By Jill Yaworski
THE 2012 SPARTACUS WORKOUT
This year, give your body the ultimate fitness challenge
Two years ago we teamed with Starz to create the official Spartacus Workout. Its popularity surprised even us: Readers told us it was their favorite Men’s Health workout ever. So to kick off the new season of Spartacus: Vengeance, we asked Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S.—the fat-loss expert who created the routine—to design an all-new version that’s even more intense, challenging, and effective. Like the original, the 2012 Spartacus Workout requires only a pair of dumbbells, a stopwatch, and, well, some serious grit. But try Cosgrove’s plan just once and you’ll quickly understand why it burns fat, sculpts muscle, and leads to fantastic results.
Directions: Do this workout 3 days a week. Perform the exercises—or “stations”—as a circuit, doing one movement after another. At each station, perform as many repetitions as you can in 40 seconds using perfect form. Rest for 20 seconds as you transition to the next exercise. After you’ve done all 10 exercises, catch your breath for 2 minutes. Then repeat the entire circuit two more times. If you find you can’t keep working for the entire 40 seconds, use a lighter weight. If you feel as if you could keep going hard for an additional 15 seconds, progress to a heavier weight.
1. DUMBBELL SQUAT TO ALTERNATING SHOULDER PRESS AND TWIST
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells next to your shoulders, elbows bent, palms facing in [A]. Push your hips back and squat deeply [B]. Push back up, rotating your torso to the right and pivoting on your left foot as you press the dumbbell in your left hand above your shoulder [C]. Lower the weight and rotate back to center. Repeat, rotating to the left and pressing up the dumbbell in your right hand.
2. MOUNTAIN CLIMBER AND PUSHUP
Assume a pushup position. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles [A]. Without allowing your lower-back posture to change, lift your left foot off the floor and move your left knee toward your chest [B]. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your right leg. That’s a mountain climber. Now do a pushup [C].
3. DUMBBELL SIDE LUNGE AND CURL
Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length at your sides [A]. Take a big step to your left and lower your body by pushing your hips back and bending your left knee. As you lower your body, bend forward at your hips and try to touch the dumbbells to the floor [B]. (Note: Go only as low as you can without rounding your lower back.) Then push yourself back to the starting position as quickly as you can. Perform arm curls [C]. Alternate back and forth, doing a lunge to your left and then a lunge to your right.
4. PLANK WALKUP WITH DUMBBELL DRAG
Start in a pushup position with a dumbbell on the floor next to your right hand. Lower your body into a plank so you’re resting your weight on your forearms instead of your palms [A]. “Walk” back up to a pushup position [B]. Without leaving this position, grasp the dumbbell with your left hand [C] and drag it underneath your chest until it rests on your left side [D]. Repeat, this time dragging the weight with your right hand.
5. DUMBBELL STEPOVER
Stand holding dumbbells at your sides [A]. Step forward with your left foot and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees [B]. In one motion, push back up and take a long step back with your left foot into a reverse lunge [C]. Keep shifting between forward and backward lunges with the same leg for 20 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
6. DUMBBELL SINGLE-ARM ALTERNATING CLEAN
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell between your feet on the floor. Push your hips back, squat, and grab the dumbbell with one hand [A]. Pull the dumbbell up and “catch” it at shoulder height as you rise to a standing position; keep your knees slightly bent [B]. Pause, lower the dumbbell to the floor, grab it with your other hand [C], and repeat on the other side [D].
7. PUSHUP-POSITION ROW AND SQUAT THRUST
Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor and assume a pushup position with your hands on the dumbbells [A]. Pull the right dumbbell up to the side of your chest [B]. Pause, and then lower the dumbbell; repeat the move with your left arm [C]. While holding the dumbbells, quickly bring your legs toward your torso [D], and then jump up [E]. Once you land, squat and kick your legs back into a pushup.
8. GOBLET SQUAT AND ALTERNATING REVERSE LUNGE
Hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest, cupping one end of the dumbbell with both hands [A]. Keep your elbows pointed toward the floor and perform a squat [B]. Then push back up to the starting position [C]. Now step back with one leg—into a reverse lunge—and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees [D]. Pause, and then push up quickly. Alternate your lunging leg with each rep.
9. DUMBBELL RUSSIAN TWIST
Sit holding a dumbbell in front of your chest. Lean your torso back slightly and raise your feet off the floor [A]. Without moving your torso, rotate the weight to your left [B] and then to your right [C]. Move back and forth quickly.
