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July 5, 2021 25 min

Listen as Tony Nash talks with athlete and personal trainer Michael Eckert, the 2015 Guinness World Record holder for most pull-ups (50) in a minute. Although extremely physically fit, Michael reveals his fitness “kryptonite” and failures and shares how he overcomes them. He talks about the importance of doing what you enjoy and surrounding yourself with things and people you like.

Pull-ups mastery

Michael Eckert, the 2015 Guinness World Record holder for the most pullups (50) in a minute, says his love and passion for pull ups began at home, after his father, an Army officer, brought home a military style pull up bar. He and his brother, who would later become an Army Infantryman, would engage in friendly competitions in their backyard.

This worthy rivalry strengthened Michael because it was all fun, making him want to do more pull ups without any pressure.

At the time, he was not aware that doing at least 40 pull ups was a huge deal. It was not until a rock climbing buddy dared him to do it and he was able to do 45. He is currently training to set the most pullups in 24 hours in September.

Now that he’s no longer an active duty Marine, Michael says he continues to value physical fitness and athleticism. “Whether morning, night, once a day, I always do something that involves moving my body around.”

“I think everyone should be physically fit because you function better as humans when we’re functionally in shape.” 

He has his own fitness app Live Above the Bar, containing video workouts, nutrition guides, and health tips for his community. He is also a member of FitOps Foundation, an organization that seeks to reduce veteran suicide through fitness.  

On being a generalist

As a kid, Michael says he did not have any specific ambition. He was a little bit into everything that he enjoyed and he just loved the thrill of competition.

“Since I spread myself around, I’m a pretty well-rounded athlete across the board. That’s where I am right now.”

He also never had a big role model growing up – in the real world, at least. He looked up to Goku, the protagonist of the Dragon Ball Z anime. Goku, originally sent to destroy Earth as an infant, grew up to become the strongest warrior and Earth defender. 

His fitness kryptonite

Famous for being the pullup guy, Michael reveals his biggest fitness kryptonite: mobility/flexibility. He recalls his time in the American Ninja Warrior, where he says everything  was a walk in the park until the finals, when he fell like a rock on the water after failing to accomplish the Jumping Spider.

 “I was on national television, I looked down those two walls. I was like, I know my legs can’t go that far apart.. But I’m on TV so I tried. So it looks like I jumped off the trampoline straight into the water. Like I didn’t even try to go on the wall.”

Recently, he has been trying to focus on gaining flexibility. Calling himself an “extremely inflexible” person, he does not like doing it but he knows it will increase his performance.

He says if he keeps on doing something he hates, he just ends up putting it on the side. He ends up tweaking some stretches to find it more appealing to him. Good thing, too, there’s another option: sauna. He recently bought one and he says it is one of his major investments for his health and performance.

 

Darkest time in his life

Michael recalls the darkest time in his life. In 2017, in the same week, he injured his wrist a couple of days before coming out of active duty and lost his best friend, SGT Tryee “Banana” Green, to suicide.

At the time, he was confronted with two decisions: “I can either join him and not be here anymore and I can push through and see where this goes.”

He considers these two as his greatest failures. But he hopes he could turn them into success in September when he again tries to break the world record for the most number of pull ups in 24 hours.

Despite his injury, he continues to train hard and push himself to the limit. “My best days are those that I forget I broke my wrist.”

“My dad’s saying is none of us are gonna get out of here alive. I can train as hard as I want, I’m still not getting out of here alive. It’s ok to fail once in a while, it’s ok to not make the quota. But get back on and keep trying hard because it’s the journey really,” Michael says.

 

Surrounding yourself with positivity

One habit that has greatly improved his life in the past 5 years is surrounding himself with people and things that he likes. He recently moved to Tennessee and says it has made him a happier person.

He says people who enjoy what they’re doing and do not compare themselves with others, especially on social media, end up achieving their goals.

“Let go of the fact that you cannot control people, but you can control the people you are around. So it’s like letting good people into your life is amazing…. You can control the people you actually spend a lot of your time around with. And I think that’s the healthiest thing for me is just really focusing on building good positive relationships with awesome people and people you can trust because a couple of toxic people in your life can really bring you down.”

Ultimately, he encourages people to listen to themselves and find where they thrive.

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