Michael Eckert: Marine Vet and Pull Up Extraordinaire

We all have things we are good at, but there are few of us that have been so good at something that you broke a world record. Michael Eckert has mastered the pull-up and formerly broke the Guinness World Record with 50 pull-ups in one minute. Not only is Eckert a pull-up extraordinaire, but he also is a U.S. Marine Core veteran. 

Michael told us about his time in the Marine, his path to the world record, and his painful experience with American Ninja Warrior. Read our interview below!

KC: Was it always a dream of yours to be a Marine, if not, what inspired your decision?
ME: No, it was not always my dream. There was a time where I thought I would never join the military but, life works in strange ways. I wanted to be able to take a step back from life to figure myself out while also progressing forward. I figured the best way to do that was to join the military. The military isn't for everyone but I can say it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

KC: What was the toughest part of your time as a Marine?
ME: Leaving active duty. The transition alone is hard but 3 days before I came off of active I broke my wrist. My best friend who was supposed to join me on this fitness journey killed himself. A big disconnect happened when all that went down and that's why I joined the reserves. It's shitty sometimes but it still gives me a taste of being around Marines and there is nothing like that.

KC: What are your favorite memories during your military service?
ME: Competing in the fitness HITT championship. I had the opportunity to represent all of USMC Japan in a fitness challenge in Miramar. Training side by side with MARSOC and the best athletes in the Corps was amazing.

KC: How and when did your pull-up craze begin?
ME: Before the military, I was training my ass off as a rock climber. I just loved the feeling of a great workout. One day someone asked me how many pull-ups I could do and I had no idea. I hopped on the bar and did 44 which was more than the world record at the time. My training has always focused around mastering upper body strength and pull-ups are the center point for that so I fell in love with doing them.

KC: Your time on American Ninja Warrior ended with multiple surgeries. What exactly happened and how were you able to make a miracle full recovery?
ME: So when I fell, I fell in a preliminary ninja competition at a local gym training for the next season of ANW. It was 3 days before coming off of active duty and I was super gung ho about how strong I was that I didn't even check to see if there was a pad below me.  I was 14 feet in the air and I wound up doing the obstacle in a way that wasn't intended. I fell 14 feet onto concrete in the seated position. I had 2 surgeries because I had so much nerve damage that they had to go back in and cut the tendon in my palm permanently reducing my grip strength.....or so they told me it would. I said fuck that and trained my ass off to get my grip stronger than it used to be. Even when I was going to physical therapy they have a caliper there to measure your squeezing strength and with the wrist, I broke my therapist said "damn... I can't even squeeze that hard and I don't have a broken wrist and a cut tendon" Following that, I re-broke the world record to prove that an injury will only slow you down if you let it.

KC: You broke the world record for most pull-ups in a minute and raised money for veterans while doing so. How did it feel to break the record and raise money for an awesome cause?
ME: Re-breaking the world record was a tilting point for me because it confirmed my level of strength exactly 1 year after my injury. Also doing it on the anniversary of my best friend passing away felt amazing because he was right there with me. It was cool to do it for a good cause related to the military too.

KC: What does Kill The Quit mean to you? 
ME: Kill The Quit is what stood out to me the most. I have tried to figure out what triggers the motive to quit and how to prevent it. It might be different for everyone else but for me, as soon as I think about quitting, I immediately say "fuck that" and mentally slap myself in the face. Quitting is all in the mind and if you can prevent that from spiraling into a thought that you manifest in your own head then you can achieve a hell of a lot more than you think you can. Kill the Quit as quickly as possible and just keep moving. Great motto.