Current Sport

Tug of War is a team sport that combines the strength and teamwork of eight individuals to pull an opposing team four meters. The team moves in unison to signals and calls of their 'rope coach' while a judge scrutinizes both teams and the movement of the rope.

A Tug of War match consists of (2) two pulls between the two teams, with points being awarded to to the teams depending on their success in the pulls.

Tug of War is divided into weight classes that apply for both men and women teams:

  1. Ultra Featherweight - not exceeding 480 Kilos
  2. Featherweight - not exceeding 520 Kilos
  3. Lightweight - not exceeding 560 Kilos
  4. Light Middleweight - not exceeding 600 Kilos
  5. Middleweight - not exceeding 640 Kilos
  6. Cruiser weight - not exceeding 680 Kilos
  7. Heavyweight - not exceeding 720 Kilos
  8. Catch weight - no weight limitations

The equipment used in Tug of War is quite straight forward.
The rope used in matches is between 10 cm - 12.5 cm in circumference and is at least 33.5 meters in length. The rope must be free from knots or holdings for hands. Shoes worn by teams must be free of spikes studs or nails, and the sole heel and side of the heel must be perfectly flush.

More comprehensive information on the rules can be found at the Tug of War International Federation (TWIF) website.


In selecting men or women to form a team, it should be borne in mind that Tug-of-War is an exceedingly strenuous exercise and training for it can be very monotonous. The participants selected must, therefore, be definitely keen, hard working and cheerful characters. Any participants of surly disposition or given to frequent grousing is much better left out of the team as they will have a very bad effect on the others.


During training, old boots may be worn provided they are comfortable and the soles are reasonably good. The general condition of the boot does not matter. For competitions work, however, really sound boots should be worn. They should be "broken in" beforehand. Boots must not be "faked" in anyway, i.e. the sole, heel and side of heel must be perfectly flush.

Participants should be encouraged to change into vests and shorts before doing any rope work. After training, every participant should go through a good cool down and stretching period. Always remember that whilst doing training it is reasonable that the participants appearance is of minor importance, providing it is comfortable and essential to his or her exercise, but it is of major importance at all times during competitions. The whole team must turn out clean and smart. This factor is not only for the best interests of the sport, but also for the morale of the team.

The Rope

The size of a tug-of-war rope is 35 yards (minimum) in length and four to five inches in circumference. The length is immaterial as far as training is concerned, but it is advisable to have a rope of the correct thickness. The rope should be kept as clean as possible and all grit removed from it. Avoid storing the rope near paraffin or acid of any kind. Hang the rope in a reasonably well aired cool place when not in use, never leave it on any floor which may become damp.

No knots or loops may be made in the rope, nor may it be locked across any part of the body of any member of the team. Crossing the rope over itself constitutes a loop. Any act, other than the ordinary grip, which prevents the free movement of the rope, is a lock. The end or Anchor person may grip the rope under the arm and pass it over one shoulder, the remaining slack therefrom must be free.

Hoists and Pulleys

A derrick or gyn is useful during training. The "weight" should be a box or tray filled with scrap iron, so that weight can easily be varied. Wire should be used to connect the "weight" to the tug-of-war rope. The wire should run around the pulley at the top of the derrick, and then round a pulley at the base so that the loop to which the rope is attached is at a height of not more than 18 inches above the ground. A strong, well sited tree frequently makes a satisfactory derrick.


Training for tug-of-war cannot be hurried and great harm can be done physically and morally if the team is overworked at the start. Stamina must be built up gradually, and the training in general should start easily and get increasingly difficult as time goes on. It takes regular, well planned training to get a team up to a reasonable standard. Many of the best teams have had to be built up over the years. Avoid pressing a new group of trainees beyond their abilities.
It is suggested that the training should be divided into two periods:-

First Period:

