Table Dimensions
Master Referees
The Levels of Refereeing

"How To" Guide to Refereeing

Spot Judge (Downside Referee)

The job of the spot judge is to assist the head referee at the table. In doing so you will make sure competitors are not wearing any watches, rings, hats, support bandages, and that the elbows are bare. As the competitors are setting up you will assist in making sure of the following:

- elbows are on the pad before the grip is taken
- shoulders are square
- there is a hand's width between the hands and the shoulder/head
- grip is in the centre of the table
- that the wrist facing you is not bent or bends before "Go"
- no one early started

All of the above will be communicated to the Head Referee by way of Hand Signals. The spot judge will not communicate directly with the armwrestlers. Only the Head Referee will give instructions to the armwrestlers

Once the match starts you must watch for the following:

- all fouls
- flash pins on both sides of the table since the head referee cannot always catch them


Before the competitors get to the table stand back away from the table to get a good look at them so you can check for the watches, rings, etc. Once competitors get to the table crouch down. Once you are down help centre the competitors and make sure the shoulders are staying straight. Also watch for the wrist on you side that it is not bent or does not bend before "Go". It is hard for the referee to tell on some people if their wrist is bent if they can't see it, so don't be afraid to speak up. It is also your job to watch for early starts. You do all of this by way of hand signals to the head referee. Never touch or speak to the competitors.

As the referee is getting ready to start the match make sure you are ready. Your eyes should be in line with the pin pads but off to one side; you cannot see through solid pin pads so position yourself off to one side. It is easier to see a pin if you are looking straight across the table instead of down on t he table. Your head should be about a foot from the table. The closer you are to the table the less the peripheral vision you have. You may have to move your head to the right or left side of the hand peg to give yourself the best view. Make sure you can see both pin pads and both elbows before the match starts. You should also have yourself set up so that you can get back up in a hurry either to watch for a shoulder pin on the other side of the table or move to avoid getting hit by a flying foot. You may also need to hold onto the table legs to keep the table from moving.

The Spot Judge will also assist in putting on the Straps and Referee's Grip. To assist in the straps the spot Judge will hold the fingers of both competitors and make sure the wrist facing them is straight and also that the elbows stay at the back of the pads.. They will also hold the strap in place by way of placing their thumb on the strap so it does not slip as the Head Referee wraps the wrists.

In assisting with the Referee's Grip the Spot Judge will  hold the wrists of both competitors while the Head Referee wraps the hands. The Spot Judge must release the wrists and place themselves in their normal starting position mentioned above, after the first hand is closed but before the second had is closed. A Referee cannot start a match if the Spot Judge still has hold of the competitors wrists.

Head Referee

All of the above also applies to the head referee.

Setting up

Before the competitors have taken their grip make sure that your chest is centred with the table and when you put your hands out in front of you to set up the match they are centred the other way. This allows you to centre the competitors quicker and easier.

When setting the arm wrestlers up do not try to use force or talk in a harsh tone, that only gets the competitors more pumped up and harder to deal with. Talk to them in a moderate tone but be firm and tell them what you want. ex: "wrist; knuckles; shoulder"

Communicate with your spot judge. Check for his hand signals for centre and don't be afraid to ask for help if you're not sure if the wrist on the other side of the table is straight. Always check your spot judge before you start the match to make sure he is in position and ready.

Make sure everything is the way you want it. Don't let the arm wrestlers coerce you in to letting them go with a grip you are not happy with. You have to see the knuckles on both hands and the wrists must be straight. If you are giving warnings for failing to set up make sure you are positive that it goes to the right person. One person may complain that the other is causing the problem when it could be the complainer who is causing the problem. Watch the hands and you'll tell who's causing the problem. You also don't want to put them in a referee's grip if only one person is causing the delay. Always repeat the Warnings and Fouls. If you give a competitor a Warning or Foul make sure that you repeat it to that competitor before you reset the match. This way you can keep better track of the Warnings and Fouls. Also the competitors can keep track of them as well.

Make your starts loud and clear.


Once the match starts you should drop down and align your eyes with the pin pads and again keep your head back from the table about a foot to give yourself the best vantage point.

When you need to stop the match; again make it loud and clear. Both competitors must be able to hear you. If only one hears you and stops pulling they could risk serious injury.

Do not hesitate when making your calls. If you see something call it. Never change your mind; you will lose your credibility if you do, and everyone will argue with you over every call in hopes of getting you to change your mind. If however you make a call such as a win, and the spot judge calls an elbow foul you must determine immediately what happened first; the foul or the win.  If that happens take the Spot Judge to one side and ask them if they feel the elbow came off before or after the pin. An experienced spot judge can tell you on the spot what happened first.

The most important part of being a referee is keeping the competitors from getting hurt. Most times this cannot be avoided but we must strive to stop the ones that can be. The first and most important call for a referee is break arm position. This is when a person turns their shoulder in and pushes towards the pin pad and is no longer looking at their hand. They are no longer using muscle, they are using the humerus bone which runs from the elbow to the shoulder.  Also you should explain at the time what they are doing wrong. The other dangerous position is the hyper-extension which occurs when a person stretches their arm completely out with their body below the table. They do this in order to keep themselves from being pinned. Again no muscle is being used, just the bones and joints of the arm. However they run the risk of hyper-extending their elbow. When a person is at this point the match should be stopped and the offender would be given a foul (loss if in the losing position). It is only a foul if it is in the upright/neutral position. If it is in the losing position it is a loss. There is no call if it is past the starting point of the match and their winning pin line(pad)

You will find that one of the hardest calls to make will be a shoulder foul (touching). If a person is very fast and you are unfamiliar with their style you may not be able to catch them. If you know that one of the pullers is a shoulder roller then get your spot judge to watch specifically for it if the arms are going your way and vice versa.  But make sure you are not both concentrating so much on the touching that you are going to miss other calls. Communication between you and the spot judge can remedy this. If you have a clear view let the spot judge know so he/she can watch for other things. Be certain that the person was touching before you call a foul on them. You must be able to see light between the hands and the shoulder. You can't call what you don't see no matter how much the other person protests. Catching shoulder rollers is very difficult but gets easier with experience.

