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Can The 300 Workout Program Help Triathletes?

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By Jim P.

A fellow triathlete asked me the other day if I had ever tried doing the 300 Workout.


Message to Jim: Check out The 300 Workout.

300-movie-poster-by-Santosh-Dawara.jpg 300 is a 2007 film adaptation of the novel with the same name by Frank Miller, and is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. The film is directed by Zack Snyder, while Miller served as executive producer and consultant. The film was shot mostly with a super-imposition chroma key technique, to help replicate the imagery of the original comic book.

Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fight to the last man against Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army of more than one million soldiers. As the battle rages, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to rally support in Sparta for her husband.

The story is framed by a voice-over narrative by the Spartan soldier Dilios (David Wenham). Through this narrative technique, various fantastical creatures are introduced, placing 300 within the genre of historical fantasy.

The film broke box office records, although critics were divided over its look and style.

As the film opens, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) bids farewell to his beautiful wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) as he heads out to lead the Battle of Thermopylae. Butler is dressed for war — shirtless with a crimson cape flowing behind his broad, chiseled shoulders. Looking at Butler, you wonder how he got those 6-pack abs, whittled waist, and rock-hard thighs.

Well, the secret’s out.

The now not-so-secret training regimen, discussed all over the Internet (complete with how-to videos) is called the 300 Workout.

It’s the brainchild of Mark Twight, a self-taught exercise guru and former world-class mountain climber. At Gym Jones, his invitation-only, no-frills gym in downtown Salt Lake City (where he says there’s no air conditioning, no mirrors, and no place comfortable to sit), his mission was to whip the 300 actors and stuntmen into warrior-fighting shape — most of them in 8 to 12 weeks.

Here’s how it works…

What Is The 300 Workout?

The workout gets its name from the total number of repetitions.

Contrary to some accounts, according to Twight those 300 reps weren’t done daily. At the outset, Twight says, “Guys ranged from 40 pounds overweight to being in perfect, lean, hard-fighting shape.” The 300 workout was the culmination of months of training, a kind of graduation test, after actors had weightlifted and trained with tools such as medicine balls and Kettlebells.

The 300 Workout involves a series of whole-body functional training exercises. They are simple, but extremely taxing and demanding.

Unlike most health club workouts that isolate specific joints and muscle groups, the levels of the 300 Workout develop functional fitness through a series of coordinated movements that involve many joints and muscle groups working together smoothly and efficiently.

It is an exhausting, nonstop 300-rep workout with no rest between exercises. It is not for the timid, unfit or faint of heart. Your goal is to finish the workout as quickly as possible.

The 300 Workout regimen includes these weight-training moves:

  • weightlifting-by-aaron-schmidt.jpg 25 pull-ups

  •  50 deadlifts at 135 pounds

  •  50 push-ups

  •  50 box jumps with a 24-inch box

  •  50 “floor wipers” (a core and shoulders exercise at 135 pounds)

  •  50 “clean and press” at 36 pounds (a weight-lifting exercise)

  •  25 more pull-ups?for a total of 300 reps

There’s no rest between movements and the score is based on total time.


This circuit training workout program includes 3 levels of difficulty:

  • The Barbarian Horde level

  • The Greek Hoplite level

  • The Elysian Fields level.

Each level includes more repetitions and less rest.

For the film, training for the actors required 90 minutes to 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, plus the same amount of time fight training. Stuntmen trained 90 minutes to 2 hours, 5 days a week, and another 4 to 6 hours fight training. Everyone was given just enough food to recover from the workout.

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

What Are The Advantages Of The 300 Workout For Triathletes?

The 300 Workout aids the triathlete because it:

weightlifting-by-tanzer-art.jpg 1. Focuses on prime movers. Primer movers are the big muscle groups that do most of the work. For examples, your quads, pecs and lats are prime movers, and the 300 Workout focuses on these muscle groups.

2. Uses multi-joint exercises. Bicep curls are a single-joint exercise, and the kind of muscle-isolation exercise a bodybuilder would do. Clean and press is a multi-joint exercise. When it is done in sufficient sets and reps with even moderate weight, it can provide a whole body workout.

3. Prevents muscle imbalances (and injury). The 300 Workout places proper emphasis to both upper and lower body strength training. Whole-body movements promote good movement postures, which place much less stress on the bones, muscles and joints. They also build balanced muscle fitness that is essential for efficient, pain-free movements.

4. Contributes to core strength. When you are swimming or cycling, the forces applied by your arms and legs must pass through the lower back and abs. A strong core improves performance as a triathlete.
The 300 Workout is especially oriented toward building a strong core.

5. Promotes functional fitness. The “functional fitness” approach to the 300 Workout helps you move faster and longer during distance running, cycling and swimming. Functional fitness improves neuromuscular control and helps you move more efficiently.

6. Builds endurance, strength, and aerobic capacity. The 300 Workout is a high-rep circuit-training program that includes minimal rest. Build up gradually and you will develop high levels of muscle endurance, improve aerobic capacity, and increase strength and power. As a triathlete, that’s what you want.

7. Saves time. Every triathlete is faced with the challenge of being efficient in their training. You only have so much time, and you don’t want to waste it. The triathlete seeks maximal benefit from every ounce of training they do. The 300 Workout is a time-efficient, high-return strength oriented workout

Is There A Downside To The 300 Workout?

Obviously, the workout is not for a beginner. Neither is it meant to replace the other key components of your triathlon training.

The 300 Workout builds strength, power and endurance, but it is not the best program for optimizing any one of these fitness goals. If you have decided strength training is an important part of your triathlon training plan, the 300 Workout may be an option you would be interested in.

Perhaps there are modified versions of the 300 Workout that fit better with your unique needs. It could be incorporated at specific times during the year, perhaps it would be a fun off-season thing to do.

WARNING: If you decide to do the 300 Workout, make sure you take sufficient time to learn and practice all the moves of the workout. The biggest downside is injuring yourself through poor technique, which could be a major set-back in your triathlon goals.