Strength and Honour – The Gladiator Workout

Welcome to our Gladiator Workout.  An advanced workout designed to challenge you in all areas. Muscular endurance, strength, power, agility, core strength and cardio. A 15-16 week program to help you achieve a look worthy of the coliseum in Rome!

Click the link below to skip the introduction and go straight to the workout!

What We Do In Life Echoes In Eternity

The Strength and Honour circuits are a tip of the hat to one of the greatest action pictures of all time, Gladiator (2000).  Gladiator is a 2000 epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott. 

Gladiator Workout. gladiator training regime. Gladiator movie. Russell Crowe. Joaquin Phoenix. Oliver Reed. Ridley Scott movies.
Gladiator Workout. gladiator training regime. Gladiator movie. Russell Crowe. Joaquin Phoenix. Oliver Reed. Ridley Scott movies.

Left- Maximus (Russell Crowe). Right – Maximus and Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris).

the film stars Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Djimon Hounsou, and the late great Oliver Reed (in his final role). Crowe portrays Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus (Phoenix), the ambitious son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus becomes a gladiator and rises through the ranks of the arena to avenge the murders of his family and his emperor.

Gladiator Workout. gladiator training regime. Gladiator movie. Russell Crowe. Joaquin Phoenix. Oliver Reed. Ridley Scott movies.
Gladiator Workout. gladiator training regime. Gladiator movie. Russell Crowe. Joaquin Phoenix. Oliver Reed. Ridley Scott movies.

Maximus (right) leading the Roman army against the Germanic Tribes (Right) The Emperors unhinged son Commodus.

Gladiator is now considered one of the greatest historical epic films ever made.  The film captivated audiences for a variety of reasons, including its thrilling action, powerful performances, and compelling story. Particularly its themes of revenge, violence, masculinity, and stoicism.  The film features impressive fight choreography and stunning visuals.  The historical setting and attention to detail was impressive. The Roman world was known for its grandeur and power, as well as its political intrigue and military conquests, which the film captures perfectly. The film was also highly praised for its impressive score and cinematography, which helped to create a rich and immersive world.

Gladiator Workout. gladiator training regime. Gladiator movie. Russell Crowe. Joaquin Phoenix. Oliver Reed. Ridley Scott movies.
Gladiator Workout. gladiator training regime. Gladiator movie. Russell Crowe. Joaquin Phoenix. Oliver Reed. Ridley Scott movies.

The film is littered with set pieces particularly in the Colosseum. In this scene, the Gladiators are sent into what seems like certain death against mobile scythed chariot units with archers


Gladiator is a film that has captured the hearts of many fans, receiving favorable reviews and earning praise from those who have watched it. In 2021, director Scott officially announced the start of writing for a sequel to the movie, which will enter development after the completion of his upcoming Napoleon biopic.

Gladiator Workout. gladiator training regime. Gladiator movie. Russell Crowe. Joaquin Phoenix. Oliver Reed. Ridley Scott movies.

Maximus duels to the death with his gigantic Gaulish foe in the colosseum. 

Gladiator won five Academy Awards at the 73rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Crowe.

The Roman World

A Gladiator (Latin: gladiator, ‘swordsman’, from gladius, ‘sword’) was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.  This entertainment was in the form of violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals.  They fought before the public in hugely popular organised games held in large purpose-built arenas throughout the Roman Empire from 105 BCE to 404 CE (official contests).

The life of the Gladiator was not an easy one.  Many Gladiators were slaves, deserters and criminals, traitors and political/religious opponents of the ruling classes.  Condemned into the pit to fight to the death or eventually gain their freedom (something that didn’t often happen).  Gladiators provided entertainment and theatre for the bloodthirsty masses of the Roman towns and cities. A way to keep the masses distracted from failing politics, This masked a very serious side. Any bout could end in death, if not during the fight itself – then at the whim of the emperor. Gladiators were expected to accept their death with dignity.

Roman Gladiators were some of the toughest fighters the world has ever seen.  Their lives were (often) short, most historians believe the average gladiator’s ‘career’ lasted a few years (or months if you were not so skilled/unlucky!).  Indeed, many Gladiators would not make it past their mid-20s.

They lived under great mental and physical hardship.  Despite all these hardships, their training was and is considered way ahead of its time despite them having no access to modern equipment.


Despite what they portray in films and the media, not all Gladiator combat resulted in death. To train a gladiator was very expensive. To house them was also expensive. It made sense for the owners to have a balance of experienced gladiators who could win the crowd rather than inexperienced fighters who might turn them away. This was far more cost effective, good fighters bought the gold so it made no sense to let them die easily. From the records, historians believe between 1-in-5 and 1-in-10 of all gladiatorial bouts ended in a gladiator death. So in the majority of fights, both men made it out of the arena alive.

