Q&A with Heavyweight WAL Armwrestler: Derek Smith (2016)

Q&A with Heavyweight WAL Armwrestler: Derek Smith (2016)

Q&A with Heavyweight WAL Armwrestler: Derek Smith

Here at Fitworld Exposed we talk a lot about how the key to getting bigger arms all lies in the forearms and arm-wrestlers exemplify this because a lot of them don’t have the biggest biceps/triceps yet their arms still look massive. On the other hand you have a lot of people who train at commercial gyms who are blasting their biceps and triceps like no tomorrow but yet their arms still look small as a whole and that’s because they haven’t developed the outer extremities of their arms.
I always say that whenever you want to get good at anything you always want to take advice from the best and arm-wrestlers have some of the biggest and strongest forearms and hands on the planet because their sport revolves around that (along with technique and a bunch of other factors).

Not only could we learn about getting bigger forearms from arm-wrestlers, but we could also learn tips on arm-wrestling techniques and other interesting stuff relating to the sport because lets face it, arm wrestling is one of the most alpha sports out there. I personally feel like its an underrated sport for the most part and doesn’t get all of the love that it deserves and that’s why its part of my duty to spread the word on these amazing athletes because they deserve the attention!


For the readers who don’t already know, how long have you been arm-wrestling for and when did you start making a career out of it?

Ive been Arm Wrestling about 5 years now. I immediately fell in love with the sport. If you want to compete physically against someone and you are out of college then you dont have a lot of options, unless you want to fight and get punched in the face all the time haha. I set my goals at the top and have taken it serious ever since.

Do you look up to anybody in the arm wrestling community or do you just motivate yourself?

There are many people who have motivated me in the sport. Mostly to beat them though haha. I find it incredible that there are so many people on the planet who care about this sport and are also working tirelessly at it day in and day out to become the strongest version of themselves.

What is your biggest goal for this year?

I have a supermatch with of of the top pullers in the country Herman Stevens on July 9th so that a short term goal of mine. I guess my biggest goal though is just to keep getting stronger and healthier. This sport is a long road and if you want to travel it naturally and injury free you have to take your time and do it smart.

A lot of bodybuilders will have programs that look something like:

Monday: Chest + Triceps

Tuesday: Legs

Wed: Rest

Thursday: Back + Biceps + Forearms

Friday: Shoulders + Traps

This is a common example of what is known as a bodybuilding split routine.

What does your weekly training routine look like for arm wrestling on average?

Currently i am doing your basic schedule and lifting similar to the layout you have. 5 days a week. I am doing sport specific lifts for an hour in the mornings though, then hitting the gym and doing alot of your basic accessory lifts just much heavier then average. I always do forearm work before our workout and after as well since forearms recover so quickly. I also hit some cardio so that my body can use oxygen more efficiently in my matches (not too much though to keep my muscles explosive).  Drinking BCAA’s throughout and eating and hydrating correctly. Then at night i do some body weight exercises and maybe one more sport specific lift.  Then on Sundays i have Arm Wrestling practice with my team which kills my tendons and muscles. So its not as much about the lifting as it is about the recovering and giving my body what it needs.

How long do your sessions usually last on average and how long does it take for you to get warmed up?

It usually only takes us about 10-15 minutes to get warmed up. Our practices usually start at Noon and sometimes will run until 5pm. People run late sometimes and i try to make sure everyone has worked on their weaknesses and technique adequately before we head out.

Do you ever incorporate 3 inch+ handle work in your training? In other words how fat are the handles that you train with?

Yes i use the original country crush handle daily, it hits my forearms very specifically. I have built handles from Lowes that are 3 inches and rotate for less than $20. i feel they hit the hand and forearm very well, if your hand and wrist are too weak generally you cannot effectively transfer your power on the table. There cannot be weak links in the chain.


Do you find that Captain Crush Grippers help your performance in arm wrestling and do you find that they are good for forearm hypertrophy?

I use grippers almost daily. I do not believe working on your crushing strength pertains to AW but when you put grippers further out on your finger tips it helps with cupping strength (like holding someones hand down from top rolling you). I also feel that grippers help with my endurance on the table so i try to stay fairly consistent with them. also I am SOOOO close to closing the #3 haha i really need to devote a lil bit of time in closing that bad boy.

Do you ever incorporate any Farmers walks into your training?

I would love to incorporate strong man type of lifts into my training but currently i do not have access to such amazing tools.

Do you incorporate any sledgehammer levering work into your programming and if so then how heavy is your hammer that you use?

I have used sledgehammers since i first started in the sport. It is honestly my favorite tool to use. I currently use a 15lb two handed sledge. It does wonders for my wrist.

What is the most weight that have ever strict curled and what rep range do you usually work in?

Honestly i don’t know what my heaviest 2 handed strict curl was. I have strict curled 95lbs one handed before but that was about 3 years ago, so hopefully i have improved haha. As far as rep range i usually will go 10-8-6-2 on heavy curls.  Always to failure. Trying to be strong with endurance!

A lot of arm wrestlers talk a lot about the importance of doing hammer curls and how they take this exercise very seriously, would you mind elaborating on why exactly? Also what is your take on Pinwheel Curls for forearm size?

