Interview with Steven Price
Interview with Steven Price
The First World Record Holder for most Pull ups in 24 hours
How did you get started doing Pull-ups?
In January, 2006 I was asked by my son Craig to go on a week-long hike in the Grand Canyon. Thinking I should probably get in shape, I stepped on the scale and saw I was 20 pounds over my \”normal\” weight. With three months to “get in shape” I started exercising and watching my diet. After I made it out of the Grand Canyon alive, I got interested in wall climbing (June, 2006). Finding that it was a challenging whole-body exercise that was also lots of fun, I started doing exercises to make me a better wall climber, including pull-ups. At first, I could only do four! My son in the Marines has regular physical training tests where he has to do 20 pull-ups to max out his Physical Fitness Test. Not to be outdone by a 19 year old son-Marine, I continued to do pull-ups.
When did you realize that you wanted to break a World Record for Pull-ups?
I started keeping track of how many I could do in a minute (gradually the number increased to 6, 12, 18….), then out of curiosity I checked on the world record for the number of pull-ups in a minute (42 at the time, I think). Gee, the web also showed categories for 3 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 6 hours, 12 hours….and wow, 24 hours—3,116 pull-ups. 24 hours!! That is \’only\’ 2.2/minute for 1,440 minutes! I Said myself…only 2.2/minute, wonder how long I could do 2.2/minute. So I started increasing my pull-up volume. 50 pull-ups. 100 pull-ups. 500 pull-ups. Sore and pulled muscles, strange noises emanating from my shoulders (cracks, pops, the sound of twisting ropes), trips to the orthopedic doctor about very sore pectoral muscles. 1000 pull-ups after 8 hours, 1,500 pull-ups. On January 1, 2008, I announced to my wife Ann that I was going to try to break the world record for the most pull-ups in 24 hours.
Did you have any minor or major setbacks on your journey to the World Record?
The biggest concerns were the occasional aches and pains. I had “creaking” noises for many months coming out of my left shoulder—like twisting a rope. This was disconcerting, but the noise eventually went away. I also developed a pain in my right pec, that caused me to go to an orthopedic surgeon. He assured me that a pec muscle was very tough and I “could not rip it doing pull-ups,” so I just ignored it, and this, too, went away. Finally, I had continuous forearm soreness around my elbows, which I self-diagnosed as my brachioradialis. This soreness lasted for a continuous1.5 years; it caused regular disruptions in sleep. For example, after a weekend of doing say 1500 pull-ups, come Tuesday/Wed. night I would wake up several times and have to “shift” my arm.
Finally, my first 24 hour practice attempt was so discouraging I felt like quitting.
Where does you daily motivation come from?
Probably after I started telling people I was going to break the record! Once I made this claim, I couldn’t back down. Though at a few points I wished I had kept my mouth shut! I told my wife more than once during this period that if I hadn’t been shooting my mouth off, I’d quit.
I am a pretty goal oriented person, so once I set my sights on something, I generally don’t stop until I reach it.
What types of exercises do you use in your workouts? Weights or bodyweight?
I started out doing weighted pull-ups. I then shifted to body weight pull-ups almost exclusively. I became quite interested in the whole “LSD/Interval” controversy. However, I just could not risk doing only interval training for short periods when I was looking at a 24 hour trial, and failing because I had not developed whatever it takes to go 24 hours. I felt that LSD was a more “proven” approach, so I stuck with that. I still feel that was the correct approach, and am using it now for my rowing efforts. I can say that doing 2000 pull-ups generates a fatigue/soreness that can not be duplicated by any interval training I did do. I feel that the LSD approach to pull-ups worked the Type 1 muscle fibers that a 24 hour attempt would stress. I do not have faith that an anaerobic only approach would provide the proper conditioning. So, the LSD was “tried and true” by countless marathoners and ultramarathoners, and so I stuck with that. However, I know that many interval devotees would disagree with me (such as Crossfit folks).
Finally, I might say that “hand conditioning” was very important—I did all my training up to 1000 pull-ups/day bare handed. I found that after 1000 pull-ups I would have to be taped up and wear a glove. Interval training would not have provided me with that kind of hand-conditioning—since I only started developing soreness after 1000, and you couldn’t do 1000 pull-ups using an interval approach.
My weekly regime was to do pull-ups on Saturday and Sunday, often 2,000 a weekend. I would also, on weekends, go wall climbing. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I would lift weights, as well as do interval type pull-up training—pyramids, etc.
Over a 1.5 year period I did 60,000 pull-ups, the vast majority on the weekends.
How many practice attempts did you make before the actual attempt at the World Record?
I made two . The first was very humbling. For my first practice attempt I thought I could quit for ½ hour after about 18 hours. However, I discovered that after I got back on the bar I could not even do one pull-up. After subsequently talking with some ultramarathoners I learned about their “beware of the chair” mantra, and incorporated that into my next attempt. (Interestingly, the physiological basis of this phenomenon seems to be unknown, but it is real!).
For my second attempt I went the entire 24 hours, but my rate had dropped off so I was 251 shy of the record. This was actually encouraging, because I felt that with proper pacing, and in the presence of an audience, I could “go the distance.”
So both of these attempts provided critical experience.
How did you keep a positive mind set during the entire 24 hours of doing Pull-ups?
This was easy, as there were about 70 students watching me. The rules required two witnesses at any one time, and though I thought I’d spend my time watching movies/listening to books on tape, the kids were so encouraging and engaging I did not feel the need. They actually made the entire experience quite enjoyable. That is where I also learned that an audience provides an enormous psychological boost—which I had read about, but had not experienced. Huge improvement over doing hours and hours by yourself in the garage!
I might add that a real downside to these “ultra” training events is maintaining a motivated mind-set. The Brain seems to be a huge obstacle.
What did your diet consist of during the Record breaking attempt?
Not enough carbs! My wife believes that if I’d had more “glucose” in the last 6 hours, I’d have done much better. As it was I just did not feel hungry, and really did not eat in the last 6-8 hours. I started out eating protein/milk; eggs; meat/ potatoes. Drank Gatorade/coffee. But then my appetite dropped, and I stopped eating. And that was probably a mistake—it seems I just ran out of energy. But not a classic “bonk.” Muscles just would not contract any more—I dropped down to 8 pull-ups an hour! The drop in appetitie is still a mystery to me, but it could have been hormonal?
I have developed a whole new respect for the importance of proper nutrition during a 24 hour event.
What was the first thought you had when you broke the World Record?
I thought: “Are my kids watching?!” Turns out they were, via webcam, and they really kicked my fanny to keep going, when I was thinking “this was good enough…”
Any plans for the future in regards to breaking more World Records?
I am presently training for a 24 hour attempt at rowing on the erg machine. Lucky for me, unlike with the pull-up attempt (!), they have an age and weight classification. I am targeting 240,000 meters for the 60+ years old and greater than 165 lb. category—10,000 meters per hour for 24 hours will do it, at least right now. This would be about 1.5 years from now.
Of course, if you or Stephen Hyland smash my record, which you guys probably will, then the pressure will be on for me to step up for pull-ups again. I can only hope that they develop an age classification for pull-ups, then I’d be more secure for a while!
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