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Arm Wrestling Rules and Regulations

You need power, brute strength, and strong arm leverage to compete in the rules of arm wrestling UK. This guide summarizes hand wrestling rules according to the British Armwrestling Federation.

Rules of ARM Wrestling UK: You may not need to know the official arm wrestle rules for a friendly challenge.

But, all professionals need to understand the international arm wrestling rules and regulations. It is necessary if you want to compete in official international competitions.

That is how you avoid an immediate disqualification from the game. The World Armwrestling Federation (WAF) governs professional tournaments.

Many believe that 2000 B.C. is roughly when the sport of arm wrestling first started.

Images and pictures depicting arm wrestling competitions on ancient Egyptian tombs tend to add weight to the claim.

In more recent times, in fact only a few hundreds of years ago, Native Americans also held serious arm wrestling competitions.

The modern sport of professional arm wrestling became more widespread from the 1960s. Its popularization occurred in local taverns and at carnivals. Even today, it is not uncommon in fairgrounds around the United Kingdom and worldwide.

Rules of Arm Wrestling

Object of Arm Wrestling Sport

The aim of arm wrestling is to overpower your challenger in a physical strong-man dual. The result shows who has the most arm and wrist leverage.

Hand wrestlers achieve this by using their arm, wrist, and shoulder. It is a powerful display of strength, leverage, and technique on top of a table. Each competitor attempts to force their opponent’s arm down to strike or touch a table to win the contest.

Arm Wrestle Rules for Challengers

The official rules and regulations of arm wrestling competitions allow two individual challengers.

They face each other sitting (or standing) opposite to each other. There is a table positioned mid-way between them.

Both challengers place one elbow ‘firmly‘ on the table gripping the other’s hand.

Arm Wrestling Equipment Specifications

  • Official arm wrestling rules allow the opponents to compete while standing or sitting.
  • The height of the table is 40 inches from the floor to the top of the table for standing competitions.
  • The height of the table is 28 inches from the floor for seated competitions.
  • International arm wrestling tables should measure 36 inches across and 26 inches deep. They should contain two separate 6-inch high pegs which measure one inch in diameter.
  • Both pegs should get positioned 1 inch inside, halfway along, and in the middle of the table edge.
  • Competitors rest their elbows on 2-inch thick pin pads. Each pad should get positioned two inches inside from their respective edge.
  • Both touch pads should be at an angle and half of one inch from their respective edge.

Clothing Requirements in Arm Wrestling

  • Both competitors must wear a uniform. It should be identifiable to their home country during world professional competitions.
  • Wrestlers can only wear short sleeve or sleeveless shirts (with limited advertising). This rule applies no matter which competition you are competing in.
  • Wearing jeans is not allowed but sports pants are usually permitted. Wearing shoes is a requirement.
  • Arm wrestling rules and regulations do not allow challengers to have any type of wrist wrap or support. The same rule applies to elastic bandage or any other substance on their arms and hands.
  • Female wrestlers with long hair (or men) must have it tied back or restrained appropriately.
  • Any violation of these arm wrestle rules is grounds for disqualification.
  • The referee can allow a bandage for a cut. But, wearing jewellery or a hat is against the rules for arm wrestling.

General Rules to Arm Wrestling

  • Armwrestling regulations allow 60 seconds for both competitors to report to the table after they get called.
  • Failing to be at the table within one minute means a forfeiture of the match.
  • Both challengers must be square to the arm wrestling table before the start of any given match.
  • The term ‘set grip‘ gets called by the tournament referee. The competitors then have a further 60 seconds to negotiate a grip.
  • You cannot touch any part of your body with any of your hands during a competition.
  • Basic Setup in Arm Wrestling:
    • A proper setup requires a palm-to-palm grip with your thumb knuckle showing.
    • Gripped hands must be level over the center of the table and your wrists must be straight.
    • Shoulders must be square to the table and your free hand must grip the hand peg.
    • Your shoulders should not be less than a fist distance away from your hands.
    • The rules allow you to wrap your leg around the leg of the table or brace it against the opposite leg. That is providing it does not interfere with your opponent.
  • Setting the Grip Regulations
  • Competitors must keep one foot in contact with the floor at all times.
  • Wrestlers must keep their non-pulling hand in contact with the peg.
  • Both competitors must follow all the commands given by the referee during each set.
  • Competitors must set their competing elbow on the elbow pad, square their shoulders, and present an open hand. It should be such that the angle of their competing arm results with the fingers pointing at their opponent.
  • The referee will center the hands on the table so that the webbing between the thumb and index finger is level, close, and tightly set.
  • When the referee holds the competitors’ fingers he gives the command ‘close your thumbs‘ and then ‘close your hands
  • When both wrists are straight with thumbs and hands closed, the referee gives the command ‘Ready‘ and then ‘GO‘ to start the contest.
  • Pin Rules
  • Competitors must touch any portion of their opponent’s wrist to their fingertips on to the pin pad for a win.
  • A parallel pin will occur when any part of their opponent’s wrist to their fingertips breaks the pin line.
  • Slip Rules
  • A slip occurs if the hands separate completely during the match and all slips will result in a restart.

