Fist or chest bump Glenn Bland, but think twice about challenging him to an arm-wrestling match. Either arm. You'd probably have to use both arms and a leg.
The 48-year-old owner of Bland Solar & Air recently won first place with his left arm and second with his right in the National Armwrestling Promotions (NAP) State Championships held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Teammates Herman Stevens, John Taylor and Eric Martinez also finished first in their divisions.
Bland, a military brat, settled in Bakersfield when he was 12. A graduate of North High and BC, Bland is not just a two-trick pony. He swims, runs and bikes four days a week, and does strength and cardio circuit training five days a week. Married to sports specialist dietitian Tricia for 13 years, the couple have four children and two grandchildren.
I posed some questions to Bland about what it takes -- and what it doesn't take -- to be an arm-wrestling champ.
Bland: You might be surprised; arm wrestling has many divisions based on weight and age. I know you swim and cycle, and swimming incorporates the same muscle groups that are important in arm wrestling.
Have you ever faced an opponent who made your blood run cold and made you fear for your life?
Bland: Allen Fisher is the most intense person you will ever see in the sport. They say he can kill goats with a stare.
Do girls arm wrestle?
Bland: Arm wrestling is definitely for women, too. Run a Google search on Sarah Backman and Chantal Leduc, just to name two. They are athleticism and beauty wrapped together.
Have you ever lost to a girl?
Bland: No, but I haven't arm-wrestled Sarah or Chantal, yet either.
Can you psyche out an opponent? Do people play mind games?
Bland: Experienced pullers are hard to psyche out. Some like to get wild-eyed and pound on the table. In the end, it boils down to your training leading up to the competition. It's rewarding to defeat the dramatic opponent.
How do you train?
Bland: Arm wrestling is a pulling sport for the most part -- exercise that incorporates pulling is good. Pull-ups, bicep curls, wrist curls, rowing, swimming, cable pulls, pull downs, and of course table time.
Do people ever take it outside after an arm-wrestling match if it doesn't end well?
Bland: Some of the best pulling is done after tournaments. Folks that lose get an unofficial second chance for redemption. I haven't seen a fight break out yet ... close but not yet.
Have you ever gotten hurt in a match, hurt anybody else or seen somebody get their bell rung?
Bland: Arm wrestling has specific techniques. There's one ugly position that should always be avoided called the "break-arm position." It's a move usually performed by a beginner where, in desperation, the competitor turns away from their hand and leads with their shoulder. Occasionally this results in a spiral fracture of the humerus. Major surgery and a one-year recovery minimum. Imagine the sound of a chicken bone breaking close to a microphone! Spectators can lose their lunch when this happens.
What you wear? Does a black tank top strike fear in an opponent's heart?
Bland: Our team color is black. It's hard to go wrong with black. I once showed up at an "after tournament" pull at a local bar in a long-sleeved dress shirt and slacks. Probably the most fun I've ever had. A certain former professional football player happened to show up to get a lesson at the table.
How much is strength and how much is technique? Can you just get the jump on a guy?
Bland: The jump is important and can give you the edge. Strength is required to be competitive; beyond that, technique prevails. (Team captain Herman Stevens) is not only remarkably strong, his intellect gives him the ability to adapt and counter just about any opponent.
Who is the Babe Ruth in this sport? The Big Dog?
Bland: I have to name two people for this one -- John Brzenk and Devon Larratt. Cruise YouTube and check them out. Two of the greatest athletes in the world! These guys defy human strength.
Were you scared at this recent tournament?
I have a few butterflies at the beginning of a competition. Adrenalin is good.