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The History Of Using The Arm Over Arm

The Arm Over Arm is used as a generic term for pulling on a rope. The great Egyptians between 2589 and 2504 BC, were known for using this technique in groups. To build the pyramids, that had to get huge blocks from the bottom to the top as they constructed the great Giza Pyramids. Back in them days rope as we know it was not yet created. So the ropes they used were made by the Egyptians using natural fibres such as water reed, date palms, papyrus, and leather. These incredible ropes were used to tie up their livestock, secure ships in place and to build their shelters. Although these ropes were vital for these tasks, the main thing the ropes were used for in the transportation of big bolder blocks up to the tops of these gigantic Pyramids.

These Egyptian slaves would have to use a make shift pulley system and their rope and work in teams to hall these gigantic stones up the Pyramid. The Arm Over Arm technique was used as you can see from old paintings that showed these slaves working in teams, to pull on these huge ropes so that they could continue to construct these pyramids, that are now one of our great wonders of the world. Although the men back then did not have the strength that our current day strongmen have, whilst working in a team with this technique they were able to pull up enormous amounts of weight between them while working in sync with each other. How this technique would work is when the guy in front would let go to grab more rope, the guy behind would take the strain of the taught rope. This would work within huge chains of people, so for example when numbers 1,3,5,7 and 9 would let go to grab more rope, numbers 2,4,6,8 and 10 would take the strain until they had the rope again and so on. With these two teams evenly spread out between one and other. This gave them the pulling power needed to achieve their task.

This is like our strongmen today, the left hand comes off, while the right takes the strain. The right hand comes of, while the left hand takes the strain. Although within todays strongman sport The Arm Over Arm, does not include multiple men pulling on such gigantic ropes, it is the similar technique used thousands and thousands of years ago to create these amazing historical features that we see today in Cairo Egypt!

About The Arm Over Arm

The concept is simple, using a rope the strongman must pull a heavy object down a set course distance as fast as possible. Unlike a conventional truck pull, the Arm Over Arm requires the competitor to be stationary, sat with their feat against a solid base ready to take the strain of whatever they are instructed to pull. It is a spectacular event to see a strongman sat generally on the ground and pull anything from fire trucks, buses and normal loaded trucks towards them!

Although on first inspection you may think Arm Over Arm would be heavily dependent on biceps and triceps strength, it is actually the legs and the strongman’s grip strength that are most important. Most strongmen will bend at the knees, pull the rope taut and perform a movement similar to a leg press. As legs are generally a lot stronger than the arms, it allows the athlete to exert more force on the object they are pulling. Unfortunately, this means that the strongman’s grip soon becomes the weakest link. Even with all the leg and arm muscle in the world, if the strongman cannot grip onto the rope, then he cannot pull the object. These ropes are not hand-friendly! As well as incredible grip strength and the leg power of god, these strongmen need to have super strong core and back strength to be able to pull this rope towards them. As you can sometimes see in these events, when these men are pulling 15,000 pounds towards them, this has to be done in stages as the objects are so heavy, they cannot keep the momentum going.

Training for The Arm Over Arm: Training for The Arm Over Arm is fairly straight forward. There are many ways in which to train yourself to pull on these ropes. Many gyms have rope machines that are on a circuit and you can increase the weight so you pull and pull and pull! Although the way in which these strongmen pull objects towards them is slightly different. The best way for you to be able to replicate this event, is to get a car (preferably not steal one!) and a private open space, tie a thick rope round the towing eye of the car, put the handbrake up a couple of clicks, stabilize yourself and then pull the car towards you using the rope! This is as close to the Arm Over Arm training that you will get. Obviously a car and a fire truck are going to be very different in weight, but a car is easy to get your hands on, plus if you master your technique and become tolerant to the weight load on the rope, you can increase the resistance by clicking the handbrake up a few more clicks!

When practicing for this exercise, technique is key! Use your legs, back and core muscle to get the momentum started, once the object or car in this case starts to move, then you can include some bicep muscle to keep the momentum going. Before pulling any serious weight on the ropes, it is advised to use the back low row machine and work your way up whilst adding more load as your back starts to develop and get stronger. Also, adding squats and deadlifts into your routine will ensure that you build all of the necessary muscles needed to be able to pull big loads of weight without any unnecessary injuries.


Here is a clip of Mark Felix at the Worlds Strongest Man competition in 2018. As you can see Felix uses a good technique, using his power house legs but also transferring the pulling power through his back as he extends with the rope. Although Felix was letting the rope go slack and not keeping the tension and momentum throughout. He still dominated within this event:

As with many of the strongman events, there is no accepted standard for The Arm Over Arm. Every competition event will have strongmen pulling different objects, from cars to tyres to tractors. On top of this, the distance that these objects have to travel will also vary too. Making this event as a whole unable to determine an overall winner.

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