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What Muscles Are Used in Arm Wrestling? (Hint: NOT Just Your Arms!)

Want to know which muscles you're putting to the test during an arm wrestle?

We've all seen it before.

Maybe we've got memories of ourselves sitting in the center of the classroom, locked in an arm wrestle with everyone else watching and cheering us on!

Or maybe you used to arm wrestle with your friends and family just to test your strength and see how much you were growing.

No matter the reason, practically every male reading this has engaged in an arm wrestle before.

As arm wrestling grows in popularity as a sport and test of strength, it's becoming more and more important to know how it's won and what your body is actually doing during this battle of strength.

And while most people tend to think that it's simply a test of bicep strength between the two wrestlers, it's actually much, much more than that.

If you're wondering exactly what muscles are used in arm wrestling, you've come to the right place.

Now before we start, we will preface this by saying that depending on your technique and where you are in the range of motion, the muscles you're actively engaging will differ.

But generally, these are the primary muscle groups being used.

Let's get into it.

What Muscles Are Used in Arm Wrestling?

Everyone seems to have this idea that it's a battle of brute force between the biceps, and only the biceps.

But really, a large majority of the upper body muscles are involved in winning this contest.


Of course, the biceps.

This is the muscle group responsible for flexing your elbow, or curling it towards you.

It should also be noted that due to you taking more of a 'hammer' style grip or neutral grip like you would in a dumbbell hammer curl, your brachialis is also going to be heavily stimulated and tested during an arm wrestle.

When you're locked in an arm wrestle, you're fighting against the strength of your opponent to not let them pin your arm down.

And while the majority of the motion is sideways, your biceps need to be strong enough so that your arm doesn't get flattened and your opponent doesn't pull your arm straight.

That is, you need to make sure that your opponent isn't able to break your arm out of its locked, flexed-elbow state.

It's no secret that the biceps are flexing extremely hard during an arm wrestle, and that's because they're probably the most important muscle group engaged.


A lot of people don't actually know this, but your forearms are playing a key part in your arm wrestling success (or struggles!).

Your forearms are the key muscles responsible for your grip strength.

That is, how tightly you can squeeze your hand and grip onto something.

And yes, that does have an impact on your arm wrestling.

Having a strong grip is going to give you that strong base to work off of and ensure that you can maximize your force through your rigid forearms.

Because if you aren't able to grip onto your opponent's hand properly, and your wrist is being bent back or you're fighting to even keep your grip, you're not going to be able to pull their arm down and win. It's not really possible.

Plus, if you're doing the standard arm wrestling rules of allowing you to bend your opponent's wrist back by curling yours forward (known as 'the hook'), that movement and the contest to bend each other's wrist back is all a battle of wrist flexor (forearm) strength.

And if you've ever been in that position where you were able to hook someone else's wrist back, you'll know that it is extremely advantageous to have stronger forearms than your opponent.

So yes, forearms do play a massive part in arm wrestling.


The motion of pinning your opponent's arm down to the side is a battle of internal rotation of each contestant's shoulders.

That is, rotating your arms sideways in towards the direction of your torso through movement at the shoulder.

Your subscapularis is the largest and strongest muscle muscle of the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles responsible for the motion of internally and externally rotating your shoulder.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not the biceps that are really responsible for the winning motion of an arm wrestle. It's the rotator cuff.


This isn't all that well known, but your chest is actually also engaged a little during an arm wrestle.

That's because they do actually move a little bit during the motion of internally rotating your shoulders.

You can try it now!

If you're just sitting down, just go through the motion of internally rotating your shoulders and place a hand on your pecs (on the same side obviously), and you'll notice that the pecs are moving as well!

The chest doesn't play a massively important part, but they do help and do get engaged.

Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)

Who knew, even the muscles of the back would get engaged in an ARM wrestle!

Similarly to the past two groups of muscles, the lats also play a part in shoulder internal rotation.

On top of this, if you're doing your arm wrestles standing at a table, you'll easily be able to feel your lats engaging as you pull against your opponent's arm and pull it towards you.

That's why if you watch videos of professional arm wrestlers, you'll see their backs engaged heavily as they tug against each other. Kind of like the way your back gets engaged during a seated cable row, even before you initiate the actual rowing movement itself.

P.S: If you're wanting to learn more about how to build strength and muscle mass in the places that matter, for arm wrestling or other purposes, check out the rest of our blog here at Gympulsive for loads more health and fitness content!

To Wrap Things Up

And there you have it!

Who knew that a sport known as ARM wrestling could include such a massive variety of upper body muscle groups!

Some might even go as far to say that muscle groups like the obliques and legs are involved when you lean to the side to finish off your opponent.

But that's simply too far for us, we and think that's a little over the top.

What do YOU think?

All in all we hope you've been able to learn something from this article and have found it useful to you in some way!

Whether you're an aspiring professional arm wrestler wanting to know which muscle groups to focus on, or you're just wanting to learn a little bit more about the way arm wrestling actually works, we hope you've enjoyed reading.

Best of luck with your arm wrestling!


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