Are You a Survivor? The Zombie Defense Workout



By Scott Gunter


Zombies are everywhere—on TV and in movies, that is. With shows like The Walking Dead, we get a look at what the world might look like after the zombie apocalypse. And it’s not pretty.


That’s why, with the zombie epidemic in the “top fears” column of many, all we humans can do is prepare with the Zombie Defense Workout.


Not all of you will be able to perform everything in this workout, but then again, not everyone will survive Armageddon. Still, there are certain areas of human performance you can improve to gain a fighting chance.


Strength coaches consider the demands of a sport before developing a suitable training program for athletes who play it. Here, the athlete is you, and your sport is zombie defense. Although many sports can be classified as anaerobic or aerobic, working one primary energy system and specific movement patterns, survival requires a host of different performance goals, all of which must be addressed. Think of this as a mixed martial arts approach with the added component of running and climbing.


Zombie Defense: Needs Analysis


Performance Goals

Cardio Endurance/Muscle Endurance: Increase the longevity of your escape and stay on the path until a cure is found.
Power and Speed: Get where you are going quicker, jump to unreachable heights and remove yourself from sticky situations.
Agility: Change directions quicker to outsmart the undead, and keep your footing on fast getaways through tough terrain.
Grip Strength: Climb obstacles efficiently, pull zombies off loved ones and press out of a dogpile of flesh-eaters.
High Strength to Mass Ratio (SMR): Improve functional mass to move better, making sure every ounce of weight you carry is necessary to your survival.
Balance: The last thing you need is to survive for months, only to fall off a dumpster into the waiting hands of a hundred zombies. Improve your balance to avoid pointless fatalities.
Injury Prevention: An injury is as bad as a bite. Prevent injury before it strikes to stay ahead of the hoard.
Mental Endurance: Sometimes the hardest part of survival is your will to continue. Improve what you are capable of enduring and be ready for the unexpected.


Time Frame & Tempo
Assuming you encounter a hoard three times per week and every encounter lasts between 5 and 30 minutes, train three times per week and do cardio and injury prevention for active recovery on off days. Take an Interval-based approach using supersets to spike your heart rate, challenge your muscle fatigue and push your mental endurance.


Each superset begins with a resistance training exercise followed by a functional speed/power exercise. Each workout finishes with a true metabolic component at the end of the final superset. Jog in place, walk or just keep moving for 90 seconds between supersets before you begin the next exercise.


Zombie Defense: The Workout


Day 1: Escape
This could be the end. It’s been a long journey since patient zero led you and your team to a rundown school with hundreds of flesh-eaters surrounding the building. Although the doors are chained and barricaded, you know it’s only a matter of time until you meet your assailants face to face. The only way out is up. As the clear “alpha” of the pack, it is your role to lift your team to safety.


After stacking a few tables in risky fashion, you climb to the top, and member after member mounts your shoulders and reaches into the open duct in the cafeteria ceiling. Just as you free your final team member, the tables break and send you farther from the ceiling. Luckily, you keep a utility rope that you toss to your crew, and they secure it to the infrastructure. Using your optimal strength-to-mass ratio, you climb up to the duct and are ready to move on.


As you navigate to the roof, you are met with a metal hatch that seems to have a drowsy member of the undead on top of it. You brace your core and press the hatch open, waking the zombie from its dormant state, but giving you roof access. Thinking quickly, you thrust your hands to the zombie’s chest and run forward, pushing until you send it off the roof to others of its kind below.


Looking around, you see one side of the building that the horde hasn’t covered, and you use your rope to rappel down the side. On the way down, one of your crew members slips and breaks his arm, leaving you with the task of carrying both his supplies and your own. At the schoolyard entrance, you find five bicycles and are able to load the supplies. Unfortunately, your crew has six members. The rest of your team rides off to safety and you sprint alongside—the fastest member of your group—to survive another day.


(5 sets)

  • A1:Barbell Box Squat x 5
  • A2: Rope Climb x 1


(4 sets)

  • B1: Standing Military Press x 8
  • B2: Prowler/Plate Push x 25 yards


(3 sets)

  • C1: Weighted Inverted Rows x 12
  • C2: Farmer’s Carry x 50 yards (25 there/25 back)
  • C3: Sprint Build (150 yards total building from 50% to 100% speed)


Day 2: Breakout
You’re making your way toward your next potential safe haven when you violently strike debris in the road, blowing out a tire, causing your RV to roll into the remnants of a guardrail and teeter on the edge of a 60-foot bridge. You are pinned to the side of the RV (now the bottom) by your survival supplies, and you slowly use your absolute strength to lift and free yourself.


