Winning with Endurance

April 15th 2015

In the World Armwrestling League, many matches feature explosive bouts of strength, where contests come to an end when one combatant finds a crack in his opponent’s armor and exploits it to smash him to the pad in a second or two. 

Matches can be over in a blink. 

Or, in cases where arm-wrestlers get locked in to even grips, the match can swing the other way - into an all-out strength battle known as a “war,” which can last minutes.  It’s in those cases that an arm-wrestler’s endurance is a huge factor, and there are specialists who thrive in these fights - wearing down an opponent until he is too tired to resist.

Ron “The High Chief” Klemba, a 2014 third-place finisher at the WAL 2014 Championships in New Orleans in the lightweight division, is one of those warriors and a man who has seen his share of long matches.

A psychotherapist by day, the 57-year-old Klemba did battle for an insane 10 minutes at a match last year, for instance.

“It’s very unusual to go more than a minute,” he said. “Every once in a while when you’re tangled up, you’ve gotta hunker down and settle in, especially if you’re not in jeopardy.”

Klemba’s marathon matches found him in a position where his opponent could not overpower him for the pin, meaning he was able to hold out for longer than normal.

“Everybody has a signature move, a strong place, a strong point,” the Connecticut resident said. “I fight a lot of guys that are tremendously powerful in one place, and the object is to keep them from going there.”

So how does an arm-wrestler go about building up High-Chief-level endurance for competition? Table time is key to building endurance, Klemba said. There is no substitute for long, long practice sessions that force you to dig more fuel out of your spent tank.

Klemba and his training partners practice power moves for hours, then do lightning fast pins at the end of the session. When you feel fatigued with one move, work other moves, he said.

“People don’t realize they need to be versatile at the table,” Klemba noted.

For gym training, Klemba likes to do a pull up and not come down. Just hold yourself there. Flexed.

“The dynamic part of the exercise is changing hand position while never coming down,” he said, a move that builds strength for when you find yourself in a long stalemate and need to stay in a locked arm position.

The initial effort is always to destroy an opponent quickly, Klemba said. But in some of his long matches, he has had his foe within an inch of a pin before his wrist started failing, and he couldn’t end it. Klemba said he likes training with the veterans and the newcomers, because they offer different things.

Battling the newbies allows him to build endurance as well.

“They can’t pull through, I’m just going to sit there and allow them to try and try and try,” he said. “It’s beneficial both ways.”

That, after all, is what training to compete in the WAL is all about.

“I want to leave beat up,” Klemba said of quality training sessions. “And I want them to leave beat up. Not broken, just beat up.”