Hero Training: The Pulling to Safety Workout

by A Manly Guest Contributor on March 17, 2011 · 26 comments

in Fitness, Health & Sports

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Chad Howse. For this 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!

Let’s set the scene:

You’re headed down a crocodile-infested river with the bad guys in hot pursuit, fedora on your head, and a waterfall fast approaching around the bend. The current is strong, rendering the oars attached to your boat virtually useless. Getting out of the boat is not an option; the current would sweep you under and towards the waterfall.

It’s just you and your cargo: a beautiful young lady caught up in a mess that you are now responsible for fixing.

You notice a tree branch up ahead hanging over the river. If you can grab onto the branch as you pass under it, you can climb to safety with the young lady on your back, watching as your boat goes crashing over the falls.

It’s a do or die situation. There’s just one question:

Do you have the strength?

For this hero mission we’re going to be primarily working on three aspects of strength:

  1. Our upper body pulling strength and endurance.
  2. Our grip strength and endurance.
  3. Our core strength. Stability is going to be big with this mission.

To gain these abilities, we’re going to be doing a challenge workout. You’re given a list of exercises which have been chosen to help you build the strength needed to be a hero in this situation. We are lowering the reps and upping the weight being used, as we’re going to be pulling more than ourselves (the young lady).

We’re going to be doing a challenge-based workout because it’s the closest method of training to the real life situation. In instances like this you’re not going to have rest periods or breaks. You either succeed or you don’t.

The weights used in the workouts are split into three categories: beginner, intermediate, and advanced, depending on your fitness level.

Get each station set before you begin the challenge, as you don’t want to be wasting time setting up the various exercises. As soon as you start the first exercise, start the clock as well. Go through each of the exercises, taking minimal rests only when you can’t go on any further. As soon as you’ve finished the last rep of the last exercise, stop the clock: this is your score.

The Pulling to Safety Challenge Workout

Complete 30 repetitions for each exercise unless otherwise stated.

Weight to be used (3 categories):

  • Bent-over row – beginner: 45 lbs, intermediate: 90 lbs, advanced: 155 lbs
  • Farmer’s walk – beginner: 20 lbs, intermediate: 40 lbs, advanced: 80 lbs
  • Barbell curls – beginner: 45 lbs, intermediate: 65 lbs, advanced: 95 lbs

1. Alternating chin-ups – using a rope or towel

2. Bent-over row – using a rope or towel

3. Farmer’s walk – 60 seconds total

4. Barbell curls

5. Plank – 120 seconds total time

6. Hanging leg raise – 20 reps


Exercise Tips:

Alternating Chin-ups – if chin-ups are not an option, do a cable lat pull down.

Bent-over row – keep your hips locked in place and your lower back straight. Your lower body shouldn’t move during this lift.

Farmer’s walk – grab relatively heavy dumbbells. If the weights suggested aren’t heavy enough, add weight. Squeeze the dumbbells with your shoulder’s back and chest out in good posture. Walk at a slow pace.

Barbell Curls – try to limit swinging during this exercise.

Plank – keep your core activated and back flat throughout the exercise.

Hanging leg raise – There are two options here depending on your fitness level. If you can do a full raise, right to the bar, then do so. If not, then raise half-way up. Try and keep your body still throughout the exercise, just moving your legs.

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.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carter March 17, 2011 at 11:03 am

This looks like a good workout. I can’t wait to try it out tonight.

Too bad this wasn’t posted last week, I was just going down a crocodile-infested river the other day!

I appreciate that there is not a lot of talking in the video, just show us how to do the moves.

2 Kyle M. March 17, 2011 at 11:07 am

Good article. I love the series but I think the weights are out of order. Farmer’s walk should be the heaviest and Barbell curls should be the lightest with Bent-over rows in between.

3 Mark Petersen March 17, 2011 at 11:37 am

These hero workouts are great. I’ve been wanting a routine to help me with upper body strength.

4 victor ibarra March 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I was told years ago by a gym rat that a man is not a man if he can’t lift himself.

5 Chad March 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

It’s great to hear you guys are liking the series.

@Kyle – good point, technically that’s just about how it’s set up: keep in mind that farmer’s walk is using dumbbells, while the rows and curls are using barbells. So the weight is doubled for farmer’s walk.

6 Jared March 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm

This a great article. I really like the idea of using the rope with the pull ups and bent over rows. Keep up the good work, Chad. I look forward to the next hero workout.

7 Tanner O March 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Another good workout from you, I’ve found myself incorporating a lot of the things that I see on here into my daily routine.

I feel like I could be a 1950′s action man if I keep up with it.

8 James March 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm

The workout looks good. Hopefully it will give me some motovation.

9 Moldy March 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I think I will just focus on making sure I am around very light women. J/K I love these hero workouts.

10 banzai March 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm

There are two questions, not one. The second question is, “Do you have the skill and the technique for lifting yourself plus another, up and on to the topside of a tree limb or other available structure?”

Any US Marine is familiar with the Chicken Wing maneuver. The Chicken Wing is used to lift yourself onto a structure after you have grabbed it with two hands and performed a pull-up. Next, throw one elbow over the top of the structure which will support your body weight by jamming the leading edge of the structure into your armpit, hence the name of the movement. This gives you more leverage to support your weight with less effort, then swing a leg up onto the top surface, then climb all the way up.

