High level athletes train differently than most of us, but it seems like they have fun differently, too. On August 8, 2021, YouTube fitness personality Craig Richey accepted a casual challenge from Khan Porter with a borderline concerning level of enthusiasm. The premise of the friendly competition? Perform one thousand push-ups. For time.
What followed was a gleeful, if harrowing, journey for Richey as he racked up a four-digit cluster set in an hour and some change. You can check out the madness in the TeamRichey YouTube video below:
What began as a casual hotel room workout rapidly devolved into a visibly painful experience for the YouTuber as he shed his shirt and placed a pillow under his knees to reduce as much discomfort as possible. Despite all the agony, Richey finished with a smile on his face, posting a time of one hour, nine minutes, and 56 seconds. That works out to roughly 14.5 pushups every minute.
How to Pull Off 1,000 Push-Ups
The prospect of doing 1,000 repetitions of anything in a day is probably dreadful to most, but some might find it inspiring. If Richey’s not-so-relaxing morning workout was a call to action for you to attempt something similar, we’re going to take a deep dive into how he pulled it off.
Before we get into the method behind the madness (there’s some science, too), a healthy disclaimer — you probably shouldn’t try this exact challenge at home. Competitive CrossFitters like Richey are known for their endurance capabilities, whether it is in running, swimming, barbell cycling or calisthenics. With that in mind, we can unpack Richey’s approach to performing a year’s worth of push-ups in one sitting.
The Science of Fatigue
Repeated muscle contractions generate waste product in the body. These products, namely lactic acid and various phosphates, accumulate in muscle tissue and contribute to the painful burning sensation we’re all familiar with at the end of a hard set. While these muscular waste products do flush naturally over time, repeat bouts of additional stimulus (think forced reps or an AMRAP set) compounds the effect.
Timed exercise trials like this push-up challenge don’t give the body adequate time to recover from multiple doses of stress, making each cluster of reps performed increasingly more difficult as the skeletal muscles are awash with lactate.
Break It Down to Build It Up
Tasked with performing a truly absurd amount of push-ups in a single bout, Richey took the smart approach to any high-volume task — he broke it down into doable, bite-sized sets. This is essentially the core of cluster training or rest-pause sets, which are commonly used in both CrossFit and bodybuilding as a way of pushing intensity.
[Related: Elite Strength Athletes Share Their Best Hotel Workouts]
For the bulk of the reps, Richey smashed out sets of five. Five reps works out to be a nice, comfortable number that allowed him to tally up quickly but isn’t so demanding that he burnt out early on. It was only after the 700-rep mark that fatigue forced him down to sets of three, then two, and eventually single push-ups to cross the finish line.
By pacing himself and not starting with huge sets of 20 to 30 reps at the beginning, Richey kept a nice consistent pace that allowed him to get well over halfway done before exhaustion really started to set in.
Suffer With a Smile
It may be a little concerning to see even an elite athlete hit a week’s worth of reps in one session and come out the other end in good spirits, but embracing “the suck” was critical for Richey to make it to the light at the end of the tunnel. Extremely high-volume repetitious tasks can take a mental toll beyond the physical exhaustion.
View this post on Instagram
To combat any negative emotions, Richey kept his spirits high and accepted the fact that Khan’s challenge was going to hurt. This likely made the task easier for him to endure, and serves as a valuable lesson for anyone saddled with a comparably daunting task in the gym or otherwise.
Masters of Masochism
After finishing all 1,000 push-ups, Richey remarked that he’s on the hunt for another form of “entertainment” to promote on his channel during his hotel quarantine. If this is the first time you’ve seen an athlete perform something nearly superhuman for fun, rest assured there are far more feats like this to check out. Some of our favorites include:
- Sarah Sigmundsdóttir Does 50 Clean & Jerks at 90 Kilos
- Brandon Breitenbach Sets Murph World Record in 24 Hours
- Nick Anapolsky Crushes 879 Burpees in One Hour
Featured Image: TeamRICHEY on YouTube