Hero Training: The Chase Down a Purse Snatcher Workout

by A Manly Guest Contributor on March 2, 2011 · 47 comments

in Fitness, Health & Sports

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Chad Howse. Awhile back, Chad did an awesome series for us on the basics of boxing. Today he’s starting a new fantastic series on hero training. Every other week, Chad will give Art of Manliness readers a workout based on building the strength and fitness needed to tackle a heroic task. Even if you never have to step in to save the day, it’s just a fun way to focus on functional fitness and motivate yourself to get in shape!

Every man wants to be a hero. We all have that desire to come to the aid of another human being, but do we have the skills and attributes to actually succeed?

If you witnessed a purse snatching, would you have the speed to chase down the bad guy even if he had a 50-meter head start? Do you have the leaping ability to jump from rooftop to rooftop, or the strength to climb a rope hanging off the side of bridge with hungry crocodiles waiting in the water below?

Are you strong enough, and do you have the muscular endurance to lift another human being and carry them to safety? Do you have the pulling strength to lift an object off of someone in distress, or the pushing strength to push a fallen beam off of yourself?

It’s great if you want to be a hero. But I’m here to show you how to actually succeed when–heaven forbid–you have to jump into action and save someone, or yourself.

During this series I’ll be going over just that: the training that will equip you with the skills needed to save the day. I’ll go over steps you’ll need to take to conquer each attribute, then follow it up with a video demonstration of what kind of training you would need to be able to confidently succeed in each scenario.

Let’s get started!

Mission #1: Chasing Down the Purse Snatcher

There are a few things to think about when training for this situation:

1. The explosive speed needed for the start of the sprint and the first 10-20 meters.

2. The endurance should the chase go longer than expected.

The “Chase Down the Purse Snatcher Workout”


The first part of the workout, when our bodies are fresh and energized, will be dedicated to improving our explosive power. We’ll have a weightlifting portion in the workout, as well as a plyometrics component.

The second half of the workout will be dedicated to improving our muscular endurance and lung capacity through a challenge workout, then putting our training into practice with some short sprints.


The Deadlift

This is one of the best exercises for building athletic power, making it perfect for our mission. Make sure to start off with a light weight, improve your form, then begin increasing weight.

The deadlift is one of the best exercises for building athletic power in the lower body and hips. In the video, I’m using a relatively light weight to demonstrate, but if you’ve done this exercise before and have developed the proper form, you should be lifting around 85% of your 1 rep max.

Focus on a quick, explosive lift, then a slower and controlled down phase.

* Cleans and snatches are also great substitutions if you’re looking for some variation in the workout. They’re both a bit more difficult, and it’s harder to master proper technique, but I’m a huge fan of Olympic lifts for improving power from an athletic standpoint.


Plyometric exercises are designed to build our fast-twitch muscle fibers. We need to be explosive from the time we see the crime being committed, and each of these exercises will help us do so.

Plyometrics are used by sprinters, basketball players, football players, and any other type of athlete that needs to improve their power, speed, and quickness. They’re a great addition to our routine, and the best thing is, you don’t need any weights to do them.

The Catch the Purse-Snatcher Challenge Workout

To improve our muscular endurance and lung capacity, we’ll be doing a “Catch the Purse Snatcher” Challenge workout. You’ll be given a list of exercises and the amount of repetitions you have to complete for each exercise.

Challenge workouts aren’t just physical tests, but mental tests as well. They test our toughness and our desire to push through pain.

  • Complete the total amount of reps in each exercise–with minimal rest–before moving on to the next.
  • Start timing when you begin the first exercise in the list. Only stop the clock after you’ve completed every rep of every exercise in the workout.
  • Time yourself each time you perform the challenge workout so you can see your improvement. The goal is to improve every time you do it.

We need exercises that will build full-body strength, but also get us used to having our blood pumping throughout our body, not just being isolated or relegated to one muscle group like you’ll see in bodybuilding. This will help us get used to being fatigued, while still having the wherewithal and ability to grab a hold of the bad guy and retrieve the lady’s purse.


We’re working on sprinting right? So we’re actually going to have to put our training into practice. We’re working on explosiveness, so we’re only going to be focusing on the first 10 meters of our chase.

Head outside for the sprinting portion of the workout; it isn’t as effective if you try and do this on a treadmill as you won’t be able to get to your top speed as fast as you should be able to. You can also do this portion of the workout up a set of stairs.

Make sure you get a good enough warm-up in! The first 1-2 times you do sprints, don’t go more than 90% if you haven’t sprinted in a while. It’s a great way to pull a hamstring (not what we want).

