Custom Built Team Building and Leadership Initiative Training

Thumb Wrestling in Stereo – A Classic Icebreaker and Group Energizer

Paradigm Shift TRiO Workshop

I first learned this great activity from Ryan McCormick at Project Adventure in Boston. It is now one of my “go-to” activities with groups of all sizes. My friend from Australia, Mark Collard, demonstrates this classically fun icebreaker that helps groups break down physical barriers and creates a huge sense of FUNN (Functional Understanding Not Necessary).

For more activities just like this one, check out Mark’s great work on playmeo, the largest online database of group games & activities in the world. You can also buy his two awesome books, No Props and Count Me In, two books that should be in every facilitator’s game bag.

Below you will find my explanation on how to lead this activity with your group:

Thumb Wrestling in Stereo

Number of Participants: 2-200
Time:  5-10 minutes
Activity Level:  Moderate
Props:  None

Objective: To become the Thumb Wrestling Champion of the world.

I love this old school activity with a new twist. Use a creative way to form partners and ask them to place their left hand behind their back. Instruct them to extend their right arms, curl their fingers into each other’s fingers, and stick their thumbs into the air. Their goal is to now pin their partner’s thumb down. That’s right, old school Thumb Wrestling. Play three rounds and declare a winner very loudly.

After round one, invite the participants to challenge each other with a two-person, two-handed thumb wrestle. Do this by clasping right hands together, just as in round one, and clasp left hands together underneath or above the right hands. Play both hands simultaneously.

For round three, group the participants into groups of three and ask them to place their left hands behind their back. All three members of the group will then extend their right hands, curl their fingers inside the palms of the other participants, creating a three-handed thumb-wrestling match.

In round four, invite the participants to play three-person, two-handed thumb wrestling by combining their right hands like before, and mimicking the action with their left hands.

If you would like help implementing this activity or any other activities into your curriculum, don’t hesitate to contact us at Paradigm Shift.





One response

  1. akismet-26e0f66459cabb9431ae132b208b420f

    Ryan, thnaks for sharing – this is such a classic as you say. Before I even get to the rounds involving 3 people, I invite lots of mixing, whereby people look for a series of new partners to compete with – eg, someone with similar sized thumbs, similar length finger nails, same height, etc to generate lots more energy. Throw in the occasional opportunity for the various partnerships to chat and share something about themselves, and this exercise can last up to 20 minutes… have FUNN 🙂 – Mark Collard

    May 22, 2013 at 8:18 pm

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