‘Squid Game’: Would Il-Nam and Sang-Woo’s Tug-of-War Strategy Work in Real Life?

In the Netflix series Squid Game, Seong Gi-hun and his team are pitted against a much stronger group to play tug-of-war. The game has real life and death consequences, with the losers falling off the ledge to their death. Although it seems like they will lose, Oh Il-nam and Cho Sang-woo help lead their team to victory using brains instead of brawn. Their strategy is interesting and has led viewers to wonder if it would work in a real game of tug-of-war.

The contestants in Squid Game prepare to play tug-of-war.
‘Squid Game’ players prepare for tug-of-war | Netflix

Tug-of-war is the third game in ‘Squid Game’

When tug-of-war is announced as the third game, it initially seems like Gi-hun’s team will certainly lose. His team has three women and an elderly man up against a team of all able-bodied men. However, Il-nam comes up with a strategy that helps to save his team.

He advises his teammates on the best way to stand around the rope. A strong leader needs to be at the front to face the team’s opponents. Gi-hun is chosen as the leader at the front. “Then at the end of the rope, you’ll need someone dependable to act like the anchor of a ship,” Il-nam says. Ali Abdul is chosen to stand in this position.

“How you place people is also important,” Il-nam continues. “One left, one right. Alternate with the rope in the middle. Place both feet parallel to each other, and hold the rope in your armpit.”

Most importantly, Il-nam teaches his team a trick. “When the game starts, for the first 10 seconds you just have to hold out. You should practically lie down. Push your lower abdomen up to the sky and bend your head way back.”

Il-nam tells his team that this will make it almost impossible for them to get pulled in. Eventually, the other team will get flustered, and that’s when they can strike. Il-nam’s strategy nearly leads his team to victory, but their opponents are able to recover. Then Sang-woo suggests a trick. He tells his team to take three steps forward to cause their opponents to trip. Luckily for them, it works.

Would Il-nam’s strategy work in real life?

Viewers have wondered if Il-nam and Sang-woo’s strategies could be used to give a weaker team an advantage in tug-of-war. Sports scientist Mike Lee told the Huffington Post that it could be possible for Il-nam’s leaning trick to work.

“The ‘weaker’ team has set their body weight to a position that means the opposing team really has to pull the weaker team’s entire body weight, plus whatever force they’re pushing through their legs with. If they sit upright, there’s a lot more mid-back and arms being used,” he said.

Lee confirmed that grip and leg placement are an important part of tug-of-war, as Il-nam advised. “So as long as the surface is stable, then in theory the weaker teams tactics should work. A lot of it comes down to the surface.”

‘Squid Game’ fans test Sang-woo’s trick

YouTuber Jin Yong-jin got a group together to try Sang-woo’s three steps forward trick in a game of tug-of-war. However, this only seemed to help when the teams were both similar in strength. “It was difficult to re-create because unlike in Squid Game, the team hadn’t known each other at all,” Jin told the Huffington Post.

“It was difficult to move forward because we all had different quickness.” The conditions that Jin and the other players were under were, of course, different than in Squid Game. It’s hard to say for sure whether Il-nam and Sang-woo’s strategies would work under the exact same conditions, but it’s definitely not impossible.

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