With hands clenching the grips at the side of the table, Taden Doyle and his dad, Stewart, are locked in an arm wrestling battle—a battle of youth against experience.
A classic father versus son moment.
With both manipulating their body weight as they jockeyed for position, the metal frame of the table occasionally buckles as they clash in a test of strength and will.
However, it was the veteran who once again prevailed, as the younger Doyle couldn’t hold back the experienced hand of his father.
One day, Taden hopes to beat his father, but Tuesday was not that day.
The club, which has existed for 20-something years in Cranbrook, runs out of the Legendary Byng Roadhouse every Tuesday evening, starting at 7 p.m.
Over a dozen people—men and women—were out this week taking turns on the arm wrestling table, some serious, some just for fun. When two competitors square up, it’s usually under the watchful eye of Ben Soles, who has been arm wrestling competitively for well over 20 years. Soles is a four-time Canadian champion and won silver at the 2008 World Arm Wrestling Championship.
Doyle is a little less seasoned than that, having only been with the club for the last year or so. As a former member of the now-defunct high school football program, Doyle knows how to manipulate strength and body weight.
However, arm wrestling has it’s own appeal.
“The competition, definitely,” Doyle said. “It’s unique because it’s just yourself. It’s not a team [but] the people around you are your team, they’re always yelling, supporting, telling you what to do.
“At the same time, it’s you versus the other guy. It’s fun, it’s exciting, you’re bettering yourself getting physically stronger and at the same time, you’re learning how to do something different.”
In addition to the guidance from Soles, coaching also comes from other longtime stalwarts like Martin Longlios and Pete Durning, who do not hesitate at all in passing along the technical aspects of the sport that they’ve learned over the years.
Doyle emphasis that strength is not the determining factor to winning at arm wrestling.
“I’ve seen guys well over six-feet tall, well over 250 pounds of solid muscle, lose to [guys like] Martin—he’s a smaller guy, but super strong and super, super technical,” Doyle said.
When opponents square up, one hand has to be on the grip, while the other elbow—the arm doing the actual wrestling—has to be planted on a square pad and can’t leave it.
Instead of just brute-forcing an opponent’s arm backwards towards the table, strategies can include pulling his or her arm toward you first, before using body weight to pull the arm to the table.
Or, once the grips are locked, twisting the wrist to come over the top of the grip, which opens up the opponent’s hand and weakens the hold.
“You take their hand away, or you take one thing away from there and there isn’t much they can do,” said Doyle. “You get your position on the table, you’re hand the the right way—he can be three times stronger than you—if he has no leverage, there’s no way to come back from that.”
While the club gathers weekly for fun, there is a more serious side to the sport with local, provincial, national and international competitions, namely through the Canadian Arm Wrestling Federation and the World Arm Wrestling League.
“We went to Red Deer for the WAL qualifiers,” Doyle said. “There are qualifiers all over North America and then from there, they filter out more guys and then they do an international competition in Las Vegas with the best of the best and the up and comers. They have everything there.
“It’s phenomenal, some of the guys coming out of Europe—that’s their life.”
If anyone is interested in trying out arm wrestling, head over to the Legendary Byng Roadhouse on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. and check out the action.