The 2007 movie “300” about the embattled Spartans at the historical battle of Thermopylae featured a cast of athletic men with massive chests, ripped abdominals and bugling biceps. The workouts used by the actors in the movie have been an area of intense interest for recreational athletes since the first trailers were released. While the actors in the movie were trained by Mark Twight of Gym Jones, located on the Wasatch Front of Utah, several other organizations and trainers have since developed their own versions of the Spartan 300 Workout.
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Mark Twight and Gym Jones
Mark Twight and the Gym Jones crew were contracted to develop the training regimen for the actors by Warner Brothers Studios. According to the studio’s press release and Mark’s subsequent articles on the subject, “To support fight preparation the training emphasized athleticism by combining compound movements, lifting and throwing. Primitive tools--medicine balls, kettlebells and rings--were used instead of machines.”
Mark’s focus on training these athlete-actors was on full-body movements with heavy resistance, such as that offered by his organization for modern warriors. Mark says that the "300 Workout" was not the actual physical training conducted, but more of a fitness assessment and morale builder.
" '300' is a one-time test, an invitation-only challenge undertaken by those deemed ready for it." Mark says. The test consisted of the following exercises performed back-to-back: 25 pull-ups 50 deadlifts of 135 lbs. 50 push-ups 50 box jumps onto a 24-inch-tall box 50 one-count "floorwipers" with 135 lbs. 50 clean and presses with a 36-lb. kettlebell 25 pull-ups
Mark insists that the requirements of the test were extremely strict. Every rep was evaluated and they only counted the reps that were flawless.
The CrossFit Approach
In the aftermath of the movie’s release, the public demand for a Spartan 300 Workout led other fitness organizations to develop training programs that would fit the commercial demand.
One of the more well-known of these is CrossFit. An organization of franchised “box” gyms, many of which are started in a member’s garage, CrossFit has always focused on functional movement in their training. The CrossFit affiliate in Flagstaff, Arizona offers a Spartan 300 Workout focusing on powerlifing and Olympic lifting movements done with high-repetitions.
CrossFit Flagstaff's Spartan 300 Workout is different from the Gym Jones test in that it is actually performed as a training session, instead of being a testing protocol. The exercise order, duration and intensity is the same as Gym Jones' protocol for testing and assessment.
Critical Bench Powerlifting Approach
Powerlifter Mike Westerdahl of Criticalbench.com also offers advice on developing the Spartan 300 Workout. While Mike does suggest including the typical exercises that the “Gym Jones” and “CrossFit” workouts utilize, such as “floorwipers,” squats, clean and jerks, and kettlebell swings, he emphasizes a more personalized approach.
In an article on CriticalBench.com, Mike suggests that you “Mix up your training and incorporate bodybuilding exercises, fighting exercises, dumbbells, and even kettlebells.”
Like the other two workouts listed, Westerdahl’s workout is less about the specific exercises that are performed than it is about simply “doing the work.” The actors in the movie “300” trained six hours a day for four months to achieve the level of fitness they attained. That is, ultimately, the real key to their success.