Despite some Internet chatter to the contrary, the Spartan warriors in this sword-and-sandal epic actually earned their muscles the hard way – with hard work. Under the tutelage of renowned tough guy trainer Mark Twight, the cast took on a five-day-a-week schedule of balls-to-the-wall workouts for four months.

Compound movements (such as flipping tractor tyres) were combined with lifting and throwing – every session was full intensity. Build your own battle-ready physique with this all-body workout.

The Workout

“Exercise order – the sequence of the exercises performed during the workout – is crucial,” says McKune. “Exercises should be arranged so that an athlete’s maximum force capabilities are available (from a sufficient rest or recovery period) to complete a set with proper technique.”

Choose to order the exercises in your workout using one of three methods:

1. Power (multi-joint exercises, such as the snatch, hang clean, power clean), core (single joint exercises) and then assistance exercises (small muscle areas: triceps/biceps); or

2. upper versus lower body – alternated; or

3. push (bench press, shoulder press, triceps extension) and pull exercises (lat pull-down, biceps curl) – alternated. The workout below is an example of a push-pull workout.

Bench Press

Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Remove the bar from the uprights using an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower the bar to your chest.

Pause, then push the weight back up until your arms are almost locked again.

Bent-Over Row

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell on the floor in front of you. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Tighten your abs, bend your knees slightly, then bend forwards at the waist until your torso is at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Keep your back flat (your lower back can arch naturally) and head facing forwards.

Pull the weight straight up to the bottom of your ribcage. Pause, then slowly lower the bar until your arms are almost fully extended.


Lift your body up at a set of dip bars so your weight is on your hands. Bend your knees. Keeping your elbows locked to your torso, lower yourself in a controlled manner until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push yourself back up to your starting position.


Position your hands with an overhand grip, about shoulder-width apart, on a pull-up bar. Lower yourself to a near-full stretch, or hang, keeping your elbows slightly bent. Bend your knees and cross your ankles.
Now pull yourself up in a smooth, controlled motion until your collarbone nears the bar, then slowly lower yourself to the start position. Do as many as you can.

Shoulder Press

Hold a barbell at shoulder height with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder widthapart. Keeping a strong posture, smoothly push the weight overhead until your arms are almost locked above you. Then slowly lower the barbell to your chest. Repeat the movement.

Upright Rows

Stand with a barbell on the floor in front of you, your feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, your hands at shoulder width or slightly wider, and rest the bar onyour thighs.

Raise the bar up towards your chin, keeping it close to your body. Work slowly and with control – take three seconds to lift the bar from your thighs to just under your chin. Your elbows should remain flared outwards during the movement.

When the bar is at its upper-most point, hold for two seconds and contract your shoulders and trapezius. Slowly lower the bar until your arms are straight, elbows unlocked.

Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Grab a pair of dumbbells and position yourself on your back on a bench. Hold one dumbbell over your head with a straight arm, your palm facing in. Without moving your upper arm, bend your elbow and lower the dumbbell to your shoulder.

As the dumbbell approaches the level of your temple, keep your thumb and index finger grippedtightly, but loosen the rest of your fingers, allowing the dumbbell to tilt back almost perpendicular to the floor.
Continue the downwards motion until the weight is next to your ear. Pause, then lift the weight back to the starting position, tightening your grip and straightening your arm. Repeat with the other arm

Biceps Curl

Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees relaxed. Grasp a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart; your grip should be underhand (palms facing upwards). Stand upright and let the bar hang in front of your thighs. Bend at your elbows to curl the bar to shoulder level, keeping your elbows tight against the sides of your body.

Pause at this top position. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.


At a racked barbell at upper chest height, position the bar high on the back of your shoulders and grasp it just wider than shoulder width. Take the barbell from the rack and stand with a shoulder-widthstance. Descend until your thighs are just parallel to the floor, pause then extend your knees and hips until your legs are straight.

Return to the starting position and repeat. Keep your head forwards, back straight and feet flat on the floor with an equal distribution of weight throughout forefoot and heel.

Your knees should point in the same direction as your feet throughout the movement.

Stability-Ball Leg Curls

Lie on the floor with your calves on top of a stability ball, your upper back and shoulders on the floor, and your arms out to the sides. Raise your hips and your lower back off the ground so they form a straight line with your legs.

Keeping your abs tight, pull the ball towards your butt by digging your heels into the ball until your feet are flat and your knees and butt are high in the air.

Pause, then push the ball away from you until your legs are straight. Do five to 10 repetitions. When this gets too easy, double the resistance by lifting one leg off the ball and pulling the ball with your other leg.

Do three sets of eight to 12 reps for each exercise, alternating the push-pull movements.

Do this routine three days a week.

What not to do

Avoid jerky movements; the smoother your technique is, the better gains you’ll experience – and the fewer injuries you’ll suffer.