Which Rope Has the Greatest Tension?


Which rope has the greatest tension? That’s a good question, with many answers that might surprise you.

Rope tension can be a confusing concept for some to grasp (they’ve even studied why students have such a hard time grasping the concept of tension with a block and pulley)—we’re going to explain why ‘which rope has the greatest tension?’ isn’t necessarily the best question to ask.

Instead, we’re going to discuss how tension affects rope, and why different rope will demonstrate different tensions depending on the conditions.

Rope tension is affected by a number of things. like the size/weight of the load, length of rope, diameter of the sheave, speed/velocity of the pull and any wear & tear the rope has been placed under.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What’s rope tension, and why does it matter?
  • Hoisting equipment selection
  • Tension fatigue—What is it?
  • Tensile strength—What is it?
  • Rope at Hercules SLR



Tension refers to what happens when a rope or cable is used to transmit a force. Put even simpler, rope is under tension when it’s attached to something.

Consider what happens when a rope and hoist pulls a piece of building material. In this scenario, the rigger themselves isn’t in contact with the load, they’re not placing direct force on the load—The rope is.

It’s a simple concept, with many ways to calculate, which all depend on different circumatances, like the weight the rope must lift and other factors that might impact tension.


There are many ways to discuss rope tension. Steel (iron combined with other mined materials) is considered to have one of the greatest tensile strengths. However, steel wire rope’s construction and fabrication can impact tensile strength, and its rated capacity.

This might seem a bit over-complicated, but it’s worth understanding how tension works, even if you’re not a physicist. Most mechanical applications use tension, which is calculated in newton’s.

What’s a newton? A newton is the force you need to accelerate a 1-kilogram mass by 1-metre per second if no friction is present. However, this can change very quickly—that’s why for the sake of practicality, we won’t discuss what these calculations are, but how tension impacts a rigging operation.


Tension can help you understand rope’s breaking strength, as well. Breaking strength refers to the weakest point of the rigging (in this case, a rope) whether it be the webbing, end-fittings, or tensioning device.

A tensioning device is used to apply force at a particular point in the rigging to create tension. This is typically done to reduce hazards that would happen otherwise.


Tension fatigue happens to steel wire rope or synthetic rope when it’s subjected to different stress-levels (represented by the stress level exerted on the rope).

Basically, tension deteriorates with time and the older a rope is, the less accurate it’s original ratings become.


First of all—What’s tensile strength? Tensile strength (in this case) measures the force that would break the rope when under pressure.

There are three kinds of tensile strength—They are:

1) Yield Strength

Yield strength refers to the highest amount of stress the rope can withstand without causing any deformations to the original rope dimension’s.

2) Ultimate Strength

The ultimate tensile strength refers to the total amount of stress or force the rope can take.

3) Breaking Strength

Breaking strength refers to a rope’s ability to withstand a lift, pull or move at a specific point.


Although we didn’t necessarily tell you ‘which rope has the greatest tension’, we hope this helps you decide which rope to choose based on their tensile properties and what works best for the application, lift and load.

Hercules SLR carries rope for marine, safety, rescue, arborist applications and more—Drop us a line and we’ll pair you with the best rope for whatever application you have.

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