The Hero Training Workouts: Putting It All Together

by A Manly Guest Contributor on May 27, 2011 · 12 comments

in Blog

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Chad Howse. For the last couple of months, Chad has given 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 been a great way to focus on functional fitness and motivate yourself to get in shape. Many thanks for this awesome series, Chad!

Over the past few months we’ve gone over developing the strength and stamina that would allow each of us to be a hero if we were ever called upon to do so. Today we’re going to wrap things up by summarizing the principles behind the workouts and giving you a schedule for how to put the workouts together for a full body fitness program.

Each workout focuses on a particular skill, while at the same time providing you with a full body workout. Some workouts focus more on pulling exercises while others will incorporate some pushing exercises. All together they give you the power and explosiveness you need to pull yourself from danger, leap from rooftop to rooftop, lift an object off of someone in distress, chase down a purse snatcher, and carry someone to safety.

The lower body is a primary focus in these workouts (with the exception to The Pulling to Safety workout) because much of our power and strength starts with our legs. The key to building a solid system out of these workouts is finding the right balance. You want to be working your lower and upper body with both pushing and pulling exercises.

Challenge Workouts

One of the components of each of the workouts is something called a “challenge workout.” A challenge workout is a series of exercises that are to be completed chronologically, with minimal rest periods.

You start with the first exercise in the list and finish every one of the suggested repetitions in that exercise before moving on to the next exercise. There are no scheduled rest periods between the exercises. You should only stop when your muscles fail and you should minimize the breaks you do take, getting back to the exercise as quickly as possible.

As soon as you start that first exercise you’re also going to start the clock. Challenge workouts are timed workouts. Each time you perform a specific workout, you want to be improving your time.

This really adds competition into a program. You’ll know if you’re slacking off simply by having a look at how long it took you to complete the workout. Again, the clock doesn’t stop until the last repetition of the last exercise has been completed.

What Weights to Use

It’s hard to have guidelines for weights that everyone should be able to lift. Even if you break it into categories, there will be different levels for beginners and advanced participants.

Instead of everyone doing the same weight, for the challenge workouts choose a weight that will get you to fail 3-4 times within each exercise. You don’t want to be blasting through each workout without ever having to take a break.

Once you get a weight that is tough, and you fail 3-4 times within an exercise, keep that weight for the month. Your time should get shorter with each workout if you’re not adding weight.

For the power exercises, again, you have to be careful that you’re performing the exercise correctly to avoid injury, but to also see the benefits that you should be seeing from the exercise. You want to be choosing weights that are around the 80-90% of your maximum lift range.

For power, we’re lifting heavy, but we’re not lifting to failure. In the challenge workouts we’re lifting to failure.

The Workouts

Chase Down a Purse-Snatcher

This workout is all about speed and stamina. The first exercise–the deadlift–is about building pure, athletic power. We then go into plyometrics, which help build speed and explosiveness, followed by a challenge workout that adds muscular endurance primarily in the lower body which will help us towards the end of our chase.

Pulling to Safety

This is a challenge workout that focuses almost completely on the upper body–grip and pulling exercises, as well as the core. The farmer’s walk, for instance, is a great exercise for improving both core and grip strength.

Carry a Person to Safety

We start off with a great exercise for athletic power: cleans. This is a full-body exercise that works the legs, hips, shoulders and traps. And is great for the skill we’re developing. The rest of the workout focuses on building our lower body and shoulders, two muscle groups that we’ll need to develop to complete this heroic task.

Lifting a Heavy Object

We start this workout off by improving power with a heavy weight, low repetition exercise: deadlifts. The challenge workout focuses on building athletic power and muscular endurance for the whole body with exercises like the hack squat (quads), kettlebell swings (hips), and the military press (shoulders).

Leaping Ability

Much of what we work on–skill-wise–has to do with athletic power. As such, our workouts are packed with exercises that improve our functional strength, speed, and athleticism. This workout focuses almost entirely on plyometrics, with an Olympic-lift variation in the dumbbell snatch that improves our lower body power and explosiveness.

