Hero Training: The Carry a Person to Safety Workout

by A Manly Guest Contributor on March 29, 2011 · 23 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!

A hero is a man of distinguished courage and ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

Assuming you have the courage to attempt a heroic deed, you then need to develop the ability to be able to complete it successfully.

Courage is a great and noble attribute to possess. But without the ability to save someone, you’re more likely to risk your own life, as well as the life of the person you’re trying to save.

Carrying someone to safety is no easy task. It takes strength, endurance, and technique.

We’ve seen it in the movies a hundred times, but this is a situation that could realistically occur in real life as well. You could have to carry your wife if she sprains her ankle on a hike, or put your own life in danger, rescuing someone from a burning building.

Brute strength will definitely help with this task, as will proper technique. If you can carry someone safely and remain injury free yourself, you’re more likely to succeed–both strength and technique play a role in that.

Muscular endurance and mental toughness will be important as well. Who knows how long you’re going to have to carry this person or the dangers you’ll face in even attempting to do so? You’d better be able to withstand the pain that your body is going to go through–no matter how long it takes and whatever the dangers you encounter in the process.

The keys in successfully completing this mission:

  • grip strength
  • lifting strength/power
  • muscular endurance
  • lifting technique

The Carrying to Safety Workout

For lifting power, we’re going to focus on “Cleans,” one of the best exercises for building explosive, athletic power. We’ll be using lower reps, with a greater rest period in-between each set.

To build our strength, muscular endurance, and mental toughness, we’re going to be doing an especially hard challenge workout this week. Due to the fact that most of our lifting strength comes from our legs, we’re going to be focusing on lower body exercises. But we’ll also add in some pulling and pushing exercises that will help us lift and carry the victim.

For the challenge workout, complete each exercise for the allotted reps consecutively while taking minimum rest periods.

Exercise 1 – Cleans

4 sets of 3 repetitions – 2 minute break between each set.


The Challenge Workout


30 repetitions for each exercise unless otherwise stated.

1. Farmer’s walk  – 60 seconds total

2. Hack Squat

3. Lumberjack Press

4. Front Squat

5. Upright Row

6. Lunge Walk (each leg)

7. Heavy Bag Walk – 30 feet 6x

Weights to Use (3 categories):

Note: You want to continue progressing, so use these weights as a starting point. But if you’re not failing at least 2-3 times per exercise, add weight.

  • Cleans: 65 lbs, 95 lbs, 155 lbs
  • Farmer’s Walk: 20 lbs, 40 lbs, 80 lbs
  • Lumberjack Press: 45 lbs, 65 lbs, 95 lbs
  • Front Squat: 45 lbs, 95 lbs, 135 lbs
  • Upright Row: 45 lbs, 65 lbs, 135 lbs
  • Lunge Walk: 45 lbs, 95 lbs, 135 lbs

Exercise Tips and Technique


1. Cleans

Lift with your legs, keeping the weight close to your body throughout. As the weight gets to about chest height, drop underneath and finish with a front squat.

2. Upright Row

Use a bit of a heavier weight, but get your legs into the lift. We want to build power with this exercise. Treat it as if it’s a clean without the last phase of the lift.

3. Lunge Walk

Choose a lighter weight for this exercise and focus on technique. Your front foot should hold the majority of the weight. Make sure your knees, chest, and head don’t move past your front toe. Keep the weight focused towards the heel of your front foot. This will take stress off of your knees and place it on your hips which are much better equipped to handle the load without experiencing injury.

4. Front Squat

Make sure your chest, knees, and head don’t move past your toes. Keep the majority of your weight towards the heel as well. You want to keep your chest parallel to the wall in front of you while sticking your butt out during the lift. This helps take the stress off of your lower back and puts it on your quads and hips.

5. Hack Squat

The same rules apply to the hack squat that apply to the front squat. You want to sit back with the weight. At first it might be tough to balance, and you may scrape the backs of your legs, but it’s a great exercise for building strength in your quads.

Start with a light weight and work on your technique before adding any weight.

In addition to having the strength and endurance to carry someone to safety, you also need to know how to do it. Read this post to learn how to perform the fireman’s carry.

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

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe @ Not Your Average Joe March 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Chad, this is a nicely done article with an absolutely awesome strength building routine here. Love the way you keep it simple with basic compound exercises.

Great post!

2 humps March 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

We used to do the lift pictured in High School soccer practice. Not only was it good strength and conditioning training, it was a good team-building/bonding exercise. Never had to use it in “real life” to be a “hero” though.

3 Carter March 29, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Really enjoyed the last one, (Pull to safety workout). It is now part of my weekly routine. Can’t wait to try out this one. Thanks

4 Jonathan Manor March 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Cool. Now if only there was a post on how to strengthen a bad back and knee surgery, I’d be set.

5 Mauricio March 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Nothing better than motivational music and a reason to be motivated! In this case, saving another person’s life. Pretty f***ing manly!

6 Miller Industries March 29, 2011 at 8:33 pm

…and look at that picture! US Army is the best! Hooah!

7 Jeremey March 29, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Nice work out. Looks like a real good way to get hurt quickly.

8 Brian March 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Had to do this in training, both in and out of armor, and conducting a pace count.

Not fun, but worth knowing how to do. Watching 3 medium-little people have to haul a 6’5″ 250lb (OUT of armor and weapons and gear…… in it, he weighed about 345lb) guy down 3 stories was….interesting.

All four of them were not fond of the commander that day!

9 JG March 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

Don’t forget to include a vigorous abs workout. Without strong abs, you can’t correctly do half of these exercises. (leaning forward while lunge walking or squatting or dead-lifting, for example, is a sure sign of weak abs).

