For some, mastering even one perfect pull-up can seem impossible. Which is why 54-year-old Rodney Hahn's new world record is so downright insane. Hahn made it through 6,737 pull-ups in a single 24-hour period. (As if that wasn't enough, he now also holds the record for most pull-ups in a 12-hour period, powering through 4,310 during the first half of the day.)
We got Hahn to divulge his upper-body workout secrets, and tips for getting your chin over the bar (over and over and over). While we can't guarantee his advice will have you banging out pull-ups by the thousands, we're certain it will buy you a few more reps.
1. Train with TRX
The suspension training system serves as the perfect equipment to get in pull-up ready shape.
"I've used it in many ways to help people strengthen their pulling abilities," says Hahn. "It's a great way for a beginner to work lat muscles, and all the muscles surrounding the scapula that they're going to need when it comes to doing regular pull-ups."
TRX straps hang down from an overhead bar; you'll want to grab the handles and position yourself for bodyweight rows. Where you stand determines the difficulty. "The greater the angle, the least amount of body weight you do; if you get right under it, that pulls up just about all your body weight," says Hahn. Doing sets at that point — directly under the TRX anchor — is what will help you prepare for the real thing.
2. Add Weight
Hahn attributes his world-record winning endurance to weighting his pull-ups in training. "The reason I [trained] with the weight strapped around my waist, is that I wanted to mimic how it would make me feel about four, five, six hours into the actual competition," he says.
World records aside, he recommends weighted pull-ups to anyone looking to boost their rep count. The caveat: Make sure you can do at least 15 consecutive pull-ups first.
"Before that, it's really not going to do you much good," he says. Once you have your 15-rep base, add a 5-pound weight (you can hold a dumbbell between your feet, or strap a weight around your waist with a weight belt). Once you can do 15 reps with a 5-pounder, progress to 10 pounds. "Most people — even very advanced — hit the ceiling by the time they put a 45-pound plate on there," he adds.
3. Try a 30-Second Blitz
To increase your upper-body strength and endurance, Hahn suggests assigning yourself a specific number of reps that you will hit within a 30-second increment. Start easy, aiming for just one rep within 30 seconds. Now see how long you can keep it up. That's your baseline. As you get fitter, either increase the number of reps you do within the 30 seconds, or the number of minutes you go.
To give you an idea of what it takes to be a pull-up world-record holder, Hahn says he regularly dedicates two hours to doing this type of routine. "I had a day when I would do 3 [reps] every 30 seconds with a 25-pound weight for a half an hour," he says. "Then I would take it off, and I would do the rest of the hour and a half without the weight, every thirty seconds doing three or even four."
4. Tweak Your Form
"Mix up your grip," advises Hahn. "All different ways: neutral, single arm, close in, out — every different way you can place your hand." Different grips will target different muscles; a neutral grip engages more forearms, for example, while a chin-up grip calls on the biceps, and a super-wide grip will fire more of the lats. All are crucial for maximum pulling strength, so try to cover three or four grips in each workout.
5. Learn to Power Through the Pain
You don't do 6,737 pull-ups without going to a brutal place in your head. Hahn's technique for dealing with pain — other than lifting until the point that his arms are numb, which "was right around 2,500" — is connected to his 30-second routine. "If it takes five or six seconds to do the reps, then I'd have 24 or 25 seconds to rest. In that time the lactic acid would go away just enough to where I could jump back up and do another set." Managing the muscle burn isn't the only benefit to training like this. "In doing that, my body changed — I added more muscularity, and I burned 3 percent body fat in seven weeks," he says.
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