What started with a backhanded joke has rolled into an intense, title-filled passion for Barrington arm wrestlers Paul and Jim Saccoccia.

It’s also brought the father-son duo closer together, and not just because they spend every Wednesday night locked at the wrist, trying every pull and counterstrike they know to pin the other. Their deepened, sweaty bond has inspired them to try to grow the sport locally, in addition to making their meets even more rewarding and competitive.

“It’s done a lot. I think we’ve grown as a father and son,” said Paul, 60. “He pushes me and I push him. Each one makes the other better because you want to try harder.”

“Some people hunt with their fathers,” said Jim, 30. “I hunt, but he doesn’t, so I have to arm wrestle with him.”

Their involvement in the sport began several years ago. Paul was watching a meet on TV, thinking he might be good at it when Jim teased him to “get off the couch and do something.”

After Paul made a couple of informal visits to the clubhouse of Manchester-based arm wrestling team Granite Arms, he was hooked. Soon after, so was his son, who stylistically is a hooker because of the way he turns his wrist inward while pulling. Jim’s older sister Natalie also tried her hands and arms at the sport for a time.

Paul and Jim have each collected various medals and hardware along the way while competing right- and left-handed in local and regional meets. Two years ago, Jim won a national amateur title and qualified to compete in a world competition in Las Vegas, although he couldn’t attend due to work obligations.

Jim is an electrician who owns Saccoccia Electric, while Paul owns Saccoccia Construction. Each say their careers contribute significantly to their prowess, as their demanding jobs give key arm wrestling muscles and tendons plenty of exercise.

“It’s usually two days after practice that will whip your ass out,” Jim said.

While each say their victories are rewarding and help offset the many losses that come in a sport like arm wrestling, they said the prospect of growing the sport on the Seacoast is also rewarding.

They said arm wrestling is gaining momentum in other parts of the state, thanks to notable figures like Sunapee-based world champion Cathy Merrill and Professional Arm Wrestlers hall of famer Artie “Badger” Drewes. Merrill is a member of Granite Arms, while Badger is the coach.

Granite Arms has a few dozen members, several of which are women. The team’s Facebook page typically gets at least one message each week from someone looking to join, according to Jim, one of the page’s administrators.

Jim and Paul are the only Seacoast residents on the team – something they’d like to fix.

“The brotherhood of arm wrestlers are a great bunch,” Paul said while describing the atmosphere of their clubhouse and meets as friendly and approachable. “We do it for fun.”

Speaking of fun, the Saccoccias say they’ve heard just about every arm wrestling joke in the book, most of which have been at their expense.

Before Jim started his own company, coworkers at his old job nicknamed him Lincoln after Lincoln Hawk, the character Sylvester Stallone played in the 1987 arm wrestling film “Over the Top.” They even went so far as to print out images of Sly and plaster them everywhere at work.

According to the Saccoccias, most Hollywood depictions of arm wrestling feature more physical contact and aggression than reality. Jim said he believes it limits understanding and participation in the sport, as the actual scene is much friendlier than the infamous shots of actor Steven Seagal snapping someone’s wrist in a dingy bar.

“Ninety-nine percent of people in this sport are so friendly,” said Paul, who added arm wrestling with Jim reminds him of the rewarding years he coached him in football. Jim carries that legacy forward as the coach of Dover Little Green’s seventh-grade football team.

The typical arm wrestling match can take a few moments or seconds or last upward of two minutes. Paul said he’s had a match that once lasted seven minutes, which is grueling given the amount of energy exerted by the entire body while arm wrestling.

The object is to pin your opponent’s arm to the table without breaking contact with the metal peg that competitors have to hold at all times with their free hand. Experienced wrestlers move their head, shoulders and body with their arms to maintain leverage, hence the physical demands on their cores and legs.

Paul’s style tends to feature quick strikes, trying to capitalize on speed and his large size, particularly while practicing against younger wrestlers like his son. Paul’s style is also unmistakable given the way he crunches and contorts his face like a weightlifter with every micro-movement of his body.

Like poker, the sport involves playing your opponent, something both Paul and Jim do. Jim is shorter and more stoic than his dad during a match, and said he typically goes into handshakes and the initial grip completely loose to avoid tipping his hand. After hopefully baiting his competitor with false confidence, Jim said he’ll either look for a quick pin, or try to catch his opponent’s first hit and pounce on a counterattack the nanosecond his opponent lets up.

“You’re going on the last part of ‘G,’” Jim said about quick-striking on the referee’s match-starting command, “Ready, go.”

Paul said anyone interesting in trying the sport should understand some of the basic grips and techniques to avoid injury. Technique is an important piece of the puzzle and can allow slight athletes to defeat their hulking counterparts, although Paul said technique can only go so far without strong, functional muscles and tendons behind it.

“It’s not just grabbing and pulling,” he said.

For more about Granite Arms, visit Facebook.com/GraniteArmsNH.