Men's Health (Malaysia) - - Guy Skills -

It is, per­haps, not overly sur­pris­ing that An­drew Lea got into the sport of arm wrestling via a bach­e­lor’s party. Each Wed­nes­day night, he and two mates – both of them bounc­ers by trade – would meet in a garage and do MMA spar­ring. The weekly ri­tual was bro­ken when one of the bounc­ers got en­gaged and de­cided he wanted arm-wrestling at his stag party. “So we bought an arm wrestling ta­ble and started smash­ing one an­other,” Lea says. “Two of us caught the bug – and it is a bug; it’s like a dis­ease. The other one couldn’t han­dle the pain. He dropped off and we haven’t seen him since.”

These days, Lea is both the vice-cap­tain of the Aus­tralian arm wrestling team and trea­surer and vice-pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian WRIST MAN­AGE­MENT Arm Wrestling Fed­er­a­tion. Probe him on why he loves the sport and his words come in a tor­rent: “There’s tech­nique and there’s strength, and it’s how those two in­ter­act that de­ter­mines whether you’re a good arm wrestler . . . ”

There are, he ex­plains, two ba­sic moves in arm wrestling – the in­side and the out­side move. If you think you’ve got a stronger arm than your op­po­nent, you hook your hand in and pull him to­wards you. If you think your op­po­nent has a stronger arm, you bend his wrist back with a move known as the “top roll” and push him away from you. “Throw the el­e­ment of speed in there – who can get to their move fastest – and that’s ba­si­cally arm wrestling,” he says.

Al­though ur­ban myth dic­tates that arm wrestling’s all about soar­ing testos­terone and bulging bi­ceps, it is, in fact, a tech­ni­cal pur­suit that de­mands pro­found wrist strength. “When I started arm wrestling,” Lea says, “I’d been lift­ing weights for 20 years, so I was gym strong. But my hands and my wrists weren’t strong. So my tech­nique was to try and put it on the bi­ceps. But guys would take a look at me and flop my hand back­wards. I was get­ting smashed the whole time.”

It was only through a ded­i­cated pro­gramme of wrist strength­en­ing that Lea was able to build the strength where it counted. His gym work now cen­tres around three sem­i­nal arm wrestling move­ments – cup­ping, ro­tat­ing and ris­ing (see “Wrist Man­age­ment”, be­low). These three move­ments form the ba­sis for the in­side and out­side moves, so he trains each in­de­pen­dently, hunched over weighted ropes while around him blokes punch out squats, bi­ceps curls and bench presses.

He laughs: “I look pretty weird and won­der­ful at the gym. I mean, on Satur­days I train my thumbs. Peo­ple laugh when I tell ’em: what do you mean you train your thumbs? But the big­ger your thumb is, the harder it is to get around your hand in arm-wrestling.” And how ex­actly does he train his thumbs? “I hold a 7.8kg shot put for time. You’ll find your thumb does a lot of work be­cause it’s coun­ter­act­ing the four other fin­gers. It’s a hell of a work­out. You hold that for a minute and a half and when you let go you won’t be able to close your fin­gers be­cause they’ll be locked out with this weird kind of cramp­ing pain.”

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