How To Look Like Gerard Butler in the Movie 300

In today’s “How to Look Like A Superhero,” we’ll be checking out Gerard Butler’s routine in the movie, “300.”

“Madness? THIS IS SPARTA!” screams King Leonidas before he kicks a Persian messenger into a 10,000 pit that happens to exist on the edge of town.  Easily one of the most testosterone-filled, uber gory, macho films ever created, 300 took the world by storm, suddenly making it okay to walk around in a loin cloth and yell things at people.

You’ve watched the movie, and you say to yourself in between your 3rd and 4th donut, “yeah, I want to look like that guy.”  Well Skippy, here’s your chance to shine.   To prepare for this role, Gerard Butler went through some of the most physically demanding training of any actor in recent memory to look like the true King of Sparta.  Similar to Daniel Craig’s training for Casino Royale, Gerard went through many different circuits and unusual exercises to build terrifying amounts of lean muscle and destroy any body fat on him.  By the time the movie started shooting, King Leonidas was one bad mofo you did NOT want to **** with.  Gerard had to make three significant changes to his life during the four months getting ready for 300: his diet, his exercise routine, and his mentality.  Yeah, not only did the guy have to eat like a warrior and train like a warrior, but he had to think like one too.


To accomplish the monumental task of becoming a Spartan King, Gerard tapped Mark Twight, a world-class mountain climber, who insisted on training like your life depended on it.  He also kept his usual personal trainer, and often trained with both on a daily basis.  After weight training, and circuit training, he’d go and do training with all the stunt/sword/spear trainers and work on his fight choreography, and then go practice the moves after he learned.  When it’s all added up, Gerard often trained for six hours a day, for more than four straight months.  Gerard would even lift weights in between individual shots to build up the lactic acid in his muscles and puff up their size (blog post coming on this soon).  Personally, I think six hours a day is way too much training, and having two trainers is overkill, but it worked for Gerard and I won’t doubt the man with these results.  He literally devoted his life to the physicality of the role, and it shows.

Back to the routine: rather than doing individual muscle group exercises every day, Gerard did exercises and routines that literally beat the crap out of him.

Flipping massive tires, sprinting while being tied to a bungee cord, olympic ring exercises, and other unconventional exercises worked out his entire body and kept his muscles guessing, shocking them into continual growth and development.  Think bootcamp style training, where weights and cardio and mixed in together and done without breaks.  If it sounds miserable, it’s because it is miserable…and I mean that in the best way possible.

For example:

  • Instead of doing regular pushups, he would put his feet on a bench, and extend out while supporting himself on just two olympic rings hanging from the ceiling.  Not only would his body weight cause the rings to swing all over the place, but he would do crazy amounts of pushups on the rings, working every single fiber in his chest, triceps, and shoulders.
  • By flipping tires, Gerard would get an intense lower body, lower back, and shoulder work out.
  • Doing pull ups until his arms fell off.  Pull ups will work every muscle in your back, biceps, and forearms.

Noticing a pattern?  Instead of training with machines or barbells, Gerard wanted to train like a warrior, flipping over heavy objects, doing pull ups with his body weight, etc.  To look like a warrior, you must train like one. Let’s talk about the famous 300 challenge (you can read more about it here), where you have to try and complete 300 reps of various exercises as quickly as possible:

  • 25 pull ups
  • 50 dead lifts with 135 lbs
  • 50 pushups
  • 50 box jumps
  • 50 floor wipes – maybe the worst thing ever.
  • 50 clean-and-presses with a 36lb kettle bell
  • 25 more pull ups

Each actor on the movie’s goal was to finish this circuit as quickly as possible.  One guy did it in approximately 18 minutes.  My first time trying this “test,” it took me an hour and a half and I wanted to die.  I’ll be trying it again soon.

Now, for you mere mortals, you can make great strides in the gym without exercising for six hours a day.  In fact, I’d say that unless you’re a genetic freak or on steroids, this amount of training will most likely do more harm than good.  I’m guessing that Gerard’s training varied from cardio, to strength, to flexibility, to power, to stability.  I guarantee Gerard wasn’t working each muscle group every single day, because his muscles need time to recover!  That’s when the real growth happens: on your days off.  If you work your muscles in different ways, from different angles, with different goals each day (speed, strength, agility, etc.) you can work out like crazy and still see crazy results.  Gerard, know that I’m not calling you crazy.  Please don’t hurt me.  I’m a big fan of Sparta.


I’ve scoured the internet looking for Gerard’s diet to prepare for this role, and I simply couldn’t find it.  However, after studying similar routines and consulting various sources, I’m pretty confident I can guesstimate what he ate on a daily basis.  To build muscle, cut body fat, and have enough energy to train for six hours a day, he had to eat:

  • Insane amounts of protein (which can be found in eggs, grilled chicken, tuna and other fish, steak, protein shakes, and protein bars),
  • Complex carbohydrates – oats, potatoes, multi-grain pasta, brown rice, eaten with his first few meals of the day to give him the energy to get through these grueling workouts.
  • Limit carbs in the afternoons and evenings – because metabolisms slow down at the end of the day, and these carbs would then be stored as fat.  Some disagree with this, so feel free to take it or leave it.
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Water. LOTS of water.

