# I Know Size Matters, But Does Order?August 9, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Watched my children in a tug-o-war this past weekend. They won 2 out of 3!! They changed the order of the team after the first round which they had lost. They then won two straight. Other than psychological reasons, from a purely scientific standpoint, assuming maximum efficiency and effort, does it matter what order the team is placed in?

I have read this question about strategy and googled it too. I get the use the legs, put the strongest guy in the loop in the back, use leverage, etc. What I cannot figure out is why it matters who is where on the rope if everyone is working to maximum strength and efficiency. I understand that the loop changes things a little and that the strongest heaviest type should be in the loop, but the other 7 on the rope could be placed randomly, right? I know little about physics, but I assume the sum of each individual's strength remains the same in whatever order they are placed, right?
posted by AugustWest to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

aside from the aforementioned loop position recommendation, the sturdiest person with the best balance should be anchor, although I'm not sure if that was a factor in their order.
posted by batmonkey at 9:10 AM on August 9, 2011

You can't push a string. If someone in front is pulling harder than behind, it may take some time for the tension in the rope to increase and for a period the person in the back will have no input to the tugging.
posted by Yorrick at 9:13 AM on August 9, 2011

Hm. One way I can think of messing things up would be to arrange your team in a sequence of basketball player - shorty - basketball player - shorty, and so on. Then each member would be wasting energy on pulling the rope up/down to their level, rather than just back.
posted by labberdasher at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2011

I think 99% is in the coordination of timing. It's called tug of war for a reason, not pull of war. The person calling the rhythm should be aware of the tug timing on the other side and aim to have tugs fall in their less-guarded moments. Unless there's a simple strength difference in the teams, the advantage will go to the team that best executes tugs that gain ground and then holding on to the gain. If the teams tugging efforts are well-coordinated, then then the sequence of players along the rope should make no difference, other than the loop person as you said.
posted by beagle at 9:35 AM on August 9, 2011

The one at the very rear has a better grip on the rope, and thus can convert more of their strength into pulling. Rearranging the team to put the strongest member at the back could make a difference.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:55 AM on August 9, 2011

I imagine there are a couple things in play.. looking at the center of gravity of the rope, or whatever the middle point of the opposing tension is, and the player's center of gravity in relation to that, if two strong people are close to the middle on opposing sides, shifting their weight would result in them becoming unbalanced easier.

So imagine weaker from the front to strongest in the back would result in the best balance, and prevent someone in front pulling stronger than someone behind them, thus eliminating their effort as mentioned above by Yorrick.

With weaker pullers in front, also, their combined energy would build towards the back, making the stronger player at the end being able to add more of their energy at a reduced cost of spend.

But I'm not a physicist or scientist or math genius, so that's all off the top fo the head thought.
posted by rich at 10:03 AM on August 9, 2011

Being in the loop at the end means that:
-You can stand directly behind the rope and pull straight to you (a stronger position than to the side like the peeps in the middle have to)
-You can lean back further than your hand strength would otherwise allow
-The lean in the back ends up being a main component of the "hold" part of "pull and hold" (because everyone in the middle needs to re-adjust their feet a lot more to remain efficient)

You don't say whether if were any lefties in there. I suspect that might matter.

Another piece about short v. tall... If tall is pulling against short, the tall person is being pulled into the ground for better traction while the short person is being pulled a little out of it. Assuming that the weight of the rope is negligible for the strength of the pullers involved, the taller people should have a slight advantage.
posted by milqman at 10:10 AM on August 9, 2011

I would posit that you want your weakest players near the back where they won't get in the way. Putting the strongest guy(s) in back means that he has to not only overcome the other side, but also drag along the weaker members of his team.

I would bet that the best strategy is

[other side]---------{pit of doom}---------strong--weaker--weaker--weaker--heaviest
posted by gjc at 6:20 PM on August 9, 2011

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