Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Tug-of-war physics

  1. May 10, 2012 #1
    Where is best to put the strongest person on your team if you want to win a tug-of-war and why?

    I also heard about a guy who got his arm severed when the rope broke, the snopes site says it was due to the rebounding force of the rope, does this just mean the rope hit his arm ?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 10, 2012 #2
    Without the article to state what actually happened ...

    People tend to wrap the rope around the arm for better grip. But if you are one of the up front persons that is a bad thing to do as the rope will have the most tension and could break your arm or if you slip have the arm angled.

    A rope under tension stretches - some materials more than others. Hemp or natrural fibers less so than nylons or polyesters. If the rope breaks there is no more tension and the stretch relaxes and that could mangle your arm. The least damage besides no injury could be a severe rope burn.

    Try an elastic band - stretch it and let one end go and notice the violent rebound as the elastic relaxes.
  4. May 10, 2012 #3
    In theory, it does not matter where you put the strong guy. But I've found that he normally does better in the back because he can wrap the rope around his arm in that position, or even around his waste. Either gives him a better grip. But as already mentioned, it is dangerous to wrap the rope around any part of you if you are in any other position than the tail end.
  5. May 11, 2012 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Interesting.. I would have drawn the opposite conclusion.
    At the back, because you can wrap the rope around you, strength is largely irrelevant. What you need there is weight, height and shoegrip. You'd likely lose your footing before you ran out of strength to straighten your legs.
    At the front, since you have to keep your options open, you rely on hand grip on the rope. That takes strength.
  6. May 14, 2012 #5
    That also is interesting. I guess that either idea might be valid, depending on how the guy is strong. I've not done much tug of war, but when I work as a rigger we would sometimes put the whole crew on a rope to apply a load to it. We got best results when we put the strong guy in the back. He was a power lifter, so the rest of his body was much stronger than his grip.
  7. May 14, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    But often the strongest will also be the heaviest, so it's not clear which was important.
  8. May 22, 2012 #7
    Well, apparently they (there were two people, actually) didn't have the ropes wrapped around their arms (google 'snopes tug-of-war' and it's the first link, but be wary that there is a graphic image on that page).
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?