How David Goggins Broke the World Pull-up Record

And what it can teach us about failure

Dylan Hughes
5 min readOct 6, 2020


David Goggins
Photo by Wayne Peterson on Flickr

What isn’t David Goggins known for when it comes to athletic or physical feats?

If you don’t know Goggins from being the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, maybe it’s for completing over 60 marathons and ultramarathons. Maybe it’s for authoring Can’t Hurt Me, a New York Times Bestseller that documents all of these incredible accomplishments and more.

One of those stories was on Goggins’ attempt to break the Guinness World Record for pull-ups in 2013, which was 4,020 in 24 hours at the time. The chapter was titled, “The Empowerment of Failure.”

Lights, camera, action!

The story begins on September 27, 2013 and takes place at the studio of The Today Show. In the prior six months, Goggins had done 40,000 pull-ups in training.

Training could not prepare him for the other elements of the challenge, however.

Goggins began his attempt for the world record right after his appearance on The Today Show, on a set with hot lights and right in front of a large glass window facing the streets of New York City.

This type of environment didn’t suit Goggins, who typically likes to do his work behind the scenes.

It wasn’t just that, though. You know what may be an important part to a pull-up challenge? The bar. This one had too much give, reducing Goggins’ ability to explode and do pull-ups the proper way.

This meant holding a tighter grip and using more energy to complete each pull-up. In an endurance and strength challenge such as this, the wasted energy weighed on Goggins throughout.

After 2,500 pull-ups, Goggins ended his attempt due to tension and lactic acid buildup in his muscles.

A change of environment



Dylan Hughes

Two-time self-development author also writing on business and electric vehicles. My free newsletter: