"I'll tear you limb from limb!" -- Possible?

The phrase “I’ll tear you limb from limb!” has always amused me for some reason. But seriously – Is it actually possible for a human to rip off another person’s arm/leg, using just their strength? I suppose it would be just about impossible for a “regular-size and strength” man to accomplish on a similarly-equipped person. (Please correct me if I am wrong.) However, let’s say that we had a steroid-enhanced behemoth, say 6’ 6", 350-lbs of muscle in a berserker rage – would he be able to tear a limb off of a regular person?

I don’t know about a “steroid enhanced” behemoth human, but it IS possible to literally tear a human being apart - i.e. “limb from limb”. Historically, horses have been employed to do this as a form of execution, and certainly modern industrial machinery is capable of it.

The question, I suppose, is there any way a human being (enhanced or not) is capable of exerting the necessary force to do this.

Chimpanzees seem able to do it. Aren’t they supposed to be about 5 times stronger than an average man?

It might be a good, albeit gory, subject for Mythbusters. You could test it by pulling apart an animal carcass and use something like a spring scale to measure the amount of force involved.

Once you kill them and they stop resisting, and you don’t mind a long gruesome tiring day, it should be possible. You might have to wedge them in a tree or something for leverage.

You can definitely tear somebody’s ears off. Does that count? A little?

There are powerlifters who can deadlift over 1,000 lbs. I would think that they could tear an average arm off.

If you know the proper hold and have the stomach for it, it’s relatively easy to dislocate or break a shoulder or elbow with an armlock. Once the connective cartilage is broken it would be a matter of tearing through the skin and muscle. It would take a long, long time, but it might just be possible to tear the arm off at the elbow by breaking it with an armbar and then bending it back and forth over and over and over. It might not be, I really don’t have a lot of experience with trying to tear human skin and muscle.

Breaking down a duck for a pot of gumbo is just about impossible without a knife for me. I am not 6’6" (only 6’2") and not particularly strong, but connective tissue is pretty tough stuff. It might be a question of leverage. However, in the annals of combat, has it ever been done? I have never heard of it myself. I have heard of members of the cult of Dionysis tearing apart a goat or a baby in their early rituals. They used their teeth, apparently.

Some guy you might recognize had something to say about this:

1260 vs. 210 isn’t far off from a factor of 5.

The famous case of Robert-François Damiens shows that it is not an easy task at all. He tried to kill Louis XV in 1757 and was sentenced to - among many other forms of torture - be torn limb from limb by horses:
From wikipedia:
"[…] Horses were then harnessed to his arms and legs for his dismemberment. Damiens’ limbs and ligaments did not separate easily; after some hours, representatives of the Parlement ordered the executioner and his aides to cut Damiens’ joints. Damiens was then dismembered, to the applause of the crowd […] "

eta: “… after some hours!” of pulling. Yikes - I hope he was already dead by then.

I get tired of seeing this show up in movies and tv shows all the time. Like the “Lost” episode where the guy’s arm comes off in Locke’s hands – yeah right. There’s also the predominance of Jack Bauer neck snapping, which is quite unrealistic as well. Get yourself a 2 inch thick ribeye steak and see if you can tear through it with your bare hands. My guess is you aren’t going to be able to. You’d also have to have fingers strong enough to keep a grip.

People can be surprisingly fragile, but they can also be incredibly tough.

They’re only guaranteed to have the advantage if they’re trying to deadlift the person’s arm off, which is impractical in most situations. Strength is very specific to movements.

Damien’s case was also the first example that came to my mind on reading the OP. I recall reading a graphic description of it in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, which opens with a lengthy quotation from the Gazette d’Amsterdam:

There’s also Casanova’s description of the execution (which he witnessed):

So based on those two contemporary accounts, it appears that poor Damien was at least briefly alive following his dismemberment.

Not at the same time, methinks…

In this scenario, people are tough… but place 'em in a car going 50 mph, and they’re darn fragile… :slight_smile:

Did I read that correctly? While Damien was being literally torn apart two of Cassanova’s companions were screwing? :eek:

Slight hijack but…are chimpanzee musculoskeletal systems so different from ours?? I would have thought that other than around the butt/hip area, we were really close. But if we were, there wouldn’t be a 5x pull difference. What’s up?

The Master speaks on drawing and quartering.

Yes, it certainly seems strongly implied: “The fact was that Tiretta kept the pious aunt curiously engaged during the whole time of the execution, and this, perhaps, was what prevented the virtuous lady from moving or even turning her head round.” Casanova’s later conversation with Tiretta seems to confirm it.

There are cases of people, say, losing an arm in a tug of war contest, although I don’t think I’ve heard of one where they hadn’t wrapped the rope around the arm (and I believe there was some rope elasticity issue, too, to the one I’m thinking of. There’s a picture you probably don’t need to see.)