Years ago I had a long time client give me a piece of paper after one of our sessions. On this piece of paper was scribbled the following:
Pull-ups x 25
Deadlifts x 50
Pushups x 50
24-Inch Box Jumps x 50
Floor Wipers x 50
Single Arm Cleans x 50
“What is this?” I asked.
“The 300 Workout,” he replied. “And I want to do it,” he added.
“I think if you did this, you might die,” I said. “We might be able to do this over the course of a couple sessions, sure.”
“No. This is a single workout that you are going to get me to do, Matt. And you are going to time me doing it.”
That was my introduction to the 300 workout, and I have been running these training sessions ever since, taking clients through the gauntlet of conditioning and preparing them for the 300 workout. Also in 2007, a movie called “300” was released that was a stylized depiction of the final stand of the 300 Spartans versus the Persian Empire in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. In this movie, the actors and stuntmen sported chiseled physiques that have become legendary, developed as a result of the 300 workout.
But the workout isn’t without its fair share of misunderstandings. The 300 workout isn’t a strength and conditioning program at all. It was a single workout that was created for the actors and stuntmen of the movie as a sort of rite of passage or “graduation” from their months of training and conditioning in an attempt to look like Spartans when the cameras rolled. They adopted the following mission statement: Appearance is a consequence of fitness.
Makes sense, right? Too many times we as trainers see people training for appearance first, and actual, true fitness is simply an afterthought. Train to be fit, and you will look like you are. And that is what the Spartan Training program is all about.
While the 300 workout may not be a strength and conditioning program, Spartan Training is. Our goal at the end of 15 weeks is to have you do the workout listed above. Timed. As fast as you can without compromising quality of repetitions, through a full range of motion. Don’t think you can do 1 pull-up? I bet we can get you to do one. Can’t do 25? Well, we can probably find a similar exercise in which you can do 25 of. Spartan Training is hard. It’s supposed to be that way. And not just physically challenging. You will overcome physical, mental and emotional boundaries and crash through them if you buy in to the program, trust your trainers and stay committed.
Since that conversation with my client 5 years ago, my perceptions of what people can achieve have absolutely changed. I have seen experienced athletes with the wrong attitude fail in this program. I have also seen new exercisers without athletic background absolutely crush the program, change their lives and use it as a springboard to marathons and triathlons. This type of fitness training has a knack for changing lives, and I love it for the reasons mentioned above. But probably the coolest aspect of the program is the camaraderie and companionship you will develop with other Spartans. When you first walk into class and see a workout posted on the board that you absolutely believe no one in class can complete. But then you walk out an hour later after finishing it yourself, knowing that without the encouragement of other Spartans, your initial assessment of the day would have been correct. This feeling is difficult to put onto paper.
Appearances are not our goal. Overcoming physical challenges, jumping over mental and emotional barriers, and coming out the other side of 300 repetitions stronger is. Appearances are not our goal, but you may not recognize yourself after your journey.
Contributed by Matt Atwell, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist & USAW Level One Weight Lifting Club Coach