The Schedule

You want to be giving your body enough recovery time, so split your days up as evenly as possible.

Try using the following split which will allow enough recovery time between each workout:

Day 1 – Monday (or Sunday)

Day 2 – Wednesday (or Tuesday)

Day 3 – Friday (or Thursday)

If the recent spate of natural disasters have shown us anything, it’s that you never know when you’re going to find yourself in a life or death, emergency situation. If you or are your loved ones are in danger and need help, will you be ready to do all you can to save them? We hope these posts have inspired you to get in shape, to not only be ready for a crisis, but to be your best every day.
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.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lee May 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Thanks for all the articles Chad!
Very scary thinking about all the natural disasters. I do have a question about tendon healing if you know anything about it, and if you read the comments. I’ve read that tendons and the fibers that hold our muscles to the bones take much longer to heal than our muscles. If true, is there a limit to the amount of strain we should be putting on our tendons?
I ask because I’ve had to increase my rest time lately due to joint pain. I have no interest in rotator cuff injuries, ankle injury, or knee pain. So, I’ve had to do the hard thing and go lighter.

Anyway, great series. I hope I never have to use the skillets, but they’re great to have.

2 Stephen May 27, 2011 at 7:14 pm


Lots of soft and deep tissue muscle work along with static and dynamic stretching.

And at least 2 days of rest out of the week from your workout..

Keep your pull muscles, deadlifts, pullups, BB rows, cleans, up to par with your push muscles ie. bench, oh press, squat, dips.

Also, keep your posture in check at all times, anytime. Even when you’re having sex.

Use good posture and most of these problems will disappear by themselves. But ESPECIALLY use good posture during your exercises.

If you keep good posture, do muscle tissue work (tennis ball massage works fine), stretching, work pull and push muscles evenly and take AT LEAST 2 days of rest during the week… You should see a world of difference in your joint pain.

If you already do all of these things then I’d talk to a physical therapist and look into correctional exercises for said injury or mobility deficiency.


3 Hugo May 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Do you do all the workouts on each day, i.e day 1 purse snatcher, lifting, purse snatcher, carrying a person?

4 Joel May 28, 2011 at 1:57 am

I’m a bit confused by the chart. Is each row a separate week, making it a four-week cycle?

5 Chad May 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I just noticed that the chart is a bit confusing as well – sorry about that!

Each row is it’s own week. So you’re only training 3x a week, 1 workout each week.

@Stephen, great response to @Lee’s question. I’m a big fan of actively heeling, rather than passive healing. There are exercises and stretches – including foam or ball rolling – that can be done to improve joint and tendon health. Fish oils are great as well.

6 Levi May 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I am prone to headaches due to muscle tension in my upper back and shoulders. If I do a good workout that uses those muscles, then I often get a headache. Any advice on how to cut back on the soreness so I can get in shape without the headache? Thanks!


7 Chad May 31, 2011 at 1:45 pm

@Levi – I’d get that checked out for sure. I’d focus a lot on stretching the lats, I’ve had a similar problem with stingers in my upper trap/neck area, and found that stretching the lats and developing the mid-trapezius area helped mend the problem. But talk to a specialist for sure man.

You don’t want something like that lingering. There’s a lot of active things you can be doing.

8 Sam June 3, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Were you inspired by Crossfit?

9 Joe June 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm
10 Lucas November 29, 2012 at 10:02 pm

would this workout help burn fat? trying to lose weight while maintaining muscle

11 steve February 2, 2013 at 11:43 pm

sorry … so even after your May 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm clarification … i’m still confused do we do 4 heros a day or is it a hero a day three times a week for a month?


12 tom February 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm

@ steve-
it would be like this

mon- Chase Down a Purse-Snatcher
tues off
wed -The Pulling to Safety
thrusday off
friday- Carry a Person to Safety
sat off
sun off

or on sunday start the next row in the chart (depends if you need a full weekend to recover)

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