The Spartacus Workout—Version 1.0 from Men’s Health

1. Introduction—Looking for a home exercise solution

Over the holidays, my life got a lot busier as I added two volunteer jobs onto my already full schedule of conducting a job search, participating as club officer in two Toastmasters clubs, going to professional association meetings, AND doing a daily blog post.

My exercise routine was suffering because it took so long to get to the gym, do the preparation for exercise, the exercise itself, and then shower and come back home. The total amount of time I spent was 2-2.5 hours each time I went. Could I gain the same strength training and cardio benefits from a routine I could do at home?

2. Home Exercise Options

I’m not in a position to get a Soloflex or other strength-training exercise machine. I looked at P90X®, the popular home gym system by Tony Horton that is based on circuit training. I decided to ask my trainer at the gym, and he told me that Men’s Health has a circuit training program called The Spartacus Workout that I should look into.

3. Spartacus Workout 1.0—Origins and where to get it

The Spartacus Workout gets its name from the fact that it was designed for the actors for the Starz television series Spartacus to get in shape for their roles. Now I do not have the body of a Roman gladiator; as I joked to friends at a Christmas party to whom I was describing the workout, my body resembles that of a Roman senator more than a Roman gladiator. But I decided to try it, so I downloaded the free IPhone app called Men’s Health Workouts Lite which is FREE. If you want to get the 2.0 or 3.0 version of the Spartacus Workout, you need to get the Men’s Health Workouts which costs $1.99 .

4. Spartacus Workout 1.0—The Circuit Structure

The basic idea behind the workout is that there are 10 exercises in the circuit, each of which you do for 60 seconds. After finishing one exercise, you have a 15-second period after which you go to the next exercise in the circuit until you complete 1 repetition of the entire circuit. Then rest for 2 minutes

You go on to complete 3 full repetitions of the circuit of 10 exercises and then you’re done.

How long does it take? For one circuit

Circuit Component Time Taken Entire Circuit
1 exercise 60 seconds 10 minutes
1 rest period 15 seconds 2.5 minutes

So there are 12.5 minutes for each circuit, so 3 circuits = 37.5 minutes of exercise, plus 2 minutes of rest between each of the 3 circuits = 6 minutes of rest, so you have a total of 42.5 minutes for the whole routine.

In reality, I find it hard to keep track of 60 seconds while exercising. I just do 20 repetitions of each exercise, some of which may take less than 60 seconds. So my actual exercise routine takes about 30-40 minutes.

5. Spartacus Workout 1.0—The Equipment

  • Gym shorts
  • 2 hex dumbbells (I started with 12.5 pounds each)
  • Yoga mat or other not-skid surface (to prevent slipping)
  • Towel
  • Water
  • iPhone (to keep track of exercises)

