Meet Rahul Panicker. He is from Edapally, Kochi and works as Lead Engineer at Nest Technologies. He is also the current 70kgs Indian National Arm Wrestling Champion. If that hasn’t raised your eyebrows, then let us tell you that Rahul Panicker has been the State champion 10 times, National champion 8 times, UAE champion once, and was ranked 9th in the 2019 World Championship.
Here’s a video of Rahul Panicker defeating Larry Wheels (dubbed the “World’s strongest bodybuilder”) in an arm wrestling match.
We saw this video and had goosebumps! And we had to ask him a few questions. So we reached out to Rahul Panicker and he was kind enough to spare some time to answer our queries.
How did you get started with arm wrestling?
I’ve grown up watching my father do exercises and lift heavy weights, and so I’ve had a passion for gyming and working out since my childhood.
In 2003, when I was in the 10th standard, I joined Life Gym at Edapally. I met Mr Mukundakumar there and he introduced me to arm wrestling. He also introduced me to Coach Sajeesh, who has been my coach since.
How does one start training to be an arm wrestler?
Arm wrestling is 70% strength and 30% technique. You start off learning the basic grips and movements, and then go on to strengthen all parts of the body. There are 3 main movements in arm wrestling:
- Hook: You supinate your wrist, engage your biceps, shoulder, and lat muscles, get it locked down and pull towards the pin.
- Toproll: You use your wrist, biceps, and lats to pull the opponent outside his comfort zone and then go for the pin.
- Press: You use your tricep and chest to press the opponent to the pin. (This is a dangerous move and can lead to serious injuries)
You have to train to strengthen these movements, and hence, there are special exercises that you have to do.
You also have to train for endurance of mind and body, as it is critical to how long you can stay in an arm wrestling match.
What does your diet look like?
I follow a high protein diet – mainly egg whites, tuna, chicken breasts, etc. The proportion of macronutrients that I consume might vary depending on whether I want to increase or reduce my weight.
Have you had to face many opponents bigger than you? How do you mentally prepare for such a match?
I don’t remember the number of times, but I have beaten people bigger than me many times. The biggest one I can remember was an Indian Nation Arm Wrestling Champion who was 6’7’’ and 180 kgs. I’ve won the Champion of Champion many times. This is where the 1st place winners from all weight categories compete.
I gain mental strength from training. I train 3-4 hours every day. I often get tensed before a match, but my Coach Mr Sajeesh motivates me saying, “You are like Lord Hanuman, you do not know how strong you are!” and suddenly I feel all fired up!
What has been the best part of taking up this sport?
I enjoy this sport a lot. Arm wrestling is a very competitive sport and every match is like a story – the usage of techniques, physics, psychology, and strength in various combinations makes it very interesting to someone who understands the sport.
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In the last five years, what belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?
I’ve always tried to learn and pass on what I’ve learned. Any gym that I go to, I try to pass on my knowledge. Many people have started to arm wrestle because of it. My coach and I have introduced more than 100 players to arm wrestling so far.
In the match against Larry Wheels, you lost the first two rounds, but came back strong and defeated him in the next three rounds. What did you tell yourself after the initial two rounds?
After the first 2 rounds, I really got into the feel of that competition. I told myself that I was going to give it all I’ve got even if my hand breaks.
After the first 2 rounds my friend Faijas came to me and told me that my mind was not in the competition. He had seen me compete many times and he motivated me by saying that if my mind was fully in the game, there’s no one who can beat me.
What are bad recommendations you hear in the arm wrestling world?
The worst thing I can think of is the recommendation of steroids to gain strength.
What is one thing that most people do not know about you?
My left hand is shorter than my right by almost 15 cm. Not many people have noticed that.
For someone starting out with arm wrestling, what advice would you give?
You might lose matches in the beginning, but don’t let that deter you. Keep working hard and believe that you will be a champion. Your success depends on hard work and your belief in yourself.