Arm wrestling is all about leverages, angles, and position so it would make sense to expect arm length would play a pretty important role. Is it better to have longer or shorter arms? Does it really make much of a difference?
Typically, the athlete with longer arms will benefit from a slight biomechanical advantage in arm wrestling, however this isn’t always the case and there’s many factors to consider.
In this article I’m going to explain the advantages and drawbacks of different arm lengths in arm wrestling as well as teach you how to make the most of your own biomechanical hardware so that you’re more effective against different types of opponents.
Arm Length Has Fairly Little Impact On Outcome
I want to make the point that, while arm length is an interesting factor to think about, it’s not some unexploitable biomechanical gift from the Gods that’ll make you win every arm wrestling match forever.
It’s impossible to quantify just how big of an advantage or disadvantage your arm length will yield in a match. But it’s usually going to be really small either way.
Really good arm wrestlers are able to identify unique strategies and approaches for opponents who possess different characteristics.
Top arm wrestlers don’t approach a really tall top roller with huge long forearms and giant hands the same way as they do a shorter inside puller with tiny hands and massive side pressure.
You ought to look at each individual opponent as a puzzle. Figure out where they’re longer, bigger, stronger, and weaker than you – and then devise a plan to leverage your own unique strengths to maximally exploit their weaknesses.
We’ll get into this in a little more detail shortly.
Advantages Of A Longer Forearm In Arm Wrestling
Having a longer forearm in arm wrestling is often seen as being advantageous, and it certainly can be if you know how to use it.
If you think about the objective of arm wrestling, it’s to apply force to move your opponent in the direction of the pin pad. A longer forearm allows an arm wrestler to establish greater height which forces their opponent to have to essentially ‘climb over’ the top of your hand or go straight through it with sheer side pressure.
A longer forearm doesn’t make it any easier for you to pin your opponent, but it can make it a lot tougher for your opponent to pin you.
Ryan Bowen describes this biomechanical advantage as “denial of your opponent’s pin route”.1
With a great big forearm, you’re essentially putting a road block in front of your opponent which says “detour ahead” if they want to win the match.
If your opponent has a shorter arm, they’ll struggle to get over the top of your hand without lifting their elbow off the pad.
In the past, John Brzenk has described those with a longer forearm have the advantage in “getting over the top” and that these athletes should focus on establishing a leverage advantage by attacking the fingers and wrist of their shorter opponent.
In essence, the longer arm lends itself toward top rolling and outside pulling. Athletes with longer arms should double down on this by developing posting and rising strength so they can maintain height throughout the match.
When they find themselves inside, the high hook is going to be one of the most dominant positions for these athletes.
These pullers also tend to benefit more the longer a match lasts. They’re often happy to sit on that high hand advantage and bleed their opponent out.
Devon Larratt is a great example of one of these arm wrestlers. If he isn’t pinned within the first couple seconds, he’s going to establish a height advantage and then wait for his opponent to tire out.
Disadvantages Of A Longer Forearm In Arm Wrestling
The primary disadvantage of having a longer forearm is the inverse of its biggest advantage… That means it’s harder for you to drive your opponent to the pin pad.
The force required to drive your arm towards the pad is a multiplier of the length of your forearm.
In the above diagram, we have one long arm and one short arm. The arrow represents the total distance (or work) to the pin pad. You can see how having a shorter arm requires less work to reach the desired outcome.
Imagine having a 10 foot long forearm. Imagine how difficult would it be to generate force to move your arm towards the pin pad. The amount of work required is going to be a lot higher to get the pin.
Think of the bench press. Shorter arms means less distance to move the weight and less work required. Essentially, they’re more efficient at completing the movement.
Guys with bigger arms reclaim some of that advantage in the bench press because they have more muscle mass to distribute the load, but in arm wrestling, everyone has lots of muscle mass so leverage lengths become more important.
Naturally, arm wrestlers with longer forearms tend not to be great inside pullers because they’re biomechanically less efficient at driving to the pad.
Advantages Of A Shorter Forearm In Arm Wrestling
John Brzenk once claimed that the ultimate biomechanical setup in arm wrestling is having a short forearm and a large hand. The large hand will allow you to access your bicep through cupping and the short forearm will allow you to drive your opponent to the pad as forcefully as possible.
It’s the opposite of having that hypothetical 10 foot forearm we discussed above: to get to the pin pad requires significantly less work, which means you can produce more output with the strength you have.
Todd Hutchings is the best example of an arm wrestler with a short forearm who uses it to his advantage extremely well.
Todd’s forearm is only 10 inches in length. Many arm wrestlers have measurements of over 13 inches, but Todd is oftentimes able to completely dominate guys with similarly long arms.
How does he do it? Side pressure.
We’ve been talking a lot about ‘driving to the pin pad’ and side pressure is the most efficient way of doing this, especially if you have 10″ long forearms! Todd is the human example of the right hand side of the above diagram.
Side pressure, inside arm wrestling/hooking will be the biomechanical strong suits of arm wrestlers with a shorter arm. It’s rare to see these guys looking to take the match outside.
These athletes usually want to finish a match as quickly as possible. They want to swiftly overpower their opponent and not give them a chance to establish a leverage advantage, which will be harder to overcome the longer a match lasts.
Disadvantages Of A Shorter Forearm In Arm Wrestling
If the short armed athlete is unable to quickly secure a pin, they will be severely handicapped the longer a match goes on due to fatigue and conceding a leverage advantage to the longer athlete.
Play To Your Strengths & Isolate Your Opponent’s Weaknesses
The best thing you can do is understand your strengths and select a strategy that compliments them.
If you want to take things further, you’ll also need to understand your opponent’s strengths and the strategy they’re likely to select.
In the end, you’re left with two athletes making full use of their God given attributes while at the same time desperately trying to exploit their opponent’s shortcomings.
Are Longer Or Shorter Arms More Suited To Hook/Top Roll?
If you’ve read the article so far, it should be fairly obvious that longer arms will gravitate towards outside (top roll) arm wrestling, and shorter arms typically find themselves pulling inside (hook) more often.
But this doesn’t by any means imply you can’t be a great hooker with long arms or a great top roller with short arms. It’s all been done before and arm length is simply one of many factors to consider.
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot how long your arms are in arm wrestling.
As Toddzilla has shown us, having short arms is by no means a death sentence in the sport of arm wrestling.
What he also taught us is that if you really lean into your strengths and model your entire approach to maximizing the effectiveness of that one lane, you can consistently dominate in the sport of arm wrestling.
I want to leave you with this excellent video by Australian arm wrestler Ryan Bowen who expands on some of the concepts I’ve discussed here today.