Do this while rescuing a girl (she’s hanging on your back) and you are a hero, but you have to execute the one rep pull-up of 290lb ( average 180 lb plus approx 110) before it is time to do the chicken wing.

Give yourself an instant progress report by doing a pull-up with a pretty girl on your back. Pass or fail will be clear. Follow Chad’s workout until you pass.


11 John March 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm

I’m really enjoying this series. I hope the Art of Manliness continues with several installments.

In addition to the great workouts, I would love to hear Chad’s advice on two other things:

1) A macro-plan that tells us the big picture. For example, “Purse Snatcher Workout” on Monday, “Ground and Pound the Bad Guy Workout” on Tuesday, No Workout on Wednesday…”

2) A nutritional plan that is simple, manly, and well…simply manly!

12 Chad March 17, 2011 at 11:53 pm

@John – good point. We’ll go through the series, take care of each skill, then piece everything together with the last article.

13 Lonereader March 18, 2011 at 5:31 am

2) A nutritional plan that is simple, manly, and well…simply manly!

- Eat healthy and do a 24 hour fast twice a week.

14 Brucifer March 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm

@ John -
Unfortunately, in this litigious and bass-ackwards society, the “Ground and Pound the Bad Guy Workout” might needs be followed by the “Waiting In A Holding Cell While Your Lawyer Posts Bail For Your Assault Charge Workout.” Such are the times in which we live…..

15 Blake March 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm

@ Brucifer

Maybe that’s why he said “No workout on Wednesday” ;)

16 John March 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm

@Chad – Thanks! I’m loving your website.

@ Lonereader – I might need to check into the fasting. It sounds interesting.

@Brucifer & Blake – Guys, Excellent! I needed to smile today.

17 arbncdt1 March 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Great article!!!! As a strength and conditioning coach for collegiate and professional athletes, who is currently studying nursing, I advise everyone to BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HEALTH AND FITNESS! In order to improve at any endeavor, one must study thoroughly. Study individuals such as Chad, Elliott Hulse, Paul Chek, Mel Siff, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Mehmet OZ, and/or purchase books at Human Kinetics, in order to enhance your knowledge. For nutrition, study individuals such as Nancy Clark, Lisa Bonci, David Pearson, Chris Mohr, and Julie Burns. In order for your health and fitness program to be successful, MAINTAIN MENTAL TOUGHNESS AND A GREAT SPIRIT! There is no shame in seeing a sports psychologist, chaplain, Imam, Rabbi, pastor, life coach, etc., to help keep you focused and make progress. Read biographies of athletes and individuals who are healthy and physical fit in ALL areas of their lives. Study sports psychology, faith, and philosophy. For example, when my athletes include attending religious service, as a method to help them attain their goals; yet, do not attend religious service, athletes are not reaching their full potential. The issue is not just faith. The issue is faith, discipline, and responsibility.
Once you have done all of the aformentioned, design and implement your health and fitness training program. PX 90, Crossfit, or any other standard program does not know your specific body type, physical limitations, or heath history. The truth is most individuals are too lazy to research and design their health and fitness program.

18 Adam A March 18, 2011 at 11:57 pm

If I had to prepare for that situation I would:

1. work towards doing a single pullup/chinup
2. increase the number of pullups/chinups
3. gradually add weight to pullups/chinups

19 Chad March 19, 2011 at 2:31 am

Some great comments here.

@Adam (or anyone not quite able to do chin-ups/pull-ups) – change the angle and to a bodyweight row (also called, inverted row). You can also do cable pulldowns with the same rope grip.

20 Dominik March 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I feel like a hero after completing this dee-lightful workout. It is a manly test of strength, endurance, and inner discipline.
I am a little behind my peak conditioning so it took me 25 min. to complete as advised.

21 Nathaniel Leon March 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

They should post an article focusing on Functional Strength training exercises. Ones like tire flipping that combine both cardio and weight lifting at the same time. Those and ones like them such as sandbags, kettlebells, etc. are the way that the old time strongmen used to train before weight machines started appearing and making people rush towards evenly distributed convenience.

22 Russell Sharp March 23, 2011 at 2:18 am

I love the idea of these workouts. I have studied kinesiology and strength training for the last several years. I must ask, why bicep curls? In my opinion bicep curls are one of the most useless exercise you can do. Pull ups are far better for developing the strength of the biceps and back. How are you supposed to pull yourself and a lady to safety if you can’t do a weighted pull up? I would suggest dropping the curls and adding weight to the pull ups.

23 Zakk March 30, 2011 at 7:59 am

The new Hero Training section is great; Not only do these workouts break me out of my routine and make me stronger they give me a fun workout with a manly purpose, Thank you.

24 dh00529 April 3, 2011 at 11:37 am

tip: a great way to prevent swinging on the curls is to stagger the feet. left foot forward, right foot back.

25 TIII April 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm

These workouts are really cool. I have been looking for a way to break out of the same-ole same-ole and these are perfect. Just did this one and it was great. I sort of forgot to read the “time yourself” part, though. duh. Is there an article on AOM on how to be thorough? lol

26 Thomas January 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Oh no, curling in the squatrack?

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