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The sport of Tug of War isn’t all about big biceps and strong arms. While upper body strength is necessary, you'll need to a powerful lower body and core that can take the strain as you heave and hold the rope. Not to mention, you'll need mental fortitude to last the storm while waiting for the opening when your rivals slacken so you can produce that burst to victory.
Singapore has been actively participating in Tug of War tournaments where the national team has taken part in tournaments such as the Asian Tug of War Championships in Japan and other tournaments in Macau and Korea. Their most recent achievement was a second place finish at the Calsome Cup in Vietnam. At the coming ASEAN Tug of War Championship hosted in Singapore, the team hopes to improve on their display among the field of 10 countries.
Mohamed Azam Missuan, vice-captain of the Singapore Tug of War team, dispels the misconception that the sport is only about working your arms, “Ultimately, a tugger must be able to apply his whole body as a unit to move the rope.”
He explains further, “Tug of war is an all body workout which needs strength from the lower and upper back to lock and hold the pulling position; explosive strength from the hamstrings, quads and calves to burst, press down and move backwards; and gripping power from the arms to keep everything in order. Essentially, the legs will bear the brunt of the competition followed by the back and the arms.”
Keeping in tip top shape for the tug of war obviously requires intensive training. While it is a team sport (each team comprises of eight men - 1st to 7th Man and the anchorman), the fitness of individual members is key in preparations. Azam shares the philosophy behind the team's approach to training, “We’re a firm believer in the base fitness of each and every puller before undertaking actual rope training. We usually train twice a week and increase the intensity once competition draws near.”
So how can you be as powerful as a tugger? Azam shares the team's training regimen to build up explosive power for both your upper and lower body:
Phase 1: Cardio and Core
a. Warm ups
- 3 rounds around track
b. Stationary Circuit Exercises (3 Sets of 10-20 with 1 min rest in between completed circuits)
- Jumping jacks
- Prisoner squats
- Floor Back exercise
c. Core Exercises and Stretching
- Plank (2 mins)
- Cat Stretch
Phase 2: Legs, Upper Body and Arms
- Step-ups (5-8 sets with 20 reps per leg)
- Lunges over a distance of 30m followed by a 10-15m sprint
- Machine Single leg squats (10-20 reps with a weight of 6-10 plates)
- Squats with 10kg weights in each hand (10-20 reps)
- Quads and Hamstring machine (10-20 reps)
- Roman deadlift (10-15 reps)
b. Upper Body and Arms (20 reps per exercise)
- Lats pull down
- Bench press
- Cable rows
- Chin ups hangs (1 min 30 secs for 5 sets)
- Triceps curls
- Forearm curls
- Rope hang (1min 30 secs for 5 sets)
“These two sets are trained on alternate days,” explains Azam.
Phase 3: Rope Work
Imagine sitting on a chair tilted back at a 45degree angle. Now take away the chair and hold it there. That’s the stance that the team will find themselves in for most of the time. That’s a lot of strain on your body if you’re not used to it, being such an unnatural position to be in.
Once the team members have built up their physical fitness, it's important for them to get used to competing with the rope. According to Azam, “The third phase of training plan involves rope training with emphasis on endurance and holding. Sitting on the ankles (Similar to Japanese sitting position) for 2-5 minutes to stretch and strengthen the ankles is done before going to the rope.”
“Rope work is important to develop general fitness of the individual. Once that is achieved, trainings will be focused on building leg strength and back muscles for heaving the rope and keeping the body's position intact. Upper body and arms is important for that crunching grip.”
The Singapore Tug of War team will be taking part in the ASEAN Tug of War Championship 2009 to be held at Lian Hua Primary School from Nov 7. Facebook details here!