by Tony Gjokaj July 06, 2021 5 min read

Reforged takes a lot of its inspiration from many civilizations of old. We believe that the warrior's spirit of those times were truly admirable ones: warriors required a lot of courage, strength, discipline, and a high resilience towards fear to overcome what needed to be done.

A lot of this have ties over to our brand, and our way of life today.

While we don't encounter battles like ones in the past today, many of us use competition or sports to compete with the same energy and valor.

At Reforged, we believe anyone can be a warrior in their specific sport or exercise mode of choice. However, we prefer to train like athletes through the pursuit of strength.

We believe absolute and relative strength helps you become in-tune with more than just your body: it dives into your mind and spirit.

Today's post will be a fun one: we dive into how gladiators trained, and the methods you can use to provide a more epic style of training - just like a gladiator would.

Let's get after it!

How Gladiators Trained

We don't really have much on exactly how gladiators trained in the past. However, much of their philosophies are kind of similar to some of ours today.

Specificity

Gladiators trained specifically for their sport, as most athletes and olympians do. Specificity was very important in the arena. Physical training was a mix of strength, power, and speed work for gladiators. They focused on a more "functional" style of fitness - in training a combination of various styles of training.

Sport specificity is a principle that says training should be done for the specific sport to produce a desired effect. For example, a powerlifter will focus on prioritizing the three big lifts, while doing ancillary exercises that help any inefficiencies in these three lifts.

Progressive Overload and Periodization

Gladiators did progressive overload and periodization in preparation for their sports and training, just like we do in sport.

Progressive overload is the pursuit of getting stronger in every training session, whether it's doing more reps, more sets, or even longer bouts of static holds.

Periodization is where you segment cycles of training based on our goals. For example, if our intention is to train for powerlifting, we will do separate phases of muscle growth, strength training, and power training to prime ourselves to perform better in our sport.

Combat and Calisthenics

Wrestling and Boxing

Gladiators practiced a lot of wrestling and boxing before they started training with weapons. They would train very similar to Greco-Roman styled wrestling.

Understanding how the body moved and functionality of our muscle groups allows us to train them properly. It even gives us a proper understanding on how to avoid injuries in specific areas.

Calisthenics

Gladiators trained in various movement patterns with lunges and rotational work. In regards to rotational work, they trained their core to improve mobility and strength.

They would also utilize calisthenic exercises alongside their resistance training with push ups, pull ups, squats, and more.

Halteraes and Sandbags

While not as popular as it is today, resistance training was popular among gladiators looking to break past limits.

Halteraes were the "dumbbells" that gladiators trained with in their times.

They would do things like lunges, jumps, and even overhead work with halteraes. In training with halteraes, they didn't necessarily focus on hypertrophy (muscle growth), they focused on doing high reps and trained for endurance more than anything.

Rest Days

Rest Days were not completely "loaf around days". They would participate in some form of "active rest", where individuals would train through light jogs or other steady state low-intensity cardio exercises.

Principles of Nutrition and Exercise

Nutrition was debated on constantly like it is today. Gladiators ate a lot of carbohydrates in the form of barley, wheat, dried figs, and more. They would also consume meat and cheese when they could, and would prioritize calcium.

For gladiators, there were very practical principles when it came to nutrition and exercise. Principles like pursue physical activity, eat well, train hard, and progressive overload were top priority.

We can keep it this practical and notice changes within our body overtime.

How We Can Train Like Gladiators

As you can see, gladiators trained in a more functional way... and I'm an advocate for this kind of functionality.

They not only trained strength and power, but they trained speed and agility as well. You can execute this in a combination of various sports or hybrid weightlifting through Strongman, Olympic Lifting, and more.

Strongman

Farmer's Walks are a common style of training that gladiators used to do for their grip strength, core stabilization, and more. I personally believe it's a necessity today practice "gait" movements like farmer's walks for this reason.

In addition to farmer's walks, gladiators would lift heavy stones like strongmen as well. 

Olympic Lifting

As mentioned previously, physical training was a mix of strength, power, and speed. These were needed for activities like javelin, discus, and more.

With their training, a lot of overhead work was fairly common. We can practice power in the form of olympic lifting exercises like the Power Clean, the Clean and Jerk, and more.

Cardio, Agility, and Balance

Gladiators focused on cardiovascular exercise with the intention to improve stamina for prolonged bouts. Some would climb rope to build stamina.

They would also train balance and agility as well, with hand-eye coordination exercise, swinging bag drills, and more. Plyometric work like jumping was utilized to improve their coordination as well.

Memento Mori

Lastly, they were trained on how to die - in a philosophical sense. They would live every day like it was their last - because their life could be easily taken.

Fate for them was unpredictable, but regardless... they did it for glory.

Be A Modern Gladiator

Ultimately, there are a variety of exercises and a hybrid training style that gladiators used to prepare for combat.

Today, a lot of martial artists will use a combination of strength, power, hypertrophy, and speed work to improve their conditioning and strength for their bouts in the ring.

Depending on your personal preferences and even what you may desire to compete in, we recommend specificity above all. For people who have certain deficiencies, specific exercises can be utilized to improve your training.

For example, I can pull heavy weight off the ground slowly (strength). However, I am not conditioned to pull heavy weight off the ground quickly (power).

So I must train for power.

To conclude, I wanted to give you some recommendations on exercises to do to build yourself up like a gladiator.

Here are some exercises that will help you build a powerful foundation:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Pull Ups
  • Bench Press
  • Power Cleans

Build power and strength in these exercises, and watch the gains pour in.

Any questions, comments, or other things you'd like to add to this post? Feel free to email us at support@reforgedperformance.com or direct message us on Instagram.

Until next time, Reforged Legion!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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