As you salvage whatever supplies you can and make your way out a window to the surface of your vehicle, you hear the undeniable screeching of the RV as it begins to slide to its doom. With one powerful leap of faith, you jump to the bridge at the last second as the RV falls to the river below.


You’re not alone. A group of zombies has heard the commotion, and one throws itself on you, pinning you to the ground. You press the corpse up and off you in a desperate attempt to avoid being bit and throw the zombie to the ground beside you.


An old tractor has become separated from its tire, making a convenient weapon as you flip the rubber Goliath, crushing the growling savage beneath its weight. Your supplies are hanging by a single strap off the side of the bridge, so you reach down with one arm and pull with all your strength, rowing the pack up to a secure spot. As another assailant approaches, you crawl under the lopsided tractor in an attempt to be unseen. Finding a sledgehammer, you realize there is only one outcome in this situation. You rise up and deliver the final blow with swift power and continue on your way.


5 (sets)

  • A1: Hexbar/Barbell Deadlift x 6,6,5,3,1
  • A2: Box Jumps x 6 (max height for 6 reps)


(4 sets)

  • B1: Barbell Bench Press x 5,5,3,1
  • B2: Tire Flips x 6


(4 sets)

  • C1: Single-Arm DB Row x 8 (ea. arm)
  • C2: Army Crawl x 25 yards
  • C3: Sledgehammer Hits x 10 (ea. arm)


Day 3: Rescue
The gurgled radio signal fuzzes out on every other sound, but you can make out the words “Help!” and “Campground!”


Your team is in danger and you must abandon the scavenging run to save all you have left in this world. You sprint back into the woods, but the fastest way back is not always the easiest. You climb through a field of boulders at the bottom of the mountain, taking one step at a time before reaching a trail full of leaves, untamed roots and loose ground. Keeping your knees bent and muscles loaded, you quickly place every step with expert precision, knowing one false step could lead to your demise and the loss of your team.


Rounding the bend, you see your camp overrun by the undead. Some of your team are still alive, struggling to defend themselves. You lift one companion onto the roof of a vehicle, out of harm’s way, but then you see another unconscious and in shock. After checking for bites, you summon your inner strength to carry him over your shoulder toward a small tree fort that has served as your lookout post. You aren’t going to be able to lift him up above your head, so you pull yourself up and reach down for his arms, using all your remaining strength to pull him up.


With your remaining friends in temporary safety, you lower yourself to ground level, clench your fists and finish the job.


(3 sets)

  • A1: DB Step Ups x 12 (ea. side)
  • A2: Agility Ladder Drill variations x 45 seconds (continuous)


(4 sets)

  • B1: DB Incline Press x 12
  • B2: Fireman Carry x 50 yds (25 yds there/25 yds back | Either with a partner or heavy bag)


(4 sets)

  • C1: Weighted Pull Ups x 6,5,5,3
  • C2: Sled Pull x 50 yds (25 yds there/25 yards back)
  • C3: Shadow Boxing or Heavy Bag Hitting x 60s


Active Rest A

(3 sets)

  • A1: Ankle 4-Way x 8 (ea. way | dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, inversion, eversion)
  • A2: Single Leg Balance x 90 seconds (ea. leg | eyes closed)


(3 sets)

  • B1: KB Turkish Getup x 4-5 (ea. side)
  • B2: Plank Punches x 60 seconds
  • C1: Shuttle Run x 300 yds (Goal=60 seconds)
  • D1: Full Lower Body foam rolling and stretching


Active Rest B

(3 sets)

  • A1: Toe/Heel Walks x 15 yds
  • A2: Lateral Bound to Stick x 8 (ea. side)


(3 sets)

  • B1: Single-Leg Glute Bridges x 8 (ea. side)
  • B2: Side Planks x 60-second hold (ea. side)
  • C1: Burpees w/ Yoga Pushups x15
  • D1: Full Body foam rolling and T-Spine Mobility


While tackling these workouts, consider taking martial arts lessons (I’d recommend Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai), learning how to hot-wire cars and siphon gas and developing a strict “code” to live by. Pick up a set of walkie talkies and a solid machete and create an emergency action plan that lands you with some trustworthy friends in a fortress that can withstand the perfect storm of evil undead and anarchist tribes of other survivors. If you’re reading this, you’re already a step ahead of the competition.


Just survive somehow.






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