How Do You Do 4000 Pull Ups In 24 Hours?

By Erik Brown

Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

It may not have been a physical beating, but then again maybe it was. When was the last time fatigue got to you? When is the last time you didn’t give your best effort — just because you couldn’t? When is the last time just good enough was all you could manage to give?

Fatigue crept in.

It may not have been physical fatigue; most likely it was mental fatigue. That voice inside your head that says, no more, please stop, overpowered you. You couldn’t fight off that voice, you just had to listen to it and stop.

That project you were attempting to do would have to wait. That work out you planned to do just wouldn’t get done today. That story you planned to write would remain unwritten. That job you were in the middle of would just have to stop.

No more, please stop….you need a break. You deserve a break. It’s too hard, you just can’t do it. No one else can do it either, just stop, there’s no shame. Just stop, you can try again tomorrow.

David Goggins Big To Small —
“Our whole life is set up in the path of least resistance. We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to feel discomfort. So the whole time we’re living our lives in a very comfortable area. There’s no growth in that. So for me I realized that. The reason I became 297 pounds is because that was comfortable. What was very uncomfortable was running. What was very uncomfortable was being on a diet. What was very uncomfortable was trying to face things that I didn’t want to face. And I also realized when I was really big: I had no growth. Why? Because I was living comfortable. So I realized for me to find growth I had to face all these different things that made me very, very uncomfortable.” — David Goggins

David Goggins is a walking motivational billboard. His list of accomplishments are so legendary, he’d make an Olympic athlete feel like a slacker. But, this wasn’t always so. David started from the humblest of beginnings on his path to greatness.

On a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast, David talked about his early childhood. He grew up poor and his father was very abusive. He was lost as a child and didn’t take very well to his education. He was reading on a 4th grade level as he approached his 18th birthday.

David decided he would enter the Air Force, but due to his poor reading ability he failed the entrance exam twice. On a third try he passed and eventually worked his way into the Air Force Pararescue team. Afterwards, he made his way to a special operations group in the Air Force known as the Tactical Air Control Party.

David still had another goal though; he wanted to be a Navy SEAL. There was one problem though, he ballooned up to 300 pounds after 4 years in the Air Force. He would need to drop 100 pounds within 3 months to be even able to test for the SEALs. David managed to make it down to 190 lbs in time to take the test.

Yes, he lost 110 lbs in 3 months, just so he could get beat up while attempting to become a Navy SEAL.

David made it through the BUD/S training and became a Navy SEAL. In 2001 he was assigned to SEAL team 5 and served in Iraq. During his stint with the SEALs, David also took the Army Ranger training test and passed that too and was given the distinction of the “Top Enlisted Man” in his class.

I absolutely hated running. But I knew for me to grow I had to do this thing every single day. I wanted to start callus-ing my mind. I wanted to start becoming a better person. And how do you become a better person? How do you gain mental toughness? How do you become the person you want to be? It’s by constantly facing the things that you don’t want to face. If you constantly run away from things that you don’t want to face, how is there growth? How is there mental toughness? I can give you a class all day long about self-talk, visualization, “eat an elephant one bite at a time”, but if you’re never putting yourself in a situation to actually practice these things you’re never going to grow. — David Goggins

In 2005 a number of David’s friends died in Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan. He wanted to do something in their memory. David decided he would raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation by running marathons.

David being who he is decided he would run the hardest marathon he could possibly find — he had never run a marathon before. He found a race called the Badwater 135, which was a 135 mile race through Death Valley. However, the race director wouldn’t let him run until he had completed another 100 mile race.

The director told David there was a 100 mile run in his area, but it started in 4 days. David decided to do it. He’d run a 100 mile race, despite never having run a normal marathon and only having four days to prepare. David went to the race with crackers, a power bar, a plastic chair, and no water. He had 24 hours to complete the challenge.

Well, he did say he was seeking to be uncomfortable.

David took the first 20 miles in stride, but by mile 30 he started getting shin splints. When he hit mile 50 his feet started feeling like they were breaking. By the time he got to mile 70 his body was completely annihilated, he collapsed into the chair he brought with him. David lost the color in his skin and was dizzy. He never felt pain like this, even in SEAL training or Ranger school.

David still had 30 miles to go. It was impossible. He heard that voice in his head saying no more, please stop. However, he thought for a bit and calmed his mind. He started thinking of ways he could finish. First he got water into himself, then sodium and potassium to take care of the dizziness. He started calculating how many miles he would have to do per hour within the 24 hours left.

David eventually could stand again and started running once more. He discovered that once your mind realizes you won’t quit, it will give you more. All of that training and pain he had been in during his life has prepared him for this. He discovered you’re always capable of more than you think if you keep pushing. He finished 101 miles in a little under 19 hours.

Romans Using The Corvus — picture from Penfield Central School District

Just like David Goggins, the Romans of the early republic era knew something about not giving up. The historian Polybius described the Romans as believing they could not be defeated if they didn’t accept defeat.

