From skinny to Spartacus

January 14, 2013, 4:25 pmmenshealth

Adelaide actor Liam McIntyre faced a huge challenge when he won the role of Spartacus: to build a gladiator body from nothing. He did it. Now you can, too


Photo: Cody Pickens

WHEN LIAM MCINTYRE AUDITIONED FOR THE sand and sandals TV 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 aced the audition and the show’s makers put him at the top of their list, with one major caveat: come time to shoot, he’d better look the part of a fearsome rebel warrior. So he set out to rebuild his musculature. “It was a combination of mental and physical effort,” says McIntyre. “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 hit your own crunch time – be it beach holiday, school reunion or wedding day – you’ll be sure to look the part, too.

Want to get shredded like McIntyre? Torch fat with the Spartacus: Vengeance workout


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 certified strength and conditioning specialist Rachel Cosgrove. For example, you might set a goal of completing the 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?


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 four 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 realise 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.”


“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, nutritionist Alan Aragon recommends eating one gram of protein for every 450g of your target weight. So if you want to weigh 80 kilograms, you should eat 178g of protein a day.

Related: How much protein do you need?

Some men say that’s too expensive; others say they feel like they have to force-feed themselves. So aim for 0.7g of protein for every 450g, 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.


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, says certified strength and conditioning specialist and boot camp trainer BJ Gaddour. “The more people we have training together, the more energy, sweat and encouragement are in the room.”


McIntyre inherited his role as Spartacus from another Australian actor, Andy Whitfield, after Whitfield’s death in 2011 from 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 has survived cancer. “Put it in perspective. It’s not chemo. When you think about people fighting for their lives, it makes a workout seem like nothing.

“We owe it to people like Andy to bring our best to everything we do. And that includes taking care of our health.”

Get the full Spartacus: Vengeance workout here


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