What Is A Pulley?

A pulley is a simple machine that consists of a wheel with a groove around it and a rope that runs along the groove.

  • Mechanical Advantage Pulleys are used to lift heavy objects easily. By using multiple pulleys in a system, we can reduce the amount of force needed to lift a load.
  • Direction of Force Pulleys can change the direction of a force.
    • Example: Lifting an object upwards by pulling downwards on the rope.
  • Speed and Distance Pulleys can be used to increase the speed or distance of movement.
    • Example: Raising a flag quickly by pulling the rope a shorter distance with a greater force.

Types of Pulleys

There are three main types of pulleys:

  • Fixed Pulley – A fixed pulley is attached to a structure and does not move. It changes the direction of the force applied to the rope and is used to lift or lower objects. Example: Pulley attached to a well to raise a bucket of water.
  • Movable Pulley – A movable pulley is attached to the moving object and moves with it. It reduces the amount of force needed to lift the object. Example: Fishing reel.
  • Compound Pulley – A compound pulley is a combination of fixed and movable pulleys. It is used to lift very heavy objects.  Example: Construction crane.

Pulleys In Everyday Life

Pulleys are used in various scientific and engineering applications and at home.

  • Cranes Pulleys are used in cranes to lift heavy objects. 
  • Elevators – Elevators use pulley systems to lift and lower the elevator car. 
  • Conveyor Belts – Conveyor belts use pulleys to move objects along a belt. A motor powers the pulleys, and the belt moves objects from one location to another.
  • Sailing – Pulleys are used in sailing to change the direction of forces and control the sails.
  • Exercise Machines – Pulleys are used in exercise machines to provide resistance and can be adjusted to change the resistance level as needed.
  • Blinds – Pulleys are used to raise and lower blinds by operating a cord or wand.
  • Garage Doors – Garage doors use pulleys to raise and lower the door. The pulleys are connected to a motor, which opens and closes the door.

Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts about pulleys:

  • Some spiders hoist prey using a pulley-like system made from silk to catch oversized prey like lizards or even small mammals.
  • The human body uses a system of tendons and muscles that work like pulleys to enable movement.
  • Pulleys have a long history, dating back to ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia and Egypt. 
  • Amusement park rides like roller coasters and Ferris wheels rely on pulley systems to create thrilling and dynamic movements.
  • Pulleys are also used in activities like rock climbing and ziplining.


Let’s quickly recap what we learned about the power of pulleys:

  • What are the two main parts of a pulley? Wheel with a groove and Rope
  • Pulley can change the direction of force. True or False? True
  • What are the three main types of pulleys?  Fixed, Moveable, and Compound
  • What is the factor by which a pulley system can reduce the amount of force needed to lift a load? Mechanical Advantage
  • What type of pulley is used to lift very heavy objects? Compound Pulley
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