John Brzenk: Arm Wrestling

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In 1982, at 18 years of age, John Brzenk won his first professional arm-wrestling tournament.

For the next 25 years he wrenched his way through the sport of arm wrestling, bending wrists on both sides of Atlantic and building a legendary reputation in the process.

At 43, Brzenk may be better than ever; here is a recent interview with John in which he answers questions about his training and achievements in the sport.

Why do they call you the greatest arm wrestler in the sport? I’m kind of the Tiger Woods of arm wrestling. I’ve been doing it professionally since I was 17 or 18 years old, and for the most part, I’ve stayed on top of the heavyweight competition for 25 years.

What’s your record? I don’t know, but I’m probably above 95% as far as winning goes. I can count on one hand the number of tournaments I didn’t win.

How do you train? The power for the sport of arm wrestling is achieved on the arm-wrestling table.

Where do you need the most strength? Most of the good arm wrestlers you see don’t necessarily have big chests or big shoulders or big biceps. They all have well-defined forearms and big, strong hands. And it’s more the back and the lats than it is the size of the arms.

Have you ever broken your arm? Once, in the eighth grade, arm wrestling a buddy of my dad’s.

I guess he felt pretty bad. He didn’t know what to think, and neither did I. It was like a gunshot going off. But I didn’t go to the doctor until three days later when my arm kind of curled up.

Is your right arm bigger than your left? My left forearm is about 131/2 inches and my right is about 16. A lot of the older guys like me are lopsided.

What weight do you wrestle at? Usually 210, which is heavyweight. If I can wrestle more than one weight class in a tournament, I might drop down to 198 and pull the light-heavyweight class and also the super-heavyweight class.

How many classes have you won in one tournament? I’ve won five in quite a few tournaments. Usually three right-handed and two left-handed.

Who’s the heaviest guy you’ve beaten? Cleve Dean, a 600-pound pig farmer from Georgia.

Is there one exercise that arm wrestlers prefer over all others? A lot of guys claim that pull-ups are the best thing you can do for the sport.

What kind of money do you make in a good year? Between 12 and 15 grand. In 1986 I won a tractor trailer in the Over the Top tournament, which was based on the Sylvester Stallone movie.

What was that worth? I kept it for two years, then sold it for $64,000. That was the biggest prize to date in an arm-wrestling tournament.

Have you ever broken a man’s arm in competition? No. I’ve always been a gentle arm wrestler. [via]


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