10. DUMBBELL STRAIGHT-LEG DEADLIFT AND ROW
Stand with your knees slightly bent and hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length in front of your thighs [A]. Without rounding your lower back or changing the bend in your knees, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor [B]. Without moving your torso, pull the dumbbells up to the sides of your chest [C]. Pause, and then lower the dumbbells. Raise your torso back to the starting position.
WHEN LIAM MCINTYRE AUDITIONED FOR THE television drama Spartacus: Vengeance, he couldn’t have looked less fit for the title role. He was fresh off a movie called Frozen Moments, playing a man who had awakened from a coma. Skinny made sense for that. For Spartacus? Not so much.
But McIntyre is a good actor, so the Starz network put him at the top of its list, with one major caveat: At go time, he’d better look the part of a rebel warrior.
So he set out to rebuild his musculature. “It was a combination of mental and physical effort,” he says. “The body can do incredible things as long as the mind supports it.”
We’re providing McIntyre’s fitness advice and our own Spartacus workout. Put them both to work, and when you reach go time—beach vacation, high school reunion, first date—you’ll be sure to look the part, too.
CREATE A NO-FAIL PLAN
McIntyre wanted a body like Hugh Jackman’s in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It would have been a challenge anyway, but especially so given McIntyre’s 13-hour workdays. His strategy: Never miss a planned workout.
Make it work for you: Focus on the means, not the end. University of Iowa scientists found that people are more likely to stick with a weight-loss plan when they concentrate on specific actions instead of the desired result.
“Break your goal into habits that will help you achieve it,” says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. For example, you might set a goal of completing the 2012 Spartacus Workout 12 times a month. That’s just three workouts a week. But if you reach your 12-workout goal every month, by the end of the year you’ll have logged 144 high-intensity workouts. How many gut-busting workouts did you complete last year?
MEASURE YOUR SUCCESS
McIntyre had never been a gym rat before Spartacus. “I didn’t treat my body as well as I should have,” he says. But with his new role, he needed to perform intense weight workouts 4 days a week—every week, for months. Now McIntyre is stronger and fitter than he’s ever been. “When I look back at the photo the Spartacus producers took at the start, I think, ‘Oh, God,’ ” he says. “I didn’t realize how much weight I’d lost for Frozen Moments.” Which is a good reminder: Amazing results don’t happen overnight, but they do happen over time.
Make it work for you: Since you’re not likely to notice a change in the mirror right away, focus on what you can measure: Your performance. “You should be able to do more every workout; lift more weight, do more reps, add more sets,” says Cosgrove. “You can bet that if your numbers are improving, so is your body.”
FUEL YOUR MUSCLES
“You can lift all the time,” says McIntyre, “but if you don’t eat the right foods, you won’t have the body you want.” The key ingredient for any diet is protein. It provides the nutrients you need for muscle growth and also keeps you satisfied between meals.
Make it work for you: To grow larger and speed fat loss, Alan Aragon, M.S., a nutritionist in Thousand Oaks, California, recommends eating 1 gram of protein per pound of your target weight. So if you want to weigh 180 pounds, you should eat 180 grams of protein a day.
But some guys say it’s too expensive; others say they feel like they have to force-feed themselves. So shoot for 0.7 gram of protein for every pound, says Aragon. It’s still a highly effective dose for your muscles. The only downside: You may find that you’re hungrier and more at risk of binge snacking.
FIND A PARTNER
McIntyre rarely goes to the gym alone. “There are tons of benefits to working out with someone else. You can do a better range of exercises if someone’s there to spot you,” he says. Plus, others push you outside your comfort zone. “They’ll yell at me when I’m not working hard enough, and compliment me when I am.”
Make it work for you: Find a workout partner or join a boot-camp class at a local gym, says BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., a leading boot-camp expert. “The more people we have training together, the more energy, sweat, and encouragement are in the room.”
THINK BEYOND YOURSELF
McIntyre inherited his role as Spartacus from the actor Andy Whitfield, who recently passed away after a long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Andy was amazing at his job,” McIntyre says. “I want to do justice to the character he already created. I think of Andy and remind myself that no day is too hard.”
Make it work for you: Not in the mood for a sweat session? Keep moving for the people who can’t. Says Cosgrove, whose husband is a stage IV cancer survivor and the co-owner of their gym, “Put it in perspective. It’s not chemo. When you think about people fighting for their lives, it makes a workout seem like nothing.” Honor them by making yourself better. “We owe it to people like Andy to bring our best to everything we do,” says Cosgrove. “And that includes taking care of our health.”