When an arm wrestling challenge arises in bars or backyards, more often than not, one person gets accused of having an unfair advantage because they have longer or shorter arms. Believe it or not, arm wrestling is a very intricate contest that has a lot of skill involved. A weaker man with good technique will still be able to beat a stronger one who has little or no technique.
Arm wrestling is not just simply a function of a single muscle, but an entire kinematic chain that is comprised of your lower limbs, trunk and arm. This leads to more contributing factors than just the length of your forearm.
Large arms are not required in order to be a successful arm wrestler. On the professional level, many arm wrestlers do, in fact, have large arms, but that’s a given. Armwrestling is a specialised sport with a specialised set of movements. Strength is needed to perform technique, however not all strength correlates into size. The dynamic movement of the biceps contracting is not often used in arm wrestling, and subsequently bicep size has little bearing success at the table. Larger muscles do provide a larger base for your tendons, however, so size can sometimes be indicative of potential, but that’s really dependent on a myriad of other factors.
The amount of force your muscles will be able to generate depends on your tendons. In an unusual range of motion such as armwrestling the tendons are not built up to take the kind of load the muscles are capable of putting on the arm. If the tendons can only withstand a 5 lb curl, then you will not be able to curl 7 lbs (even though your muscles could easily handle that weight) because the muscles cannot pull their hardest due to the tendons limiting their ability.
Many factors come into play when looking at potential success in arm wrestling. The two largest are arm strength and technique. Minor factors, like arm length, muscle density, hand size, wrist endurance, and flexibility also can come into play. These become more consequential when 2 individuals are of similar strength. When two people are of equal strength and using similar techniques, the little things become much more significant.
So in arm wrestling’s unusual range of motion if your tendons are not strong enough you will not be able to pull your hardest. While some people may be really strong (but they haven’t worked tendons) their tendons limit their ability to pull resulting in a loss to a smaller weaker person (who has trained tendons) whose tendons allow their muscles to pull at their full capacity.
Why a man with very muscular arms won’t always win an arm wrestling match against someone with significantly less arm muscle?
There are many variables that come into play in an armwrestling match, but one answer as to why a person with a larger hand and wrist has an advantage in armwrestling has less to do with strength, and more to do with leverage. In armwrestling, you and your opponent lock hands and attempt to pin each other to a pad on either side of the table.
To pin your opponent, you must pull his arm/hand down. Doing so requires not only enough strength to move his arm, but also a secure grip of his hand and wrist. The simple fact that a thick hand and wrist are more difficult to maintain a secure grip on give a person with a thick hand an advantage, and the fact that a long hand can cover more of an opponent’s hand gives the person with a longer hand an advantage. Imagine palming a basketball vs palming a shot put.
Why is it more difficult to maintain control of a 22 ounce basketball with one hand than it is to maintain control of a 16 pound shot put? You can get a more secure grip on the shot-put, that’s why!