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Spartacus Workout Tips

Spartacus
(Image credit: Unknown)

Packed to the rafters with blood and guts, shimmering skin and colourful language, Spartacus was an entirely non-guilty pleasure between 2010 and 2013. Like Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender’s 300 before it, the cast of warriors were all super-ripped with perfect pecs, broad backs and bulging biceps – with a liberal coating of dust, oil and Mediterranean-effect fake tan for good measure.

But dubious CGI six-packs weren’t necessary for Spartacus star Liam McIntyre, who got in stunning shape for the show’s fourth season, War Of The Damned, or his fellow cast members. They went through a gruelling gladiator boot camp and stuck to a strict low-sugar, high lean-muscle promoting protein diet to give their bodies the authentic look you’d associate with the sword-wielding heroines of the Roman Empire circa 70 BC.

Unlike classic bodybuilder body part splits you might expect the actors used to get in ripped, muscular shape, the cast recruited functional exercises and full-body workouts that were as much a test of mettle as muscle. Two such workouts that they went through (and are listed below) use time or teamwork to set the upper limit of your punishment rather than sets and reps that can allow you to slack off or motor through without truly testing yourself.

The results are beefy, well-balanced, all-rounded hulks of men you know would command respect as Gods of the Arena. But don’t just gawp at their feats via a box set binge. Follow their lead. These are two of the workouts the actors were put through before, and sometimes during, filming.

Spartacus Workouts

1. The Circle of Death

“This is pretty simple,” says McIntyre. “Everyone stands in a circle and one guy stands in the middle with a heavy medicine ball. He throws it to someone in the circle and does a press-up. The person who catches it throws it back and does a press-up. Repeat with everyone in the circle, then switch.” If you haven't got a full ludus (school) of gladiators, agree a rep count for when you’re in the centre.

2. The Dirty 30

Thought the Circle of Death was bad? Well, that was just the warm-up. For the Dirty 30, first pick an exercise and a rep count - try ten burpees. Your job is then to do that many reps in under a minute, then rest for the remainder of the minute. Repeat for ten minutes, and if you miss any reps make sure you do them at the end. Once you’re done, repeat with sled drags and medicine ball slams for the longest 30 minutes of your life.

Spartacus Workouts Tips

So you want to get strong and fit enough to be a legendary gladiator and lead a revolt? Here are McIntyre's tips.

Focus on hypertrophy

“I’d never really been much of a gym guy,” says McIntyre, “so I trained like crazy for four months, doing big moves – and eating a lot, which is what hypertrophy’s all about.”

Earn your carbs

It’s tempting to cut carbs out if you’re trying to get lean fast, but at some point you’ll hit the wall. McIntyre says he actually had to eat more carbs when in boot camp. Don’t deprive yourself - just eat them post-workout.

Train with friends

And if you don't have any friends, train with enemies. The point is, having other people around you will mean you can’t quit. “Whatever I lifted, he’d try to lift,” says McIntyre’s trainer Tyrone Bell.

Joel Snape
Joel Snape

From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.