Splitting the Workouts to Save Time

If you’re pressed for time, split the workout into two days. Do all of the power exercises–which include deadlifts, box jumps, and sprints–on one day, then the Endurance Challenge on another day. This will cut the time down to around 20 minutes each workout.

The key to this workout is intensity. Jump as high as possible, lift as fast as possible, and sprint as quickly as possible; in short, push yourself as hard as you can. We’re going for quality over quantity so the intensity that you put into each workout will give you the tools to catch the bad guy.


Burpees: 2 sets of 10 reps

Rest for 120 seconds after each set.

The Workout

1. Deadlift (use a barbell or dumbbells if a bar isn’t available).

A1. 3 sets of 3 repetitions (120 second rest after each set).

2. Plyometrics

B1. Box jumps 1:

6 reps x 2 (120 seconds rest after each set).

B2. Box jumps 2:

10 reps x 1 (120 seconds rest).


3. Challenge Workout

50 reps of each exercise

1. Push-ups

2. Kettlebell Swings (use a dumbbell if no kettlebell is available)

3. Bodyweight Row

4. Squats

5. Lunge Jumps (50 each leg)

6. High knees (60 seconds)

4. Sprinting

4×10 meters – 120 sec rest between sprints.

Hero Training Workout Series:
Chase Down a Purse Snatcher Workout
Pulling to Safety Workout
Carry a Person to Safety Workout
Lift an Object Off Someone in Distress Workout
Leaping Ability Workout
Putting It All Together


Chad Howse is the founder of Chad Howse Fitness: a community dedicated to helping guys build a strong body and a strong life. The site focuses on building lean, athletic muscle, but also a range of topics including goal-setting, motivation, improving performance, and various other lifestyle and training content dedicated to helping readers build their best body and best life.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Thomas McCann March 2, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Such a cool idea for a series! It really did motivate me to do it and get to the gym. The Art of Manliness never fails to delight.

2 Lily March 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I like this workout, currently I am developing a ‘survival skills’ ftiness routine for my 18 year old son. I will definitely incorporate some of these moves in his workout.
However some of these, because they are not exercises I normaly do, I am not familiar with or sure what they are or how to do them. A picture or illustration (or description) of the exercise(s) would be useful.

3 Bob Welch March 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm

The one thing I would say is to keep your wits about you as well. I have successfully chased down someone who stole a friend’s iPod while we were in a coffee shop. The one thing that allowed me to catch the individual and make sure he was arrested was remaining collected mentally and observant.

4 Scott Shaffer March 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Not bad. Back in the day I chased down a purse snatcher who had a 100 meter head start. It didn’t hurt that he didn’t realize I was hunting him down. Chasing him down and catching him is one thing, figuring out what to do afterward is another.

5 Andrew March 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Chad, great to see you here! I remember your early articles here – definitely good stuff. But then again, you always put out quality stuff. This workout is good for anyone, thief-chaser or no.

I completely love deadlifts. I still can’t deadlift much, but since I started incorporating them into my workouts about a month ago, they are already one of my favorite exercises.

Keep up the good work, Chad.

6 Tyrone March 3, 2011 at 2:26 am

This is a good workout, but I can’t say I’d recommend chasing down purse snatchers. Anyone who’s willing to make a living that way is surely more desperate than you are, and quite possibly armed. A desperate person might be willing to die over a bag holding a lipstick and $20 – are you?

7 Hans Hageman March 3, 2011 at 8:51 am


Great idea for a series and a great workout design. I would only add that people should also look for a way to replicate the adrenaline dump (and loss of fine motor skills as well as judgment) that goes along with this kind of scenario. Visualization beforehand is one way to go.

8 Sean March 3, 2011 at 9:48 am

I have two street crime stories. Here are the short short versions:

1) Walking by myself in London I see a guy sneaking up behind a women trying to get a hand in her purse. I yelled hey and threw my water bottle at his head (I missed of course). She turns around sees me looking angry and assumes I am a nut case. The thief immediately turned to the left and she after giving me a look of death turned to the right and I was left standing there by myself.

2) Walking back from a bar with two other friends. One friend lags behind. The two of us hear our names being yelled and help help being shouted. The friend who lagged behind is getting it from at least three Spaniards. We run back to him the Spaniards disperse. My friend says one took his passport and points at the particular mugger running away, and I immediately take off after the passport thief. Chased him for at least four blocks and jumped off one bridge in pursuit. The guy lunged off the bridge to a landing below like he did it everyday. Got as close as 5 feet but I never caught him.