Gladiators needed to be in peak physical condition at all times because their lives literally depended on it.  During their careers they would have to face all manner of opponents, of all shapes, sizes, races, creeds.  There was no running away, no safe spaces, only one of them would walk away.  The Gladiator would have to contend with whomever they faced with everything they had.  To do this they had to continually confront their own mortality and the knowledge that any fight could be their last.

The sources that are available on Gladiator training are somewhat limited given the time disparity between now and ancient Rome. There is no bona fide gladiatorial training manual or treatise available on gladiator training. 

Thankfully there are a good number of sources and descriptions available on the type of training that Gladiators underwent still available.  One of the primary sources for descriptions of Gladiator training was one of Ancient Rome’s most prominent physicians.  This man was called Aelius Galenus but was more commonly referred to as Galen. 

About Galen

Galen was a Greek physician and philosopher who lived in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD. He is considered one of the greatest doctors in ancient history and his ideas and theories influenced the development of medical science for over a thousand years. Galen's works covered a wide range of subjects, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and surgery, and he made many important contributions to the field of medicine, such as his ideas about the circulation of blood and the concept of the nervous system. He was also known for his practical medical skills, and he was considered a physician to the gladiators in ancient Rome. He started the practical part of his professional career as a doctor in a gladiatorial school in Pergamon, Asia Minor (in modern day Turkey), where he worked for 4 years, treating all kinds of injuries.

About the Workouts

Gladiator Workout. functional strength training. Calisthenics. Bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight circuits. Callisthenics workout plan. functional. explosive strength training training. Dynamic exercises. Power training. plyometrics. Compound lifts. Compound exercises. Muscular strength. HIIT workouts. HIIT cardio. Core exercises. Core training. kettlebells exercises for men. Tire exercises. Exercises for CrossFit. Sandbag exercises. Battleropes workouts. dynamic chest stretch. static and dynamic stretching.

Being critical of ancient Gladiator training, as with many forms of training, there are good and some not so good elements.  I believe there is a lot we can take from this kind of training but also a lot of things that should be left behind.  This article plans to ‘sort the wheat from the chaff’ so to speak.  To identify useful, practical and relevant aspects of gladiator training and where possible bring them up to date with contemporary knowledge of training methods.  To use what is useful and discard the rest.  Hopefully you’ll find the workout program fun and more importantly effective.

For our Gladiator training we will be considering:

  • Basic principles of progressive overload.
  • Periodization and varied intensity.
  • Strength training.
  • Cardio.
  • Speed drills.
  • Weapons/boxing drills.
  • Endurance building.
  • Developing a Gladiator mindset.

For more on Gladiator training check out the links below.

The Circuits

This challenging program is designed to target you on all levels. From strength, muscular endurance, power, flexibility, mobility, speed, core strength and cardio.  Is all in there, this program will leave no stone unturned.

The workout can be broken down into 5 phases, each challenging the body in a different way.  The workouts will last in total somewhere between 15-16 weeks.  The Gladiator ‘Tetrad’ system of periodisation was broken down into 4 phases, ours will involve 5 phases.

The workouts are a combination of exercises (or variations of those exercises) that Gladiator trainers would have used.  It includes resistance training, bodyweight training, functional training, cardio, plyometrics and martial arts-type drills as well as stretching and recovery processes.

Gladiator Workout. gladiator training regime. Gladiator movie. Russell Crowe. Joaquin Phoenix. Oliver Reed. Ridley Scott movies. Battles in the colisseum. Maximus Decimus Meridius.

The cycle can then start again, with adjustments made based on progress and goals. This type of periodization allows for a gradual, progressive overload of the muscles, which can lead to increased strength and muscle mass over time.

"At my signal, unleash hell"

- Maximus

The 5 Phases

Click on the links below to take you to the individual workouts.

This phase lasts 2 weeks and focuses on building a foundation of strength and conditioning. Workouts during this phase would include full-body workouts 4 times per week with 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps at 60-70% of the one-rep max (1RM) for each exercise. This phase would also include some cardiovascular training to build endurance.

This phase lasts 4 weeks and focuses on increasing muscle size and strength. Workouts during this phase include split workouts, targeting specific muscle groups with 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps at 70-80% of 1RM for each exercise. Cardio finishers are included for the afterburn effect.

This phase lasts 4 weeks and focuses on building maximal strength. Workouts during this phase would include heavy, compound exercises with lower reps (6-8 reps) at 80-90% of 1RM, with extended rest periods. Cardiovascular training would be minimal during this phase.

This phase lasts 4 weeks and focuses on explosive power and speed. Workouts during this phase include plyometric exercises, functional exercises and Olympic lifts with 4-6 sets of 10-12 reps at 70-80% of 1RM. Cardiovascular training comes in the form of post circuit shadowboxing or weapons drills.

This phase lasts 1-2 weeks and focuses on recovery and active rest. Workouts during this phase would include light cardio and mobility exercises to help the body recover and prepare for the next cycle of training.

More on Gladiatores Training

Click on the links below for an insights into this combat systems history, principles, influences and to see the benefits of training in the Roman world.

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