How to Live and Train Like a Spartan Warrior

“Madness? No. THIS IS SPARTAAA!!!!”

Few stories have captured the hearts and imaginations of nerds in the past few years like the epic graphic novel 300 and its faithful movie adaptation. I remember going to see 300 during its opening weekend: I walked out of that theater absolutely blown away. I honestly felt like I had just been injected with steroids and caffeine: I wanted to go sprint up mountains, wrestle bears, train with weapons, and get as strong as possible as quickly as possible.

300 is still the movie I turn to whenever I’m in the need of some hardcore motivation to push myself while exercising.

In case you’ve never seen the movie or need a quick refresher, watch the trailer. It’s then time to start imagining yourself as one of the mighty 300, a Spartan soldier trying to fend off a overwhelming army in order to protect your people and your way of life.

Young or old, male or female, we can all be Spartans today.

The Psyche of a Spartan

I’ve already covered the training regiment that the actors went through to get in shape for this movie (including the brutal 300 challenge), but I want to delve into the actual characters themselves and discover what makes them so badass and inspirational to the Nerd Fitness community.

I find many parallels between the mighty Spartan 300 and the (only slightly less) mighty Nerd Fitness Rebellion. We’re both small forces that would do anything for one another. We both fight an incredibly difficult and uphill battle against overwhelming odds (their battle with the Persians, our battle as a community against obesity, fear, heart disease, stereotypes, and life without passion). We both train with conviction, we both fight for our families and future generations, and we both don loin cloths before going to battle (hmm….)

Let’s see what else we can learn from King Leonidas and his mighty 300.

Fight whenever, wherever. Just fight

Spartans fight just as well in pouring rain as they do in the scorching heat. Snow? Sleet? Hail? Nothing like a little precipitation to make things interesting, right? During their first encounter with enemy forces:

Persian: A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!

Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.

Ha! Not only are these dudes strong as hell and fearless, but they’re also quite witty. Oh, and they will fight anybody, at any time, anywhere.

Spartan Up: When was the last workout you skipped for some bullsh** reason? Don’t feel bad, we all do it:

  • “Oh it’s raining.”
  • “I had a bad day at work.”
  • I’m tired, I’ll do it tomorrow.

Stop making excuses. Stop putting off until tomorrow what you can do today. Make your personal health and well-being a top priority, and suddenly workouts stop getting skipped.

Make MacGuyver proud, and learn how to exercise anywhere at any time. This morning, I did 20 chin ups in a row for the first time in my life. Today’s chin ups were on a dead tree branch in Thailand. Last month’s chin ups were done on a kids’ swingset in an abandoned park at 11PM in Australia. The month before that? The overhang of a roof at the New Zealand Airport.

Any time, anywhere!

Giving Up Isn’t an Option

King Leonidas and the Spartans (epic band name by the way) face an army that is greater than anything they have ever seen.

They know that this enemy will most likely end their lives and potentially wipe out Sparta unless they surrender and submit. However, these Spartans have been “Taught never to retreat, never to surrender. Taught that death on the battlefield in service to Sparta was the greatest glory he could achieve in his life.”

So, despite staring certain death and destruction in the face, these soldiers know only how to do one thing:

Fight.

When Xerxes, the king of Persia, confronts Leonidas about his refusal to surrender, explaining that his victory will be so complete that “the world will never know [Sparta] existed at all!” the Spartan king fires back:

“The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed.”

If you’re overweight, out of shape, and chain-smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day, the thought of losing 100 pounds and quitting smoking probably seems impossible to you. If you don’t like looking at yourself in the mirror, you probably could never see yourself going to a fun class at your gym because you’re afraid.

Spartan Up: Recognize that fear is tyrannical, keeping you imprisoned and preventing you from living a life worth living. The odds may be stacked against you, the challenge may seem too dire, but you’re a Spartan, so you fight on. One meal at a time, one work out at a time, one day at a time.

Grab your sword, find some confidence, and fight back.

Train as if your life depended on it

Before fighting the Persians, the Spartan army is joined by another group of free Greeks who far outnumber Leonidas and his crew:

Daxos: I see I was wrong to expect Sparta’s commitment to at least match our own.

