10 Manly Feats of Strength

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 21, 2008 · 42 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills

Men like to compete. Men particularly enjoy comparing and competing against one another in the area of strength. To settle disputes among your friends as to who is the strongest, you could go to the gym, slide some 45 lb plates on a bar, and see who can bench or squat the most. But that simply isn’t as fun as actually struggling and wrestling against an opponent of flesh and blood. Moreover, a gym might not be accessible or even desirable. Below are 10 manly feats of strength that can be done anywhere, anytime. The February 1933 edition of Modern Mechanix Magazine did an article highlighting eight of the ten. If you were a Boy Scout, many of these games may look familiar. All of them pit you against another man in a pure mano-a-mano showdown. All of them call on different muscles and not only require brute strength, but good balance and a bit of skill as well. So next time you and your buddies are bantering about who is the strongest, don’t settle the dispute with a cliche impromptu wrestling match. Challenge your friends to back up their bluster, move the furniture, and let the real games begin. Wearing a three piece suit is optional, but encouraged.

Arm Wrestling

Arm wrestling. Every man has done it. This is such a popular feat of strength that an entire movie starring Sylvester Stallone was made about it. If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life and don’t know how to arm wrestle, here’s how you do it. Grasp your opponent’s hand firmly and place your elbow on a table or other flat surface. On the signal, try to force your opponent’s hand to the table.

One Legged Elbow Wrestling

See who has the best balance of the bunch with this manly feat of strength. Interlock your right elbows and hold one foot off the ground. First person to drop their foot loses.

Back Wrestling

This feat of strength tests your core, back, and arm strength. Sit on the floor with your back against your opponent’s, knees raised close to the chest. Interlock elbows as shown in the image above. On “Go!” the first person to force their opponent’s right shoulder to the ground wins.

Foot Boxing

This feat tests a man’s stamina and balance. Clasp hands under your right knee and raise it up. Place your toes against your opponent’s toes. Push with your toes and try to force your opponent to lose his balance. First person to unclasp their hands loses.

Up and At Em’

This feat will test the strength of your arms, shoulders, and back. Sit on the floor facing your opponent and touching each other’s toes. Grasp your opponent’s hands or wrists. On “Go!” try to lift your opponent off the ground by pulling back. First person whose butt leaves the ground loses. You can also do this game by holding a stick between you instead of each other’s hands.

Standing Arm Wrestling

Think arm wrestling is a challenge when you’re sitting? Try doing it standing up. Not only do you have to use your shoulder and arm muscles, but you also must use your core and leg muscles to maintain balance. Stand with knees touching and grasp hands as in traditional arm wrestling. First person to force their opponent’s hand all the way down to the right wins.

Elbow Wrestling

Stand facing your opponent with knees touching. Place your left hand behind your back and grasp your opponent’s elbow with your right hand. First person to push their opponent off balance wins.

Indian Leg Wrestling

Opponents lie down on their backs next to each other with their legs pointing in opposite directions. On the count of one, each opponent raises their inside leg to a vertical position. On the count of two, they repeat it. On “three,” opponents lock legs and try to flip each other over backwards.

Indian Staff Wrestling

Opponents stand in front of each other and grasp a staff between them. You can use anything for the staff: broom, baseball bat, large branch, etc. On the signal, each opponent attempts to wrestle the staff from their opponent’s grip. First person who releases both hands from the staff loses.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hyder Kazmi August 21, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Something else, perhaps not quite “manly” but quite a lot of fun and much harder than you’d think: Finger jousting. Basically, you grab a friend’s hand with an arm wrestling grip, both of you stick your index finger out, and the first person to touch any part of the other guy’s body with the finger wins. There’s a website that explains it much better: http://www.fingerjoust.com/basics.htm

This was big in my high school for a couple of weeks; it was not uncommon for jousts to start in a room, spill into a hallway, and then continue on until both people were on the floor totally out of breath.

Also, my first AoM comment! I’ve been reading this blog for months, and it’s wonderful.

2 PointSpecial August 21, 2008 at 8:21 pm

I am king of Indian Leg Wrestling. It helps that I am 6 feet 10 inches and 325 pounds… but still I have never lost. i have to try some of these more obscure ones!

3 Brett & Kate McKay August 21, 2008 at 8:31 pm

@ Hyder- Thanks for your comment! Finger Jousting definitely looks cool. I’ll have to give that a try.

@PointSpecial- Awesome! We’re honored to have an undefeated Indian Leg Wrestler in our midst. I don’t know if I’d want to challenged you. From the looks of it, you could rip my leg off in one fell swoop.

4 derek August 21, 2008 at 9:15 pm

Man, I haven’t thought of these since my Boy Scout days…

I should sponsor Manly Feats Friday at work. Would workman’s comp cover any injuries, ya think?

5 Brett August 21, 2008 at 9:18 pm

@derek- Do it! And return and report.

