are looking for a raw display of strength. 

However, it’s a sport that’s riddled with misconceptions.

Take this incident that occurred a few years ago in an NYC pub.

A mountain of a guy put out an open arm wrestling challenge. He beat four guys in a span of 10-minutes, including the barman who was a brute himself. 

We believed he was gonna walk home with the crown, for he was built like a silverback gorilla and he had brute force.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Brute force? 

And then we noticed a puny little skinny armed guy with twig-like hands walk up to the table and pin him down within 2-minutes.

Everybody in the pub was awestruck, even though he didn’t have big hands, he had long, sinewy forearms and rock-like triceps. 

That got us thinking. What are the muscles that come into play in arm wrestling? Can muscle strength beat brute force? 

What Muscles are Used in Arm Wrestling?

what muscles are used in arm wrestling

Believe it or not, arm wrestling is a compound movement that involves multiple muscle groups of the upper body at different stages.

When you start, you are looking to rotate your opponent’s arm and create a strong pulling motion towards you.This is where your shoulder complex, including the lats, the pecs and Subscapularis come into play. 

This is followed by the pull, where the elbow, the biceps brachii and brachialis kick in. 

As you rotate their wrist or use the toproll or the hook to force open the opponent’s fingers, the wrist flexor muscles kick in. 

Lastly, when you tilt your body towards the table to pin the opponent’s hand down, your trunk muscles, primarily the oblique, will kick in. 

What Dumbbell Exercises are Good for Strengthening the Muscles Used in Arm Wrestling?

what muscles are used in arm wrestling

As you’d have noticed, the bulk of the strength for the movement comes from your arm muscles including the forearms, the wrists, the biceps and the triceps

There are several exercises which you can use to develop the strength needed to crush your opponents arm and pin it down easily.

Here are some of them. 

Hammer Curls

what muscles are used in arm wrestling

If you have been hitting standard bicep curls with a supinated grip where your palms face your body when you curl, swap it with hammer curls that are performed with a neutral grip. This will shift the focus from your biceps to the brachialis and the brachioradialis, which is one of the key muscles of the forearm that’s involved in arm wrestling.

Swap the medium-weight dumbbell with a heavy one and use progressive overload to constantly add tension to the muscle, which will stimulate growth. 

Wrist Curls

what muscles are used in arm wrestling

The humble, seated wrist curl is one of the best exercises to build strength in your forearm muscles which rarely get the attention they deserve. The increased strength will translate into heavier compound lifts and during an arm wrestling match, into better flexion strength when you are trying to pull your opponent’s arms inwards, towards you.

Developing forearm strength is critical to success in arm wrestling, particularly if you aren’t born with long forearms. 

Bicep Curls

what muscles are used in arm wrestling

Don’t let all the focus on the forearms and wrists shift the attention away from the biceps. They are called ‘The Guns’ for a reason. Use dumbbell curls, cambered bar curls, and isolation movements to target the different heads of the bicep.

When performed on the incline bench, it will activate your biceps a lot more and give you a much better stretch at the lowest point. 

Tricep Kickbacks

what muscles are used in arm wrestling

This simple exercise is one of the best ones for developing strong triceps, which will be very beneficial in helping you pull your opponent’s arm towards you. The triceps will also come into play at the final stage when you are about to tilt inwards, just before you pin their arm to the table as it becomes more of a pushing movement when it’s time to pin their hand rather than a pulling movement.

What other Exercises can I do to Strengthen the Muscles Used in Arm Wrestling?


Other than these simple dumbbell exercises, the neutral grip weighted vest hang is a terrific move to build forearm strength.

Moreover, it’s an isometric hold that builds a strong core as well.

Just put on a 10kg weighted vest, jump over to the pull up bar using a neutral grip and raise your body until the elbows are at 90-degrees. Hold this position for 10-counts, lower the body and repeat.

As you get stronger, you can increase the duration of the hold as well as increase the weight on the vest. 

Even something as simple as adding fat grips to the dumbbells can make a huge difference in overall muscle activation when you perform these moves.

A few other exercises that you can do to make your arms stronger are the dumbbell floor press, the dumbbell pullover, the underhand dumbbell row, and the seated tricep press.

Is Arm Wrestling dangerous?

If you do not have the strength and the right technique, then yes, arm wrestling can be extremely dangerous because it is one of the leading causes of a humeral fracture. 

So unless you wish to hear your arm snap like Mr. Glass from the Shyamalan movies, we recommend that you only get into arm wrestling if you have the expertise and the strength.

Is Arm Wrestling About Muscle or Technique?

Contrary to popular belief arm wrestling does have a lot to do with the amount of strong muscle that you have but it has more to do with the technique of how you use those muscles.

When you go to learn about arm wrestling and how to compete you will find that of course there is an emphasis on working your arm muscles out and getting them stronger but there is more of an emphasis on perfecting your technique and strategy. You do not need a crazy amount of muscle growth in your arm muscles to be a champ in arm wrestling.

If one had to choose whether to get strong or to perfect the technique of arm wrestling, one should choose to work on the technique first.

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Ben Mayz

Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now. My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future. I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics. My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics. Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward. You can learn more about Fitlifefanatics on our About Page

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