When someone inquires about the 300 Workout, what they're really asking is, "What do I have to do to look like the guys in that movie 300"? 300 is probably best known for the incredible physiques of the actors in the movie, and rightly so. People are amazed how the actors appeared and want to know what the magic was that got them that way. As it turns out, the "magic" was hard work. The actors trained under the supervision of trainer Mark Twight (who should be in the trainer Hall of Fame) for 4 months, in the gym 10-12 hours a day, five days a week. The additional "magic" is that they had a group of actors who would work so hard to achieve those results. Twight adopted the following mission statement: appearance is a consequence of fitness. So they didn't go into it training for a certain look. The look they got was the result of being incredibly fit. Beyond the magic of hard work was another key.
The Key Was Whole Body Functional Training
What exactly was the 300 workout that got those actors in such incredible condition? The truth is, there isn't a "300 Workout". There were no consistent, structured workouts during the 4 months of training and very few workouts were repeated. The real secret to the "300" look is Whole Body Functional Training. That's the type of training they were doing. The key principle of functional training is "train movements, not muscles". You build strength in the major muscle groups with exercises that force the upper and lower bodies to work together smoothly and efficiently. Twight: "It's the equivalent of a sprint--it's short duration, super high intensity with a nutritional program to support that effort. The goal was to improve fitness and facility across a variety of movements and through the three-dimensional range-of-motion required by the fighting." You saw the results on the screen.
A Wide Variety of Exercises Were Used in The 300 Workout
The actual physical training emphasized athleticism by combining compound movements, lifting, and throwing. Examples of Functional Training exercises used included: various Olympic lifts, deadlifts, cleans, presses, hang snatches, squats, push ups, pull ups, dips, lunges, step ups, carrying heavy objects, etc. Instead of using machines, they used things like Kettlebells, medicine balls, dumbbells, sleds, tires, gymnastic rings and parallel bars, sledgehammers, heavy stones, and chopping wood. They emphasized high-repetition, high intensity overload with minimal rest. With the wide variety of exercises used you can see why they didn't use consistent, structured workouts. They were constantly changing the challenges to build a balanced foundation of functional capacity.
Gerard Butler Discusses the 300 Workout
Functional training prepares people for unpredictable situations, improves the ability to produce force rapidly, and will improve your performance in almost any sport. It develops fitness that you can use. It's the kind of training they're going to in the military, special forces, police and fire training. This is in contrast to what most people are doing in health clubs: machine based isolation exercises. It's also an alternative to a bodybuilding type program of progressive resistance with the goal of looking huge.
Try Functional Training For Yourself
If you want to experience some "300" like functional training, give this Free 4 Week Bodyweight Workout Program from Turbulence Training a try. There is a beginner, intermediate, and advanced workout included. So no matter what fitness level you're at, you can see what functional training is all about.
The 300 Workout Challenge
Another legacy from the training for "300" is the 300 Workout Challenge. It is a hardcore, grueling test of fitness and endurance. Trainer Mark Twight: "The “300" is a one-time test, an invitation-only challenge undertaken by those deemed ready for it. This workout was a crucible that some passed through and others still have hanging over them." Of the cast and stunt crew training for the movie, about 50% were able to complete it at the end of training. It's that tough. You shouldn't attempt this unless you are extremely fit.
The test is a timed event consisting of a 7 exercise circuit that is to be completed as fast as possible. All the required repetitions (reps) must be completed for each exercise before moving on to the next one. The workout consists of 300 total reps to commemorate the 300 Spartans. The best time achieved by an actor from the movie was 18 minutes.
Here is the 300 Workout Challenge:
Pull-ups, 25 reps
Deadlifts with 135 lbs., 50 reps
Push-ups, 50 reps
Box Jumps (24” box), 50 reps
Floor Wipers with 135 lbs. 50 reps
Single-arm Clean and Press with 35 lb. Kettlebell, 50 reps (each arm)
Pull-ups, 25 reps
300 Reps Total
Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training demonstrating how to do the exercises in the 300 Workout Challenge.