Training Tips - Building Stamina - March 2008

I was recently asked about building stamina. The person told me about how they are doing sets of 20 to increase their stamina. The first thing I mentioned was that doing sets of 20, 30 or more would do nothing for stamina. Now note that this is coming from a person that did sets of 500 hammer curls. Yes, 500! I was using 17lb dumbbells. I was mistakenly told that doing high reps such as these would increase stamina. I started out doing sets of 200 and built my way up to 500. However one time I decided to keep going as far as I could. Well I reached 800 reps.

How did I get that high? I started thinking as I was going that my arms weren’t getting tired I was just stopping at whatever number I decided and I would push it as far as I could. “After all this would have to help my stamina”. After passing 500, 600, 700 I was getting bored for it seemed that I could go all day. This was not a way to build stamina but I did learn a lesson from this routine that I’ll mention later on.

Building stamina for arm wrestling consists of 3 components: proper gym routine, table time and cardiovascular fitness. Having a proper gym routine is vital for armwrestling success. You need to get there on a regular basis and have a program in place that is set up in phases.


To build stamina in the gym you need to mix up your reps between 6-12 or 8-15. You should not be doing sets of more than 15. Your weights should also change as you change the number of reps. If for example you are doing sets of 10 and your next set are 8 reps than you have to raise your weight. Also if your set is 10 reps than you shouldn’t be able to do 12 reps with that weight. If you can than you are using too light a weight.

Now the important part about your sets is the time between sets. For sets such as the ones listed above the maximum rest between sets should be one minute. More time than that is giving your muscles too much recuperating time. If you are working out with a partner than it should work out that as soon as one is finished then the next one starts. No other breaks!

Table time is the most important thing that you can do to improve your arm wrestling ability. This is especially true for stamina. However as in the gym the quality of table time is more important than the quantity of table time. If you are looking to boost stamina have several people ready to tug on your arm. Try to keep them different sizes and different styles, after all you don’t want to be strong in only one area and weak in others.

With these different arms and hands, place yourself in the winning position without pining your opponent then come back to centre and hold there for a while and also in the losing position. You should also mix this up by going to the losing position and holding there and try to work your way back.

I mentioned in the first paragraph about a lesson I learned from doing so many reps; I learned that more often than not it is your mind that quits on a match and not your arm. Mentally you’re thinking that you can’t win the match and give up, when you don’t know the extent of your opponents exhaustion. They may be exerting the last of their power, but you gave up first.

It is important to note however that you need to consider where in the tournament you are. Sometimes it is better to lose a first round match and save yourself for later. If however you are on the “B” side you have nothing to save yourself for if you lose.

The third component to stamina is cardio. Whether you are doing manual labour, working out or in a tough match your muscles need oxygen. Having a sufficient oxygen supply is vital to winning long matches. You don’t want to be at the table huffing and puffing trying to get oxygen into your body for two reasons.

Firstly it is not the most effective way to get that much needed oxygen into your body and secondly, if your opponent is watching your breathing then they will make hits everytime you breathe in. The reason why you breathe out when doing a positive movement in the gym is you have more power on your exhale. The problem with this method in armwrestling is that if you don’t pin your opponent you may be in the winning position but no oxygen to finish the match. I’ve watched arms go from winning to losing incrementally as the person was breathing in.

There are many great exercises for building your cardiovascular system from running or sprinting, skipping, aerobics, jumping jacks, swimming. There are numerous other exercises that you can do to improve your stamina

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