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The 300 Workout: Can You Handle It?

The training regimen that whipped actors of the movie 300 into fighting shape may be too much for most of us.

The Regimen

The regimen was varied based on the person’s starting point, Twight says.  "Some days guys did high-intensity circuit training. Some days guys lifted very heavy loads for a few reps. Some days guys did a series of miniworkouts that added up to an 'interesting' total load and volume. Some days guys did hard interval training on the Concept II rowing machine." And some days, the exercisers were asked to train for balance by doing their tasks blindfolded.

"Some days were punishment days where our intent was to break guys physically and psychologically," Twight says.

Training for the actors required 90 minutes to two hours a day, five days a week, Twight says, plus the same amount of time fight training. Stuntmen trained 90 minutes to two hours, five days a week, and another four to six hours fight training, Twight says. Everyone was given just enough food to recover from the workout, he notes.

The Results

At the end of the training, about half of those who trained took the 300 test, Twight says. Andrew Pleavin, who plays Daxos, leader of the Arcadians, was the only actor to take it. He finished in 18 minutes and 11 seconds.

Exercise Physiologists Burst Our Bubble

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

That does not mean if you are a beginner all hope is lost. Thompson and others recommend beginners start out slowly and consider hiring a certified trainer to learn proper form, especially for weight training. The top three certifications, in Thompson's opinion, are those offered by the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American Council on Exercise.

Hiring a trainer who is certified by one of those groups, if even for a few sessions, he says, will help ensure you learn proper technique and form in weight training and other muscle-strengthening exercises. "It helps to keep someone from being injured," he says.

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