Eight hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds later, when he finally unclenched his thighs and stretched his arms out, Hood had broken the Guinness world record for the abdominal plank.
The record-breaking feat, which Guinness officially announced last week, caps nearly a decade of planking for the former Marine and Drug Enforcement Administration officer, who trained for hours each day to raise awareness about mental health issues.
“A lot of peers in my age group . . . they use it as an excuse. ‘Oh, I’m too old,' " he told The Washington Post late Monday. “Well, I’m changing all that. I’m in the best shape of my life, and that’s how everybody should feel.”
The previous record for men’s planking was set by Mao Weidong of China, who in 2016 held a plank for eight hours, one minute and one second. Canadian Dana Glowacka holds the current record for women, at four hours, 19 minutes, 55 seconds.
Hood said he can’t remember exactly how he learned about the plank a decade ago, back when the exercise was unheard of in the U.S. fitness world. But when he did, he got hooked fast, and by early 2011, at age 53, he was testing out the move for five minutes at a time at his gym in Illinois.
“It was a static exercise. There was no movement involved. I could put music in my ears at the gym and lay on the floor and plank,” he said. “So I said to myself, ‘I think I can do this, I’ll try it,’ and I did.”
He did indeed. A few months into his training, in December 2011, Hood held the pose for one hour and 20 minutes straight, breaking the Guinness world record for planking. By then, he said, it had become an addiction.
“I did it every day,” Hood recalled. “I would blow things off to get my planks in. It was like sugar.”
As a former Marine and supervisory special agent with the DEA, he had long been used to working out to fit the part for his occupations. But planking provided a kind of mental peace of mind that weightlifting and other gym exercises never could.
“When I plank, I don’t have to sit in traffic. I don’t have to buy gas. I don’t have to sit and listen to anyone . . . complain about how tired they are,” he said. “I just plank and that gives me all the satisfaction I need.”
In fact, he said, planking has allowed him to work through personal issues. While talking mid-plank, either to himself or to others, he often gets ensconced in his emotions, which both distract him and fuel him to hold the pose longer. Part of his goal in setting the Guinness record was raising awareness for mental health issues, particularly among military and law enforcement officers.
As he planked for hours, Hood’s intense poses became a full-time job. He was invited to Asia for international planking competitions in the mid-2010s and held a multi-hour plank aboard the USS Midway in honor of Veterans Day. Soon, an elevated platform for planking became the centerpiece of his home.
“My plank is my best friend,” he said. “Do I have a social life? No, not one to really speak of, because all I do is train.”
In 2014, China’s Mao had far surpassed his original record, and two years later, he beat the American at the same event where Hood had surpassed his own record. There was always another record to beat, or another record beating that record that would be coming up in the queue of claims to the Guinness title.
But Hood was starting to realize the toll his planking addiction had taken on him, and he was ready to call it quits. Except he wanted to leave his planking career the same way he started it — with a Guinness world record.
As part of his 18-month preparation, Hood stuck to a strict training regimen that took up about seven hours every day: 700 push-ups, 2,000 crunches, 500 toe squats, 500 band curls, 30 minutes of cardio and four to five hours of planking, broken up into three sets or less. Meals were interspersed in between, so that Hood wasn’t done with his last plank of the week until 10 p.m. on Sundays.
The morning of the Feb. 15 challenge required an even stricter routine: Hood woke up four hours before the planking, downed half a cup of oatmeal, an egg and lots of water, before purging his body of any food so that he could hold the pose without needing to go to the bathroom for more than eight hours.
Then came the rock music: Van Halen and Ted Nugent, “Highway Star” by Deep Purple and Rammstein’s “Du Hast,” all played at earsplitting decibels in the gym to motivate him to hold the pose for longer than most people sleep at night.
“I play it so loud I’m reliving a fantasy I had as a kid in college, wanting to be rock star, rolling into a stadium with my semi truck and my band and singing to a crowd of 50,000 people,” he said. “At least at this last event, for eight hours, 15 minutes, 15 seconds, I was the biggest rock star that ever lived in that place.”
About two-thirds of the way through his plank came a tribute to veterans, during which others built a “battlefield cross” memorial using troops’ equipment such as military boots and a sandbag.
Once the world record was his, he took a short break and celebrated with 75 consecutive push-ups. He told The Post that one of his next two goals is to break the world record for push-ups.
His other goal? Make it to age 100.