King Leonidas: Doesn’t it?  You there, what is your profession?

Free Greek-Potter: I am a potter… sir.

King Leonidas: And you, Arcadian, what is your profession?

Free Greek-Sculptor: Sculptor, sir.

King Leonidas: Sculptor. You?

Free Greek-Blacksmith: Blacksmith.

King Leonidas: [turns back shouting] Spartans! What is your profession?

Spartans: HOO! HOO! HOO!

King Leonidas: [turning to Daxos] You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did.

Although the Spartans might not have the number of soldiers that their allies do, due to the quality and tenacity of their skill as warriors they are far better prepared for battle. For, as Dilios the Spartan explains: “We did what we were trained to do, what we were bred to do, what we were born to do!”

If you can “exercise” while watching TV, talking on your cell phone, and/or reading a book, you’re doing it wrong. You’re like the potter who calls himself a soldier. You need to think a soldier, train like a soldier, and prepare like a soldier so that you can fight like one.

Spartan Up: It’s time to start looking at each of your training sessions like a battle. To borrow from “how to become a superhero,” take a few minutes to get yourself into the proper mind frame before picking up a weight or doing your first push up.

  • Change into your battle gear
  • Put on your favorite song,
  • Visualize your workout.
  • Mentally pump yourself up for the battle.
  • Start foaming at the mouth (optional).

While exercising, block out every distraction around you – do what you were trained to do, bred to do, born to do: push harder, live better, train faster, be stronger.

It’s in your DNA.

Look out for your fellow soldier

The Persians outnumbered the Spartans approximately 80 billion to 300 (rough estimates), and yet continually had their asses handed to them in battle after battle after battle.

Why?

These two passages sum it up perfectly:

Xerxes: It isn’t wise to stand against me, Leonidas. Imagine what horrible fate awaits my enemies when I would gladly kill any of my own men for victory.

King Leonidas: And I would die for any one of mine.

Stelios: It’s an honor to die at your side.

King Leonidas: It’s an honor to have lived at yours.

The Persians might have the numbers, but the Spartans train as if their lives depended on it and they’re all part of a brotherhood that cannot be broken. Spartans know that “in the end, a [man’s] true strength is the warrior next to him. So give respect and honor to him, and it will be returned to you.”

Spartan Up: If you have a training partner, or a group at work or friends that are exercising with you:

  • Give them respect and honor, and expect respect and honor in return.
  • If you say you are going to work out at a certain time on a certain day, be there – no excuses.
  • Offer support when needed, tough love when required, and expect greatness when greatness is possible.

We are all capable of great things in this world; start pushing those around you to strive for those great things, and make sure they expect the same of you. You will all live better lives because of it.

I can honestly say that it has been an absolutely pleasure to fight alongside my fellow rebels in the Rebellion – I try to honor you, my fellow rebel, by pushing myself to the limit with every workout.

I hope you do the same.

Leave it all on the battlefield

In one of the most iconic scenes in the movie, King Leonidas says goodbye to his wife out in the beautiful wheat fields before heading off to battle and certain death. The queen delivers one of the best lines in “goosebump-inducing awesomeness” history, a new category I just created about fourteen seconds ago:

Queen Gorgo: Spartan!

King Leonidas: Yes, my lady?

Queen Gorgo: Come back with your shield, or on it.

King Leonidas: Yes, my lady.

No surrender. Only victory or death.

Reminds me of a quote from another movie I tend to draw a slight bit of inspiration from: “do or do not, there is no try.”

Spartan Up: I’m not telling you to go kill yourself trying to complete your workout today. I’m telling you that it’s your responsibility to give it your all whenever you exercise. Push yourself to find out what you’re capable of, which is always more than you think. Walk out of that gym drenched in sweat. Finish your sprints with wobbly legs.

Go hard or go home.

And home isn’t an option.

I challenge you to channel your inner Sparta during your workout this afternoon. Think of your brothers/sisters in arms as you exercise; imagine them standing shoulder to shoulder with you, all pushing to become stronger warriors, faster soldiers, better heroes.

Respect and honor your friends by pushing yourself to greater heights – it’s these extra pushes and moments of determination when faced with adversity that level up your life.

