The Stupidity of Straps

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One of the most frequently repeated lies in arm wrestling is “The straps don’t lie.” We’ve all heard this, that the straps favor the stronger puller, that they benefit the hook style, and that they enforce a somehow more honest form of arm wrestling. Bull crap. Seasoned pullers all know that you don’t want the buckle on your hand, we’ve all seen table hawks perched on the edge of the riser practically tackle the ref to get the non buckle side of the table just in case straps happen. We have all seen stronger pullers get flashed by a strap expert who is not at their strength level. There are strap masters out there who can trash almost anyone when wrapped up. Norm Devio, Bill Sinks, Jason Vale, etc. These guys are all fantastic out of straps as well, but have made an art form of crushing people in the straps. As admirable as these skills are, our sport isn’t the biathlon, it’s lock hands and go. The sport in and out of straps is as different as skiing and shooting.

There are a thousand techniques people use to gain advantage in the straps prior to the start of the match, from strap placement, to hand and arm placement. Creating space, removing it. Shifting the direction of your palm or in which direction your fingers point.

Historically, straps have taken a number of forms, including these mostly fictional ones in Over the Top:  Over-the-top

The current manner of strapping two hands together, recently approved by the WAF, is the “fairer” strap method popularized by Devon Larratt, and explained by him below, minimizes the inherent unfairness but doesn’t eliminate it. Hence the name “fairer” as opposed to “fair.”

James Retarides also created a fairer method shown here:

There is another method shown by Ryan “Blue” Bowen in the video below that, in my opinion, eliminates all advantage from one side or the other. This simple loop strap is a great idea.

We have simplified it further by using a traditional strap and tightening the buckle the the bottom of the two hands like this:


Ryan’s method of strapping two hands together allows top rolls, hooks, and presses equally. One technique no longer has an advantage, and the physics of the simple loop removes the disparity between the buckle/non-buckle side in prior methods.

The primary “weakness” of this method is that a person truly committed to escape the straps can do so by opening their hand and pulling it straight back hard. However, this qualifies as an intentional slip and a loss outside the straps, so if the same rule is applied in the straps, that weakness is eliminated. I encourage you all to try this out. I think you’ll find that the slip has to be blatant to work, and is still difficult. We have seen people slip out of the traditional straps as well, just recently with Todd and Trubin for example.

The real problem is that our sport loses credibility in areas where consistency and fairness are weak. The straps are the most glaring example. Inconsistency of rules and reffing is a plague among nearly every sport, but inherently unfair practices are not. We will soon discuss making starts more fair and consistent as well by introducing a starting buzzer like in swimming, rather than the “ready, go!” that some have made an art form of timing, and perhaps sensors in the elbow pads along with cameras for instant reviews as seen in recent PAL events.

Keep an open mind and try this strap out and let us know your thoughts. If you have ideas to improve it or something else that is better, let us know.



1 thought on “The Stupidity of Straps

  1. Anthony DeGreenia

    I can see some of the advantages to the strap favoring one side or another.Also I know that the one the shows the better farm boy old fashioned hook can win the fight wether the strap is thier or not. As far as the strap design goes I do believe it may be time for a new one .


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