Arm Wrestling Fouls

There are no warnings given in competitive arm wrestling (i.e. for false starts and most fouls). You will get disqualified from the match if you commit three fouls. The most common fouls in arm wrestling include:

  • Bending your wrists or closing your hand to cover your opponent’s thumb knuckle.
  • Moving your fingers out of position or making a false start.
  • Re-gripping after a referee has set your grip.
  • Lifting your elbow vertically off the pad to gain an advantage.
  • Losing contact on the top of elbow pad with the tip of your elbow at any time during the match.
  • Intentionally slipping out of your grip also results in a foul.
  • Leaning over to allow your shoulders to extend past the center line of the table.
  • Touching any part of your body (e.g. chin, shoulder, head).
  • You will receive a foul for abusing an official, displaying poor sportsmanship, or using bad language.

Arm Wrestling Competitor Divisions

  • International arm wrestling competitions get held around the world for men, women, and youngsters. They take place in various weight classes and competitor divisions.
  • The World Arm Wrestling Championship is an annual even. It features the best arm wrestlers from over 70 different countries.
  • The WAF recognizes several male and female, right and left arm age divisions.
  • Children as young as 12 compete in the Sub Junior division. Whereas, the Junior division is for children aged between 12 and 18.
  • Competitors older than 18 should enter the Senior division.
  • You can compete in the Masters if you are 40 or older. The Grand Masters division is for anyone age 50 or older.
  • Each age division offers several weight classes. Participants will get weighed in before the start of the competition.
  • In the United Kingdom, the British Armwrestling Federation (BAF) is the official governing body of armwrestling. They continually strive to develop armwrestling around Great Britain.

Arm Wrestling Moves and Techniques

Arm Wrestling consists of three basic moves and techniques:

  • The Hook: The Hook is the most common move in arm wrestling. It is the one you see most in televised competitions.
    • How to perform the Hook:
      • Curl your wrist as hard as you can and get your body over your arm.
      • Keep your arm close to your body and pin your opponent by pushing downing with your arm and body.
      • A successful Hook is easier when you are stronger than your opponent and have good strength in your biceps and forearms.
  • The Toproll: The Toproll is a good move for beating inexperienced challengers. This move relies more on leverage than strength so you might use it to beat your older siblings.
  • How to perform the Toproll:
    • The goal of the Toproll is to put pressure on your opponent’s fingers, so their hand opens up and you can gain leverage.
    • The key to the toproll is to move quickly and get high on your opponent’s hand.
    • Once their hand gets opened up, you should be able to move further out on their fingers.
    • This often makes it difficult for them to outmuscle you even if they are stronger.
    • The higher you get, the more leverage you gain on your opponent’s arm and the easier they are to take down.
  • The Press: The Press is a pure power move in arm wrestling. It works best when you are as strong (or stronger) than your opponent.
  • How to perform the Press:
    • The key to the Press is to get your opponent’s palm to face up toward the ceiling with your own hand on top of his.
    • Once your opponent is in this position, get your body over your arm and push down your opponent’s hand, using your upper body and arm.

Referee in Arm Wrestling

Note: You should never stop arm wrestling until or unless a referee stops the competition.

The referee calls and announces any fouls committed. Do not assume any decisions by yourself. The tournament referee can stop the match immediately, and rule it as a foul. This can occur if either player is in a position such that their arm could break or get seriously damaged.

Referees also have the authority to give a disciplinary foul for or any unsportsmanlike conduct. All decisions made by the match officials are final. Violent or poor conduct can also result in removal from the event and forfeiture of any placements or awards.

How to Win an Arm Wrestle Contest

As a rule, the best-out-of-three matches is the winner. There is usually a 60-second rest between each of the three pulls. Winning is most commonly achieved by:

  • Pinning Your Opponent: Forcing their hand to touch or go beyond the touch pad anywhere from the wrist line to their fingertips.
  • Forcing your opponent to commit two fouls in the match. You also win if your challenger fails to get to the table within 60 seconds of calling.
  • You will be the winner if your opponent commits a foul when their hand is a more than two-thirds of the way down toward the losing touch pad. The same rule applies if they suffer a match-ending injury.

Advanced Arm Wrestling Regulations


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