10 Tyler S March 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Also, start running with a 60 lbs pack on (adjusted securely of course). I do it with my evac pack at least once a week. DO NOT PERFORM THIS IF YOU HAVE WEAK KNEES, build them up first.

11 James March 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm

There is nothing like actualy moving somebody. In the Marines, I have done this as a work out a number of times. Normaly they make sure you are tired first. Then you do some Buddy drags and Firemans carries. If you look up the Marine Combat fitness test, you will see both of these have been added near the end of ythe test.

If you can’t pull your buddy out of dnager when you are already dead tired, there is no point.

12 Peter Thomas March 31, 2011 at 5:10 am

Chad, and Folks….
This is a really fun and relevant forum…and I look forward to studying it. In Austin, Texas, I carried an acrobat couple, friends of mine…for a few blocks…trotted a bit of it as I recall…but I was under 30 then; they posed dynamically as we went; rather than hang as “dead weight”…and their combined weight was probably not much more than mine is now, at 245 or so. Thinking realistically about torquing on a person’s unconscious or even awkwardly shockily strugglig 150-350 pounds…trying to wrest them from a burning wreck or building, or flooded house….and to safety…well…even with the unmeasured and uncertain factor of ;adrenaline it is a serious issue; and if it is needed///it is REALLY needed !!! At 48; and unfortunately a seriously out-of-shape 48; I appreciate the reminder. Thanks !!!
(and Yes…I am taking action steps to get back in strong, fit condition.)

13 Tom Connolly March 31, 2011 at 6:33 pm

The workout and reason for this is great, but after watching the video I’m afraid you’ve got three different times that you’ll kill your lower back. 1. Upright rows: You’re gong too heavy and the cheat is putting a strain on the lower back (watch the video and again and watch how you get into place, then jerk and your back straightens, it’s awkward). 2. The lunge walks would be better done like the farmer’s walk. The bar over your shoulders can torque if someone is not careful. You were, but there is a safety issue here. A real person is a different thing altogether. 3. Same goes for heavy bag walk. When lifting the bag from between you legs lengthwise, If you are too far up on the bag, you’ll arch your back and swing it over your shoulder, which again will strain that low back. A young man might be able to do these exercises maybe hundreds of times, but you only need one time done wrong or tired and bye bye back. Then you’ll need to be carried out. And yes, I’m one of those guys who is now disabled from lifting people for a living. I’ve carried people out of burning buildings, pulled them out of car wrecks after crawling inside to treat them, and carried them up and down more stairs than I care to remember. In the end, my back blew out sitting at a meeting; it just couldn’t take any more pressure. So, do the right thing, just do it right. Thanks for a great workout.

14 hurr April 5, 2011 at 11:44 am

army strong training

15 Hambone April 6, 2011 at 2:05 am

Great article, good pics. Too bad about the BFA on his weapon, though….I know the why, it just says “DRILL” way too loud….

16 Joel April 8, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Tom is absolutely right, you can’t afford to jerk things around. In fact, that’s a cheating way out of a proper work out. If you can’t do it slowly and feel the burn you can’t do it. This applies to all heavy weight training — you’ll end up injuring yourself and not being able to do it at all. Then you truly won’t be able to do it. Slow and steady or not at all. Muscles are not about a few well that are well trained, it’s a whole body fitness.

17 Simon Smart April 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm

This is a great workout, but more than that, a phenomenally effective way to look at building a more effective physicality. Thanks for writing the post.

I remember being on a forced march for time with some newbies a several years ago. One man was struggling with the endurance under the weight of his ruck. Attempts to motivate him in terms of ‘pushing himself’ or ‘not letting down the team’ were going nowhere.

At one point I looked him straight in the eye and asked him what he would do if the ruck was his child. He said nothing, but I saw his weakness leave him. From that moment he more than kept up.

Men are born protectors and aspire to heroism. Tapping into that lets an man push through any barriers.

Looking forward to more from Chad.

18 Simon Smart April 17, 2011 at 11:51 am

Great post and a great workout. I know from experience that this way of looking a fitness is a great motivator.

A few years ago I was a on forced march for time. One of the guys in my teams was having trouble, his endurance flagging under the weight of his ruck. Motivators like ‘just push through it’ and ‘don’t let the team down’ weren’t doing anything for him.

Eventually I looked him in the eye and asked his “What if your ruck was your child, and she was sick?” He looked at me, his fatigue lifted and he got a fire in his eyes. He more than kept up for the rest of the distance.

What I learned is that men are born protectors and have a burning desire to be heros. That motivation is more powerful than anything.

Looking forward to reading more from Chad.

19 Chad April 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

@Simon – thanks for the comment.
“What I learned is that men are born protectors and have a burning desire to be heroes.” Agreed. I’m going to use this sentence for an article over on my site, hope that’s okay. Thanks.

20 Simon April 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Sounds good Chad, email me a link to the article when it’s up if you can.

Keep up the good work mate.


21 rachelle January 26, 2013 at 5:35 am

Thanks i think this is great, im at my wits end with my back and legs. I needed new ideas this definately inspired me. I was to into the cleans i cant do certain work outs that require overly extending or overly curling the arm. but great work outs cant wait to put them in my schedule. Training for possible new Combat MOS

22 Phill October 4, 2013 at 9:45 am

Hey :-)
It always says “30 reps” for the challenge workout…
But I can hardly imagine someone doing 30 reps in a row… How is this meant?

23 Zac November 16, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Great workout! You can probably find weighted vests to intensify it even more. That might make some of these exercises waaay too brutal for some though..
But it might actually help simulate what it would really be like to carry someone. Some vests are over 150 pounds!

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