Tampa man, 60, did 3,264 pushups in an hour. It broke a world record.

Next, Rob Stirling wants to break the world record for pushups in a minute.
Rob Stirling, 60, has the world record for most pushups in an hour with 3,264.
Rob Stirling, 60, has the world record for most pushups in an hour with 3,264. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published March 21, 2023|Updated March 24, 2023

TAMPA — Rob Stirling has been working out for more than 40 years, but only added pushups to his exercise routine because injuries forced him to find a replacement for the bench press.

Now, no one in the world can do more pushups than Stirling in 60 minutes.

On Feb. 24 at Tampa’s Powerhouse Gym Athletic Club, Stirling completed 3,264 pushups in one hour, giving him the unofficial record until Guinness World Records certifies his attempt, which was filmed from multiple angles.

The previous record of 3,206, according to Guinness, was achieved by Australian Lucas Helmke on Nov. 17.

Stirling, an insurance agent who was born and raised in Tampa, said Helmke is half his age.

“It’s probably not going to sit really well with him that a 60-year-old has the record,” Stirling said. “So, I hope he does come back and he’s a competitor. And if he does break it, I’ll challenge him to a head-to-head competition.”

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A longtime motocross and boat racer, Stirling said that he has broken 28 bones, including his collarbone four times, and punctured both lungs.

Those injuries combined with the wear and tear of lifting weights since he was 14 made bench pressing painful. So, around eight or nine years ago, Stirling gave up the bench and barbell for the floor and pushups.

“It created a leaner muscle mass, which is the look I prefer,” he said. “I just started doing more and more and at one point began doing 12 sets of 125, which is 1,500 and was doing it in around 45 minutes. At that point, I looked into the world record,” which was around 2,900 at that time.

Stirling first tried to break it 18 months ago. But, while training two weeks before the attempt, he tore the rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder.

Six months after surgery, Stirling was back in the gym. But, by then, Helmke had pushed the record to 3,206.

“I had a little more work to do to achieve my goal,” Stirling said.

He trained by doing pushups in 30-minute increments every three days.

“It’s like a marathon,” Stirling said. “They don’t run the marathon every day. So, I did 30 minutes and then 60 every so often just to see where I was.”

There is a technique and strategy.

At 5 feet, 10 inches tall, he normally weighs 175 pounds but dropped to 165 for the world record attempt.

“Think of it as removing a 10-pound backpack,” he said. “But there is a fine line between losing weight and losing muscle.”

Competition pushups are different from military style, which call for a person’s chest to touch the ground and then for them to rise and lock elbows.

For competitions, a person stops a fist-length from the floor and, on the way up, stops just short of locking arms, which would cause pain in the elbows when doing so many at a rapid pace.

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Rob Stirling, who has the world record for most pushups in an hour with 3,264, demonstrates his form at Powerhouse Gym Athletic Club in Tampa.
Rob Stirling, who has the world record for most pushups in an hour with 3,264, demonstrates his form at Powerhouse Gym Athletic Club in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

During training, Stirling completed 12 sets of 125 in 26 minutes. That would have been too difficult a pace to keep for a full hour. So, during his attempt, Stirling completed pushups in sets of 12 with breaks of six or seven seconds in between for an average of 54.4 per minute.

Doing pushups for 60 minutes is a mental battle, too.

“It’s such a monotonous number — 3,000,” he said. “It gets in your head.”

Mentally, Stirling broke the hour into five-minute intervals, quietly celebrating each time he completed one.

“It’s five minutes and then 10 and 15,” he said. “Once I hit 30, I thought it was all downhill from there.”

There are more than 100 pushup records on the Guinness website, ranging from the normal — like the most pushups in 12 hours — to the bizarre — like the most pushups with claps while surfing in 30 seconds.

Stirling is considering going after another record.

“There is a one-minute record of 144,” he said. “I’ve gotten to 141 before my shoulder tweaked. I think I can beat 144.”