What is Arm Wrestling?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Arm wrestling is a type of athletic contest. In an arm wrestling contest, there are two competitors. Each competitor positions one elbow on a table or flat surface, then grasps the hand of his or her opponent and attempts to force it back to connect with the table.

Arm wrestling began in a saloon.
Arm wrestling began in a saloon.

Many people don’t think of arm wrestling as a sport. They don’t consider that arm wrestling requires many things used in other sports, including physical strength, stamina, and skill. A good deal of perceptiveness is also necessary for success in arm wrestling.

Arm wrestlers use strength and stamina to win.
Arm wrestlers use strength and stamina to win.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to enjoy their first experiences with arm wrestling at parties or in bars. However, arm wrestling exists as more than just a Saturday night past time. Competitive arm wrestling is an organized sport with very specific rules, techniques, and divisions.

The American Armsport Association (AAA) promotes the sport of arm wrestling. Sanctioned by AAA, organized arm wrestling involves two competitors, each standing at a table referred to as a tournament table. There are strict rules involved, fouls, and certain actions that lead to penalties. Some moves can even lead to forfeiture of a match. For example, breaking the hand grasp with an opponent in order to avoid an arm pin typically leads to forfeiture.

Arm wrestling has a very long history. As an organized sport, it has been around since 1952. The very first matches took place in Petaluma, California, in a saloon. A journalist named Bill Soberanes is credited with founding the sport.

Like many other sports, there are different classes in arm wrestling. For tournaments, contestants are divided into classes by weight. There are separate divisions for those who wrestle using their right hand, as opposed to those who favor their left hand.

There are many organizations that strive to support and promote competitive arm wrestling. Some organizations are local, representing certain regions, while others seek to promote the sport on an international level. Many devote much time and effort to improving the image people have of arm wrestling, encouraging its recognition as a legitimate sport.

Arm wrestling appeals to a wide range of individuals, of all ages and backgrounds. It can be as exciting for women as it is for men. Many individuals enjoy the sport purely for fun, while others approach it with the type of dedication and tenacity common in true competitors.

Professional arm wrestlers lift weights to help increase stamina.
Professional arm wrestlers lift weights to help increase stamina.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


Arm wrestling can be a very competitive sport, and it's a lot more intense than some people think. As the article (indirectly) stated, there's more to that sport than seeing who can slam their opponent's arm on the table.

Just a thought, but has anyone here seen the episode of Hey Arnold called "Harold vs Big Patty"? It's a great episode that really shows how competitive arm wrestling is.


@Chmander - I definitely agree with you, as I have had several bad instances where my arm has been twisted while arm wrestling.

However, to further reduce these accidents and mishaps, it's best to make sure that both arms (from you and your opponent) are firmly positioned. That way, if you were to lose, or vice versa, there would be no physical injuries.


Maybe it's just me, but does anyone think that arm wrestling can be very dangerous? I know the article doesn't put much emphasis on it, but I still think it's something that needs to be taken into consideration. For example, whenever someone winds the match, if their arm is twisted the wrong way, it could end up hurting very badly. In some cases, I've even heard that it can get broken or twisted. Does anyone else feel the same way?

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