TikTok's Favorite Arm Wrestler Insists There's Nothing Sexual About All the Husky Whispers

Etienne Waite has gained a following for his intense arm-wrestling videos. 
TikTok's Favorite Arm Wrestler Insists There's Nothing Sexual About All the Husky Whispers
Photograph courtesy of TK; Collage: Gabe Conte

Etienne Waite, who goes by “E.T.,” is arguably the most famous arm wrestler in the world, thanks to his millions of followers across TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. In his videos, the 28-year-old coaches his opponent through the basics of arm wrestling: instructing them to breathe, and often complimenting them on their strength. In a soothing, husky voice, he provides real-time feedback, perhaps grunting out a “Fuck, you’re so strong.” And he says there's nothing sexual about that—he just doesn't want anyone to get hurt. 

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You see, only 15 pounds of pressure in the wrong direction can break someone's arm. He usually explains this in his safety briefing prior to arm wrestling someone: Before he starts the match with one of his opponents, he’ll talk them through the basics, but that isn’t usually enough to get them up to speed. So he continues to coach his opponent during the match, to ensure they don’t injure themselves—and making for the most pleasant arm-wrestling content for the internet in the meantime. 

Over the course of at least 300 arm wrestling matches, Waite has only broken someone’s arm once, while arm-wrestling on the beach. In the arm-wrestling community, he explained, if you break your arm, it’s your fault, “because at any moment, you can let go.” 

What you don’t see in these ASMR-esque videos is the struggle that Waite had to go through to become The Whisperer.

Waite found himself in Twentynine Palms, a small desert city in San Bernardino county, near Joshua Tree National Park and a large Marine Corps Base, while he recovered from a motorcycle wreck that he sustained in Los Angeles. Before his wreck, he would regularly lift weights and practice martial arts, but has not been able to return to either after the accident. These days, his training consists of just walking and arm wrestling.

His arm wrestling origin story is also a humble one: He watched a technique videos and then walked into a local supplement store, Athlete’s Nutrition, and challenged an employee. He wasn’t expecting the guy to be 280 pounds of muscle, but he was, and Waite was easily defeated. At one point, Waite said, the man asked him if he’d started trying yet, then easily laid his arm down. Motivated to ensure this never happened again, Waite began to study and train. 

Waite has become something of an anatomy expert when it comes to the mechanics of arm wrestling, thanks to his own self-guided curriculum of physical therapy and physiology books to read up “from the back to the fingertips,” as a way to prevent the recurring injuries he endured during the beginning of his arm wrestling career.

Meanwhile, his diet and training regimen is decidedly unsexy. He doesn’t lift weights, but gets in two marathon arm-wrestling sessions a week. He doesn’t eat at restaurants often, but sticks to things like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, protein shakes, and steak with a side of carbs for dinner, along with collagen, vitamin c, zinc, and fish oil.

For aspiring arm athlethes, Waite emphasizes the importance of the forearm and hand strength–it’s not all biceps, as some people seem to think. While muscle is obviously important, Waite explained that the sport is heavy on tendons, ligaments, and bone density—which is why bodybuilders and power lifters might not be as great arm wrestlers as they’d think. 

Many of his videos are set in Athlete’s Nutrition, where Waite now works. He’s lost count, but Waite estimates that he’s cleared over 100 arm wrestling matches in the store alone. In his videos, he offers any challenger to their choice of product in the store, or a stack of cash, if they’re able to beat him. (This does not happen often.)

Waite’s first arm wrestling persona was simply “the Biker,” because he rode a motorcycle, and “couldn’t think of anything cool.” But as he started coaching his opponents, he became known for his real-time guidance.

“I never expected to be the Whisperer,” he said. “but it's kind of something that people chose, and it's just stuck.”

There is one thing that Waite wants to clear up: The sunglasses. He’s often wearing aviators in his videos, but it’s not for style points: Serious gallbladder issues left him with extreme photosensitivity, to the point where bright lights can make him nauseous. He’s explained this so many times that his followers now answer this question on his behalf.

The “Arm Wrestling Whisperer” has two goals: “to arm wrestle as many people on the planet as possible while spreading the sport and getting it bigger, and becoming the best arm wrestler I can be.” Waite isn’t exactly sure what his demographic is, but assumes that most of his audience is not part of the arm wrestling community. He says he actually got quite a bit of hate from professional arm wrestlers, who see him as “just a TikTok arm wrestler.”  

Any engagement is good engagement, he says, because that is what helps his content spread. And if people happen to get horned-up by his soothing dulcet tones, well, that’s their problem. He’s been encouraged to lean into the “whisperer” part of his moniker, with requests for him to say things like “good girl”—though he has no intentions of indulging his kinkier followers.