Spartan 300 Training

Long before the release of Warner Brothers’ blockbuster movie, 300, I came across an article chronicling the extremely challenging and brutally intense training regimen the actors endured prior to filming.

Through six months of workout sessions conducted by Mark Twight, an accomplished mountain climber, author, and highly respected trainer, the movie’s cast transformed their bodies into the warrior physiques mandated by director Zach Snyder.

One training approach called for the execution of a string of various exercises – some conventional, some extremely unconventional – with the goal of completing 300 total reps.

That’s quite a feat, considering that most workout scripts call for about half (and usually much less) of that grueling number.

Always being a fan of good, old-fashioned hard work, I decided to take that theme, modify it a bit, and run (lift, actually) with it.

I should state here that these workouts exceed the norm to a degree that requires you to examine them closely. You may determine that the particular age group and/or the overall training experience of your athletes dictates that you file these scripts for future use.

In order to be judicious and prudent, several important caveats are in order:

  • These scripts are for older athletes who have been training in earnest for at least a couple of years. In other words, high school juniors who have been indoctrinated, well-coached, and put through the rigors of a year-round strength training program since they were freshmen, should be ready for something of this nature.
  • These are extremely challenging workouts, and therefore should be used with consideration given to the appropriate times on the training calendar. I would recommend performing these routines in the off-season periods only, as they will assuredly induce some muscle soreness for at least a couple of days.
  • These are novel workouts that should be used no more than once per week, and followed with at least a couple of recovery days before engaging in even so much as a conventional strength workout.
  • These scripts are not meant to be used for an indefinite period time. We use them as a motivational tool on a limited basis in the off-season only.

A final suggestion for those who might be a little wary of the high volume in a single session is to break-up the workouts into two separate 150 rep arrangements. The scripts could then be performed on two non-consecutive days. This amounts to 15 sets of 10 reps in each workout, which is closer to a standard strength training session.

Note: All of the workouts are preceded with a five minute dynamic warm-up period, and followed with a brief static and/or band stretching segment.

With these suggestions in mind, here are two of our favorite Spartan “300” workouts, Michigan State style, complete with some coaching points.

Workout I: Come Back With Your Shield

This is a total body workout that includes the use of barbells, dumbbells, machines, sandbags, and several body weight exercises.

Twenty exercises are performed for one set of 15 repetitions apiece, with the lower body movements performed first in the sequence.

It looks like this:

1. Sandbag Front Squats – 15 reps

2. Hex Bar Dead Lifts – 15 reps

3. Leg Press – 15 reps

4. Straight bar Romanian Dead Lifts (RDL’s) – 15 reps (Note: These are commonly referred to as stiff-legged dead lifts, but a slight bend should be maintained in the knees throughout the movement.)

5. Bodyweight Squats while wearing a 25 lb. weight vest – 15 reps

6. Bodyweight Lunges while wearing 25 lb. weight vest – 15 reps (with each leg)

7. Dumbbell (DB) Incline Press – 15 reps

8. DB Bent-over Rows – 15 (for both right and left sides if performed independently)

9. DB Seated Military Press – 15 reps

10. DB Upright Rows – 15 reps

11. Barbell Close Grip Bench Press – 15 reps

12. Front Lat Pulldowns – 15 reps

13. Sandbag Standing Military Press -15 reps

14. Hammer (machine) Horizontal Row – 15 reps

15. Hammer Chest Press – 15 reps

16. Hammer High Row -15 reps

17. Bodyweight Chin-ups – 15 reps (even if done in an all-negative, or lowering only, manner)

18. Bodyweight Dips – 15 reps (even if done in an all-negative manner)

19. Bodyweight Mid-Section exercise (several choices) – 15 reps

20. Bodyweight Push-ups – 15 reps

Coaching Points: As dictated by the high volume, the weight loads range from light to moderate on all of the applicable exercises (i.e., those using an implement, rather than bodyweight, of some type). The accumulative fatigue created by the high rep target and sheer length of the script become the primary overload indices.

