Often times, we as arm wrestlers find ourselves in amateur matches with people whom we have never arm wrestled before. As we all know, knowing which technique will work most effectively against a particular opponent is half the battle when it comes to winning. So the question is: How can I figure out which technique to use against an unknown opponent?
You can usually size up an amateur opponent in three easy steps: (1) visual examination; (2) handshake; and (3) set-up evaluation.
Step One - Visual Examination
The first step is simple enough: what does your opponent look like? You might be tempted to look at the size of your opponent's biceps or chest, but these are some of the least important muscles in arm wrestling. What really counts is the size of his hands and forearms. If he has larger hands and forearms than you, you should initially take a defensive posture. In other words, you should be thinking that it will probably be harder to go inside on him and so toprolling would probably be a good idea. By contrast, if he has smaller hands and forearms, you are probably stronger where it counts and can control his hand if the match becomes deadlocked. However, you won't know for sure what technique to use until you get through all three steps of the evaluation.
Step Two - Give A Firm Handshake
Before your match begins, reach across the table and shake your opponent's hand. Make sure that when you grab his hand that you both get a good grip. In other words, make sure you do not just grab his fingers but rather grip deep so that he is able to give you a good grip. Now that you are shaking his hand, give him a good squeeze. Be sure to hold it for a few seconds so that he can increase his grip strength to match yours. The moment you feel him match your pressure, squeeze even harder. He will probably squeeze back. This should give you a good feel of his hand size and power.
One important thing to realize is that this "evaluation handshake" will take 4-5 seconds, so rather than just squeezing, remember to shake his arm as well (in a friendly manner of course).
So what will you learn from shaking hands? Most importantly, you will get a very real sense of the strength and size of your opponent's hand. This is usually a very good indicator of how your arm wrestling strength stacks up to your opponent's strength. If you feel you are significantly stronger than your opponent, you can probably hook with confidence. You can also toproll, but often a decisive hook victory in an amateur match is the most impressive, while a toproll victory might be seen by some as a "trick" and lessen its impressiveness.
If you feel you are significantly weaker than your opponent, a toproll is probably your best option. It is not usually a good idea to challenge a stronger opponent in an inside move ... but you won't know for sure whether a hook is a bad idea until you have completed step three.
Step 3 - Evaluate Your Opponent's Technique
We are assuming here that you will be in an amateur match with someone who has not competitively armwrestled before. This can certainly work to your advantage! By quickly evaluating your opponent's technique immediately before the match begins, you can figure out which technique will be most likely to lead to victory.
The first thing you should look for when you lock up is the angle of your opponent's arm. Is his fist very near to his shoulder, so that his arm angle is very small, or is his fist far away from his shoulder so that his arm angle is large? If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a match with someone who has a large arm angle, you can likely win in a good hook even if your opponent is significantly stronger than you are! However, if he is stronger and has a small arm angle, then you should definitely toproll.
Extra tip: Who is most likely to have a large arm angle? Weightlifter types are most likely to have a large arm angle, while athletes are most likely to have a small arm angle. This is because weightlifters are used to isolating muscle groups. They see arm wrestling as a "bicep exercise" and therefore try to isolate their bicep during the match by having a large arm angle. These types are often baffled after they lose a match to a smaller guy!
By contrast, athletes are used to using their entire body to perform various tasks, rather than isolating muscle groups, and therefore instinctively have a small arm angle and are more difficult to beat.
Bottom line: If you are facing the prospect of arm wrestling a bigger guy and you have the choice between a weightlifter type and an athlete, pick the weightlifter!