You may remember when 54-year-old Mark Jordan broke the world record for the most pullups in 24-hours. Since then it’s been broken. More than once—most recently by personal trainer and Navy veteran Rodney Hahn of Virginia Beach.
Last weekend, Hahn smashed both the 12-hour and the 24-hour records for pullups, completing 4,310 and 6,737 reps, respectively—and that second number was more than 900 more than the previous record. The 54-year-old (not a typo) shares the seven-week (also not a typo) training method to his crazy-impressive madness, and how you can improve your pullups and make your friends jealous.
Start from the lats
If you can’t do too many reps of pullups yet, Hahn suggests hitting the lat pulldown machine. Hard. “With really strict form, you can use the pulldown to train for pullups,” he says. The secret is to initiate the pull actually from the lats, rather than the arm: Pull your shoulder blades down your back and initiate from the armpit even before the elbows start to bend. Load the machine with about 70 percent of your body weight, or as much as you can handle while being able to complete four to six good reps. When first starting out, take a long rest between sets—two or three minutes. Do however many sets you can complete in a half hour, and do the workout up to four times per week, increasing the weight when six reps become too easy.
Take it to the bar
Once you’ve mastered the lat PD at your body weight, you’re ready to actually pull up your body weight. Here’s where things get interesting. Start with as few as two pullups in 30 seconds. Once you’ve done your reps, rest for the duration of the time, plus an extra 30 seconds. Then do it again. And again. For up to a half hour (30 sets). If two is too easy, do three or even four per 30 seconds and reduce your rest time. Hahn’s training typically oscillated between three and four reps per 30-second increment, with no extra rest time beyond that—for two hours. And that’s also how he broke the records, with a 10-minute recovery break every two hours.
Aim to do your workout up to four times per week. No matter what, don’t forget good form. Hahn also suggests doing what he calls an internal kip (the legs-pumping kind is a no-no where the record breaking is concerned). “You want to pull in sharply through your abs to initiate each rep, right before you engage the lats,” he says.
Increase your weight
The advanced way to speed your pullup development is to make yourself heavier. Hahn’s two-hour training sessions began with up to an an hour of his three or four reps with a 15-to-25-pound weight strapped to his waist. “It was so I would feel like I was at the six-hour mark at the end of the half hour, and then I’d push through the fatigue for rest of the time with just my bodyweight,” he explains.
Revel in the bragging rights
Not only will you get better at your pullup reps to failure, there may be some unexpected benefits. Hahn lost three percent body fat during the seven weeks he trained. “The training did remarkable things to my body,” he says. “You’d think it might only build the lats and maybe the biceps, but everything started responding. Within a couple of weeks, it gave my body a whole new shape.”