Jon Call was different. The Alabama high-schooler knew that if he could perform a full split in his Taekwondo competitions, he’d score first-place medals every time, since none of his teenage peers possessed the tough skill that’s crucial to the Korean martial art.
So he spent a summer sprawled out in front of his tiny bedroom TV, watching anime while stretching his legs, hips, and hamstrings every night for 2 hours. He gave himself 3 months to nail a full split, and reached his target in 2.
“It’s like strength training,” Call says. “If you want to deadlift, the first thing you should do is deadlift. If you want to do a split, you just have to get into the position and keep working on it.”
As predicted, the splits helped Call smoke his Taekwondo opponents. Fifteen years later, his mastery of the move is still earning him accolades—only instead of amateur trophies, the 30-year-old now racks up thousands of Instagram likes and primetime appearances on national television.
Today, Call is better known as Jujimufu—a nonsensical name he created in a fit of keyboard-bashing rage while trying to pick an AOL screen name as a teen—and the 5’11”, 230-pound beast is a rising fitness celebrity.
With the body of a Strongman and the flexibility of a gymnast, he performs insanely acrobatic feats while screaming hilarious, crude catchphrases to pump himself up, channeling larger-than-life wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.
His most famous feat: The overhead barbell chair split that recently landed him on America’s Got Talent, where he made it to judge cuts. You have to see the stunt to believe it:
How the hell does Call pull off the mind-boggling move?
“He has the mobility and massive stability throughout his hips to allow him to drop into the move without tearing his groin, and sit in that bottom position with any kind of loading overhead,” says Dean Somerset, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist in Edmonton, Alberta Canada.
Call also has the ideal-sized hip joints to allow splits in all directions, Somerset says. “Not everyone has the right-shaped hip sockets to do this without risking serious injury.”
Wander down the rabbit hole of Call’s Instagram feed and you’ll find mesmerizing videos of him kicking, twisting, and flipping through the air. This is called “tricking,” a sort-of ninja-style martial arts discipline that Call has been practicing since his Taekwondo days.
“One day I saw some videos online of these really crazy moves, and I had never seen anything like it before,” says Call. “I was freaking out. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I went in my backyard and just started jumping.”
Back then, there weren’t any tricking tutorials on the Internet. So Call taught himself the ropes and wrote up lessons for others to learn, forming an organic, online community of tricksters before the advent of social media.
Call’s natural progression was combining tricking with strength training. Today he runs an online coaching business, Acrobolix, from his home in Huntsville, and frequently hits up conventions to not only share his physical secrets, but spread his philosophy of making fitness fun—and funny.
“A lot of people have a hard time lightening up in the gym, because fitness is uncomfortable,” Call says. “But working out isn’t about ‘sacrifice and grind’—I hate that crap. Fitness is a luxury. It’s a privilege. You’re supposed to have fun!”
You won’t catch many videos of Call where he doesn’t have a huge grin slapped across his face. (Unless, of course, it’s obstructed by a horse mask.)
“If something bad happens to you when you’re upset, what does it mean when you can laugh about it? It means you got over it,” Call says. “So if you can’t laugh or smile about your workout, you’re still under this huge weight. When you see me having fun, it means I’ve moved past the discomfort. Now I’m in control.”