“Heavy” weights simply cannot (and should not) be used because of those two factors, which may be contradictory to most mainstream plans, but is necessary for this particular approach.

Another overload technique that can be easily applied is controlling the recovery between sets. While the initial recovery period between sets is usually 1 1/2 -2 minutes, our ultimate goal for recovery is 1 minute between sets.

Finally, note that we allow for “negative-only” reps on the chin-ups and dips, due to the fact that a tremendous amount of fatigue will be built-up in the musculature by that particular point in the routine. Good, positive (raising) reps will be hard-earned and maybe even impossible for some of your larger athletes.

Workout II: Fight in the Shade

The second workout consists of rotating through three cycles of five different bodyweight exercises and performing 20 reps in each set.

Here it is:

1. Modified Rope Pull-ups (described in the April, ’07 issue) 20 reps

2. Dips – 20 reps

3. Chin-ups – 20 reps

4. Bodyweight Squats – 20 reps

5. Step-ups (onto a 24″ high box) – 20 reps with each leg

Coaching Points: The first sequence is performed at a fairly good clip, with about 30 seconds recovery between exercises.

After the step-ups, we allow for a longer respite of 60-90 seconds, and then we get after it from the top of the order for the second cycle. A little more rest will be needed between sets – probably up to one minute.

At the end of the second cycle, 60-90 more seconds are issued for recovery, followed by the third and final cycle. Again, we try to keep the recovery period between sets to 60 seconds.

Final Rep

These are merely a couple of sample workouts you can examine and tweak to your liking. If the volume has you concerned -even though, as mentioned, these are infrequently used routines – you can certainly make adjustments as you see fit.

Obviously, you can mix and match any type or sequence of exercises you prefer to work in concert with your current approach.

Other than that, “Come and get them!”

Tip From The Trenches

  • Super Foods for energy, recovery from hard exercise, and a healthy lifestyle: If you’re looking for a short list of healthy, energy producing, and recovery aiding foods that are easy to incorporate in the daily diet, listen-up troops:
  • Sweet Potatoes – A real nutritional “all-star” that is literally one of the best veggies you can eat, try to incorporate this winner in your diet as often as possible. These babies are loaded with Vitamin C, carotenoids, potassium, and fiber. Some restaurants even offer them as a substitute for French Fries (a top-of-the-line artery clogger) and regular baked potatoes.
  • Grape Tomatoes – Sweeter and firmer than other types of tomatoes, these bite-size treats are perfect for snacking, dipping, and plopping on salads. Packed with Vitamin C and Vitamin A, these little health nuggets also contain some fiber and those wonderful phytochemicals you hear so much about.
  • Fat Free (Skim) or 1% Milk – Check it out: Calcium, loads of vitamins, and high-quality protein without all the fat; need I say more? Caution: Don’t be fooled by 2% milk, which still has a considerable amount of saturated fat in it.
  • Blueberries – Rich in fiber, Vitamin C, and the highly sought-after antioxidant group, these little sweeties are great on cereal, in yogurt, on low-fat ice cream, or all by themselves.
  • Wild Salmon (not the “farm-raised” variety that has higher levels of dioxin contaminants) – One of our “heart healthy heroes,” wild salmon is chalk-full of the good omega-3 fats, whose health benefits are continually being unearthed, and quality protein.
  • Citrus Fruits – Juicy, great tasting, and oozing with Vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber, these are much healthier snacks than candy bars that are bloated with saturated fat.
  • Pre-washed, Pre-cut Bags of Greens (Kale, Spinach, Hearts of Romaine, etc.) – Convenient, ready-to-eat, and high in calcium, carotenoids, folate, potassium, fiber, and Vitamin C, toss them in a salad bowl, sprinkle some blueberries, grape tomatoes, green peppers, salmon chunks, a light salad dressing, and your favorite nuts on top, and you’ve got a healthy meal in itself. – Ken Mannie, [email protected]

About the Author

Ken Mannie is the head strength/conditioning coach at Michigan State University.

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