Because he needed to not only be strong but have an extremely low body fat percentage, Gerard probably cut out nearly anything from his diet that wasn’t efficient.  His body fat had to be in the single digits so you could see all the hard work he put in the gym.  (Read here to find out the truth about your abs).   To keep the energy levels constant, and keep enough protein in his system to constantly rebuild all his muscles after exercise, he would have to eat between 5 and 8 meals a day, spread out every 2 or 3 hours.  Each meal would contain at least 30 grams of protein, a vegetable or two, some complex carbs, and water.  Obviously this takes a lot of fine-tuning to ensure maximum muscle building and energy refueling without eating too much to build fat.  It’s a science.  Gerard treated his body like a machine and did everything possible to operate it as efficiently as possible.

Here’s a video discussing his role as King Leonidas and the training necessary to make it happen:

I’ll leave you with one of the most inspiring quotes I’ve read from Gerard about this training regiment: “You know that every bead of sweat falling off your head, every weight you’ve pumped — the history of that is all in your eyes,” says Butler of his dedication. “That was a great thing, to put on that cape and put on that helmet, and not have to think, Shit, I should have trained more.”

“Instead, I was standing there feeling like a lion.”

Here’ the 300 trailer, just to get you pumped up for the rest of the day.

300 Trailer

“Spartan, come home with your shield…or on it.”


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    50 thoughts on “How To Look Like Gerard Butler in the Movie 300

    1. I'm pretty sure i read somewhere that his diet was actually enough to help him recover, but just barely. They wanted him to “eat like a warrior”. You can read a lot about the workouts at the website of the gym he worked out in called Gym Jones.

      I'm kind of obsessed with this style of workout and would love to get into it. The results are amazing.

    2. I'm pretty sure i read somewhere that his diet was actually enough to help him recover, but just barely. They wanted him to “eat like a warrior”. You can read a lot about the workouts at the website of the gym he worked out in called Gym Jones.

      I'm kind of obsessed with this style of workout and would love to get into it. The results are amazing.

    3. I absolutely love love love your posts, and this site. But – what about us girls! I know that we can do a lot of the same things as guys, because even if we lift lots of weights we’re not naturally going to “bulk up”, but how about finding a hot (and actually fit, not just skinny) nerd girl and helping us out?

      Keep up the great work!

    4. suggestions:

      – River Tam (oh, my!) (Serenity)
      – Alice (from Resident Evil)
      – Selene (Underworld)
      – Buffy (BTVS)

    5. Yes i agree, We also need female examples. I dont think i’ll look like Gerard even if i do his workout, just because of the fact im female.

    6. Rowing machine <3
      Those things are my life (I've rowed competitively for four years) so it's great to hear some props for one from someone that looks that good. I can say from experience that there are few things as painful as rowing, and none more satisfying.

      /crew fanboy

    7. Hi I am Dave and I am 19 and 6’1, I have been doing this work out for 9 months I went from 10’2 to12’6, seriously this shit works if you can get thought the first 2 months and being sick 3 times a day and having muscle pains everyday you can can be a legend just believe in your self, my top tip is raw eggs and rock climbing over and out

    8. Yeah, this is a late response (b/c I’m just browsing through the archives and this is one of my favorite of Steve’s articles), but I just wanted to point out – What about the Spartan Queen? She was FREAKIN’ AWESOME!

    9. There’s a great program called Visual Impact for Women. Find out more about it on the Fitness Advantage YouTube Channel.

    10. Gerard’s regimen and results are very inspiring. I love seeing how actors dramatically transform their bodies for films, especially when they do it in a way that honors their bodies.

    11. I think the female body doesn’t need to be that ripped. You really don’t want to look like a dude. Unless you feel like a dude…

    12. Anadrol, winstrol, tess,decca,dinabol with this kind of foundation you can be huge and ripped too in a few months

    13. While some of the other hollywood transformations might be natural. This is clearly not just hardwork and dieting. There is “juice” involved in this one.

    14. I would very much like to see How to Look Like Lucy Lawless in Xena: Warrior Princess. Because I sort of worship her. She is a goddess. And fit as frick.

    15. Okay, let’s get one thing straight, and trust me, you’re not the only person who didn’t know this. I didn’t know this until I was i the Army and my research unit (J.Knapik at USARIEM) did a study on soreness.
      Lactic acid dissipates astonishingly quickly. What causes muscle soreness (and resultant muscle growth) are microtears. You talked about gains occurring during rest.

      Does that make sense? It sure put some facts and mental pictures together for me and has changed my training. 🙂

      This is a wonderful article: so helpful!!!! I’m at the mental part of my preparation for changes necessary to do the female version of this. Thanks for writing it!


    16. May I help? I spent three years in gradual school (that’s where they gradually give you your Master’s or PhD degree while beating you) and four years doing research at one of the best labs in the world for exercise physiology.

      I know that sounds like bragging. Trust me, it’s not. I hated every minute. It was NOT the field for me. I enjoy talking with people FAR more than watching them exercise… I’m not skinny yet, but I was. And I know how to get back there. I went to nationals in swimming in college for distance swimming and ran cross-country and track. That WAS fun. I miss my teammates desperately.

    17. He’s a REALLY nice guy. An oddity in a land of a**h*les. I can’t see him lying about this stuff. I mean, he talks about his ups and downs and how he got through them.

    18. Who pissed on Your cornflakes? He’s a nice, honest guy, a rarity in tinseltown. Besides, there are NO stretch marks on the guy.

    19. Gina Carano! (she’s a MMA fighter who’s been in a few movies, not just Fast and Furious)

    20. This is all wrong he did intermittent fastting to keep weight down and cramed loads of proteine carbs and steroids for the rest of the day…youcan do it without the roids and maintain…just not in the time frame he did… just gotta have good genetics and time …if you looking to achieve what he did in the same amount of time better start hitting the juice.

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