Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In a tug-of-war match today, my summer camp students were very concerned about putting the biggest people at the back of the rope. Is there any advantage to this strategy?

share|cite|improve this question
When the rope breaks, the big people are on the bottom of the pile! – Dale Jun 30 '11 at 8:18
The wikipedia page on it shows some professional rope pulling, it seems the "biggest" (what ever that means exactly in English) are placed always at the ends. My guess is "psychology", if the smaller ones were behind, they lack sight of what is going on, and they feel obsolete. The very last one at each end can sling the rope around his back/shoulders, this is reason to place the biggest/strongest last. – Georg Jun 30 '11 at 10:16
Tug-o-war is sometimes played with a patch of mud between the teams. The losers get dragged through it. If a team starts to lose, the front player gets muddy first. The back position is safest. The biggest player can take the safest position. – mmesser314 Jun 28 '15 at 3:34
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Think of how much horizontal force you can apply. The puller, is leaning horizontally, and pushing (at an angle on the ground), and vertcal forces and rotational torque must separately balance. The more the puller can lean backwards, and the lower the rope, the more horizontal force he can apply. Presumably he can lean more, and get the rope lower from the back of the line.

share|cite|improve this answer
The link given in the question says: ""Lowering ones elbow below the knee during a 'pull' known as 'Locking' is a foul, as well as touching the ground for extended periods of time. "" – Georg Jun 30 '11 at 17:09

Yes, if you put the strongest people in the back the rope will be straighter, making it more likely everyone is pulling in the same direction.

share|cite|improve this answer

I can see two advantages:

1) the more heavy set the stronger the muscles, so it means a lot of the force is coming on a long arm. The tug is supposed to be linear but rotations will happen, and there will be amplification of the effect as a lever arm. If the rope were solid this is obvious.

2) Think of two people of equal weight,on a see-saw. The one with the shorter distance from the fulcrum is at a disadvantage and has to put in more force to swing. A tug of war has a "fulcrum" at the center where the two teams meet. Putting the heavy players at the end will shift the centre of mass towards the end and will give an advantage in the impulse transfer by a longer distance from the center.

share|cite|improve this answer
""If there are two people of equal weight, but share the rope unequally, "" This is a kind of riddle to me. Re "impulse", practice and rules of rope-pulling exclude any "impulse". – Georg Jun 30 '11 at 10:11
@eorg have a look at the definition of "impulse" . Where there is force that changes in time there is impulse, which is effectively delta(p) which is what decides who will pull the others over. I will edit the example about "sharing the rope" – anna v Jun 30 '11 at 10:44
@Anna Do you mean a "see-saw"? A swing is usually for one person swinging back a forth. A see-saw is a straight board with a fulcrum in the middle and one person on either end. – Mark Eichenlaub Jul 2 '11 at 6:32
@Mark Eichenlaub sorry, yes a see-saw. You realize english is not my first language, but this I should have known. – anna v Jul 2 '11 at 18:47

In the pure physics sense, if 3 people that pull 40Lb 30Lb and 20lb the total pull will be 90lb no matter where you put them. Now in the strategy is the last person in line is called the anchor he/she is usually the biggest and strongest of the bunch the next 3 are the pullers they do a straight yank as hard as they can and they are the pre-anchor the rest are heavers. The heavers pull in a rhythm or cycle called by the 1st person in line or the captain and they are arranged by height. The basic strategy depends on the 3 types of human force. The marathon runner “Constant force applied over time.” The sprinter “Grate force over a short time.” And the weight lifter “Exert and hold great power.”

share|cite|improve this answer

To most likely win tug of war,put the heavier people in the back because when they lean back,the rope moves further back.Now if you have someone that is only like 4 feet 10 inches and they are strong,still put them in the front.Heaviest to lightest would be good.Also putting the non heavy people but strong in the front is good to.

share|cite|improve this answer

protected by Qmechanic May 24 at 2:53

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.