Now, go. Fight. And come back with your shield, or on it.

For the Rebellion,

-Steve

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Today’s Rebel Hero: Anna S. from Krakow, Poland!

Maybe my favorite picture thus far from the Rebel community. After taking this picture, Anna went to her Kung Fu (seriously) class, took her exam, and leveled up to Level 2.  I’m not saying the shirt was the reason for her passing with flying colors…but it certainly didn’t hurt.  Congrats Anna, you’re my new hero!

Have you ordered your Nerd Fitness shirt yet? Pick one up (only $20 with free shipping anywhere in the world), and send me a photo – you could be the next Rebel Hero!

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76 thoughts on “How to Live and Train Like a Spartan Warrior

  1. I’ve got to recommend a companion book to anything related to Sparta and especially the infamous 300: Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire is a phenomenal read. It’s historical fiction about the battle at the Hot Gates.

    I took (and still take on occasional re-reads) great inspiration from much of this book. For all that violence is simply not my cup of tea, I live my life as a warrior. I fight for what I want, what I believe in. I strive to overcome fear and doubt in the face of (occasionally) overwhelming odds. I am best suited to a fast paced, slice and dice decision kind of life. This is a book for warriors. Check it out if you get a chance, friends.

  2. ANNA !!!

    Who the fuck are you, and why I don’t know you yet?
    I’m from Kraków as well 😀

    It was weird to see Wawel castle in my rss reader …
    Nice biceps BTW. But please don’t compete with Robert Burneika on its size …

  3. Hi Steve,

    Great post and one I will truly remember. I often find great inspiration form warriors of all types. Even though I will never fight in combat (I hope), I often feel like I’m fighting the odds. I think people are more warrior than they give themselves credit for. Isn’t war about fighting for a cause you believe in? What about living for a cause you believe in? I like to think of the two as one in the same, since death is just part of life. Let me know if I’m getting way to nerdy:)

    In my triathlon training, I often think of my brother who is in the National Guard right now. He’s never been into the whole fitness gig very much, but now he’s starting to bulk up. He wants to become a weapons engineer and an economist (talk about a pro fitness nerd!). I love to think of myself charging into battle instead of just working out. Basically living an epic, ambitious, and nerdy lifestyle for every second!

    Thanks for your work and can’t wait for the next post.

    -Armi Legge

  4. This movie and the behind the scenes footage of the actor’s workouts both provide AMAZING motivation… to work out, to speak your truth, to follow your heart, to surround yourself with quality people AND to “LGN.”

    Now… let’s go wrestle some bears!

  5. Maybe this is nit-picking, but if you watch the clip of the scene between the Spartans and conscripts, the Spartans don’t scream “WAR! WAR! WAR!” They’re shouting something similar to “AOO! AOO! AOO!” Still intimidating as hell though.

  6. Maybe this is nit-picking, but if you watch the clip of the scene between the Spartans and conscripts, the Spartans don’t scream “WAR! WAR! WAR!” They’re shouting something similar to “AOO! AOO! AOO!” Still intimidating as hell though.

  7. Haha, hey Przemek, I had no idea there was a fellow Pole (much less a fellow Cracovian) here. And yeah, I think that’s as big as I’d want my biceps to get =)

  8. Haha, hey Przemek, I had no idea there was a fellow Pole (much less a fellow Cracovian) here. And yeah, I think that’s as big as I’d want my biceps to get =)

  9. Haha, hey Przemek, I had no idea there was a fellow Pole (much less a fellow Cracovian) here. And yeah, I think that’s as big as I’d want my biceps to get =)

  10. Haha, hey Przemek, I had no idea there was a fellow Pole (much less a fellow Cracovian) here. And yeah, I think that’s as big as I’d want my biceps to get =)

  11. Haha, hey Przemek, I had no idea there was a fellow Pole (much less a fellow Cracovian) here. And yeah, I think that’s as big as I’d want my biceps to get =)

  12. Great post, as usual Steve.

    Absolutely loved the movie and the post goes hand in hand with the premise.

    Going out, kicking ass, not surrendering and leaving it all on the field, track, bench, etc. is what working out and leveling up is all about.

    Thanks for another great (and inspirational) post.

