In This Arms Race, Hand Control Wins the Day

July 31st 2015

Sure, it’s called the World Armwrestling League for a reason. The sport’s best competitors have some of the most intimidating biceps and vascular forearms you’ll ever see.

But it’s the humble hand, so often overlooked by non-arm-wrestlers, that ultimately dictates victory or defeat at the table.

“The hand is your foundation,” says  “Lightning” Luke Kindt, a 2014 WAL Championships 4th place finisher and stalwart of the league. “It’s what separates you from the rest.”

Pay attention, newcomers. You won’t ascend the WAL’s ranks and take a stack of cash home from a tournament without training up your hands. A strong hand allows an arm-wrestler to set the tone of the match, Kindt said, and dominate until the pin.

“Having a strong hand means you’re controlling your opponent,” the California resident said. “A lot of times, somebody can be a physically stronger athlete than you, but when you have a stronger hand, you can control them, and manipulate them in the direction you want to go.”

Strong, well-trained hands will help a new competitor realize whether they will generally attack with “The Hook,” or a “Top Roll,” styles that require different hand movements and initial positions, but nonetheless both require similar strength.

A competitor can’t get into position to pin their foe without the hand and wrist strength necessary to establish position and pull off a successful attack.

“You can have a stronger bicep, a stronger shoulder, a stronger back, but the hand is what controls where the match goes,” Kindt said.

In the WAL’s 2015 regional tournaments and championships, it’s all about conserving strength in the early rounds, Kindt said, so that you’re as fresh as humanly possible when it comes time to fight for the money.

“A strong hand really plays into how your day ends up,” he said.

So how do you build up your hand strength? It’s not a body part most lifters pay much mind to. For Kindt, it’s all about little tweaks to his regimen that strengthen his hands while he’s sculpting the rest of his body.

“Everything I do in the gym, whether it be a back day, an arm day, I try to add my hand strengthening into almost every single exercise,” he said.

He adds oversized grips to every barbell and dumbbell he uses. The pad opens his hands up and force the wrists and forearms to work that much harder. 

“I’m insane when it comes to how much hand and wrist training I do, because I know how important it is,” Kindt said.

Those squeezer-style hand grippers should be avoided, he said. Instead, incorporating slight changes to a regular weightlifting routine can make WAL-worthy hands. Kindt also does pull-ups with his knuckles facing at slight angles, so the weight of his body is going across the center of those knuckles.

He supinates and pronates his wrists during hammer curls, and continues to study ways to get better.

“It really comes down to being super, super disciplined,” he said. “You can’t build a hand overnight.”

He and other lightweight contenders will want to make sure they’re putting in their work. Kindt and his longtime rival “Mr. Intensity” Allen Fisher, a 59-year-old primal force in the sport with a pair of genetically-outsized, gnarled paws, will likely battle for supremacy in the WAL’s Western Region, while contenders like Geoff Hale, Paul Talbott and Janis Amolins will fight to meet them in the 2015 Championships this July.