Pull-ups in Armwrestling

In this article we will specifically analyze every aspect concerning pull-ups and the transference they can provide to improve performance at the table. We will also see some practical applications.


Regardless of the sport that is practiced, the movement of the traction has a single executive parameter of reference, which allows you to maximize the stimulus and progress over time: you start with outstretched arms and pull, passing the chin over the bar both vertically and horizontally.

The technical reference parameter is fundamental, i.e. how we must move and which muscles to activate: the starting position requires the shoulder blades to be relaxed or semi-active; in the first traction phase they are activated (moving the shoulders away from the ears) by contracting the back and maintaining this activation until the closing phase.


The reason why it is essential to respect the technical reference seen above is that the traction movement considerably increases the strength of all the muscles of the back including: latissimus dorsi, teres major and minor, trapezius, scapular muscles, posterior deltoid, etc. , muscles that cover a very important role in arm wrestling, both for a hooker and for a top roller.

In part, it also guarantees a good work on the biceps, which is more activated after the first half of the movement up to the closing phase, which also depends a lot on the type and traction variant we are using.

The traction work plan is not specific for arm wrestling, but it is still a good idea to include it in your training program for 2 reasons:

• Reduce the risk of back injuries.

• Improving nervous coordination between pulling muscles (this gives transference on

mental connection at the table) and increase their strength above all.

It can also be very useful for enhancing the strength of the grip and fingers, points that are highlighted even more by adding a ballast over one’s own body weight.


I recommend including them in your training plan away from a race or any competition, up to about 2 months before, otherwise excessive stress would accumulate on the joints and tendons, compromising their performance. Of course this should not be absolutized. It is a movement that can be kept on the schedule even in the vicinity of the competitive period, above all for those subjects who, like me, have a nervous system that requires constant solicitation of the large muscle groups to perform at their best, but without overloading and maintaining a large buffer.


It is a movement that anyone can benefit from, regardless of level. Of course the more you are deficient, both at the table and in traction, the more advantages it will be to insert it.

N.B. For an armwrestler, improving traction should never be the primary focus. This is just one tool he will use on his journey, but it will always have a marginal and secondary impact on his performance at the table.


Here are the types that I consider most preparatory and useful for the BDF, in order of importance:

• Neutral: by far the most specific, the one that provides more direct transference and coordination for table techniques, and also the least stressful at the tendon-joint level. I recommend a shoulder-width or narrower grip.

• Prone: it is less specific than neutral but equally useful, especially for the involvement of the forearm flexors, hand grip, brachioradialis and back.

• Single arm: I recommend taking this type with a grain of salt for two reasons: it involves very high tendon stress and requires some strength requirements in order to be trained (at least 20-25 bodyweight pull-ups performed correctly). But if you have the right requirements and don’t exaggerate with volume and intensity, training it can give excellent results without compromising the specific performance.

• Supine: type that I would never recommend except if you are at a beginner level, to build excellent foundations of strength on the back and arms at that moment. The reason is due to the fact that, first (1) in this sport forced supination with an outstretched arm greatly increases the risk of injury and this worsens as the subject’s athletic level increases; second (2) doesn’t bring much tangible benefit to the table. Many perform it thinking that it can somehow improve the strength of the biceps, but the gesture itself is 70% back, plus the biceps intervene on a completely different work surface than what can be really useful for the table.


Now, always in order of importance, I will list the traction variants that I consider most useful and preparatory for the table:

 From 120° to closing: it is performed starting from a rise under the feet, which by grabbing the bar must allow our elbow to be open at an angle of about 120° at the start. This variant is the most specific and allows us to increase the strength we can express in an angle that simulates the start at the table very well. If done with a slight false grip it gives an extra gain thanks also to the participation of the wrist.

• To the forehead: execution is the same as for a normal traction, only that the movement ends at the forehead and the chin is not passed over the bar. This has a dual function: it greatly reduces the stress on the elbows (so it can also be used if you experience pain in that district); it allows you to greatly increase the strength of the back, given that it starts from a stretched position, and its reactivity and explosiveness in the start.

• Stop or Double time: consists of inserting one or more isometric stops at a specific point of the movement while you are pulling. This allows you to improve your pulling strength from a position where you are already tense.


This is certainly the most popular question regarding traction, but I will try to shed some light on this topic by also bringing practical examples.

To understand how to insert them into the card, you must first take into account 3 factors: frequency, volume, progressions. And obviously how these impact on a neural and tendon level.

– In the period away from competitions, I recommend a frequency of no more than two days. These are more than enough to guarantee that minimum transfer to the table and can help you better distribute the training volume. Furthermore, two different types or variations can be inserted in order to work on each point of the movement, also involving different muscle regions, equally involved at the table. As far as progressions go, this is the right time to hit the gas pedal, both with loads and with volume! Because being away from a competition, specific work will inevitably be reduced, consequently the nervous system and tendons will be available to guarantee a good job on this lift without increasing the risk of injury or running into overtraining.

– Close to the competitive period, on the other hand, I invite you to reduce the movement to once a week or remove it completely and use only the most specific type/variant. Furthermore, it is necessary to eliminate any progression on the movement and leave it stable in total maintenance. This obviously because it will be necessary to give priority to the specific work.

I recommend inserting it in the card always as the first exercise or among the first ones of general strength. If you set up a pull/push split it is most optimal to put it on the pull day. It is indifferent to the speech “hook day, top roll day”. In this context, it can be inserted on any day, given that it is preparatory for both techniques.

Example of split away from a competition:

Prone traction up to the forehead (volume progression) Neutral traction from 120° rise to closure at the chin 
Exercise x of general strength Exercise x of general strength
Exercise x of static back pressure Exercise x of dynamic back pressure
Side pressure exercise x Pronation exercise x 

Example of a split near a competition:

Full neutral traction(volume and intensity reduced, RPE 7-8 stable)  Prone Forehead Traction (RPE 6-7) 
Exercise x of back pressure Exercise x of side pressure
Pronation exercise x Back pressure exercise x
Rise exercise x Pronation exercise x 
Wrist exercise x Wrist exercise x
Christian Nobile

Christian Nobile

Atleta senior SBFI Allenatore di braccio di ferro Personal trainer Invictus

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