Moments after he slices off a man’s face, Spartacus stops amid the battle and shouts to his fellow warriors.
"Enough!" he yells. "Is this what you are? Animals?"
Some of the time, yeah—they have to be. In this violent television series with the ratcheted-up subtitles (the third season, starting this month, is Spartacus: War of the Damned), Spartacus must encourage a certain level of beastly brutality just so his band of rebels can survive.
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As Spartacus, the Australian actor Liam McIntyre—dirtied, bloodied, steely of body and jawline—implores his men to do battle for their cause; they bang their swords against their shields in assent. It's clear he's a leader, the strongest of the strong.
As one warrior declares, "I. . .follow. . .Spartacus!"
Which leads to our question for you: Do you follow Spartacus?
We know you don't carry a sword or go to work nearly naked. (Please say you don't.) We mean: Is your body strong and functional so you can kick life's butt in whatever way is necessary? (See how fit you really are by taking these 7 Tests of True Strength.)
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In our new installment of the Spartacus workout series, we're providing you with a total-body battle plan that can lay waste to fat while building strip-to-the-waist muscle. The principles and exercises are the same ones used by McIntyre and his not-so-merry men. (Click here to try the New Spartacus Workout—now on DVD—for yourself.)
McIntyre, who turned 30 last year, is in his second season as the title character. (The original Spartacus from season one, Andy Whitfield, died of cancer in 2011.) McIntyre shows a lot of skin—hence the devotion to fitness.
"As a younger actor, my motivation may have been Do you want that job or don't you?'" McIntyre says. "Now it's 'Do you want to look like crap on film?'"
Women certainly appreciate the view, but this is television made for men: Lots of fighting and other stuff that starts with f (it's premium cable, after all—the Starz network). McIntyre and his cast-mates spend much of each episode twisting, lunging, thrusting. And then there are the fight scenes: Add stabbing, swinging, and kicking.
He recalls seeing the playback of a scene in which he astounded himself with a two-legged leap. "That's why we do such a full-body regimen," he says.
To prepare for shooting, McIntyre and the cast went through a "gladiator boot camp"—several weeks of overall fitness and conditioning workouts, along with training in the skills they would need on set. (During the season, because of the long days of shooting, McIntyre's workouts focus more on strength and size than on conditioning.)
"At first we needed to get up to speed with fighting ability, gymnastics, and body coordination," says Tyrone Bell, a stunt performer for the show and McIntyre's personal trainer.
All of that training changed McIntyre's physique, which took some getting used to.
"Now he's learned his body," Bell says. "He knows his body, and he's growing, he's agile, he's got it down pat. When last season finished up, he continued to work in the off-season, and he came back all ready—and definitely one of our fittest guys." (Which other A-listers are in their best shape, ever? Find out how your favorites ranked in our list, 100 Fittest Men of All Time.)
Bell says McIntyre's attitude helps: "He's very, very competitive. Whatever I lift, he attempts to lift," says Bell, who is also the head trainer and nutrition consultant for the entire cast. "He won't back down from anything."
Which is a good thing, being that Spartacus is the leader of a rebellion and all.
When the producers of the show first saw McIntyre, he had dropped a lot of weight for a previous film role. Still, they plucked him from the relative obscurity of mostly Australian TV and movies before they started shooting the second season, Spartacus: Vengeance.
Then they immediately sent him to the gym.
McIntyre quickly learned that maximum fitness demands variety—challenging, changing workouts—plus a small arsenal of equipment. McIntyre and the cast would do circuits, throw medicine balls, hoist sledgehammers, flip tires. Sometimes they'd do a downward progression, taking a circuit of exercises and doing 10 reps of each, down to 9, then 8, all the way to 1, and then finishing the final round with 10 reps of each.
And sometimes, they would do Dirty 30s.
A Dirty 30, to hear McIntyre describe it, is half an hour of hell, divided into three 10-minute segments, punctuated with nausea and ending in exhaustion.
But it's worth it, he says.