Nov. 26, 2020

Kinesiology PhD student with arms of steel challenges Guinness World Record for most pull-ups in 24 hours

Event doubles as charity fundraiser and scientific experiment; volunteers needed to film and witness attempt

EDITOR'S NOTE, Nov. 26, 2020: Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the challenge has been postponed to a later date.

Arash Khassetarash, a PhD student in the Faculty of Kinesiology, was scheduled to break the men’s Guinness World Record by completing 8,000 pull-ups in 24 hours in April. But his plans were derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Khassetarash will make the attempt once again on Dec. 5.

Khassetarash was ready to challenge the record in April 2020.

  • Photo above: Arash Khassetarash trains for an attempt at a Guinness World Record for most pull-ups in 24 hours. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

“In March, I felt like I could do 10,000 pull-ups I was so motivated. I was doing 1,000 pull-ups a day, but with the pandemic, the event was put on hold and the gyms closed so I couldn’t continue training the same way until they opened back up,” says Khassetarash. “My motivation has taken a hit, but I remind myself of all the athletes who are in this same position.”

As part of the event, Kassetarash is raising funds for the university’s United Way campaign.

“I’m raising money to highlight the importance of public health," says Khassetarash. "Because when I entered my undergraduate and master’s program I became very inactive until I came to the university here and began working out with my friend and training partner, Colin Lavigne. It was only then that I got back my fitness."

Started as a joke

“The idea began as somewhat of a joke with Colin," says Khassetarash. "We were talking about an endurance athlete who broke a record for pull-ups, and I told him that would be no problem. We were laughing because it was a challenge for me to do five pull-ups.”

After the conversation, Khassetarash did some research about Guinness World Record holders.

“I was curious about what it would take to break the record, and began to do pull-ups," he says. "Within a few months I got so good at them I thought breaking this record is actually doable."

Lavigne, his training partner, recently moved to France to pursue a PhD.

“I have to admit I miss the companionship and support during my workouts,” says Khassetarash. To stay motivated and to prevent mental and physical fatigue, he has changed up his routine and now does 1,000 pull-ups every second day, and on the other days he does lower and upper body workouts and running.

“I have had some challenges along the way, but I will give this event 110 per cent,” he says.

Assistant professor Saied Jalal Aboodarda, left, monitors Arash Khassetarash

Assistant professor Saied Jalal Aboodarda, left, monitors Arash Khassetarash as he trains for an attempt at a Guinness World Record for most pull-ups in 24 hours.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Training becomes part of a study

To get tips on the best way to train for the event, Khassetarash approached Dr. Guillaume Millet, PhD, his co-supervisor and a former kinesiology professor and adjunct with the faculty who is an expert on endurance athletics. Millet is currently a professor at the Université Jean Monnet in France.

“He provided helpful advice on training, and he suggested this would make a great research project," says Khasseterash. "We could test different pacing approaches in advance and see which strategy works best for me."

Dr. Jalal Aboodarda, PhD, an exercise physiology professor in kinesiology, agreed to lead the project. During each test Khassetarash does 2,000 pull-ups. After every 330 pull-ups, Aboodarda tests Khassetarash’s grip strength, heart rate as well as neuromuscular fatigue including voluntary activation (how much your brain is driving your muscle strength). His last pacing test wrapped up on Nov. 16.

The data gathered will be used to explore the limits of human endurance as well as to help Khassetarash choose the best approach to challenge the record.

Call for volunteers

The event will take place from Saturday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. to Sunday, Dec. 6 at 5 p.m. in KNA17, and it will be live-streamed for all to watch. Volunteers are still needed, as the Guinness World Record committee requires the event be filmed by a minimum of two cameras that must be monitored, and one volunteer per shift must be a strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer to witness the pull-ups. The shifts are a maximum of four hours. Learn more by visiting the volunteer and donation page here. Donors will be sent an email to watch the live stream of this world record challenge.