6 Peter James August 22, 2008 at 2:54 am

Some of these are going to work great for exercises such as “Up & At’em”. I like the fact they test out your core strength. Interesting post as always.


7 Manic August 22, 2008 at 3:58 am

Currently on British TV is a show about the Great British Eccentric Traditions such as ‘Shin Kicking’ and ‘Cheese Hill Rollling’

It involves many a manly competitive sport.

Here: http://demand.five.tv/Series.aspx?seriesBaseName=RoryPaddysGreatBritishAdventure


8 Mike August 22, 2008 at 5:18 am

These take me back to Cub Scouts. There goes the rest of my productivity today – I must go challenge my brothers-in-law to elbow wrestling.

9 Brett August 22, 2008 at 5:59 am

@ Peter James- Agreed.

@ Manic- Show looks fantastic, but alas It’s only available to UK audiences, even on the net. Us Yanks won’t be able to see shin kicking in action.

@ Mike- Perhaps you can combine your feats of strength with an airing of grievances with your brother in law. All you’ll need is a pole and you’ll have yourself a regular Festivus! We’re happy to be a part of your slacking off.

10 dagon88 August 22, 2008 at 6:16 am

There is nothing manly about Indian Leg wrestling

11 unclerugburn August 22, 2008 at 7:57 am

I’m ready to finger joust! Hey, ouch, thats not your finger.

12 Will August 22, 2008 at 8:45 am

Yeesh — 2 of the 3 trackbacks (so far) are spam!

Ah, well. Wrasslin’, anyone?

13 Spears August 22, 2008 at 10:02 am

Some of these look great!

I’m also undefeated with Indian leg wrestling. I’m 6’2″ 270, so I think PointSpecial would destroy me.

My friends and I used to do staff wrestling all the time. We used to spar and practice martial arts, so it evolved into a few things. We’d have “no strike” which uses the same rules as above, then “stick strike” which meant you could hit your opponent with the stick in an effort to distract them, and then “full strike” which could include kicking and kneeing, and even taking one hand off the stick to punch them.

It was a little extreme, but it honed our close combat skills.

14 mod August 22, 2008 at 1:09 pm

I was just reminiscing about Indian leg wrestling today. Many moons ago, about 30 youth were at my parents house for a weekend church retreat, and, after feasting on Pizza Hut, an Indian leg wrestling match ensued. In the midst of trying to best my opponent, I let one rip, and it was undeniable that the offending fart came from me. I still blush to think…

15 zacwax August 22, 2008 at 2:11 pm

1)Indian leg wrestling is a lot more fun when girls do it

2)Did the staff wrestling in boyscouts, it gets pretty aggressive

16 Kerberos August 22, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Indian leg wrestling?

In Sweden it’s known as Rövkrok or “bum hook”. ,-)

17 Adam August 22, 2008 at 6:22 pm

When I played Ultimate Frisbee we had another somewhat less “mature” game similar to this. The idea was when a game became too ridiculous someone could call out a crazy rule and we would all do it. Lots of them were stupid things but this one was actually a kind of game.
“Butt boxing”
It works best in a larger group.
Everybody bends at the knees and locks their forearms together under their buttocks. Then you all run around (usually backwards) trying to knock into other people and get them to either fall over or release their arms. Last man standing wins :)
(We also did finger jousting Hyder, although we called it “Russian Finger Fencing”)

18 Manic August 23, 2008 at 10:34 am



19 Christopher Canova August 24, 2008 at 1:35 am

In “Theodore Rex” by Edmund Morris, Teddy Roosevelt and another man were expert at “stick fighting” where they donned leather pads and beat each other with sticks. Yes, he did this in office! I think they made their own rules, but I’m sure the first to cry uncle or the first to break his opponent’s staff were awarded victory.

20 Elliott Hulse August 26, 2008 at 6:11 am

A great old school book on health and fitness include George Hackenschmidt – How To Live. I also just finished a great old school book (from the 1920′s) called Feats of Strength & Dexterity.

Both would be interesting to readers of this post.

Thanks for the great articles!!!

21 David Gillen August 26, 2008 at 8:06 am

Death leg. Standing on one foot on a wall try to push your opponent off, first to fall loses. Putting your raised foot down on the wall constitutes a lose and is highly frowned upon.

22 Baniz September 9, 2008 at 10:06 pm

ive got a game you try to push the other opponent on to the floor using one hand.

23 Kevin October 7, 2008 at 9:48 am

Our manday night group has tried all of these, and the Indian Staff Wrestling is by far the most manly.

We’ve had some epic battles, some lasting 15-20 minutes. There have been great war wounds and lots of grass stains. All in all, a great contest of strength. Just don’t battle against a all-conference wrestler unless you’re ready to spend the whole time on the ground.