6. Spartacus Workout 1.0—The Exercises



1. Goblet Squat
  1. With both hands, grab one end of a dumbbell to hold it vertically in front of your chest, and stand with your feet slightly beyond shoulder width.
  2. Keeping your back naturally arched; push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until the tops of your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Pause, and push yourself up to the starting position. If that’s too hard, do a body-weight squat instead.
2. Mountain Climber
  1. Assume a pushup position. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles.
  2. Lift your foot off the floor and raise your knee to your chest. Touch the floor with your foot.
  3. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your left leg. Alternate back and forth for 30 seconds.
3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Swing
  1. Hold a dumbbell (or a kettleball) at arm’s length in front of your waist. Without rounding your lower back, bend at your hips and knees and swing the dumbbell between your legs.
  2. Keeping your arm straight, thrust your hips forward and swing the dumbbell to shoulder level as you rise to a standing position. Swing the weight back and forth. At the 30-second mark, switch arms.
4. T-Pushup
  1. Grab a pair of hex dumbbells and assume a pushup position, your arms straight.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
  3. As you push yourself back up, lift your right hand and rotate the right side of your body as you raise the dumbbell straight up over your shoulder until your body forms a T. Reverse the move and repeat, this time rotating your left side.
5. Split Jump
  1. Stand in a staggered stance with your feet 2 to 3 feet apart, your right foot in front of your left. Keeping your torso straight, bend your legs and lower your body into a lunge.
  2. Now jump with enough force to propel both feet off the floor. While you’re in the air, scissor-kick your legs so you land with your left leg forward. Repeat, alternating your forward leg for the duration of the set.
6. Dumbbell Row
  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells, bend at your hips (don’t round your lower back), and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Let the dumbbells hang at arm’s length.
  2. Without moving your torso, row the weight upward by raising your upper arms, bending your elbows, and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pause, lower the dumbbells, and repeat.
7. Dumbbell Side Lunge and Touch
  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length at your sides. Take a big step to your left and lower your body by pushing your hips backward and bending your left knee.
  2. As you lower your body, bend forward at your hips and touch the dumbbells to the floor. Repeat for 30 seconds, and then switch to your right leg. If the exercise is too hard, do the move without the dumbbells; just reach for the floor with your hands.
8. Pushup-Position Row
  1. Grab a pair of hex dumbbells and assume a pushup position, your arms straight.
  2. Keeping your core stiff, row the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of your chest, bending your arm as you pull it upward. Pause, and then quickly lower the dumbbell. Repeat with your left arm.
9. Dumbbell Lunge and Rotation
  1. Grab a dumbbell and hold it horizontally by its ends, just under your chin. Step forward with your right foot and lower your body into a lunge.
  2. As you lunge, rotate your upper body to the right. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your left leg. Alternate left and right until your 60 seconds are up. If the exercise is too hard, perform the movement without the dumbbell.
10. Dumbbell Push Press
  1. Stand holding a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders, with your arms bent and palms facing each other. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Dip your knees.
  2. Explosively push up with your legs as you press the weights straight over your shoulders. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.

Notice that most of the exercises require the hex dumbbells (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), but a few do not (2, 5). In my opinion, the first circuit warms up you, on the second circuit you start to sweat, and on the third circuit you REALLY sweat.

I don’t think I’ll be fighting in any arenas in the near future, but I do have to say that I gain the same energy that I used to have from my gym routine, but in a routine that takes 25% of the time!

7. Spartacus Workout 1.0—Tips and Tricks

  • Do not worry about keeping to a 60-second pace, because it is hard to keep your mind on a stopwatch AND do the exercise properly, at least when you are getting used to the routine. Focus instead on doing 15 and 20 reps in GOOD FORM, no matter how long it takes.
  • You should do some stretching beforehand; I do a 15-20 minute yoga warm-up routine, so I essentially exercise for 1 hour if you consider the yoga + Spartacus Workout as one big routine.
  • The iPhone app of Men’s Health Workouts LITE has a built-in log so you can record when you do the routine. Either do this or record your workouts in another app, such as GymGoal, which I prefer.
  • The nutrition portion of the program is something I do in connection with the Transformation website by Bill Phillips. This six-meal-a-day plan is also the core of Tony Horton’s P90X® system in that it encourages you to eat three meals a day, plus two midmeals or snacks and a dessert. This spreading out of your caloric intake throughout the day makes your stomach gradually shrink because you are eating smaller meals whenever you do eat, and it keeps your blood sugar on a more even keel throughout the day.
  • If you’re timid about being a “gladiator”, then start out by doing 1 circuit, 3 times a week. This will be a good warm-up in the morning. Then once you are used to the exercises, increase to 2 circuits. You will start to see results in terms of greater energy and boosted metabolism, and will soon want to do the 3 circuit routine.

One thing I have to say about the Spartacus Workout as a side benefit, is that because you are constantly switching exercises every minute, you are NEVER bored. Because it is fast moving and intense, it is the quickest-moving half-hour or so of exercise you will ever experience! Now that I have “graduated” to the full 3-circuit workout, I plan to do it 3 times a week and see how it effects my weight and my body fat percentage over the next 3 ½ months. I’ll measure it at the end of May on my birthday, and if I lose 10 pounds or more, I’ll consider it a success.


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