Hero Training: The Lift an Object Off Someone in Distress Workout

by A Manly Guest Contributor on April 21, 2011 · 14 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.

Maybe an earthquake buries your wife in rubble. Or you’re hiking and a falling rock pins your friend’s leg. Maybe as you’re trying to get out of a burning building, a beam falls on top of your buddy. As your friend or loved one lies there in danger, will you helplessly be pulling on the fallen object, unable to budge it? Or will you be able to come to their rescue by lifting the object and freeing them?

During this series we’ve been building the strength, speed and endurance required to be able to come through if we’re ever needed. Think of these skills and these workouts like they’re insurance policies with immediate benefits.

Don’t let Alfred’s genteel appearance fool you; this man definitely has some serious lifting power. How else did Bruce Wayne escape from under that beam when his mansion burned down?

For this workout we’re going to be focusing on pure lifting power. While you might think about your arms when it comes to lifting, true lifting strength comes from your legs. So we’re going to be concentrating on two powerful exercises: the deadlift and the hack squat.

For the deadlift, we’re going to be using a lower rep count and lifting a heavier weight. This will improve our power more than anything. But be sure to use proper form as it’s easy to injure yourself with the heavier weight.

For the remainder of the workout we’re going to be doing a challenge workout to improve our muscular endurance.


Deadlifts – 5 sets of 3 reps (heavy)

Challenge Workout

30 repetitions per exercise. Complete  the reps and exercises consecutively while taking minimum rest periods.

1. Hack Squat

2. Kettlebell Swings

3. Chin-ups

4. Med Ball Slams

5. Alternating Push-ups

6. Military Press



1. Get low for the deadlift, making sure the majority of your weight is on your heels. Keep the bar close to your body. I suggest wearing pants when doing the deadlift as it can scrape your shins.

2. Much of the same principles apply for the hack squat. Keep the bar close to your body and get low during the lift. You want to lift with your legs, not with your back.

3. For medicine ball slams, lead with your body, not with your arms. This is a great power exercise that replicates the movements of a sledgehammer.

4. Alternating push-ups are another great explosive power exercise. Complete 30 reps total of this exercise–15 each arm. Keep the medicine ball close to your mid-point; stretching out too far will place unnecessary stress on the shoulder.

5. We’re doing the military press for power purposes, so we’re not going to be isolating the shoulder. This means you’re actually going to be getting your legs into the lift. In the video, notice how I’m doing just that; dipping down a little bit to allow my legs to activate in the lift.

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.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Blake April 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Excellent! I’ve been looking forward to the next installment of this for the last two weeks! Thanks, Chad!

2 Dave April 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I would recommend not wearing pants when you deadlift (or squat for that matter) because the restriction in movement/form is not something you want when doing full ROM with heavy weight.

3 Steve April 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Don’t get TOO low when deadlifting. Deadlifts are primarily a back centric exercise. Hips shouldn’t dip below parallel, as this takes your back too much out of the lift and leaves it ALL on your legs. If this is your goal, do ATG squats instead.

4 Matt April 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Chad, I would consider your “Military Press” a “Push Press”. Often seen in Crossfit workouts for those of you unfamiliar. An awesome and useful exercise.
I love the idea of these Hero Workouts. Super cool and useful in the real world.
The lower your butt the more emphasis you will place on your heels when starting the lift. I see Chad’s point with getting low. Too high and you are using your back (usually it will round) when you are doing heavy weight. The heavier you get, the lower you want to be when starting, so you won’t pull with your back in the beginning. 300 plus pounds on the floor and someone not lifting with their legs in the beginning of a deadlift = PAIN. The deadlift is a FULL BODY exercise. Saying it’s primarily a back centric exercise, might be a bit questionable. No deadlift will be done with only the legs, otherwise your torso would never end up vertical. Just my 2 cents…or maybe more like 10. Don’t hate me.

5 Tarun Suri April 22, 2011 at 12:27 am

1. Those military presses are in fact push presses.
2. The starting position of the deadlift will be dependent on the individual. This has to do with the relative limb sizes (some have longer legs, some have longer torsos, some have longer arms). This places a key role. However, you’ll notice that even if you start too low, you will not be able to lift the bar off the ground until you reach the point where your posterior chain as at peak pension (arms straight, under the scapula, with hips as high as possible considering the first two variables). This will be slightly different if your aiming for a more Olympic lift style deadlift where the torso is more vertical. But try it out, try getting down to a squat and deadlift, you’ll notice the bar will move only when you hit the optimal point and not any earlier.
3. Squatting and deadlifts are both full body exercises, but where they place emphasis is where they differ. As such, I would describe deadlifts being there for strengthening the posterior chain.

6 Conor Reid April 22, 2011 at 3:09 am

That kettle bell swing is so poor form its dangerous!
Check out Pavel Tsatsouline from Enter the Kettlebell. He shows how to do perfect technique that wont cause you any harm.

7 Brandon April 22, 2011 at 10:04 am

Beginners be careful with squats and deadlifts, make sure to get your form perfect with lighter weights before you start going heavy, it will save you from alot of injuries. You’ve probably head stories of how these exercises are bad for your knees, etc. They are perfectly fine for your knees and will probably help prevent injuries to your legs and hips if you do them correctly.

8 Mark Petersen April 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

In this situations I’d more than likely use physics rather than physique

9 WxHerk May 1, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Physics are the better choice . . if you have plenty of time and the proper equipment. If not, what could be worse than being weak and unable to do anything but cry for help and watch?

Great exercise selection, by the way. I like the push press, in that if you are lifting something “for real” you’re gonna get your legs into it, also.

As far as kettlebells go. You can’t go wrong with Pavel Tsatsouline’s stuff. His RKC system is the Gold Standard; also, his books and DVDs get the point across simply and effectively.

10 Ari May 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Really interesting article. I like to start my workout with a “big” exercise or two, like deadlift on a back day, and squats on a leg day. Then go on to the isolated exercises.
You really have to build up your core to see some size results.

11 Andrea P. May 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Being a hero is tough work, and getting fit enough to save a life is an admirable goal! This series of posts has offered a great incentive for getting healthy and fit. For those looking to start with core fitness exercises, the Army National Guard’s Guard Fit Challenge might be worth taking a look. http://bit.ly/jqrvQq

12 Gerard December 9, 2012 at 12:00 am

Medball slam technique was terrible – learn to do them properly, and kettle bells swings also!!

13 Vaughan May 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm

I have to disagree on where lifting strength comes from. (Assuming you are picking up a weight) It’s not the legs, but the hands/wrists/forearms. It’s that structure that actually has to grip/hold the resistance. If it is weak, then what difference does it make how much you can deadlift or squat? Don’t get me wrong, the DL is a great ex. But most of the time it is performed with straps, and even when it is not, a thin bar does not build the required strength in the hands. Look to the pic that heads the article, is the object being lifted thin or thick? It is thick. And such is the way in nature. The heavier the object, the greater surface area your hands will have to contend with. Still in doubt? Imagine right now, with a click of your fingers, your hands/wrists/forearms are three times stronger, while all other muscle groups remain the same. Are you in any doubt you could lift substantially more?

14 Colby February 11, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Before anybody does the swings, make sure you have the best form for them. They can really mess up your hips and back if you’re sloppy with form. Do lightweight then move up.

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