  13. great article! I Spartan-ed Up last night by taking my first ever kickboxing class. I was totally nervous about making a fool of myself and not being able to keep up, but it turns out, I rocked it! My Rebel Strength Dumbell Division workouts definitely prepped me for the intense cardio and planks, no problem, AND I’m still on my kickboxer’s high. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  14. I grunted and yelled when I was pushing the lawn mower up hill yesterday after reading this! I felt goofy – but LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT!!!!! I don’t even care what the neighbors (or my dogs) think!!!!!

  15. Interesting that coaches of Lithuanian basketball team used 300 movie in 2010 World championship to pump up players before final matches 🙂 Our team won 3rd place defeated only by USA Dream Team in the semis..

  16. I loved this movie! It definitely got me to crank up the intensity of my workouts. Men have performed legendary physical feats – like those in this movie – and so I figure the least I can do is perform the hardest workout I can manage each day. This movie brought back some glory to the intensity of being a ridiculously over-the-top unstoppable warrior, which I think has gotten a little out of fashion in favor of a more low-key kind of fitness.

  17. This was an incredible film depicting incredible heroism. But recall
    that Spartan society left nothing else of note behind; no philosophy, no
    writings, no architecture. Most of western civilization descends from the
    Athenian civilization. The Spartan footprint on history was, essentially
    limited to their part in the Peloponnesian War and the battle of Thermopylae. The
    Spartan ideals were a result of a fear of the peoples they enslaved. They were
    in great shape, however.

  18. I did this workout a couple years ago in 15 and a half minutes. Never have a been so sore for so long.

  19. If anyone is seriously wants to Spartan up, sign up for an intensive Navy SeAL prep course called “Extreme SeAL Experience.” It’s available to the public (as young as 15, no upper age limit) and owned operated by Don Shipley, former US Navy SeAL. The course is based on *actual* SeAL training (BUD/S). ExtremeSealExperience.com or search YouTube. I am not affiliated.

  20. I came across a saying that we said in The Marine Corps recently that I think fits this article well. Sweat dries, Blood clots, Bones heal. Suck it up, be a Marine. Obviously only those of us who have earned the title can call ourselves Marine but it still gets the point across.

  21. You sir, must be quite misinformed about the endeavours of the Spartans. Or you are simply… dumb.

  22. You have a point, but, that’s not to say they were uneducated. They where each taught individually the art of strategy, which to this day is an invaluable trait. And yes I am Spartan born and raised, but I know my facts my friend, trust me on this.

  23. Woo hoo! I’m still hanging around in my grey shirt. Just now learning followups for the first 8 techniques.

  24. Yeah, I’ve only got the first two forms down decently, and recently learned stick fighting. Can’t wait to learn the butterfly swords =)

  25. I haven’t learned the second form yet. I want to buy a wooden dummy but they’re so expensive

  26. You have to read Gates of Fire. It is 300 on steroids if that’s actually possible. I love 300 a lot and watch it many times but Gates of Fire changed everything for me. I’ve read it multiple times and still learn something new from it every time. Incredible book.

  27. It’s a pretty good book. I’d also recommend Pressfield’s War of Art as it deals with getting through fear and mental blocks that keep you from creating and getting things done.

  28. this movie was retarded. And honestly, do you really think they got that jacked simply by doing the “300 workout” ??? NO!!

  29. RIP historical accuracy.
    IF you knew anything about Persians at the time, you would know that actually the real Persian warriors didnt even show up there. Do a quick google search on Persian Immortals. Even the Spartans couldnt match up. kept at 10,000 at all times, trained since childhood, the guardians of the palaces of the kings. there is a reason they were called IMMORTALS.
    Also, if u google Persian House of Strength (translation from persian) you would find much info about the still practiced persian way of building strength, following the steps of ancestors.

    300 is a pile of oiled up rubbish, made easier to swallow.

  30. RIP Historical accuracy.

    If they knew anything about the Spartans they would soon understand that the Spartans did not “and they will fight anybody, at any time, anywhere”. The Spartan foreign policy was very defensive, and would normally only fight if the city was under threat. They pulled out of the Peloponnesian League, when the Athenians presented an aggressive policy.

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