Train Like an Armwrestler
October 26th 2015
If it’s a cut physique and men’s magazine-level body you’re looking for, it’s an armwrestling training regimen you may need, which comes with a couple of benefits over traditional training – notably: insane hand and wrist strength, and a durability and power in connective tissues you never knew existed.
Training to be an elite armwrestler in the World Armwrestling League is far more than just pumping preacher curls for a few hours a day – it’s a full-body regimen meant to turn you into an industrial pile driver with the kick of a Howitzer and the endurance of mustang.
And to win at most levels, you’re gonna need a body fat percentage on par with an Olympic decathlete (so you better also eat right).
But it will hurt. You will be training parts of your anatomy that have grown soft with disuse, says Craig “The Fury” Tullier, a 42-year-old Louisiana veteran who’s been at it for 24 years and is battling his way back from surgery to remove floating bone fragments in his elbow.
WAL-level armwrestling requires two kinds of power, according to Tullier: quick burst strength to blast out of the gate and decisively pin your foe, and slow-burning, long-lasting power that grants you the endurance to hold out during a long match and finish your opponent off when they give away their position.
Armwrestling is all about setting up that position, and then exploiting your opponent when they make their move, Tullier says.
“You want to take your opponent’s hand and wrist,” he says. “You want them to make a mistake and try to come at you.”
This is all easier said than done. Watch “No Limits” Devon Larratt pin The Mountain from Game of Thrones. The Mountain has big biceps but no connective tissue conditioning. He hasn’t stretched out and exhausted every millimeter of his hands.
Basically, he had no chance.
But he could, with proper training. Training involves working out and exhausting all your connective tissues, those tendons and ligaments in your hand, arm and wrist. Those bits that never get worked over, Tullier said.
When the connective tissue AND the muscles are exhausted, Tullier said it’s like nothing else.
“Your muscles have nothing to support them,” he said of the exhaustion after an armwrestling workout. “Your hands and arms are literally just quivering, because they’re so weak.”
Tullier recalls having to drive home with his knees from training due to the exertion.
“Your muscle fatigue is not where the problems are,” he warns.
Well… no one said becoming a pro armwrestler would be easy. But no other professional sports league is offering ordinary people the chance to win big money, get on ESPN and accomplish something truly extraordinary.
Tullier’s tips for breaking your body down, armwrestling style.
1. Get wide “fat grip” handles for all your dumbbells and barbells
Tullier recommends buying some Fat Grips and attaching them to any and all dumbbells and barbells you work out with.
The simple grip expanders will help stretch out your hands at all times, flooding those connective tissues with blood, working them out and making them stronger in the process.
2. Go high reps
Do standard hammer curls and preacher curls, 12-20 reps, 4 sets. It’s all about conditioning as opposed to building insane muscles, Tullier says.
Do wrist curls, but do a minimum of 50 reps, Tullier says. Again, use the Fat Grips. And use gravity, he says. Sit at the edge of a bench, place your elbows on your knees, lean over slightly and let gravity pull the dumbbell to the floor. Then, lift ONLY by engaging your wrists. 5 sets of 50 reps.
Tullier says to start with what you can handle and build from there. Strength will come. “You can build it up,” he says. “I’ll take a 100-pound dumbbell, or a 120 and I’ll do 50 reps.”
The number of reps is more important than the weight, he says. You’re conditioning those oft-ignored muscles. “You got to get 50 reps,” he says. “You don’t wanna stop at 25 or 30.”
And that, young grasshopper, is going to hurt.
3. Get unusual
While pro pullers like Tullier emphasize some conventional gym exercises, there are also moves to build connective tissue strength that other athletes don’t know about.
Take the rice bucket.
Tullier takes a 5-gallon bucket, fills it with raw rice, and sticks his arm in there. He forces his hand and fingers nearly to the bottom, then starts trying to make a fist.
It’s harder than you think. The rice is so dense and unwelcoming, it’s like trying to dig your hand into the soil in your backyard.
Force your arm into that bucket. Try to make a fist, then try to do wrist curls in the rice. Pull your arm out. Repeat until you can’t do it anymore.
Tullier also uses a 16-pound shotput in his training. He palms the shotput and assumes the armwrestling position. Then he slowly edges the shotput or “cannonball” away from his palm to the very edges of his fingers, forcing his digits to hold the shotput and do more work than they’re used to as a result. Then he moves his wrist laterally back and forth, to and away from his head.
When he feels like he’s about to drop the cannonball, Tullier lets about an inch more of his fingers hold the ball, and again works his wrist laterally. He keeps doing that until exhaustion, introducing more of his fingers until he is finally palming the shotput again. He palms the shotput and does the lateral wrist moves until exhaustion.
That’s one set. Try to do a few.
“Your hand will just be fried,” Tullier says.
Tullier also does pullups by gripping two shotputs hung from the ceiling with a chain.
4. Don’t overdo it, and keep doing what you’re doing
Because hand and wrist training can be so intense and exhausting, Tullier recommends working those parts twice a week. If you’re doing these workouts twice a week and practicing armwrestling once a week, he says that’s sufficient.
But Tullier also recommends that you keep up your regular workout regimen. Armwrestling requires back, shoulder and arm strength as well. And when you get to the top level: weight control.
Like boxing, there are defined weight classes, and it’s always beneficial to get into the lowest possible class you can manage. To do it, most top pros maintain a strict diet, and walk into a WAL weigh-in without an ounce of extra fat.
5. Find the Scene
There are people armwrestling all across America and the world, Tullier says. Do some research online and you’ll find a crew to train with.
“I don’t mind helping people out,” Tullier says. “It’s their job to use it at the table.”
6. Assess in six months.
Some rare, genetically gifted guys can pick armwrestling up and find immediate success, Tullier says. But most men and women will have to work at it for a while. Tullier recommends assessing yourself after six months.
WAL superstar Spencer Lightningfire dedicated himself to training, hard, and rocketed up the WAL rankings, earning himself cash and ESPN airtime this year.(hyperlink Spencer Lightningfire article in here)
“Armwrestling kicked the lazy out of me,” he said.
So go get it! Like us on Facebook and find us on Instagram & Twitter at @WALUnderground. Send us workout questions on Facebook & Twitter, and we will help you get answers. Tweet and tag us photos of your workout regimen, using the hashtag #WALStrong. Hopefully we’ll see you at a table soon.