9 Sean March 3, 2011 at 9:49 am

Should have been clear that incident number two took place in Madrid. Hence the Spaniards.

10 Albin March 3, 2011 at 10:00 am

Lily, if you watch his youtube he explains all the exercises.

11 Claude March 3, 2011 at 10:11 am

As soon as i started reading this, i KNEW there’d be burpees. Great article.

I witnessed a purse snatching once. Before I could react, about 20 other citizens grabbed the guy and held him until the cops came. I was proud of my community that day.

12 Joe D. March 3, 2011 at 10:20 am

Great article Chad—
Looking forward to the rest of the series, as I was your boxing series here at AoM.
Will tackle the Challenge Workout tonight. Looks like intense fun!

13 Jason March 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

I don’t want to start a war in the comments, but it really bothers me when someone says “are you willing to die for $20″ as an argument for doing nothing to stop a crime. That kind of attitude–the defeatist, “let the cops deal with it”, “don’t make yourself a target” attitude–is both a symptom of and a contributing factor to a lawless society.

I don’t advocate taking stupid risks. But I do wonder if, when we’ve become a society that isn’t willing to take a small risk for the sake of our fellow man or woman, we’ve already lost the battle for a civil society. Every time a petty theft or vandalism takes place and nobody takes a stand for decency, for civility, and against those who prey on the vulnerable, we descend a little lower towards mere animals, pitted against each other in a grim struggle for survival.

14 Ethan Jennings March 3, 2011 at 11:27 am

Two anecdotes as to why chasing a purse-stealer is a horrific idea. One was a training video I was shown at a retail job, in which a security guard chased a shoplifter into the parking lot and got shot in the chest for his troubles (all captured on the parking lot security camera). Another happened last year sometime–a man was shot (fortunately, not seriously injured) near my hometown while resisting a thief that was trying to steal his backpack.

Property is not worth a human life. Intervening to stop an assault or otherwise protect another person, that’s worth the risk. But not property crime. Call the cops. Nothing in that purse is worth a bullet.

Good workout though.

15 Brian March 3, 2011 at 11:34 am

Jason, I disagree. There are too many crazy people in this world today for me to try to be a hero. They are the ones who need to change, not the innocent bystanders.

16 Elliot March 3, 2011 at 11:43 am

Chasing down a purse snatcher is all fun and games until they pull a gun or knife on you. Chase at your own risk.

17 Daniel March 3, 2011 at 11:55 am

Right, Brian. Because there didn’t used to be crazy people in the old days. Actually there have always been bad guys, the only thing that’s changed is now men are passive pussies who are willing to let bad stuff happen because nothing is worth risking their personal safety.

But to get back to this post, this is a great workout. And I really enjoyed looking at Chad’s site. It’s so hard to find a down to earth fitness site that doesn’t suck. Chad, do you have email subscription for your posts? I only saw RSS and I’m not tech savvy enough to be into that.

18 Daniel March 3, 2011 at 11:59 am

I should add that it’s not about rescuing the contents of the purse and thus whether risking your neck to get it back is “worth it.” It’s about the idea that bad guys know they can get away with anything they want, because people are risk-averse sheep that aren’t willing to say, “Stop! That’s wrong!” When you just stare blankly and turn away as you watch a crime being committed, you are contributing to the downfall of that society. So yes, contributing to the overall health of a society is always worth it.

19 Chad Smith March 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm

YAY Burpees!!!

20 Jared March 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I like the concept on this workout! It adds an element of purpose to the workout, and I need that sometimes to keep the intensity up.

On the discussion of whether or not to chase down a “bad guy”, I live in a Castle Doctrine state. While “purse snatching” is not a felonious offense, it can be used as a catch all for general low-life behavior that should not be tolerated. Not trying to sound like a crazy extremist or something, but I believe there are times when action is necessary.

21 Mark Petersen March 3, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I don’t think this was intended to make vigilantes out of us. I think it was supposed to be a fun way to think of getting fit. It’s along the lines of the “How to survive a shark attack” article. I know I live no where near any live sharks but I still enjoyed the article.

If you are worried about dying in the attempt to recover a purse, then don’t do it.

@Chad Howse: Perhaps a follow up article series would be Hero Combatives. What do I do once I have caught the purse snatcher to keep myself alive.

22 Hank March 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm

While this is great motivation for hitting the gym and getting in shape, I’d like to give a word of caution before running down bad guys. People who are desperate enough to steal purses aren’t thinking normally and could be terribly erratic. You could be seriously hurt trying to run someone like that down.