Hammer curls replicate back pressure (also known as posting pressure) which is the purest pressure to gain in AW. If you have superior back pressure it creates more options for you on your side of the table. Separating your opponent while staying high give you many options while it limits theirs since they are spread out. Hammer curls replicate this pressure which is why it is so important. Now as far as Pinwheel Curls i honestly have not given them any consideration, from what i can tell they seem to hit the same angle so i don’t see a real downside. AW is all about building muscle memory though since it is so difficult to stay clear minded under such strain that in all things most ‘pullers’ attempt to recreate the Arm Wrestling motions even when brushing their teeth! haha

Do you ever use wrist rollers and if so then why?

Yes i do. Rotating handles do wonders for building up your forearm and hand.

I’ve never played any serious arm-wrestling matches against anybody in my life, what are a couple of basic and critical tips that you could give me to start off if ever anybody challenges me?

Its all about separating your opponent so that they are spread out and weak and you are tight and strong. That and STAY SAFE. Keep your elbow within your shoulders (as close to your belly button as you can manage) and keep your face as close to your hand as possible, winning AND losing sides of the table.

How do you use leg drive and core strength during an arm wrestling match? Also what is your take on foot placement and lower body stance as far as getting a mechanical advantage is concerned?

I use my leg to help drive sideways when i have secured my hook and am preparing to hit sideways, you are always tightening your core in an Arm Wrestling match to secure your lat. The placement of someones feet is an simple indicator of their intentions on the table. If their feet are forward they are most likely posting backwards if they are to the right they are going hard to the left, etc.

Are there any “cheats” or “hacks” per say that aren’t really cheats, but they give you a huge advantage in winning an arm wrestling match? (ex: squeezing a particular one of your opponents fingers..etc)

There are MANY small advantages on the table that can give you an edge. Feel free to call them cheats haha the best pullers in the world are usually the sneakiest cheaters as well! Its all part of the game we signed up for though so you have to be smart up there while on the table. I will name a couple so you know what i mean. While closing your hand if you raise the ridge of your thumb into their fingers then it will limit their coverage on your hand allowing you to manipulate their hand more easily. Also most arm wrestlers can be seen rushing to the table in an attempt to have the back of their hand facing the downside ref (the referee that in kneeling by the table) so that they can get a nice bow in their wrist before the start of the match, which will greatly reduce the amount of power the opponent is able to apply. There are MANY more cheats to do on the table, most of the time though people are too nervous to apply these effectively and they forget more than they remember haha.

How do you use the strength of your shoulders and lats to aid you in an arm wrestling match? Also how important are these muscles for arm wrestling and do you experience soreness in these areas the day after a serious match?

Shoulders help a lot with side pressure and protecting you from the opponents side pressure.  They are a vital component to building a strong arm wrestler… not quite as much as your Lat though IMO. I believe the Lat is the muscle you use the most in AW, it is CONSTANTLY being used to keep your elbow where you want it and especially when you surge, most Arm Wrestlers have highly developed Lats. I do experience soreness in the muscles after a long gym session but i really have to hit them hard.

What are some breathing and bracing techniques that you could give novice arm wrestlers?

The way you breathe on the table IMO is constantly underestimated. An experienced puller will monitor the opponents breathing pattern and ‘hit’ when his opponent takes his breath  in because that is when he is most relaxed.  You must remember to breath properly or you will run out of ‘Gas’ much faster on the table. Ive seen pullers blue in the face and almost pass out from lack of breathing.

What are some of the ways that you can tell that someone has good genetics for the sport of arm wrestling? (ex: thick wrists…etc)

Sure their are genetic ‘Gifts’ that some people have, there are ways around them all though. For every puller who has a genetic gift i can show you a more successful one that does not have a gift. The only true gift is love for the sport and the dedication to see your goals come to fruition. If you are willing to put in the work that the most valuable attribute of all.

How often do you practice arm wrestling matches per week and do you contribute some of your forearm size to arm wrestling? Also tell me where can I find affordable arm-wrestling competition tables online?

I pull atleast once a week if not twice (job allowing) and i feel that works FOR ME. There are top pullers who practice on the table up to 5 times a week….. then there are some who arm wrestle at a high level who practice once every month and a half. Depends on your approach and goals. Yes i know that arm wrestling has directly contributed to the size of my forearms, they were puny before haha. There are great tables available online from Mazurenko (armpower.net), Combat ArmSports (CombatArmSports.com), and Frank Hirst (FaceBook is the only way i know of) to name a few. You can also get the specs online and build your own, i have seen some very impressive home made tables.

One of my biggest goals is to have 16 inch upper arms with 16 inch forearms. I currently have 15.5 inch upper arms and about 14.25 inch forearms and I know that getting to 16 inches will take long, but what do you recommend? (ex: weight gain, special exercises…etc)

Keep working at it. If you are so concerned with the size then you might want to raise your reps of bicep targeting lifts. Forearms take time and dedication, im talking years. Hit them daily and keep getting that pump. These are just my opinions of course.

What is the funniest moment that you have had during arm-wrestling up to date?

When i was competing at one of my first events my name was called to the stage and i was breathing so hard and fast to get myself hyped that i hyperventilated and started to black out before the match even started. The referee literally had to grab me and keep me up so I didn’t collapse on stage, needless to say by the time i calmed down and got to the table i lost quickly cause i had lost all my steam! haha

Thank you for your time! If you want to see more of Derek then you could check him out at:


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