Like most people, I’ve long stopped using the phone book to look up phone numbers and use Google instead. But like most people, I still get a giant phone book delivered to my door every single year. I typically just toss it into the recycling bin as soon as I get it, but this year I didn’t.
Instead I tore my phone book in half with my bare hands. And then I recycled it.
Tearing a phone book in half is a classic strongman feat of strength. Old-time strongmen like George F. Jowett amazed spectators in the 1920s and 30s with phone book tearing demonstrations. As a kid, I remember watching the Power Team rip through thick phone books during school assemblies while simultaneously warning us kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
While tearing a phone book in half does require strength, there’s also a trick to it (though some strongmen can tear phone books without using it). Below, our very own Mr. Know Your Lifts — who enjoys ripping things up when he’s not pumping iron — demonstrates how to tear a phone book in half with your bare hands in five simple steps.
Step 1: Grab Phone Book With Both Hands
Place your thumbs on top and your fingers underneath one of the edges of the phone book (excluding the edge that is the binding). You can either tear the phone book by its length or its width — either way it will be impressive.
Step 2: Make “V” With Phone Book
This is the “trick” part of tearing a phone book in half. Make a deep “V” in the phone book by pressing the bottom edge up with your index fingers while pressing the middle of the top edge down with your thumbs. The “V” creates spaces between the pages which makes it easier to rip through, as opposed to ripping all the pages stuck together. I found the deeper “V” you make, the easier it is to tear.
Step 3: Begin Tearing Phone Book
Brace the phone book on your hip or thigh and hold it tightly in both hands. Keeping your thumbs on top of the V, begin bending the sides of the phone book down. Maintain your “V” shape as much as possible while you bend the sides down. The cover and the top few pages should begin to split apart. Keep bending until you tear all the way through to the other side. You’re doing it right if you feel like your pecs are getting a workout along with your hands and forearms. Letting out a manly yell at this point can help. The thicker the phone book you use, the harder this part is. I was able to tear through a two-inch phone book easily; a four-inch phone book was a beast, but still doable.
Step 4: Pull Halves Apart
Once you’ve torn through the edge, ripping the rest of the phone book in half is relatively easy. Just finish tearing through the book by pulling the two sides apart. You may need to readjust your hands on the book to get a better grip.
Step 5: Bask in the Fruits of Your Virile Feat of Strength
Congratulations! You just tore a phone book in half with your damn, bare manly hands. Time to impress your friends and make the ladies swoon with this virile feat of strength.
Illustrations by Ted Slampyak
Last updated: April 4, 2016