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Training for the Robopocalypse: because zombies are so last century

Written by joelsnape

Still training for a zombie apocalypse? That’s cute. Everyone from Elon Musk to Bill Gates agrees – what you should really be worrying about is the meteoric rise of artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars and computers that can win at Jeopardy! are the thin end of the Skynet-shaped wedge – world militaries are already working on weapon systems that can choose and eliminate targets autonomously, and some idiot has already invented a robot that can fuel itself with meat. But even that shouldn’t be your biggest concern – the real worry is that we’re not far from creating an AI that’s more intelligent than a human, and if that happens then nobody has any idea what comes next. As Stephen Hawking puts it: ‘One can imagine such technology  out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.’ Or, as Tim Urban explains, it’s entirely possible that, thanks to the Law Of Accelerating Returns, we could be reading a news report about toddler-level AIs being developed one morning and having our shrieking atoms disassembled by a Godlike superintelligence later that afternoon.

But let’s assume for a second that we aren’t all going to be dissected at a molecular level by a swarm of nanobots  –  it’s still starting to look like your zombie survival fitness plan (it’s parkour and pullups, let’s be honest) isn’t going to be enough. Robots are tougher than the living dead, and while DARPA’s terrifying horse-bot may not be much faster than a pack of shamblers now, give it a few years and that thing will be hitting full gallop. The even better news? Training for a robopocalypse will stand you in good stead for almost anything in life, so even if you’ve only got a few sweet years before Roko’s Basilisk destroys us all, you’ll be able to enjoy them better with a well-structured workout plan. Here’s what you need to cover.

  • A solid strength-to-weight ratio. This comes above all else. You need to be efficient at moving your own bodyweight – but more importantly, if you get shot in the leg and Linda Hamilton needs to haul you out of a building, you’d better not look like a circus fatman. Also: it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sustain a 5,000 calorie-a-day (or whatever) diet when you’re on the run, so it’s worth being used to less.
  • The ability to do repeated (sub-max) sprints. Also crucial. Being able to run a marathon is probably going to be less important than being able to run away from T1000s very quickly. But don’t get complacent about the long, slow efforts, because you’ll also need…
  • Decent long-distance endurance. Think hike, not 10k. This is going to be crucial when we’re all fleeing for the hills, where the less-wheeled robots can’t get us.
  • Excellent grip strength and endurance. Hand-to-hand combat isn’t going to be much good against robots: bare minimum you’re going to need a sledgehammer. You’re also going to be mending fences, digging ditches and fixing things.
  • Excellent hauling and loading work capacity. Because in a world where every forklift truck is trying to murder you, you’re going to be carrying a lot of stuff around.

Fortunately, as already mentioned, these are also good ways to prepare yourself for life in general, improve your quality of life, and buffer yourself against lots of age-related and cardiovascular diseases. How do you cover them all in one plan? It’s simple, if not easy. Here’s how I’d structure a typical week.

The Robopocalypse Training Plan

Please note: this doesn’t include warmups, structural work or injury-proofing. It is just a guideline. It is not guaranteed to safeguard you against malevolent robots.


Power clean or deadlift, at 80% of your 1RM. Aim for 5 sets of 3.

100 pullups

200 pressups


20-30 mins sledgehammer swings on tyre. Aim for 10 swings per side, per minute. Go hard.

Sled pushes or loaded carries for 20 minutes. Think farmer’s walk, zercher carry, etc.


Long slow run or (preferably) hike with a weighted vest or backpack. If you haven’t got anywhere to hike, weighted stepups aren’t a bad idea. If you aren’t going to freak out the neighbours or get shot, maybe do this carrying a sledgehammer or other similarly-heavy handheld object.


Explosive jumps (box jump or broad jumps) in the warm-up

Front or back squat, at 80% of your 1RM. Aim for 5 sets of 3.

Push-press at 80% of 1RM. Do 4 sets of 4.

1 mile run (all-out) to finish.


Short medium-paced run – 5k or so.


Strongman day: warm up with a 10-minute medley of loaded carries (farmer’s walk, waiter walk, zercher carry, sandbag carry, etc), then play with strongman moves – keg loading, tyre flipping, sled pushing and the like. No strongman kit? Improvise.


Long (30-60 minute) recovery-paced effort – either a nice walk or a very slow run. Or just rest. Resting is fine. If you want the robots to get you.

You can knock days out of this, and you should add accessory moves as necessary. Doing more pullups, pressups and grip work is almost always a good idea, and unless you’re a professional level athlete it’s highly unlikely that you need to worry about overtraining. The key – as with life in general – is to get your work capacity up, so that whatever happens, you’ll be vaguely prepared. Oh, and just so you don’t have nightmares, read this excellent Isaac Asimov short story about the future of technology. Maybe you won’t need this stuff after all.

About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.

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