On January 23rd, Dr. Mullen and several members of his lab started the “Gustav Challenge.” In 1857, Gustav (56 years old at the time) published a self-study of his personal muscular endurance gains. For 60 straight days, approximately 2 hours after breakfast, he performed maximum repetitions of overhead (shoulder) press with 9.5 lb dumbbells, at a 1-0-1 tempo, until failure.
By the end, Gustav reported achieving more than 700 reps in a single day. That’s an extraordinarily impressive feat or is it too good to be true? Well, it certainly raises some questions. What about muscle soreness or fatigue? To achieve 700 reps with a steady 1-0-1 tempo, it would take more than 30 minutes, and yet no rest is reported within the manuscript. He reported using a metronome, so that reflects a truly dedicated scientist aiming for rigor and replicability.
We are going to assume that Gustav was doing single sets until failure, and that he did not count multiple attempts to accumulate repetitions throughout the day. Fechner’s findings and our sheer curiosity has led a handful of us to try the #GustavChallenge. If nothing else, it will be a fun exercise in futility. We are kinesiologists with expertise in exercise physiology and psychology. We will undoubtedly stick to the program, but we remain highly skeptical of the potential for gains within the 60-day window.
What do you need to do the #GustavChallenge? You need only 9.5-10 lb dumbbells (or weights of some kind; note that a gallon milk jug weighs ~ 8 lbs) and a metronome set to 60 beats per minute (bpm). There’s a free web-based metronome here.
We are uncertain if Gustav stood up or sat down. We are standing.
Will you stand with us and test your muscular endurance?