At the start of the movie 300, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) bids farewell to his beautiful wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) as he heads out to lead the Battle of Thermopylae. In it, 300 Spartans fought to their death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army in 480 B.C.In the movie scene, Butler is dressed for war, shirtless with a crimson cape flowing behind his broad, chiseled shoulders. As he looks into Gorgo’s eyes, much of his sentiment unspoken, moviegoers are drawn into the dramatic, macho moment.
But anyone who has struggled to get fit or stay fit can be forgiven if they get a little distracted here, wondering as they look at Butler in those skimpy Spartan battle duds: How did he get those six-pack abs, that whittled waist, and those rock-hard thighs? Could I ever look that buff and toned?
The Secret Workout
The now not-so-secret training regimen, discussed all over the Internet in messages complete with how-to videos, is called the 300 workout. It’s the brainchild of Mark Twight, a self-taught exercise guru and former world-class mountain climber who apparently still clings to the “no pain, no gain” mantra.
This workout will test the limits of even the most well trained athletes. Its not for the light P90X’er, or those that aren’t already in great shape.
The 300 Workout
The workout gets its name from the total number of repetitions. But those 300 reps weren’t done daily, as some media accounts report. Rather, the 300 workout was the finale of months of training, a kind of graduation test, after actors had weight lifted and trained with tools such as medicine balls and Kettlebells (cast iron weights with handles).
It’s daunting, and includes these weight-training moves:
- 25 pull-ups
- 50 deadlifts at 135 pounds
- 50 push-ups
- 50 box jumps with a 24-inch box
- 50 “floor wipers” (a core and shoulders exercise at 135 pounds)
- 50 “clean and press” at 36 pounds (a weight-lifting exercise)
- 25 more pull-ups — for a total of 300 reps
Even more, there is NO rest in between moves. The workout is scored, and the total score is based on time.
Exercise Physiologists Burst Our Bubble
A WebMD article on the 300 workout interviewed Dr. William Kraemer. Here were his thoughts on the 300 workout:
Before you head out to see if you’re good enough to pass the 300 test, heed the caution from William J. Kraemer, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. “This [program] was done for a stylistic effect, to look like a Spartan,” he says. Forget about trying to do the graduation test right out of the box, he says. “The out-of-shape person who starts [the 300 graduation test] is going to be dead the first day. No one could do this without prior training. You have to progress.”Even if you start out slowly, Kraemer recommends proceeding with caution and checking in with your doctor first.
The breakdown of muscle fibers, for instance, may be severe enough to be toxic to the kidneys, he says. “If you have [heart problems] or are not screened, you could have a variety of exertional problems [with this workout], from serious tissue breakdown to heart attack to kidney problems,” he says. “It’s too extreme for the average person.”
Walt Thompson, PhD, a professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University in Atlanta, agrees. “This kind of workout is for a very, very small subset of the population,” he says. “The person who could probably benefit from the Gym Jones workout is the person who already has a long and extensive ‘career’ in exercise. It’s not for a beginner.”
Advice for Beginners
Start small. If you want to break right into the 300 workout, don’t start with the weights listed, and begin with half the reps. Gradually, work up to increasing your reps until you are doing the maximum reps listed in the workout calendar. As you are upping your reps, start to increase your weight until you are doing your maximum weight. Doing to much to fast with this workout has a significant potential to be harmful, and cause injury.
Men’s Health 300 Workout How-To