The Australian Armwrestling Federation will be giving the schoolyard game a very serious edge at the Australian Armwrestling Championship. Biceps, triceps and pectorals will be pushed to the limit when competitors go arm to arm in a double elimination tournament. The competition will comprise of nine men's weight classes including right arm 70kg, 80kg, 90kg, 100kg and over 100kg, then left arm 80kg, 90kg, 100kg and over 100kg. The event will also be welcoming the first ever women's competition with a right arm open weight section. It's free for spectators and $40 an arm for competitors.
“I’d seen Over The Top, the Stallone movie, and I was really pumped up,” says Phil Rasmussen on the modest beginnings of the Australian Armwrestling Federation. “I’d loved armwrestling at school and was always quite good ’cause I did gymnastics. I looked online and found these two guys from Greensborough who were training out of a garage, just two of them with a table.”
Fast forward a couple of years and one of those men is now vice president while Phil – a vegan with biceps like baby bisons – is manager. So how did a hobby turn into an auspicious federation?
“It became an exercise in branding,” Rasmussen laughs ruefully. “My fiancée is a graphic designer and a marketing manager, and I’m a computer programmer and a web designer so we just made a website, and Amy designed the logo. From there we used social media and were found by a lot of people looking for the same thing. The club got bigger and bigger, then we found out there were guys in Sydney doing it, then in Queensland and now we’ve got people in pretty much every state except for Northern Territory.”
Rasmussen got the Aussie states endorsed by the World Armwrestling Federation in 2010, and they now have a constitution and are registered as a non-profit company. If that sounds exhausting, you should try the sport itself.
“It’s a whole lot of pain at first,” he warns. “All the tendons become bruised and inflamed. They say professional arm wrestlers have got tendons four times the size of a normal man, but when I first started training it would take me literally two weeks before I’d be able to do a chin-up again, because of all the bruising. A lot of pumped-up guys who are used to gym training will go to the competition for the first time and discover they’re not used to that type of stress on the arm.”
The school of thought is that the best training for arm wrestling is to be on the table with another person as often as possible. “John Brzenk, who is considered the best ever – he appears in Over the Top – he doesn’t do any weights or anything,” says Rasmussen. “All he does is train on the table.”
Whether you head along to the championships this December to compete or gawp, track down Rasmussen and get him to brief you on your technique. Because trust us – you’re probably doing it all wrong.