24 Tiny Augustine October 8, 2008 at 2:21 am

Great post. Another undefeated Indian leg wrestling champ here…6’4″ and a somewhere over 350 though in my fighting trim I was under 300.

Another good test of overall strength and balance is a game I grew up calling Indian arm wrestling. It is similar to the standing arm wrestling, but instead of touching knees you set your right feet side by side, grasp right hands together in arm wrestling fashion, then on “go” try to make your opponent lose their balance. The first person to move either foot looses.
On a personal note I am near undefeated in this one as well :D

25 hi January 8, 2009 at 8:52 pm

those guys doing the indian staff wrestling………… look far from manly… you really should use a different photo for that

26 John January 28, 2009 at 7:51 am

My roomate and I tried one legged elbow wrestling and broke one the closets in our room. Then we tried footboxing and broke the AC unit in our window. A game is only manly if things are easily broken during the process of the game. Now that we know that those games are most deffinatly manly, we will be taking them out to the hallway for now on… Who cares what our neighbors think.

27 Jared Typaldos February 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Some of these I have done, Some of these I haven’t. The ones I haven’t look interesting though.

28 Dan February 22, 2009 at 8:42 pm

LMAO. There is nothing “manly” about any of this nonsense. Unless manly = bigger, since all of these contests favor the larger participant.

29 Jake June 22, 2009 at 10:41 am

There’s another great one with a staff (or broom). Two players grab the staff, facing eachother, holding the staff at about belly button level. Then both players try to move the staff upward without letting it slide from their grip. The person who grips it tight enough to not rotate in their hands wins.

30 Steve July 18, 2009 at 6:12 am

Ear-Pulling Contest in sub-0° conditions. Now THAT’S manly. So manly infact that it’s had be ommited from the Eskimo-Indian Olympics.

31 Rick September 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

As a Scoutmaster, I printed these off and it will be part of our next meeting. (scouting has become a little to P.C., but I’m sure our boy leaders till go for it.) We give the boys 45 minutes of activity before we even start any meeting, and these challenges will be good. I think we will end with the butt boxing from Adam’s comment above…I’m sure it will create more laughs than victors.

32 Corey December 21, 2009 at 7:17 am

To expand on Jake’s comment#29. The variation I was taught was basically the same, but we start at the top and work downward. It was just called ‘broom stick’. It’s a great feat of grip strength. I’ll have to try it up next time the broom stick comes out.

33 Sam May 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

@Tiny Augustine:

Yes! I love Indian arm-wrestling! It’s cool because it doesn’t favor bigger/stronger people (unless the size difference is so great that one person can just drag the other one). It requires a lot of skill and balance… I used to get beat a lot, but once I got my technique down, I win almost every time now.

Another fun game is Standoff. Two opponents face each other at any distance (the closer they are the more challenging the game is) with their hands held up around head level, palms facing toward the front. The object of the game is to hit your opponents hands and/or dodge their attempts to hit your hands, and the first one to lose their balance and move either foot wins. I once did this as part of a group activity with about 100 other guys crammed into a narrow hallway, along with finger jousting.

34 Josh June 7, 2010 at 7:19 pm

1) Caber toss
2) Shot put – or some variation
3) Sumo wrestling
4) Brick bashing/board breaking – Bloodsport
5) Beer can crushing [full]
6) Deadlifting – and other weightlifting
7) rebar sculpting [no tools]
8) smithing
9) arm wrestling

35 Eff Yeah June 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I used to Indian leg wrestle back in high school. Good fun! Gonna try the other stuff listed as well!

36 Brand December 29, 2012 at 3:43 am

There is another one attributed to Bruce Lee. You grab another man’s hand as if to give a hand shake. Each grab tight and try to twist the other man’s hand.

37 Jay carlisle February 4, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Nice. I am an Armwrestler and Scout Leader from Michigan. I have bee involved with Arm Sports for 35 years. I have seen that picture before, however could never find the article. See you on Facebook with this where I will share it with thousands of my friends World Champion Armwrestlers from over 70 countries. If you have any more armwrestling news, we would love to here it.

38 Vlad March 15, 2013 at 1:07 am

Many of these are not tests of strength, but more tests of weight and height, since if someone is short and light his stability will be around nil and will never be able to “defeat” someone who is taller and heavier…

39 James March 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Here’s another one for y’all: Get into a pushup position facing each other. Each person tries to grab the others hand/arm/wrist and pull him off balance. The first person to touch their knee/leg or arm/elbow loses. For lack of a better term, we called it “push up wrestling”

40 James March 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm

EDIT- the first person to touch their knee/leg or arm/elbow to the ground loses….

41 Jake Long October 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I love these competitions. Reminds me of my childhood. These could also be used as a regular form of exercise if you have friends that like to regularly compete. I’ll have to see if my friends are up for it.

42 Marceline Rufo December 8, 2013 at 1:48 am

Good collection, thanks for sharing Eric :)

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