Arm Wrestling Fouls 2023: Mastering the Rules for Success

Arm wrestling Fouls, a contest of raw strength and technique, may seem straight forward, but it has a set of rules and regulations that govern fair play. In the heat of competition, it’s crucial for athletes to adhere to these rules to maintain the integrity of the sport. This article explores the world of arm wrestling fouls, shedding light on what is considered illegal and why following the rules is essential.

Common Arm Wrestling Fouls

Two warnings will equal one arm wrestling foul.
Two arm wrestling fouls, competitor will lose that particular match.

  1. If competitors fail to come to the table in the 30 seconds allotted they will be given a loss. Their name will be dropped to its proper slot, the same as a loss in an actual bout. If they already have a loss they would drop out of the tournament for that particular weight class. (2023)
    • Competitor’s shoulder must not cross the “centerline” between pegs during competition. This will be a Shoulder Foul.
    • Competitor cannot touch any part of their body such as chin, shoulder or head. A foul will be given.
    • Intentionally pushing of your own hand into an opponents shoulder will result in you getting a Arm wrestling Foul.
    • When a competitor starts to put themselves in a “dangerous position”, the referee will caution the competitor loudly so that the competitor understands the caution. Referee will instruct the competitor to face their competitive arm, so as to keep the hand, arm and shoulder in a straight line. Competitors must never force their shoulder inwards, ahead of their arm or hand, towards the table.
    • Competitors cannot drop the competing shoulder below the level of the elbow pad when in a neutral or losing position. This will be considered a dangerous position. The neutral position defined as the starting position down to 2/3 of the way to the losing side of the table.
    • Any obviously intentional action that causes your opponent to get a foul will result in no foul for the opponent and you receiving the foul instead. Example obviously intentionally pushing your opponent off the back of the elbow pad.
    • 30 second rest is permitted after a FOUL.
    • Arm Wrestling Foul language, poor sportsmanship or abuse towards an official will result in a FOUL. If it continues, competitor or official will be barred from the tournament.
    • Any foul given when a competitor is more than 2/3 of the way down to the pad is a loss.

Arm wrestling Foul (Referee Grip)

Competitors have 30 seconds to “Grip Up”. If in that time, they have not gripped up, they will be given a “referee’s grip”. A referees’ grip consists of the following procedure.

Competitors’ hands are placed palm to palm by the referee, the thumbs are pushed down by the referee, the fingers are wrapped by the referee, first one competitor, then the other. As they are wrapped referee asks competitor if he/she wants their thumb covered or not. Thumb knuckles will be showing, forefingers level, wrists straight and arms centered. Competitors are not to move from this set up.

Examples of movement are fingers re-gripping, back pressure, bending wrists, early start or elbow lifting off the pad.

Any movement by any competitor will result in a foul being given against the one that moves.

Arm wrestling Elbow Fouls

A foul will be given when a competitor’s elbow loses contact with the elbow pad.

A competitor is considered to lose contact with the pad when the elbow lifts vertically off the pad, no matter how insignificant, as long as there is clearance between the pad and the elbow. It is not considered an elbow foul if the elbow has lifted off the pad, but the competitor still has contact with the elbow pad with their triceps or their forearm.

An elbow foul will be called if the competitor is riding on their triceps or forearms and the elbow extends beyond any side of the elbow pad.

Any Arm Wrestling foul that occurs simultaneously with a foul by your opponent will be considered coincidental, the march will be stopped and restarted and no foul will be given.

Arm wrestling Slip Outs Foul

The referee will call one foul for “causing a slip out” when:

  • You lift your fingers off your opponent’s hand prior to a slippage
  • You close your fingers as to make a fist inside your opponent’s hand
  • You’re in break wrist position and you pull your fingers inside your opponents hand, therefore you are unable to hold your grip.

Arm wrestling Straps

Straps will be used when any match ends by way of a slip-out not resulting in a foul. A slip out occurs when both competitors have lost complete contact with one another. The official must be certain of the circumstances preceding the actual slip out before calling a foul. If the official is uncertain as to who caused the slippage or it was caused by the actions of both competitors, then straps will be used and no foul will be given.

When straps are employed, the officials will ask competitors to place their elbows to the center of their respective elbow pads, place their hands palm to palm, fingers extended and thumbs up. Opposite hand will grip hand peg. In this position the strap can be quickly installed. Only the official can adjust the strap. Competitors may ask to loosen it or move it if it’s uncomfortable. The strap cannot be lower than 1″ below the natural wrist line. The new fairer wrap will be used. The referee will always wrap the buckle side wrist first. When going around the last wrist the strap will be threaded above the strap on that wrist.

After the strap is installed, competitors may take their grip and place their elbow to their
choice of position.

If a competitor intentionally slips out during the match in a losing position (losing position is
determined by being more than 2/3rd of the way down to the pin pad), the competitor will lose
that particular match. Any intentional slip is an automatic Arm Wrestling FOUL.


Arm wrestling fouls are an integral part of maintaining the fairness and integrity of the sport. While competitors may be eager to win, it’s crucial to do so within the boundaries of the rules. Understanding and respecting the regulations not only keeps the competition fair but also ensures that arm wrestling remains an exciting and respected sport for both participants and spectators. As arm wrestlers continue to hone their strength and technique, they must also cultivate a deep appreciation for the rules that govern their chosen discipline.

1. What is an arm wrestling foul?

An arm wrestling foul is a violation of the rules and regulations governing arm wrestling matches. It occurs when a participant performs an action that is prohibited by the rules.

2. What are the most common arm wrestling fouls?

Common arm wrestling fouls include:
a. Lifting the elbow off the pad.
b. Using the shoulder to push or pin the opponent.
c. Intentionally slipping out of the grip to avoid a fair match.
d. Starting before the referee’s “Go” signal.
e. Using any part of the body other than the hand and forearm for leverage.
f. Grabbing an opponent’s clothing or strapping.

3. What are the consequences of committing a foul during an arm wrestling match?

The consequences for fouls vary depending on the event’s rules and the severity of the foul. They may include a warning, loss of a round, or even disqualification from the match.

4. Can accidental fouls occur in arm wrestling?

Yes, accidental fouls can occur, especially in intense matches. The referee’s judgment and the severity of the foul will determine whether a penalty is imposed.

5. Are there different rules for amateur and professional arm wrestling?

Yes, rules can vary between amateur and professional arm wrestling events. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific rules of the competition you are participating in to avoid Arm Wrestling fouls.

6. How can I prevent committing arm wrestling fouls?

To avoid fouls, follow these tips:
a. Listen to the referee and wait for the “Go” signal.
b. Keep your elbow firmly on the pad.
c. Use only your hand and forearm for leverage.
d. Refrain from stalling or intentionally slipping out of the grip.
e. Know and understand the specific rules of the competition you are entering.

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