Another one of the more difficult calls to make if a "causing the slip-out" foul. This call is hard to determine because it happens so fast. There are signs to help you determine who caused the slip-out. Where were the competitor's hands before the slip occurred, in the upright or losing/winning position? Did the person have their hand open fingers straight or were the finger tips curled in before the slip? If the fingers were straight then they caused the slip. If the finger tips were curled in then it is a strap match. If a person has closed their hand into a fist under the other person's hand they are determined to have caused the slip since they are no longer attempting to retain a grip. When a person opens their hand to regrip and a slip occurs they are fouled for the slip. Never assume that a person has caused the slip because they are in losing position, it is very easy for a person in winning position to let up on the grip and cause the slip if they know you are going to blame the person in the losing position. Remember, just because a person is in losing position it does not mean that they caused the slip-out. You MUST see the person causing the slip - never assume! If you cannot determine who caused the slip-out then you must apply the straps. If you do not apply the straps correctly and a slip-out occurs then no one is to blame. You cannot issue a foul or loss for causing a slip-out if the competitors were strapped up and the hands come apart. That was the fault of the referee for not putting the straps on correctly.

Elbow fouls are always one of the most controversial calls to make. Many people believe that if no advantage was taken then you should not make the call. However, you may not think that an advantage was gained but the elbow came off for a reason; either to get better finger position or to move to a more favourable position on the elbow pad. In either case an advantage was gained. Arm wrestling is a game of centimetres; all you need to do sometimes is get a little higher or lower on a person's hand and it can be the difference between winning and losing. You may not notice it right away or not at all. Therefore it is imperative that all elbow fouls are called whether the are straight up, out the front, or off the back or sides. Always remember that if a person's tricep or forearm has contact with the pad and the end of their elbow is in inside the perimeter of the pad but not touching, it is not an elbow foul. It only becomes an elbow foul when the end of their elbow extends beyond the outside edge of the pad or the tricep/forearm also loses contact with the elbow pad.. In all other circumstances the second the elbow loses contact with the pad an elbow foul is to be called.

A loss is much easier to see if your eyes are in line with the pin pads and not looking down on them. You cannot tell exactly when the fingers/wrist go below the pin line if you are looking down on the match as opposed to looking straight across the table. The instant the competitor's wrist/fingers drop below the pin line the match is over. They do not have to touch the pin pad. Remember, it must be the loser's wrist/fingers that go below, and if in straps it must be the skin, not the strap.

To determine a loss in the losing position the grip must be 2/3 of the down (from centre where the match started to the pin pad). This is a referee's judgment call since the are no lines to go by and the point is always different depending on the length of arms. If you are unsure check with your spot judge to see if he/she had a better angle.

The key to putting on the Straps is to keep up the tension on the Straps as you wrap them around the competitors wrists. Ask both competitors before you start whether they want the strap high or low. Place the buckle of the strap on the back of the hand facing you the the top of the buckle just below the top knuckle but halfway between that knuckle and the bottom thumb knuckle. The first wrist you wrap is the one with the buckle on it. Go around that wrist then the other wrist. The strap will then come up between the bottom of the hands. Lift the buckle and put the strap through the top of the buckle and then through the bottom. Pull it tight.

The Referee's Grip if more difficult to administer but with practice will be much easier. Before you put the competitor's hands together determine if they want their knuckle covered. Ask both competitors before you start. The first thing you need to do is let the competitors get their position on the elbow pad. Ask them if they want their thumb covered. Place the hands together and make sure that the hands are in centre of the table. If not then centre them now. Square their shoulders and tell them "Don't Move".  Have the Spot Judge hold the wrists. Put the thumbs down on the competitors that want their thumbs covered. If a person wants their thumb not capped; wrap the hands first then plush the thumb down. Wrap the hands by holding the fingers; first one then the other. Pull out on the fingers before you wrap them. MAKE SURE THAT WHEN YOU WRAP THE HANDS; YOU DO NOT BEND ONE OF THE COMPETITORS WRISTS. If you do start again. Make sure that the thumb knuckles are not getting covered when wrapping the hands. The Spot Judge should be back in position before you finish wrapping the second hand. After the second hand is wrapped give the "Ready-Go" command. Do not take excessive time putting on a Referee's Grip. The longer you take to put it on, the more chance there is one of the competitors will move. You do not want competitors "Fouling Out" because you took too long to put it on.

Once you have made a call don't let the arm wrestlers argue with you. If it was a foul get them set up again for the next match. If it was a loss and they are continue to argue ask them to leave the table area and get the next competitors ready. If necessary threaten them with unsportsmanlike conduct that can have them removed from the tournament. If they still continue to harass you have them removed from the facility where the tournament is taking place.

After a tournament listen to what people have to say or ask different people for their comments, both good and bad. Some may be angry about losing and be blaming you or their criticism may be justified. However never admit you were wrong; admit you are human but not wrong. You may get some good advice. You will probably get some whining about a call you missed but don't let it bother you. If you can go through a tournament and only miss one or two calls all day you did a great job.