Teams should train together, if possible, on at least two occasions each week and never less than once a week. The first month should be devoted to strengthening exercises, roadwork, and mastering the technique of the rope as far as the individual is concerned. The body should be strengthened generally, and particular attention should be paid to developing the abdominal, dorsal and heavy muscles. Rope climbing, without the use of the legs is a good exercise for the grip and for the heaving muscles. Roadwork will develop legs as well as getting participants generally fit. It should consist of walks at 4 mph carried out in sweater, trousers and boots - never let participants in training get cold. Make a point of walking over heavy ground, e.g. deep sand, ploughed, etc., and over a certain amount of rough ground, in order to strengthen the ankles. Slow jogging with very occasional short sprints may be included in roadwork. It is also a good policy to give each participant a sheet of newspaper to crumble in each hand as he or she walks along. It is surprising how this will exercise the fingers and develop the grip. A small rubber ball in each hand is also very good for this valuable exercise. During this first period participants should be taught the technique of the correct positions on the rope, and tested three or four at a time on the derrick. (see "Technique"). Throughout the whole of training it is important to weigh participants once a week (in the same kit) and keep a chart of their weights. Weight is likely to drop in the first ten days, and may rise slightly afterwards or remain constant. Any sudden drop in weight is a sure indication of "staleness", the bane of every trainer. "Staleness", is best avoided by making the training as varied and enjoyable as possible. Active games of a light-hearted nature should be freely interspersed with more serious work, and training should never be carried out as a fatigue.

Second Period

After the first month it should be possible to arrange the likely team in the order in which they are going to pull on the rope, and from now on the rope work should predominate and should be carried out as a team. Use should still be made of the derrick, but from now on more and more work should be done against live opposition. If necessary, divide your participants into small teams and run a competition with three or four participants in each team.

The position of the team on the rope is usually the shortest participant in front, and the tallest and heaviest participant as anchor. One can develop the best type of balanced team if all pulling members operate from the same side of the rope; the right side usually considered the best.

From now on the Coach should aim at perfecting the technique of his team. The following section on Technique aims at giving Coaches an idea of the recommended positions to be adopted by a team at various phases of a pull.


'Take up the Rope" (rope on right side)
Pick up the rope and stand upright, well balanced on both feet, rope well held under the right armpit with the right arm bent and the right hand under the rope. The left arm should be extended with the left hand gripping the rope from the top. The rope should be in a straight line and fairly taut from front to rear, both hands as close together as possible, and the team should not stiffen themselves in any way. A rigid stance uses up energy that will be required later.

"Take the Strain"

This is the normal pulling position on the rope. Gripping the rope firmly with both hands close together, allow the body to fall back to an angle of about 45 degrees. The correct position here is of the utmost importance, so it will be dealt with in detail.

a) The Feet

The sides of boots must be well cut into the ground. It is impossible to push with both feet flat on the ground - a common fault with novices. The feet should not be directly one behind the other, but should be one on each side of the rope and about twelve inches apart. This gives lateral control and prevents swaying about. The feet should be separated about twelve inches from front to rear.

b) The Legs

The leading leg must be perfectly straight. This leg acts as a prop, and the more the opposing team heaves, the more they should pull this leg into the ground, thus increasing its resistance. The rear leg is slightly bent and it is from this leg that the driving power is mainly produced when the heave is made.

c) The Body

The lower part of the body must be kept well up over the rope, and never allowed to sag. The whole body should be in a straight line from the sole of the leading foot on the top of the bead. If the body is allowed to sag in the middle, not only is tremendous strain being placed on the back muscles, but any drive from the legs will not be carried through the body and will merely accentuate the sag.

The upper part of the body should be well over the rope, but in no way lying on it. A participant can exert his/her full force only through his/her centre of gravity, and the idea is always to have the centre of gravity as close as possible to the rope. Care must be taken that the leading shoulder is not allowed to fall way from the rope and thus prevent a participant pulling along the line of the rope.

d) The Hands and Arms

The hands should grip the rope close together with the palms of the hands facing upwards so the leading shoulder can be more easily kept over the rope. The leading arm must be perfectly straight, and the rear arm as straight as possible, consistent with the position of the hand. If the arms are bent the arm and shoulder muscles are cramped, and much energy is being unnecessarily expended.

e) The Head

The head should be kept back in prolongation of the line of the body, and not thrown forward. This gives extra weight on the rope and facilitates breathing.

The Heave

Keeping the strain on the rope, lower the angle of the body to about 34 degrees with the ground and heave by a powerful stretch of the legs and body towards the anchorman. Immediately take advantage of any ground gained by moving the feet back, being careful to keep them close to the ground. There must be no easing up either before or after the heave, as any relaxation will allow the opponents to take the offensive.