I can bend wrenches, hold powerful vehicles in place as they try to pull away, and can hammer nails with my bare hands. But no matter how many feats of strength I’ve publicly displayed over the years, the one I get asked to do the most is rip a phone book in half.

There are a lot of gimmicks and tricks out there that can help you do it easily and impress your friends. Tearing slightly fanned pages is one method. Lightly baking the phone book in an oven to make it dry and brittle is another. But there are no shortcuts to building up the kind of brute strength you need to rip the book in half straight up. Getting there just takes simple progression, same as getting stronger on any lift.

Start with a book that is about half an inch thick. Once you can tear that, try another that’s three-quarters of an inch thick and so on.

How to Tear It

1. Hold a phone book out in front of you vertically. Make sure the bound side is facing to your left and the opening of the book is to your right. Grasp the top of the book at the binding side with your left hand. Squeeze tightly with a thumbless grip.

2. Grasp the other side of the book with your right hand, wrapping your thumb. While maintaining your grip, lay the book on top of your left thigh. Pull up and out as hard as you can with your right hand while your left hand keeps the book posted to your thigh.