This idea was on full display during Rome’s first war against Carthage in 246 BC. This war took place on and around the island of Sicily. The Republic of Rome that came to fight Carthage wasn’t the Rome we all think of. This was early Rome that still didn’t control all of the Italian Peninsula just yet. They were not the great power that dominated the ancient world at that moment.

Carthage was a prime power in the Mediterranean at this time and also the greatest naval power of the age. This presented a unique problem for Rome.

  1. They had no fleet
  2. They were fighting on islands…where you would need a fleet.
  3. They were fighting the greatest maritime power of the age.

The Romans didn’t accept these problems as a reason to quit this struggle. They captured a ship from Carthage and copied it. Dan Carlin in his Hardcore History podcast describes how the Romans practiced rowing in the sand because they had no idea how to row a warship properly.

The Romans were determined, but not delusional. They knew they couldn’t fight a naval power like Carthage in a traditional way. They had no idea how to sail or command a fleet. They developed a type of swinging bridge (corvus) for their ships, which would smash down on the enemy ships. This way they could make the sea war a land war. The ships from Carthage would try and ram an opposing ship with a solid metal ram, but the Romans would board an opposing vessel instead.

The Romans would also have to face Carthage on land as well. In these battles the Romans would have to face teams of war elephants. Imagine picking up a sword or spear and trying to fight an angry elephant.

No thanks, I’ll pass.

The Romans managed to fight toe to toe with Carthage for 23 years.

Yes seriously, they fought for 23 years.

Eventually the Romans broke the resolve of Carthage by beating them in a naval battle. Yes, a naval battle. Despite the fact the Romans started with no naval experience, they eventually defeated the greatest sea people of the age. Carthage was forced to accept peace terms and pay reparations for the war.

I’m sure at many times the Romans would have wanted to give up. That would have been the comfortable path. However, the Romans chose the path of discomfort. They built a fleet, despite not knowing anything about naval warfare. They continued fighting for 23 years until they got into a position of advantage and got a peace deal they wanted to end the conflict. That 23 year long war was their 100 mile marathon.

David Goggins Breaking The World Pull Up Record (Screen Capture) — Video Posted By Phenomic Games
“We’re all going through a battle in our mind. A warrior is not a person that carries a gun. The biggest war you ever go through is right between your own ears. It’s in your mind. We’re all going through a war in our mind and we have to callus our mind to fight that war and to win that war.” — David Goggins

After losing 100lbs, making it into the Navy SEALs, and running 100 mile long ultra marathons, you would think Mr. Goggins would have completed enough challenges. Well, you’d be wrong. David heard about the world record for pull ups. This could be another way to make money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

It was just over 4000 in 24 hours.

To most that high number would be daunting, but David got a pencil and paper. He started breaking down the number into a small amount of pull ups per minute that would get him to his goal. In his mind it was doable and that was all that mattered.

David attempted to break the record twice in 2012 and failed. Each time he was forced to stop because of wrist injuries. He would try again in 2013 and managed to do 4025 in 17 hours and broke the world record.

Wait, what about the title? I thought you were going to explain how to do 4000 pull ups in 24 hours?

Well, is it a matter of conditioning? Of course, there has to be some type of training to prepare you for a feat like this. However, David spent very little time speaking about physical training. When asked about breaking this record, David spends most of his time talking about mental training.

David saw all the pain and struggle in his life as a source of luck as he aged. This pain and struggle was his training. Everything he went through was forging him, like a piece of steel. Beating him over and over again into a shape. Seeing this in his mind is what enabled him to break this record.

He was able to realize that there was growth in the discomfort he felt. He also realized that when that voice in his head told him to quit, he had much more left in the tank. All he had to do was keep going. He broke that giant number into small beatable numbers, and then just managed his mind during the process.

Many times the biggest growth spurts in your life come from discomfort. Whether they’re physical discomforts, such as exercise. Maybe they’re mental discomforts, such as reading and learning instead of passively watching television. They could also be emotional discomforts, like speaking to a room filled with strangers or saying you’re sorry and meaning it when you’ve hurt someone.

It’s that discomfort you feel when you’re stretching your boundaries on a physical, mental, and emotional level. If you think about it, these boundaries are set randomly. It’s sort of like a state line. How do you know where New York ends and Pennsylvania begins? You look at an artificial boundary on a map. Many times this is the same in your life.

How do you know how far you can run? You run until fatigue sets in, then you take that as a sign to stop. However, this fatigue both physical and mental is just like the artificial boundary on that map. Often it’s more mental than physical. You’d be amazed what you can do if you push that voice aside. That voice that says please stop, we can do it tomorrow, you need a break.

David Goggins is a prime example of that, by surpassing incredible physical odds and by controlling his mind. The Romans of the Republic are also an example of that by not accepting defeat as a method of avoiding defeat.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. If you enjoyed what you’ve read, please share.