The Spy Escape Workout

Andrew Bustamante | August 31, 2019

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Greetings Everyday Spy,

We all have a ‘Plan B’ – a backup plan just in case something goes wrong.

That backup plan looks different for different people:

  • Some back-up plans look like going to work for the family business.
  • Others look like a part-time job while we go back to school.
  • Others still take the form of a pill you buy the ‘morning after.’

In the intelligence world, we call backup plans ‘contingency plans.’

The world is a dynamic place and nothing is 100% predictable. Today’s dictator can be unseated in tomorrow’s coup; morning stock picks can bottom out before noon; good days can become bad days in the blink of an eye. 

To fill the gap between what we can control and what we can’t control, operatives lean on contingency plans. 

We train hard for success, but we also prepare for every contingency. 

And the one contingency that keeps the CIA Director awake at night is the possibility of a covert officer being captured in the line of duty.

  • Wrapped-up by a foreign intelligence service.
  • Abducted at a border crossing.
  • Kidnapped by a hostile actor with terrible intentions.  

One trained CIA field officer constitutes more than $2 million in US Federal training expense. 

Depending on an officer’s advanced specializations (language, air/sea operations, deep-cover, etc.), their total value to the US government can grow exponentially.

Unlike you see in Hollywood, suicide pills are not a tool used to protect trained officers.

The level of tax-payer investment in a covert officer makes the risk of hidden cyanide pills, laced eye-glasses, and poison pens too great. Losing an officer (or an officer’s family member) accidentally because they chewed on the wrong pen is not a risk worth taking.

The famed ‘L-Pill’ (Lethal Pill) is a tool reserved only for highly sensitive foreign assets. Losing a covert asset is unfortunate, but losing a trained officer is devastating.

Classified and unclassified cases have proven that escape is the most effective contingency when people are faced with possible abduction.

  • Not compliance and agreement
  • Not defensive tactics and counterattack
  • Not bribes or counter-offers

If you want to avoid abduction, you have to escape. 


But successful escape is not an easy task.

The human body goes through an intense physiological response during an abduction.

  • Fight-or-flight response floods the body with adrenaline that heightens awareness and numbs pain receptors.
  • The body produces cortisol in response to the adrenaline rush; your heart rate spikes, your muscles tense, fatty acids in your system are immediately converted into energy.
  • Your breathing rate increases to meet the physical demands on your blood-stream and to feed the brain high concentrations of oxygen.

Your natural instincts transform you from a rational person into a reactive animal.

And that instinct can save your life… but only if you have the fitness to support the transformation.

Successful escape occurs in the first 1-3 minutes of an abduction.

After 3 minutes, the body suffers extreme fatigue due to the physiological response triggered by fight-or-flight. If you have not escaped after 3 minutes, the chances are that you will not succeed.

Once you are captured, escape becomes much more difficult. You lose access to information and lose control of your environment. 

But you still know one important fact – you must be ready for the next 3 minute window you get to escape.

To ensure spies have the strength, endurance, flexibility and power to successfully escape, we use an ‘escape workout.’

Every officer’s escape workout is tailored for them, by them – to meet their age, gender, body-type and fitness history. 

The workouts combine strength training, endurance, and balance exercises using body-weight only. We build our workouts to execute in small/confined spaces, like an office, a hotel room, or a prison cell…

Because training can never stop – not when you travel, and not after you’ve been detained.


My name is Andrew Bustamante. Today I am a 39 year old male, 5’11” tall, and 158 lbs. 

This is my escape workout.


Exercise 1: High Knees x 20 reps (each leg)

High knees are an excellent cardio movement that rapidly increase heart rate, oxygen demand, and lower body flexibility. Make sure you lift your legs above 90 degrees and push for rapid turnover to maintain your fast-twitch muscles.

Exercise 2: Mountain Climbers x 20 reps (each leg)

Mountain climbers build core strength, endurance and agility very quickly. To maximize benefit, ensure your feet and knees ‘climb’ outside your hands instead of between your hands. Climbing outside your hands increases the cardio intensity and the core strength opportunity of this exercise.

Exercise 3: Squat with Knee Thrust x 20 reps (one squat = one rep)

Squats are a bedrock movement for balance and foundational strength. I add the knee thrust to capitalize on flexibility gained during mountain climbers and to maximize range of motion in my glutes and quads.

Exercise 4: Shuffle Push-up x 20 reps (one push-up = one rep)

This variation on the traditional shuffle push-up accounts for working in a small space, like a holding cell. Between each push-up, shuffle one hand to the other and back again. This movement builds core strength and balance while targeting muscles in the chest and arms, all within a 9ft2 space.

Exercise 5: Jump Lunge x 20 reps (each leg)

Great for cardio and lower body power, the jump lunge pack brings a lot of value to a small space. Most jumping exercises require overhead space that the jump lunge doesn’t need. Additionally, the jumping movement helps develop fast-twitch muscles that will be critical in the moment you decide to trigger your escape. 

Exercise 6: Sphinx Push-up x 20 (one push-up = one rep)

Escape will require shoulder strength for pushing, crawling, and pressing. The sphinx push-up is a great exercise that focuses on shoulder strength while also building core, chest and back strength.  

Exercise 7: Eagle Sit-up x 20 (elbows touch knees = one rep)

The eagle sit-up brings balance and abdominal work together in one movement. Building on previous escape workout movements, this exercises forces upper and lower abs to work in synch despite fatigue from exercises 1-6.

Exercise 8: Arrested Superman x 20 reps (1 second holde = 1 rep)

Arrested superman builds lower back and glute strength. The capstone exercise in this escape workout, arrested superman forces shoulders, quads, and abdominals to flex in a direction opposite to their normal use. This ensures range of motion, flexibility, and mobility in all your key muscle groups from head to toe.

Good luck, and…

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy


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Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.

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