This past fall I witnessed a purse snatching. The cook was running right towards me and I could have easily tripped him since he hadn’t seen me. (I was coming out of my apartment) He noticed me when he was about 20ft away, put his hand in his pocket, and yelled, “I’ve got a gun.” At that point I pulled back into my apartment and let him pass. I waited until he was safely past me, and tailed him for a few blocks while dialing the police. I lost him eventually, but I did hear sirens approaching. I’ve got no idea if they caught him.

I know he most likely didn’t have a gun, but it wasn’t worth taking that chance. I did feel remorse for not doing more immediately after, but in retrospect I made the most difference I could in that situation while limiting my own risk. If I had the opportunity to relive the moment I’d make the same decision again.

23 Todd March 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I hope I didn’t miss this, but the post doesn’t cover how often this workout should be done (daily, 3 times per week, etc.)?

24 TheUltimateOutcast March 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm

My bag was saved by a hero.

At my apartment, someone broke into my car and stole a laptop bag that I had sitting in plain view (stupid, I know). My neighbor saw and dashed after him. The perp dropped the bag eventually and my nice, sweaty and in great shape neighbor brought my bag to me.

A person should never risk their life for a bag but we desperately need more heroes, not only the ones in military uniforms. If petty theives are not accountable for their actions, they start doing worse things. Heroism a matter of a man’s conscience and of course, we must always weigh risks in life before we take any action.

I really appreciated that my neighbor tried to help me. I’ve learned to be less afraid of theives also. They get away with too much as it is.

25 CarlnNJ March 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Great concept to wrap training around, especially for us sports-challenged guys.
However the specifics for the actual workout seems to be lacking, at least to someone inexperienced like me. For example: squats- what does that mean? with weights or bodyweight? And I hear kettlebells need a trainer to get started with, not to be attempted alone at first.
Seems like a good thing to get a class going for, not for the lone newbie.

26 Ian C. March 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm

@Jason: I agree. But most people aren’t that brave. It’s only a handful of people who hold everything together. They’re the birds in a population that will pick mites off the other birds without having it done to them first. They are the only reason the species survives.

How about I write an article on BJJ/MMA training for what to do when you’ve caught up with them? You’re not going to be able to challenge them to a boxing match once you’ve caught up with them. It’s going to the ground, and you need to emerge on top.

27 Chad March 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for all of the great feedback. I’ll answer a few questions below:

@Daniel – thanks, glad you like my site. There’s an opt-in form in the header where you can add your email (two ebooks and a red arrow point to it). I guess it isn’t all that clear, I should definitely fix that.

@Mark Peterson you hit the nail on the head. I’m not saying that you should or shouldn’t chase a purse snatcher. Each of you make great points for either side. I’m just giving you the tools and skills to be prepared for it – albeit in a lighthearted and fun manner. Good point about future articles as well.

@Todd – 3x a week is ideal. There will be more workouts in the upcoming articles that will give you the necessary variation. You can add them into a 3-day-a-week workout program as we go along.

I’m looking forward to the future articles!

28 tudza March 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm

The waterbottle guy has it right, you don’t have to be a runner, you have to be able to throw a good beanball.

29 Carter March 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm

“Hero Training” is a good way to think about it for motivation.
I can’t wait to try this one, Thanks.

30 Rintojen Suurennusleikkaus March 3, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Hey hanks.. sounds like agreat workout!

31 Roger March 3, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Wanna be better at everything? Crossfit. You can’t argue with the data.

32 Debbie M March 4, 2011 at 12:17 am

“Head outside for the sprinting portion of the workout; it isn’t as effective if you try and do this …” I finished that sentence in my head before my eyes got to the real ending as “at home, running down the hall.”

33 EJ March 4, 2011 at 8:28 am

Well said Jason, if someone stole my my bag or my friend’s it wouldn’t cross my mind to not chase them.

My friend and I were attacked by three men (over a cigarette, I kid you not) and we gave them a beating largely thanks to the fact they weren’t expecting us to resist (though rugby and muay thai training certainly didn’t do any harm).

(I live in Glasgow, Scotland in case anyone is wondering)

34 Josh Blount March 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm


Great workout! Thanks for posting this. I’ve got some work to do before I can get 50 bodyweight rows…

Do you often combine strength-building exercises with endurance building as in this workout? I have been told that the two were somewhat mutually exclusive, i.e. that if you were building muscular endurance with hi-rep sets you couldn’t also build overall strength and power. Is that true?

35 Ozone March 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I agree that we should not take stupid risks, but I think to uniformly say we should let all property theft go and allow the police to handle it is too generic of a reply. Yes, we don’t know if a thief has a weapon, and if the property in question is mundane or replaceable, it’s probably not worth it. At the same time, there may be plenty of situations where we have to run after someone, or conversely, away from something or someone.

