“Free soloing” is the climbing term for when a rock climber scales a natural rock face with nothing more than his or her hands and a bag of chalk—no ropes or safety mechanisms whatsoever. Yes, it’s crazy. One bad move, one missed hand-hold, one slippery grip, and…. Well, you get the picture. Few people in the world try it, and no one does it better than real-life Spider-Man, Zen wizard, and free-soloing extraordinaire Alex Honnold. But even Honnold surprised the world recently when he did the unthinkable: conquering all 3,000 feet of Yosemite’s El Capitan in just under four hours without a rope.
It was among the greatest feats of climbing in history, and it got us wondering: what other incredible physical feats have we humans pulled off recently? Who are the men who have trained to run, lift, climb, and flip their way into modern pantheon of superhuman fitness? Meet our toughest and roughest and strongest living legends right here. And when you’re inspired to improve your own fitness, here are 5 Exercises in 10 Minutes That Will Transform Your Body.
If you believe in something strong enough, they say, you can move mountains. Or you could just be strong enough. Hafthér Jéléus Björnsson, whom you may know as Gregor Clegane (or “The Mountain”) on Game of Thrones, broke a record that’s been around for a millennium. According to Viking legend, there’s a 30-foot long log—weighing in at an inhuman 1,433 pounds—that was carried by one man, Orm Storolfson, for three steps. Björnsson carried it for five. The crazy part? The legend was exactly that: legend. Björnsson actually did it. It may seem hard, but it’s possible to build muscles like Björnsson.
Ah, the four-minute mile. That’s running at a speed most of us can’t sprint at—about 15 mph—for longer than we can imagine. And yet, some high school kid just smashed it. Reed Brown, of Southlake, Texas, just ran a 3:59.30 mile. The world record, by the way, is 3:43.13. If Brown’s fleetness of foot inspires you to take up long-distance running, here’s your game plan for conquering your first race.
Matt Poursoltani didn’t shatter any records in bench pressing—that honor belongs to Ryan Kennelly, who lifted 1,075 pounds in 2008—but he did turn heads around the nation. Poursoltani was a high school senior when he benched 700 pounds in 2013 at the Texas High School Powerlifting Association meet. And if you think his raw number is impressive, consider this: the kid’s only 270 pounds. (The NFL record for benching is 705 pounds, set by a 325-pound Larry Allen.) If you’re looking to achieve strength gains like this at the gym, here are 5 muscles you’re probably overlooking.
Andri Ragettli has been making waves in the skiing community for his physical feats. At last year’s X Games, he was the only rookie to compete in the slopestyle event—and, at 17, the youngest in the field. But this year, he made even crazier history. At the Suzuki Nine Royals, Ragettli landed the first quad cork 1800—that’s four inversions and five rotations. A warning: don’t try that while you’re on your ski vacation.
Everyone knows the Tour de France, a 2,200-mile trek around France that takes roughly three weeks. But what about the Race Across America? This bike tour is exactly what it sounds: a 3,000-mile trek across the entire continental United States. And in 2014, Christoph Strasser completed it in just under 7 days and 16 hours. Strasser’s average speed clocked in at 16.8mph—and he only spent 9% of the time coasting. What’d you do with your week? Also: if you’re jonesin’ for the open road, here are some excellent bikes to add to your arsenal.
Climbing Mount Everest is a feat. Climbing Mount Everest without oxygen or fixed ropes is a Herculean feat. So Kilian Jornet did it. Twice. In one week. His first ascent took him 26 hours. Once hit returned to ground level, he went back up, this time summiting in 17 hours—15 minutes shy of the record.
Jordan Kilganon, a professional dunker—yes, as in basketball, because apparently that’s a thing—wowed the world in 2015 by leaping a 75 inch box jump. To put that ridiculousness of that into perspective, if he caught two extra inches of vert, he’d have been able to jump over Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The sub-two-hour marathon has been whispered about, like an elusive fairy tale, for a hundred years—since the first marathon was run under three hours. And this year, it almost happened. Eliud Kipchoge, backed by Nike and all the training and analysis their millions can buy, ran his 26.2 miles in two hours and 25 seconds. He was so close! Still, as far as feats go, a more-or-less two-hour marathon is pretty damn good.
We’ve all seen the kung fu feats where a seasoned master chops through an object no normal fist could break—a board, a brick. Well, Randy Richey shattered an astonishing 82 bricks in one blow—and at the same time, shattered the record for bricks smashed at once.
We’re really unsure what the motivation behind this strange feat was, but Rod Sacharnoski set out to break the record for the hardest kick to the groin. Sacharnoski went on Sports Science with MMA fighter Justice Smith, who then proceeded to land a kick between Sacarnoski’s legs at a force that clocked in at nearly 1,100 pounds. Due to a bunch of science, Sacharnoski was completely unfazed. Seriously. Watch the video. The man is invincible. It’s nuts. And we’d advise never trying that at home. Instead, protect your penis.
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