A History of the Fist Pump

Fist Pump like a Champ :
A History of the Fist Pump

by Lisa Poirier

AllieFP(aMyth) It’s hard to escape it these days. It is sweeping the world like an epidemic. When you see someone’s fingers and thumb start to curl into their palm and they begin to raise their arm, there’s only one thing that could be coming… the fist pump or ‘guts pose’ as the Japanese call it.

Users on UrbanDictionary.com, a collaborative website that defines slang terms, describes a fist pump as “an arm motion made … defined by the outward thrusting of the fist and flexing in-between repetitions.”

The cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore has popularized the fist pump in recent years. DJ Pauly D, one of the famous guidos from the Jersey Shore, has been showing off his fist pump while at the club and said in season one, “we’re beatin’-up-the-beat, that’s what we say when we’re doing our fist pump. “

Pop Culture Madness.com’s writer, Allie, pictured above, and another North Jersey native, is an award-winning fist-pumper.

The popularity of the fist-pumping cast of Jersey Shore has rocketed the fist pump into modern pop culture. Many radio and television stations host contests where people send in pictures of themselves in the act and receive money. The recent craze has also spawned sections of websites such as the fist pumping category on Funnyordie.com and even fistpumpingguidos.com.

Although the masses might now think of fist pump as synonymous with Jersey Shore, it has been present in society for many decades.


Many sources say the fist pump began in the 1960s by rock musicians, especially guitarists playing on the “Black Power” raised fist of the Black Panthers. Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, both New Jersey natives, have been cited as playing a part in the rise of the fist pump throughout history.

Billy Idol may be best known for his punk rock anthems like “White Wedding” and “Dancing with Myself,” but who knew that many people would dub him the “King of the Fist Pump” ?

Remember the song “Rebel Yell” ? Well, many people believe this was the true start of the fist pump in the public eye. In 1984, Idol released “Rebel Yell” and the fist pumping began appearing at concerts during the song from Idol and audience members alike.

The King of the Fist Pump is apparently still fist pumping to this day. One recent concert review noted “Idol continues to bring women to their knees and men to fist-pump with fury…” Another said “Billy himself was in proper form. He still retains that bratty, tough guy attitude… He kept his fists pumping…”

Musicians aren’t the only ones who thrusted their fists before Pauly D. There’s an entire batch of athletes who work out their biceps pumping in celebration.

From 1994-2004, British tennis player Tim Henman would fist pump after every winning points. Commentators would note that when Henman performed the action, his fans, Henmaniacs,” would perform the gesture, becoming more exaggerated when the point was especially crucial.

FistNadelMany sports fans are familiar with Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal and his athletic prowess. Nadal appeared on the international tennis scene in 2002 and not long after the fist pumping began.

He is being called one of the best tennis players of all time and may be one of the greatest fist pumpers of all time too. Normally a very calm player, Nadal will usually scream “Vamos!” and do a signature fist pump to celebrate after winning intense or important matches, sets, and games.

Tennis isn’t the only sport with athletes who aren’t afraid to show off their fist-pumping pride. Golf has had Tiger Woods doing the classic arm motion ever since he won his first tournament. Joba Chamberlain, a baseball pitcher for the New York Yankees, is known for performing the action after getting a significant strikeout.

Even Hollywood could be added to the timeline of the fist pump. In 2004 Tom Cruise memorably jumped on the couch and fist pumped as he proclaimed his love for Katie Holmes on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Streets were filled with imitators and mockers as Tom Cruise left his footprint or rather fistprint in the recorded history of the fist pump.


Speaking of Hollywood, many movies wouldn’t be the same without a fist pump or two. O’Doyle, the bully from the 1995 Adam Sandler movie, Billy Madison, would have been almost nothing with his trademark action. Sylvester Stallone would not have looked nearly as triumphant in 1976 as Rocky Balboa reaching the top of steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art if he didn’t raise his fist in valor. Also, who can forget when John Bender left us with a fist pump at the end of teen cult classic, The Breakfast Club?

Of course, some politics play into the history of the world’s favorite arm movement. While running in the Democratic primaries 2004, candidate Howard Dean spoke was infamous for his “Dean Scream.” After the Iowa caucus, Dean attended a rally and did his signature scream with a fist pump.

FistHdeanFor weeks after the media lampooned Dean and constantly showed a still image of the candidate screaming with his fingers clenched and arm raised. Many political consultants say this photo was the beginning of the end for Dean’s race. The fist pump was his downfall. He did not finish well in any of the following primaries and eventually dropped his campaign.

From the years of punk rock and Rocky Balboa, to recent tennis stars and politicians, the fist pump has a rich and broad history. One can only hope that Pauly D, Snooki, The Situation, and their fellow guidos will carry on the tradition of the fist pump, and keep it around for generations to come.

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