The transcript below is from the video “Spartan Training – Legendary Warrior Workout” by The Bioneer.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

This is Sparta… n… Training.  This is Spartan Training, 300 has to be one of the most over-the-top examples of pure machismo ever put to film.  What’s impressive is that the true story of the Spartans is possibly even more incredible.  It’s true for instance, that a single Spartan warrior was considered at the time to be worth several men of any other state and it’s true that 300 Spartan warriors really did manage to face-off against thousands of Persians and humiliate those armies with their superior combat skills.

Spartan warriors are the stuff of legend but in this case, the reality might actually be able to live up to the myth.  That said, there are also some common misconceptions surrounding Spartan training and it likely isn’t quite what you imagined.  So, the question is how did they train and what can we learn from them?  Unfortunately, we actually know relatively little about the specifics of Spartan training.  There are a few things we hold to be true, though.

It is commonly believed for instance, that newborn children considered too weak for combat would be discarded at birth to either die in the wilderness or demonstrate their ability to survive.  We know that training began at the age of seven when Spartan then would be entered into a kind of boot camp called the “Agoge.”  Here they would then be required to live and train among their peers in a culture of competition and teasing was encouraged.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

At the age of 12, Spartan boys would graduate and be considered youths, at which point, the training intensified.  Now, they’d be required to go barefoot.  This would not only toughen them up but would also help them to develop greater athleticism and agility, as a result of their lack of footwear.  We know today that there is a lot of truth to this that freeing your feet allows you to tap into greater proprioception, to anchor yourself to the ground, and even to increase flexibility by massaging the fasciae.

At the same time, they’re also given just a single thin cloak called a “Phoinikis.”  I have no idea if I’m saying that correctly, to wear come any type of weather.  Again, this was intended to toughen them up psychologically but it would also help them to adapt to extreme temperatures.  They could fight in the bitter cold or sweltering heat.  We’ve discussed the benefits of cold exposure on this channel, too.

It’s also said that they made their own beds by pulling reeds out of rivers by hand.  No doubt, great grip training.  Spartans would also only be given small amounts of food each day.  The aim was to keep them lean and hungry, and sufficiently motivated.  Moreover, if they wanted more food, they were encouraged to steal it.  Punishment was brutal if you were caught, but this taught cunning and foraging skills.  The punishment was not for stealing but for not doing it well enough not to get caught.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

The food they did receive was also unappetizing and included the likes of black broth, which is made from pig’s blood, though it did also contain some actual pork for protein.  We can safely assume then that Spartan warriors would have been a particularly ripped and lean bunch.  At the age of 20, they became full-time members of the Syssitia and Spartan army but continued to live in barracks.

They were not permitted to marry and become full-time members of Sparta until age 30.  We also know that Spartan women were encouraged to engage in physical exercise in order to encourage the birth of strong children.  There’s actually some scientific basis for this, if we consider the role of epigenetics.  Likewise, men were encouraged to choose women that would offer strong genetic stock.

A quote from Plutarch’s life of Agesilaos reads:  “According to Theophrastos, Archidamos was fined by the Ephors for marrying a short woman, ‘For she will bear us,’ they said, ‘not kings, but kinglets.”  This likely contributed to the notion that Spartans were particularly massive and this illusion of greater size was also encouraged by growing long hair.  All this points to a picture of an elite warrior culture of men, whose training began even prior to their conception and who had no choice, but to become incredibly mentally tough and resilient.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

The competitive and mean-spirited atmosphere ensured testosterone levels were high and the harsh conditions made them physically and mentally bulletproof.  It’s been said that the Spartans going into battle was actually more comfortable than their training.  So, that’s the ethos and the spirit of Spartan training but what about the actual practical application?  What about the sets and reps and exercise selection?

We have some reports of the physical training that Spartans underwent from sources such as Greek biographer and writer Plutarch, but these are generally regarded as being somewhat unreliable.  Plutarch for instance, was born during the mid-first century AD, a little late in the day.  Sparta ceased to be as we know it by around the mid-fourth century BC.  We know that from 12 onwards though, youth have learned survival skills such as foraging and camping.

We might also presume that a Spartan training program would incorporate weapons training and calisthenics, although there’s no concrete evidence to suggest this.  According to the historians over at the Askhistorians Subreddit, ancient Greeks made a sharp distinction between athletic training and the training of a warrior.  The theory here goes as we know today that an athlete requires a moderate amount of stress exposure to trigger an adaptation, but that they then are required to rest and recover and that this is just as important.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

The ancient Greeks knew of the importance of protein for building muscle and of rest, thus the diet and regimen of an athlete should be highly strict and consistent.  A warrior on the other hand needs to be able to survive on little food and endure extreme sleep deprivation.  From Plutarch’s The Life of Philopoemen:

“They told him and it was the truth that the habit of body and mode of life for athlete and soldier were totally different, and particularly that their diet and training were not the same.  Since the one required much sleep, continuous surfeit of food, and fixed periods of activity and repose, in order to preserve or improve their condition.  Which the slightest influence or the least departure from routine is apt to change for the worse; whereas the soldier ought to be conversant with all sorts of irregularity and all sorts of inequality, and above all should accustom himself to endure lack of food easily, and lack of sleep.

 On hearing this, Philopoemen not only shunned athletics himself and derided them, but also in later times as a commander, banished them from the army, all forms of them with every possible mark of reproach and dishonour on the ground that they rendered useless for the inevitable struggle of battle men who would otherwise be most serviceable.”

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

So, contrary to popular belief, Spartans weren’t actually covered in rippling muscle and they spent less time than average civilians of other cultures in the gymnasiums.  Successes following their battle at Thermopylae, then were largely down to the army’s reputation, along with practical decisions such as the fact this was the only Greek army known to be subdivided into platoon-sized units with their own officers and to march in step to fleets.

They understood manoeuvres such as wheeling and counter marching and commands could be passed down through the ranks, and they were decked in matching red and bronze uniforms that made them appear as a singular mass on the battlefield.  These seemingly basic features set the armies apart more so than their physical prowess.  A modern Spartan training program focusing on resistance training HIIT workouts and weapons training then would actually be inaccurate.

The training that Greek warriors actually underwent appears to have been more focused on gymnastics ability and agility.  Here is a quote from Nepos describing Epaminondas, the Theban commander, credits to Reddit user Epocrates for digging all this stuff up,

“After he grew up and began to apply himself to gymnastics exercise, he studied not so much to increase the strength as the agility of his body; for he thought that strength suited the purposes of wrestlers, but that agility conduced to excellence in war.  He used to exercise himself very much, therefore, in running and wrestling, as long as he could grapple and contend standing with his adversary.”

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

A quote from Aristotle’s politics explains meanwhile that Spartans incorporated laborious exercise, in the belief, that it would make their boys animal in nature and contribute to manly courage.  Some sports might have been incorporated into warrior training but specifically those that built the agility and an all-rounders body.  Wrestling is a likely candidate according to some sources, although not others, as is climbing and surprisingly dance.

Although, this shouldn’t be a surprise as many other warriors and athletes including Bruce Lee have made the connection between dance and improved proprioception.  It’s also more than likely that Spartan training would have utilized drills and challenges that directly related to the skills they used in combat such as marching long distances to build immense stamina.  So, we know very little of Spartan training but we do know enough to draw some basic conclusions.

Spartans did not train to build large muscle.  Raw strength was actually considered relatively unimportant.  One report, Xenophon’s Agesilaus suggested that the Hoplites, the civilian units, actually had superior physiques.  Instead, what really set them apart was their military training and more so, their psychological and physical resilience.  They were agile, fierce, and unyielding.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

Training in the cold barefoot, ripping weeds out of the ground with your hands – that will turn you into a truly formidable opponent.  Throw in some gymnastics training, undying loyalty to your troops, and a never-say-die attitude and it’s no wonder that the Spartans were feared for so many years.  There are definitely things we can learn from this type of training.  Our modern lifestyles have made us incredibly soft by comparison.

If you want to train more like a Spartan, then train outdoors.  Take your top off and get cold and wet, training barefoot and pull up things with bare hands.  If you want to see a Spartan training inspired workout program that you can use, then head over to the Bioneer.com where I’ve just uploaded something you can try out.  I’ll leave the link in the description down below.  Keep in mind though that there are also some deficits in Spartan training and to view them as these perfect warriors would be a bit disingenuous.

It’s been suggested that the Theban’s victories over the Spartans in the fourth century B.C. might have been a result of the greater time that the former spent in the gymnasiums, wrestling and exercising.  These guys might have benefited from a bit of extra resistance training.  So as Bruce Lee would say, “We should absorb what is useful and disregard the rest.”  So, I hope you found this video useful and interesting guys!

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki AKA “The Bioneer,” YouTube Channel, Vlog about fitness, bodybuilding, productivity, flow states, psychology, technology, transhumanism, working online, martial arts, parkour and more):

If you did, then please leave a Like.  Please Share it around.  That helps me out immensely.  Let me know in the comments down below, if there’s anything I missed and also let me know if there are any other examples of historical training that you’d like me to take a look at – any other historical warriors.  I’ve got lots more coming up in future videos.  I’ll be looking at the Wim Hof method.  I’ve got one coming up on How to Asses a Health Study.  If that all sounds good, then thanks a ton for watching and I’ll see you next time.  Bye for now!




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