The Hook

As of course, almost all of you will know, arm wrestling is divided into three main techniques, the sub-variations of which branch out to cover everything that can be implemented at the table.

Today we will deal with what is mistakenly considered “rougher”: the Hook.

This article will be structured by points, from the types of hooks and their applications on the table, to how to train them; feel free to scroll to the chapter that interests you most!


There are different types of hooks, but first of all, what is Hook? What allows us to clearly distinguish this technique from others? The author suggests the following definition: given the position at the table, if the force is applied from the ulnar side of the arm, we are then executing a Hook. In the case of force from the radial side, we will instead be in a toproll position (the following distinction applies in the Hook – Toproll case, as it would also be possible to apply force in those directions in the Press).

The ideal Hook position is the same for each variation: the athlete must be able to place his own ulnar side (of the little finger) of the wrist against the radial side (of the thumb) of the opponent. More precisely, a point of contact between the ulnar styloid process (distal ulnar epiphysis) and the opposing radius would need to be found.

This position minimizes stress on the carpal and finger flexors, and ensures us an excellent “grip” to express our strength.

Another thing necessary for every variation of the Hook and for our safety is pronation (topic covered in the section dedicated to the muscles of this article).

☝️Hook with dorsal predominance. 

If an athlete with a very strong back tried to pull towards himself, the weakest link in the chain (and the first to give up) would almost certainly be the hand. This is why it is essential to arrive at the position described above, where your ulnar side comes into contact with the opponent’s radial side. From this position it will then be possible to drive towards yourself.

It is often natural to transition into Toproll towards the final phases close to the pad, this is very normal and due to our anatomy, which does not allow us to maintain supination once the shoulder lowers below the elbow.

(Muratov vs Prudnik round 1 for a visual example).

☝️Hook with articular predominance. 

This type of Hook originates when, once the contact position has been obtained, even if only marginal, one is forced into a defensive position of the opponent. In this situation, with a twist of the body opposite to the pulling arm, it is possible to unload part of the force exerted on our joint and bone structure, until the position is completely stabilized. Once the match has stabilized, it is possible to try to finish using any other technique, but in most cases this is done with a Press.

This variant is not recommended for novice athletes.

(Devon vs Taras Ivakin round 1 for a visual example).

☝️Side hook. 

Always from the ideal starting position, we rotate the body in the opposite direction to the table, to exacerbate the force generated by the torsion of our bone-joint structure. Obviously there is also back traction.

As you may have noticed, performing this technique is literally the opposite of what is recommended to avoid injuries and spiral fractures of the humerus.

(it should be noted that this, obviously used improperly, is the technique most used in pulling with friends with no knowledge of armwrestling, in competitive contexts, increasing the forces involved also increases the risk itself).

This variant is, therefore, STRONGLY NOT recommended for neophyte – intermediate athletes. 

(Bozhidar vs Samushia round 1 for a visual example).

These distinctions are obviously not immutable and incompatible with each other, but more nuances of the same gesture. In the winning phase of a pulled Hook, I could for example conclude the gesture through a lateral effort or through a Press transition, or vice versa. The author wanted to indicate the most probable option, but the execution is often athlete dependent.


The muscles involved in the gestures addressed above are numerous and extensive, let’s now divide them according to their functions.

The latissimus dorsi, the teres major, the posterior deltoid, the trapezius: these are the muscles that guarantee us a traction of considerable intensity, especially exploited in the first variant. Pull-ups, lat machines and rowing are valid exercises to improve these areas. (it should be noted that there is also a significant activation of the pectoral during the traction, as there is a diagonal movement, and not a simple traction in a straight line)

The biceps brachii, the brachialis, the anconeus, the brachioradialis: these are the muscles responsible for elbow flexion. Curls in their variations, supine grip chin-ups or neutral grip… are valid exercises for improving these muscles.

Flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor digitorum profundus: these are the muscles responsible for flexing the wrist and fingers. Wrist curls in their variations, static finger holds with specific handles, are valid exercises to improve these muscles.

As already mentioned, having a solid pronation is very important. In case of lack of pronation, in the case of a defensive position, most of the stress would be distributed only on the biceps, and in the case of an offensive position, joint stress (and consequent injuries) would be significantly increased.

Pronator teres, pronator quadratus are the muscles training the most, classic curls with a belt around the thumb, and pulley pronation exercises.

Other muscles that could provide advantages that should not be underestimated are the radial deviators (brachioradialis, extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris) which can be trained through reverse wrist curls, or, precisely, radial and ulnar deviations (the radial is nothing other than the commonly called “rising”, the ulnar deviation is the “downpressure”).

Obviously, the pectoralis major, the deltoid, the supra and supra spinatus, the teres minor, the subscapularis and the triceps should not be overlooked. These muscles, in addition to improving our performance at the table, will also allow us to stay healthy and prevent injuries.

Finally, it is recommended not to neglect mobility exercises and to carefully calibrate joint stress.

Martino Doni

Martino Doni

SBFI Athlete; Medical Student; Personal trainer; Training Methodologist

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