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There are three key ingredients to work - force, displacement, and cause.

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The Pillars of Hercules

The Pillars of Hercules

License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The World’s Strong Man, is a competition where the top strength athletes around the world compete in different effects to see who the best is.  One of the events, known as the Pillars of Hercules, is being demonstrated here by 7 time winner Mariusz Pudzianowski. The objective is to be the competitor who can hold onto each of the pillars the longest.

  • Watch Tim Thacker perform this amazing feat at the link below: 


Amazing But True

  • Each pillar in the Pillars of Hercules challenge is approximately 160 kg. And even though the pillars make each competitor feel like they are going to be torn apart, physics says there is no work being done. How is this possible when you can clearly see each competitor struggling and exerting a lot of effort?
  • What is happening is that even though the definition of work states that no work is being done, each competitor’s muscles must remain contracted to withstand the load. Internal work is being done in their bodies due to contraction and release of their muscle fibers. This explains why the work done on the pillars is equal to zero but the competitors feel like they are struggling.

Show What You’ve Learned

Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.

  1. Why is easier for the competitors to have a pillar on each side of them as opposed to one, or two in front of them?
  2. Many of the competitors apply chalk to their hands before attempting this challenge, why?
  3. Why would having pillars that were uneven in weight be even more challenging?

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  1. [1]^ License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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