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Can Terry Crews Tear a Book in Half?

There are no two ways about it; Terry Crews is an impressive physical specimen. His bulging muscles have become the ‘hook’ for many of his jokes in the beloved sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Superhuman feats of strength are regularly performed with hilarious ease. In this article, we cover an incident seen in one episode, where Terry — in a fit of frustration — snaps a thick book in half without breaking a sweat.

Thankfully, book tearing has a long and colorful history, so we are not making blind assumptions; we do have information to go off. We can compare Terry’s own physical feats of strength with what it takes to tear a book and finally answer the question — can Terry Crews tear a book in half?

Terry Crews’ Strength

Firstly, let’s take a look at Terry. He clearly has a physique that is well acquainted with the gym and good nutrition, but it runs deeper than that. In a reddit ‘ask me anything’ from 2012, he attributed his body to his former career as an NFL football player.

In the same thread, Terry confirmed that he can bench press 420lbs for three reps. This gives an estimated bench press maximum of 444lbs at 44-years-old. For comparisons sake, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best bench press in a powerlifting competition was 441lbs at 20 years old. Surely this is the kind of upper body strength to make any librarian nervous.

Tearing Books

Tearing up books with your bare hands isn’t anything new, nor is it simply a TV gag. In the very early years of the strength and fitness industry, tearing a phone book in half was just one of many feats of strength used for entertainment purposes. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, old time strongmen such as George F. Jowett would tour the country, putting on spectacles similar to today’s modern strongman and circus events.

In the days before YouTube and social media, people would pay to see such things with their own eyes. This trend of unusual novelty feats of strength continued for the rest of century, putting an entire industry on the map. We’ve already covered whether real-life Terry could lift a car — strongman style — like his on-screen persona, but does he have what it takes to tear a book in half?

How it’s Done

Now for the ‘dirty little secret’ of ripping a telephone book in half; it is more technique than strength. Yes, there is strength involved, and the average Joe off-the-street could not start tearing books apart. But it doesn’t take as much strength as it seems.

Goodtricks.net outlines exactly how to tear a phone book apart using the correct technique. The trick involves folding the book into a ‘crease’ and pressing the crease together with your thumbs and forefingers. One can then use minimal strength to ‘tear’ the book apart.

The feat is more of a party trick, with physics doing most of the work. It provides entertainment value that belongs at the circus rather than the gym. It would be safe to assume that Terry has the kind of strength that it takes to perform this trick effectively and — with a bit of practice — could be tearing up books in no time.


The old ‘tearing up the phone book’ feat is more of an illusion than a superhuman show of strength. Entertainers and professional strongman have been performing this trick for years. Terry Crews is certainly no slouch, and sports science has come a long way since the early days of strength and fitness.

We can assume that the athletes of today are stronger than ever before, making their old timey book-tearing counterparts look weak in comparison. However, ripping up a book is not a great barometer of strength and Terry has performed some truly impressive feats in the gym.

Yes, Terry Crews can tear a book in half. His strength far exceeds the minimum strength required to rip a phone book in half.

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  • Born and raised in Staffordshire, the United Kingdom, Joe Graduated in the summer of 2019 from Loughborough University with a degree in English literature and Sports science. Joe is a keen sportsman with a wide array of interests including anthropology and geo-politics. He also plays rugby semi-professionally.

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