The 300 Workout: How to Get Ripped Like a Spartan
As the gold standard of ripped dudes in movies, the actors from the movie 300 rank right up there with Brad Pitt in Fight Flub and Hugh Jackman in X-Men. Years later, people are still enamored by their ripped physiques, undoubtedly some of the best to show up in the movie biz, and the 300 Workout still gets 20,000+ searches each month.
What is largely considered the 300 Workout is as follows:
- 25 pull ups
- 50 deadlifts using 135lbs
- 50 push ups
- 50 box jumps onto a 24 inch platform
- 50 floor wipers
- 25 kettlebell clean and presses per arm with a 36lbs kettlebell
- 25 pull ups
A demonstration from Craig Ballantyne of Men’s Health can be seen below:
300 total reps, completed in as few of sets as possible, and done for time. What most people don’t know is that this 300 Workout wasn’t all the actors did. In fact, only half of them completed this workout and it was actually only done once as a test.
Of course, you’re wondering what the actors actually did to prepare for the film. Today you’ll learn about not only their workouts and nutrition, but also how you can apply what they did, to get a Spartan worthy physique yourself.
The Training That Created Spartan Warriors
Spartans were bad-ass.
Gerard Butler, who played King Leonidas in the film, worked with not one, but two trainers and often worked out for 4 hours or more per day during the 7 months he took to prepare for the film, similar to Chris Pratt’s training for Guardians of the Galaxy. In one particular interview, Butler articulated just what it was like to get physically prepared for the film:
Pretty much anything Mark Twight offered up was so difficult in the kind of way where you wish you had never been born – and even more than that, wished he had never been born.
Mark Twight, the owner of Gym Jones in Salt Lake City and a world-class alpinist, was the man responsible for creating these Spartan Warriors for the film and he used a variety of training methods to get the job done:
The point was to improve fitness and facility across a variety of movements and through the three-dimensional range-of-motion required by the fighting. We did this by constantly changing the challenges, and focusing on athleticism to build a balanced foundation of general physical capacity. Butler commented that my idea of a workout is to “go until you are actually in fear of your life and then go further. Then, you do more.
The workouts for the actors of 300 would include things like:
- Resisted sprint starts paired with upper body exercises on gymnastic rings (Pull ups and push ups)
- Tire flips with a jump in and out after every flip
- Loaded carries (Running with heavy dumbbells in each hand)
- Plank variations
- Medicine ball throws
- Explosive lifts like push presses
- Kettlebell exercises
- 5000m rows
Here’s a clip from their training with Mark Twight:
As Twight says, they never did the same workout twice and often combined multiple methods of training in each session. Twight also used a stopwatch to intensify each workout, an easy tool that anyone can use to get more from their workouts.
The Nutrition of Spartan Warriors
While there is little information available online about the complete diet of the 300 actors, Twight does mention a couple things in one of his blog posts:
The first misconception is that we used a bodybuilding-type program of progressive overload and over-feeding with the goal of making the guys look huge. We took the opposite route of calorie restriction to make them look like they lived off the land, in the wild, all sinewy and ripped. The diet was adequate to fuel effort and recovery, barely.
Calorie restriction? Adequate to fuel effort and recovery? What exactly does this mean? In an interview for Men’s Fitness UK Twight elaborated further saying that many of the actors and stuntmen were only consuming 1,800-2,000 calories each day. With the 6-8 hours of fight training and workouts they were doing each day, this definitely put them in a huge caloric deficit, however Twight makes it clear that they were eating for an objective, with a specific time frame in mind, and working under intense pressure to look amazing for the film.
Let’s make something clear: This is not suggested for everybody! This was a very extreme approach done under the supervision of trained professionals. I just want to make sure you don’t go out there and kill yourself. You’re welcome.
Twight may not specifically mention what the actors of 300 ate, but that’s simply because all the actors had different diets. However, while their diets may have varied, it’s fair to say that they ate lots of protein to aid in maintaining muscle mass, fruits and veggies to get plenty of vitamins and minerals, healthy fats like nuts and seeds for their numerous health benefits, and just enough carbohydrates to fuel their intense workout sessions.
Using the 300 Workout and Nutrition to Get Ripped
While you may not have access to two trainers or 4 hours per day to work out, you can still build a Spartan physique. Here’s how:
- Choose an end date. Often forgotten is the fact that the actors and stunt men in 300 knew when the movie would be filmed. They knew months in advance that they had to build their bodies for the film. This was no option – It had to be done. To raise the stakes for yourself, set your own end goal. Is it 8 weeks? 12 weeks? 6 months? What you choose will determine the amount of work you’ll need to achieve your desired physique. Just remember, Gerard Butler trained for 7 months to prepare for the film. Others trained for less time, but your current fitness level will also determine the amount of time and work needed.
- Keep the intensity high. You don’t build a Spartan physique playing patty-cake for 20 minute in the gym. You need to train at a high intensity where general feelings of hatred may arise, as Gerard Butler alluded to, but your effort will be worth it. You’re going to be out of breath often times and sweat profusely, but keeping your heart rate elevated and increasing the metabolic cost of each workout will only help you shed more body fat. How can you do this? Use short rest times between exercises, superset multiple exercises, and utlize circuits style training with challenging weights.
- Vary your workouts. For 300 the actors training with Mark Twight did a different workout each time they trained. This ensured their bodies didn’t adapt too quickly to the same stimulus, but from my experience it might have made it a little less dreaded as well. You can keep the intensity high without doing the same things over and over by changing the exercises you use, the order of exercises and the amount of reps you do for each exercise.
- Create a caloric deficit. It goes without saying, but your diet is extremely important if you want to make any significant body changes. A caloric deficit simply means you’ll consume less than you’re burning each day. A basic chart for how many calories you need each day based on your body fat is below: These numbers come from John Romaniello of Roman Fitness Systems, but if you don’t know your body fat numbers you can use an online calorie calculator to predict the amount of calories you need each day to maintain your current weight. Since you’re looking to get ripped, you’ll consume below your maintenance level of calories by 300-500 as a starting point. However, if you’re training for many hours each day, you’ll need more calories anyways to maintain your weight, so you could simply stick to the projected maintenance level of calories you get from the calorie calculator.
- Get support. Again forgotten, but it helps to have a workout partner, coach, or at least someone to keep you accountable and not let you slack off. On top of that, misery loves company, and if you’re about to be training your ass off to get in amazing shape, you might as well do it with someone else by your side. Navy SEALs, the most elite fighting force of our time, always train together and actual Spartans probably did the same – Why not follow their lead?
Ultimately, getting a Spartan physique is all about working your ass off day in and day out to get better. End of story.