PicturePhoto by Candy Bigwood
Rob is a competative arm-wrestler, and an ethical vegan, who was one of the competitors featured on the first season of AMC's Game of Arms. Rob is part of a rapidly growing group of athletes who are proving that it is possible to be big, and strong, all while following a compassionate diet. He took the time to share some of his insights on nutrition, training, and his experience on the first season of Game of Arms as part of Team New York City Arms Control with Plant-Based Performance.

Scott Shetler: Can you tell us about your personal and professional background?

Rob Bigwood: I’m an Interactive Art Director http://rbigwood.com/, currently working at an agency in midtown Manhattan. I design mobile apps, websites, and anything interactive. The latest project I designed is the new Comedy Central Everywhere app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/comedy-central/id799551807?mt=8 for iPhone, iPad, and Android. I’ve also worked on some other notable brands including Audi, Air National Guard, Citi, Emirates, MSG, and Pepsi.

SS: How did you become interested in the sport of arm wrestling, and how long have you been competing?

RB: One of my best friends growing up competed in the sport. He was a smaller guy that convincingly beat the entire football and wrestling teams. He also was the first guy my age (16 years old) that beat me. We started training together and after a few months traveled to North Carolina for a competition. I've been competing and training ever since.

SS: What titles have you won in the sport?

RB: 2012/ 2009 NYC Big Apple Grapple, 2010 MMA Extravaganza, 2009 NJ Fitness Expo, 2006 PAC World Championship, 2006 Northeast Challenge, 2005/2003 Can-Am Championship, and multiple other CT, NJ, MD, DE, VA and FL State Championships.

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Photo by Candy Bigwood
SS: When, and why, did you become vegan?

RB: I’ve been a vegetarian for seven years and vegan about half of that. I feel it’s hypocritical calling oneself an animal lover while eating meat. Wrong, you just love your cat or dog and turn a blind eye for your taste buds. Animals have the same feelings, emotions, and fears. They should also have the same rights and respect. We are all conditioned to ignore where our food comes from at an early age. I never connected that the hotdog or cheeseburger that I was eating was once an innocent animal that had its life slashed and body butchered. It was somebody’s mother, father, brother, or sister.

SS: You are certainly proof that it is possible to build muscle and strength without animal-based protein. How big of a shock is it to people when they find out you are vegan?

RB: I wouldn't say shocked but in general just really curious. I always get ask the same question. "Where do you get your protein from then?!"

SS: What does a normal day of eating look like for you?

RB: I don't have any secrets to my diet and I honestly eat pretty simple. I cut up a banana or two and mix it with organic almond butter and a variety of nuts for breakfast. Oatmeal, salads, grains, avocado, beans, tempeh, seitan, fruits, veggies, and almond milk. Once in a while I'll mix up a vegan protein shake. I also drink plenty of coconut water.

SS: What is your favorite healthy vegan meal?

RB: Kale and quinoa salad with avocado, tempeh, almonds, sunflower seeds, and balsamic dressing.

SS: What is your favorite not-so-healthy vegan meal?

RB: I eat unhealthy a lot so where do I even start? I usually have a sweet tooth and LOVE chocolate almond ice cream.
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Photo by David Moir
SS: Do you do much strength and conditioning work to supplement your arm wrestling practice?

RB: Honestly, the best way to get better at arm wrestling is to actually arm wrestle. It's almost impossible to mimic the awkward pressures and angles at the gym.

SS: What does a normal training routine look like for you?

RB: Just the basic exercises anyone at the gym would normally do; bench, dips, squat, pull-ups, etc. I do use a fatter grip on my back and bicep day though and do more isometric + half rep type exercises. I also try to get home every few weeks to train with my brother on the table. I also have garage springs hooked up to the wall where I do motions that mimic arm wrestling.

SS: Okay man, the pre-competition bubble-bath, does it work? If so I am totally doing it before my next powerlifting or kettlebell sport meet.

RB: Haha! How did you know about that? My body tenses up from nerves and a hot bath seems to relax and calm my mind and muscles. I add bubbles to avoid getting dry skin and plus it feels good. Anyway, who doesn't like bubble baths?
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Photo by David Moir
SS: What was it like to be part of the first season of Game of Arms?

RB: It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. It was literally a second job having to train, compete, and be filmed week after week on top of my regular life. But it was also a once in a lifetime opportunity and I have zero regrets.

SS: What type of impact do you feel the show will have on the future of the sport?

RB: Guys love arm wrestling! I get stopped every day to take a picture or sign an autograph and everyone also keeps asking about Season 2.

SS: What advice do you have for anyone interested in participating in the sport?

RB: Check out the World Armwrestling League's website http://www.walunderground.com/ and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WorldArmwrestlingLeague for upcoming events. They are throwing quarterly events this year around the country. Also hook up with a group of guys that already practice and compete. Get some table time. The Northeast Board http://northeastboard.com/ has a great community of pullers from around the country and even the world.

SS: How can we, as vegan athletes and enthusiasts, best share the benefits and put to rest the myths of this lifestyle, without coming across as “preachy” to non-vegans?

RB: Try to listen to opposing opinions and avoid using statements like "you shouldn't" or "you're wrong." Simply state facts and if they aren't ready to accept them try another time. I feel most people are truly compassionate people that are capable of change.  

SS: Why is it important to you that people consider adopting a plant-based diet and lifestyle?

RB: A plant-based lifestyle is beneficial for our environment, our health, the less fortunate, and especially the billions of innocent animals murdered each and every year.
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Photo by David Moir
SS: How mad do you get when the person sitting 3rd-base at a blackjack table stands on a 16 when the dealer’s upcard is 7 or higher?

RB: Great question! I get furious especially if they decide to take a hit the very next time. If you are not going to play by the rules at least play consistently.

SS: Where can people go on the web to learn more about you, do you have a website or social media pages you would like us to share?

RB: I post upcoming arm wrestling events and vegan related information on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/rbigwood2. I also frequently use Twitter https://twitter.com/rbigwood.

SS: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

RB: Follow the Game of Arms https://www.facebook.com/gameofarms and NYC Arms Control Facebook pages https://www.facebook.com/NYCArmsControl if you liked the show.

SS: Rob, thank you sincerely for taking the time to do this interview! Hopefully we can get you involved in any future projects we do with Plant-Based Performance. All the best to you in your future endeavors! 


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About Scott Shetler
Scott is an entrepreneur, business owner, and plant-based strength enthusiast from Duluth, GA. 

He has a degree in Health and Physical Education, is certified through the NSCA, and is the owner of www.extreme-fitness.org and www.scottshetler.com where he trains both athletes and motivated fitness enthusiasts. 

He has authored 7 books including,”Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit” and  “Kettlebells for Sport, Strength, and Fitness”. 

In addition, Scott was selected to be the Kettlebell Training Specialist for the TapouT Virtual Training Center (VTC). Scott is a student of Qigong and Taijiquan, has competed in kettlebell sport, powerlifting, and is a member of Team Plantbuilt, a team of vegan physique and strength athletes who come together every year to help non-profits, animal sanctuaries, and vegan outreach. Click here to learn more about Team Plantbuilt and our mission.