First off let’s talk about safety, as this is a primary concern when dealing with a feat such as this. The potential for serious injury surrounds this feat – I speak from first hand experience. The most severe injury I have sustained thus far from tearing a plate is a cut which ran from just below my pinky finger all the way to my elbow.
When attempting this, it is essential to take proper precautions to protect yourself. First, you’ll want to get a pair of heavy suede work gloves with an extended cuff. As the tear is initiated, the sides of the hand and the wrist are extremely vulnerable to being sliced with the sharp, jagged edge of the plate. Second, it is highly advisable to wear a some sort of long sleeve work shirt or jacket that is constructed of a cut resistant material. If something does not go as expected, the arms can receive a nasty slash as you “drive” through to complete the tear. Next, you will want to clean the plate. Foreign matter such as oil residue, mud, and even light accumulation of “road dirt” can make for a more slippery surface and add a higher potential for injury.
Now that we have ourselves protected, it’s time to grab the plate. I personally like to tear plates at chest level, and that is the method I am going to discuss. As a dry run without a plate, place your dominant hand in a hammer style grip. Place the pinky side of that hand just above the bottom of the sternum. Now place the other fist in the same manner below the dominant one so you have the thumb side of the non-dominant and the pinky side of the dominant meeting. Squeeze as hard as you can and push your hands in opposite directions with the top hand going slightly upward and the bottom hand going slightly downward. If you push straight through, the potential for being cut dramatically increases.
Since we have the basic technique down, lets grip up on a plate. With the same hand positioning as stated above, grip the top edge of the license plate while paying extra attention to the placement of the thumbs. You do not want your thumbs wrapped around the plate. Rather, the grip desired is more of a pinch. The object is to pin the plate between your thumb pad / palm area and your finger tips. If you wrap your thumbs around the plate, you will most likely bend them backwards against the joint. I like to place the top edge of the plate about an inch below where the fingers meet the palm, that way the plate gets very firmly anchored. Next, squeeze as hard as you can. You do not want that plate slipping out of your grip when you begin to add the force needed to initiate the tear. If it slips, again, there is a potential of being cut on the hand, wrist, and/or arm if you are not properly protected. Apply the power from your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, and chest and tear the plate in two.
Tearing a license plate is a very visual feat of strength, and for sure, a crowd favorite. It is also a great upper body work-out and a different way to tax the hands for increased strength.
For anyone who is interested in attempting this, or any other of the traditional oldetime feats of strength, please think of your safety first and foremost so you can all come back to train another day.