T Nation

Train for a tug-o-war?

My fraternity has appointed me ‘tug-o-war’ chair. The idea is to whip the team into shape before the event, which occurs in all of 3 weeks.

It’s been years since I’ve done a good tug-o-war. My training protocol is essentially drop sets of pullups.

Any further… shall we say… sport specific ideas? I’d like to stick with bodyweight stuff, if only because it’s a pain in the ass to supervise 15 people in any gym.

Or should I even bother?

D. Indech

How about plenty of grip work and some rotational strength stuff (e.g. cable wood chops)?

Grip is going to be the most important factor. You can have all the strength in the world in your shoulders/back/arms - but if don’t improve your grip strength, none of that matters.

Pulling anything with a rope. Working on the “pulling” technique and grip would be a plus.

Actually if really think about tug-of-war your most amount of muscles you are using is your lower portion of your body… Your legs, lower back hamstrings, glutese ect “core” stabilier muscles… Sure u puill with the back muscles but your fondation for not being pulled foward is soley on the lower portion of your body…

personally though 3 weeks I wouldn’t even bother… Maybe just to a couple of trial runs…

grip strength in tug of war is also improtant… forgot to add that… Patricia reminded me…

I got it!

Here’s what you need:
A relatively high platform to stand on
2 empty kegs
2 towels

Have them stand on the platform, put a towel through the handles of the kegs, grabbing one towel with each hand, and do deadlifts. You could also probably figure out a way to do one-arm-bent-over rows.

I think everyone has enough grip strenght for plain old tug of war. My suggestion?
Talk to the dude witht he truck. Hook a rope to the hitch ball, and PULL!

Have everyone tak turns pulling, and then try pulling otgether as a team.

  1. Deadlift
  2. Drag/Pull something heavy with thick rope
  3. Repeat

I would definetly agree with the above post about truck pulling. Since you’ve only got three weeks you might as well hit people with some event-specific training.

I would however tend to disagree with the assessment that most people have enough grip strength for a tug of war. Every time I’ve competed in a final or semi-final it’s been the team that could hold on to the rope the longest that won. Unless of course it was an absolute blow-out.

The other thing you might want to try is a little team practice. Get everyone together so they know how to co-ordinate as a group. This can make a tremendous difference in the results.


Lot’s of excellent ideas here, particularly that one about the truck. What say, maybe 40 second sets for each person? I’ll assume the vehicle should be in neutral.

Derek, we’re short of empty kegs. We’d have to do it with bacardi. Seem to have a lot of that.

Patricia and sturat, I honestly haven’t a clue how to train grip specifically. Have mine from doing pullups and back work. But then I suppose anything with rope will fix that in a hurry.

Thanks all,


Sometimes we end our strongman training with seated cable pulls using the rope. Remember to chalk up.

If your gym has a Hammer Strength shrug machine, use that, too. Load up with weight, pick it up and hold it for as long as you can. I do agree with deadlifts, though.

Best thing, is to just get a rope, attach it to something large and rather heavy and pull. Get your team together and practice. Coordination, balance and grip strength will be key.

I’d suggest work on the entire posterior chain. The “pullers” in the chain will also need to be conditioned for harsh jerking movements. Biceps, traps, lats, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and quads (though that is not part of the posterior chain). You might have them jog backwards or do backward sprints. They also need to be able to plant their weight low on the ground. The only way to get them to do this properly it to practice an actual tug of war. This is a very unified team movement that requires a lot of timing/communication. Make sure they understand how to alternate in pulling so that no one side or person is out of the movement for any given time. Also, the anchor or last person on the line needs to be big. He or she will practically sit on the ground if they are doing it properly. This person will also need to be able to plant themsleves and their weight quickly and constantly. While you are practicing you should have everyone try to be the anchor at some point. But this posistion should be reserved for your heaviest person.

Don’t bother. The reality is your frat brothers would rather drink beers, eat cheetos, and go on panty raids rather than train and eat to support the training. You know I’m right.

I’d like to think that was a joke. Otherwise, you know nothing about my fraternity.

Duly noted, RS & Patricia.


I can’t see a frat taking on three full weeks of specialized training and dietary modification for a tug-of-war.

If that’s your thing, I think I DO know your frat.

Lamda Lamda Lamda rules!

Teamwork has so far been under-rated. You really will benefit from specific drills as a team pulling together. Pull the truck together for example.

I found in my TOW experience, that a seriously co-ordinated pull on command, or a series of such, would often unbalance the opposition, and lead to a “landslide”. Know what I mean?
So don’t forget to work on the signals and timing.

(BTW, a surprise 1st few seconds all-out attack might work 1-2 times too. However after that the other teams will have sussed it out and be ready for you, so it won’t work for ever.)

Hope this helps some, and sorry if I’ve been too “obvious” here. SRS

ask these guys…http://www.hope.edu/student/organizations/activities/pull/

Hope College, '93 :slight_smile: