Since his early teens, Mark Jordan has been involved in just about every physical activity imaginable. Track events in his 20s, bodybuilding competitions in his 30s, road cycling in his 40s, CrossFit in his 50s. The one constant throughout all those decades?
But it wasn’t until recently that Jordan decided to take his life-long love of the exercise as far as he could – and further than anyone else ever has.
“Throughout all those decades, I always maintained doing pull-ups as the staple of my training regimen,” the 54-year-old Jordan says. “About two years ago somebody at my gym noticed me and asked
‘How many pull-ups can you do?’ He asked me if I knew what the world record was. I didn’t. But after seeing what that was, I told myself, This is something I think I can do.”
On November 3rd at CC CrossFit in Corpus Christi, Texas, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Jordan did just that, churning out a record 4,321 pull-ups over a 21-hour period. The feat unofficially (the video tape is currently awaiting certification from The Guinness Book of World Records) surpassed the record of 4,210 set by Australian Caine Eckstein less than a month earlier.
Jordan started his attempt at 4 in the morning and finished at just after 2 am, for a total of 21 hours of pull-ups. Regardless of what the team at Guinness ends up deciding, Jordan’s feat is certainly one to celebrate.
Q: How did you prepare for the big day?
About a year ago I decided, Ok, I’m going to start training for this. So I put in many hours of doing pull-ups, but more importantly trying to figure out what would be a good rate to not only do it, but to reach the number without getting burned out. My pull-up days were two days out of the week, Wednesday and Saturday. The other workouts, my weight training was reduced to 40 minutes, 4 days a week where I trained mostly upper body.
|MARK JORDAN’S WEEKLY TRAINING SPLIT|
|Monday – Chest, Abs||Thursday – Chest, Abs|
|Tuesday – Shoulders, Abs||Friday – Shoulders, Abs|
|Wednesday – Pull-ups||Saturday – Pull-ups|
Q: What was a typical pull-up workout for you?
On a typical light to moderate day I would to one to two hours of pull-ups. My pull-up days started out as trial and error, as one to two hours of pull-ups. I identified the ideal rate being five pull-ups per minute, which turned out to be a rate of 300 per hour. Once a month I would have a marathon day. That would involve doing the same rate of pull-ups for four to seven hours. The last marathon workout I had was 14 hours long. That was about five weeks before I made my attempt.
Q: That’s a long time. How did you eat during those workouts, and during the actual attempt?
During the workouts I would make sure [to get something in] every hour, alternating between protein supplementation – including BCAAs – and a carb source. Essentially a drink. Whenever I had those marathon workouts I would go for no longer than five hours without eating something solid, like tuna and sweet potatoes. That turned out to be the best combination for me. Every hour on the hour I was supplementing with some type of protein. I would go no longer than five hours without eating a solid meal.
Q: That sounds exhausting, physically and mentally.
Mental preparation comes into it as well. You have to train your mind and your spirit to address this, because that’s what takes over when the body wants to shut down. I’m up at 4 am, and first thing in the morning I practice meditation, deep breathing – things that mentally and psychologically really supported the positive energy and aspects you need to endure a task such as this. It’s a total body experience.
Q: How much soreness did you experience afterwards?
I was completely spent. I was sore for probably six days afterwards. I will say, because of the preparation in combination with the supplementation, vitamins and minerals, my soreness wasn’t as intense as far as the pain I thought I would be experiencing. But that Tuesday afterwards, if someone came to me and said ‘I will give you 1 million dollars if you can do one regulation pull-up’ … I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it!
Q: What advice do you have for people who are looking to get stronger on pull-ups?
If I was working with someone who could not do one pull-up, I would start them with leg assisted pull-ups, either manually spotting them or having them use a pull-up assist machine. Whatever we were doing, we would do in sets of three for one to three pull-ups. Afterwards, we recover and do that again, then recover and do that one last time. We would do that at least twice to three times a week to develop the muscles that are needed for that technique. From there, I would work towards having them be able to do them on their own. Start out with one to three reps, for at least a set of three and up to sets of five.