Review: Men’s Health’s Spartacus 2.0

This workout is intensive, as fun as a workout can be, challenging, and unique. It will build your cardiovascular and muscle strength simultaneously. It's one of my favorite workouts I've ever done. Photo from menshealth.com

Last year, Men’s Health helped facilitate the creation of an intensive weight-cardio combo workout for the actors on Starz’s one-stop sex and fightin’ shop Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The show…good??…, but the Spartacus workout was awesome. The goal of the workout was to provide a full-body workout the actors could fit into their shooting schedules that would shred their abs and keep them toned.

The workout was 10 different, complex exercises that you completed in a circuit. Each exercise took one minute (reps weren’t the important unit of measurement)–you completed the circuit three times. While you never did an isolated abs exercise, each exercise worked your abs (via planks, twists, and stabilization). I used the workout quite a bit and thought it a good compliment to my triathlon training.

Rachel Cosgrove, a trainer in Santa Clarita, Calif., and Adam Campbell, a Men’s Health editor, worked together on the Spartacus workout, and this year, the duo released a follow up: Spartacus 2.0.  It’s definitely as good as the first, and I think I like it better.

Unlike the first Spartacus, this version has you complete a circuit of five, four times (40 seconds instead of one minute, and with a two-minute break between circuits 2 and 3 ). Then, you move on to a different circuit of five. Like the first workout, you’re going to feel an extensive burn in your shoulders from all the plank positions required. This version works your glutes and hamstrings more than the first version, however, which helped rate this higher for me. I also felt more out of breath, which is a testament to its complexity, as well as it brevity of breaks.

I’m having hard time putting into words why I like this particular version better than the first, but I do. It definitely has a lot to do with what I wrote above. But I think I like the tempo as well. Plus, you start a whole new set of exercises half way through, which keeps antsy people like myself interested throughout.

Cosgrove, along with Men's Health writer Adam Campbell (who wrote Men's Health's Big Book of Exercises, and also received a degree from my alma mater) created this workout. If someone who looks like this created this beast, and also says it "kicked her ass," then I'll trust this workout to help me achieve my supreme fitness goal. Photo from figureathlete.t-nation.com

I like this workout so much, I’ve decided to alter my current workout schedule to do this more often. When you’re done, you’re done. Your whole body has been targeted, your heart is thumping, and your lungs hurting. All this is good if you’re honestly attempting to get into shape.

It should be noted this workout won’t pack on pounds of muscle. It will definitely put on some, but it will create lean muscle and burn fat like a champ. So if you’re looking to add lots of strength and size, this workout isn’t for you. If you’re looking to sharpen the edges and add moderate strength and size, start this immediately.

Another negative (for some people) is this exercise doesn’t really do a lot for your biceps. I would say they are the least targeted muscle in this workout. Personally, this isn’t a problem. For whatever reason, my typically hard-to-add-muscle body does not have problems growing biceps. If I work them out too hard, I get self conscience that I look out of proportion. This is doubly true given my calves are probably my hardest muscle to grow.

One challenge of this workout is knowing what weight to use. I’ve done this a few times, and for me, 25 lbs dumbbells worked on all the weighted exercises, minus the Rotational Dumbbell Straight-Leg Deadlift, which I used a 10 lbs dumbbell.

This workout will challenge your core, balance and stamina, but will also cut up your fat. Give it a shot and stick with it.

Let’s talk about my balls for a second

There is a take-away from this story, I promise

Listen, I’m not going to wear floral-patterned board shorts with my goggles and swim cap when I do my swim workout. If I was competing in a beer bong race, or worst sunburn competition with every guy on SPRING BREAK!!! I would consider it. But I’m not, so I won’t.

When I swim, and hop in and out of the pool to do my various resistance exercises, I’m wearing a near-knee length, blue Speedo. I’m not wearing a mankini of any kind; but standard racing shorts for a guy with hairy thighs.

This is my swimsuit, dry. When it gets wet, LOOK OUT.

The thing is this: this Speedo is extra suction-y. It fits like skin on top of my skin, but only when it gets wet, which is every time I wear it. And when I’m out of the pool, on a mat doing squat-thrusts and crunches, not only does this Speedo leave little to the imagination, you can view little-to-the-imagination in action.

This is one of the reasons I like to book pool lanes when no one is around. I can be less self-conscience and just work out.

So, the other day when I walked into the room where the pool is and saw about 10 kids taking swimming lessons a few lanes over with all their mothers and fathers watching on, I considered rather I wanted to carry on with what I knew was going to be a shit show. I almost stumbled from my knee-jerk reaction. So many confused children. So many mothers judging, for better or worse. So many fathers considering shielding their wives’ eyes.

I momentarily hoped some rule-breaking gym rat would be in my lane and force me to go do anything else away from what the wandering, judging eyes. So much judging.

Nope. Just me, the kids, their parents, and my ever-present balls and what-nots bouncing around as I jumped in and out of the pool and did plyometric push-ups.

“Screw it, I’m going in.” I had the mentality of a D-Day soldier, only I was less worried about Nazis and bullets, and more worried about stares and my shrink-wrap effing Speedo. I would buy new ones, but these things are freaking expensive.

I gotta tell ya, the second I started swimming I wasn’t thinking at all about those little bastards or wondering if their moms wanted to live out some kind of swimming lesson fantasy, or worse–if they didn’t.

I did my workouts with no regard for human innocence. I was in the zone. I was having one of my better workouts, in all reality.

That is until I started my bicycles (the ab workout where you rapidly twist your torso to hit your elbows on your knees while your legs move in a pedaling motion). Hands on the back of my head, elbows wide, chin tucked to my chest, butt and knees in the air and rotating…

Have you ever watched professional or collegiate track on TV? You know when you see the head-on shot of sprinters running right into your living room? You’re watching the race to see who wins, but in that shot all you can think is, “GOOD. LORD! Look at that thing!”

…So there I am doing my bicycles.

“Oh come the fuck on!”

I became the witness judging, watching the goods just going wild.

“This Speedo is like Smurf body paint!”

That was it, my workout was officially dead. I tried to rally. I attempted to sort of block that particular area from the audience and myself with a stray hand, trying to make it look like that was a natural position for my workout. It looked like I had a dislocated shoulder instead.

“Is everyone else seeing this?”

I whipped around to see if anyone was looking. Someone was, and someone else was doing something much worse. A little boy was hanging on the edge of the pool, startled and confused, with many questions he wanted to ask his father.

But then there was a mother sitting against a wall. God dammit.

She was staring straight at the ground with a clinched face that said, “Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look. I have children. They’re right there. Don’t look.”

Something strange happened right then. My mentality changed.

“Whatever.”

I went right back to work. Best workout of the year!

I promised a take-away, and here it is: I managed to workout, more-or-less naked, in front of witnesses–minus a quick lapse–and didn’t get too self-conscience about it.

If you’re new to a gym and worried because you’re not as strong as everyone else: “Whatever.”

Just go. I’ve lived through worse, and in the end no one will care what you did during your workout. The gym is no place for vanity (only for creating it).

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