I think the what the work represents is important here – functional exercise at it were.

36 Rickvid in Seattle March 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm

To steal a line: Illinois burpees! I HATE Illinois burpees!

@Scott Shaffer. Israeli Defense Force pal o’ mine on leave here in Seattle was walking with a girl in downtown. Guy jumps out at them carrying a knife and lunges at the girl. My pal disarmed him, broke his arm, tossed him to the ground, whipped out a zip tie and cuffed him. Okay, he is IDF, hence the disarm and bone breaking, and carries zip ties on a date. Is that so strange!

37 Chris March 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

Great workout, keep mixing it up for us! As a police officer I’d add a tactical note for foot pursuits: Don’t try to tackle the perp when you catch up to him, you’ll end up getting yourself hurt. Get close and push him: He’ll go down hard and you’ll be on your feet.

38 Brucifer March 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Capital idea! Tying fitness routines to heroic acts is exactly what men need these days. Doing fitness typical so that one can measure oneself by numbers; repetitions, miles, lbs of weight lifted, etc, … is frankly, insipid clerical work.

*Real* men of old practiced tactical fitness so that they could deal with life’s problems, not chart “progress” on a silly clipboard.

As an aside, the US Army is *finally* moving toward tactical fitness training and measurement

39 Radek March 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

Hero workout – great idea for motivation.

One tip my friend from border patrol gave me:
Never try to catch somebody running when you are running after him. Just push and let his speed and gravity do the job… You should maintain enough speed to perform master running kick into his groin before his face hit the ground.

40 jordan w March 9, 2011 at 12:47 am

Funny- a few years back I was skateboarding an empty street at night in Oakland. Heard a scream, then saw a guy tearing down the street with a purse. Ran after him as far as I could, only got close enough to see his face. Helped the distraught woman, stayed with her till her boyfriend came, called the cops etc.. and later even was called to see a lineup..inconclusive- but that woman was grateful, came and visited me and my wife, brought a bottle of wine… I wished i’d caught him, but in the end it was more valuable to help her..after all, its only a purse.

41 Moldy March 10, 2011 at 11:04 pm

I think this is rad. The problem with fitness is it all seems to be based on looking “good” I want to be strong to do things not to look like I bought a shirt too small. Working out just to be healthy gets boring so, a workout that helps me do something practical or accomplish a measurable task would be awesome.

42 Andy March 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Moldy (and others), I fully agree. Too many people nowadays work out and do things like this, so that other men can envy them “Damn, I wish I looked like him”, and women can be all over them. If you physically improve yourself for these reasons only, you will fail. You will fail because you will never see yourself as “good enough”, because there will always be someone out there better looking, stronger, and with more women around him than you.

Rather, a man should work to do things like that so that, as the article says, he is physically able to help others in need, and so he can take the things he gets from physical training, and apply them to all areas of his life. Things such as dedication, progress tracking, self-criticism, and improved confidence.

43 Jenna March 16, 2011 at 12:37 am

I agree, we need to get up and do it. Some people think running and working out can’t be fun. I found a obstacle run and a festival where u can chill with friends called Rebel Race. You get a good workout and relive your childhood:
i just signed up. …can’t wait to run the 5k through boot camp style obstacles and crawl in the mud! My girlfriend’s crazier than I am- she’s doing the 15k! I’m so excited to run and go camping with my friends all weekend. They’re even giving me a free beer! Is anyone else doing Rebel race??

44 Eric March 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm

One of my favorite stories is of my grandfather chasing down a purse snatcher in Berlin. He and my grandmother had just arrived back from the U.S. after a visit. While waiting for their baggage, a man snatched my grandmother’s purse. The thief’s biggest mistake was underestimating the slender 6’2″ man that is my grandfather (he was in his late 60′s early 70′s at this time). There is a legend about my grandfather from when he was a missionary in southern India that he outran a tiger many years before. The thief had the “pleasure” of meeting the legend. After a short while running, the thief realized he could not match my grandfather’s endurance and surrendered the purse to the ground.

45 Dave October 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Chase em’,.

46 Jethro Ilagan August 3, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Thieves will do this workout hehe

47 Rumspringa March 21, 2014 at 2:22 am

Good workout series, but as someone who had her purse nabbed once I have to say that the real hero, the one I saw again, was the guy who hung around and made sure I was OK, called the cops, gave me a much-needed companion at a scary moment. He also got a good look at the thief so was able to corroborate my description when the officers got there.

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