Robert ‘Maximus’ MacDonald – 300 : Rise of an Empire


Robert “Maximus” MacDonald, the General Manager and Training Director at Gym Jones in Salt Lake City, Utah, is so confident that we all have the ability to transform into muscly Spartan warrior types – like the ones his Gym trained for the new movie ”300 : Rise of an Empire”- that he’s written up an online recipe to kick our workouts off!

300 : Warrior Challenge, kicking off late February, is a competitive challenge that encourages you to not only get into shape, but get as fit as Sullivan Stapleton from ”300 : Rise of an Empire” or Henry Cavill from “Man of Steel”. The winner will get to jet over to Utah to work alongside MacDonald at his exclusive gym, usually reserved for actors and athletes.

MacDonald, a tough cookie who competed and has been victorious in numerous fight competitions across North America including UFC 58, UFC 62, and Ultimate Fight Night 5, tells us what ingredients you need to participate in the 300 : Warrior Challenge.


You’re in Australia at the moment?
We are here for… We taught two two-day seminars. So, we did one last weekend in Perth and then we’re doing this one in Sydney, Saturday and Sunday.

And how did the idea for the 300 : Warrior Challenge come up?

The producers from down here that are putting on the challenge, they got in touch with us on email, and asked if it would be something we would be interested in doing. And it worked out that we would be actually in Australia during the time that they were working on this, and so just everything kind of fell in place together.

Great. And for the readers, can you just briefly explain how it works?

Okay. So, the challenge itself it starts on February 24th, and what it is, is there’s gonna be two two-week challenges that people can do. The first challenge is gonna be, what they’re calling a Warrior Level, and that’s gonna be for people that generally maybe trained at home or don’t have equipment. And the workouts are generally… I’m not gonna say they’re easy because nothing we do is easy, but they’re solely… They’re less challenging than what people do at the Elite level.

So, you’ve got the Warrior level and you’ve got the Elite Level. They’re both two training plans where people would train five days, Monday through Friday. They have the weekend off. They go Monday to Friday and weekend off, and then, each workout program ends with a challenge. And people will do a fitness challenge depending on what level they’re at. And then, the people that are the Elite Level, they can video submit them doing the challenge, and the winner is gonna win the opportunity to come to Salt Lake City to train with us at Gym Jones for three days for an intensive camp that’s similar to what the actual camp.

So us commoners get a chance to see what actors are put through, which is…

Society today has a tendency to look at movies or look at somebody that got in shape and they automatically assume that somebody used drugs or they had some type of magic formula or some type of equipment or the CGI because we hear that a lot.

When we train people and I could use Henry Cavill from Man of Steel for example with this, but there were plenty of people that I can use from 300, the first movie, and also the sequel, prequel Rise of an Empire, we train people to be athletes. We don’t just train people for looks. We train them to have real genuine horsepower so their fitness emanates from the inside out. So, the blanket answer would be we will do whatever it takes, whatever is necessary to get the person to that level, and obviously, different actors coming in different levels or different fitness levels. You can get one actor that comes in fairly fit, you can get one actor that comes in that’s not so fit, but there were a lot of actors that were doing two workouts a day, sometimes, once in the gym and then once doing their own stunt work, especially in the movie 300. There’s a lot of stunt work involved.

So, we were doing two gym sessions with them a day because the rest of their day was taken up sword fighting, throwing spears, doing all this stuff that they had to do which is very physical work. But the actors go through a full regimen, a full training program, that’s gonna be similar to what two two-week plans are along with a big part of… Big part of the equation is also sleeping eight to 10 hours a night, eating healthy, watch what they do, all of the supportive stuff that allows them for that type of training quality.

Obviously, if you’re getting hired for movie like 300, you’re pretty fit in the first place, right?

Yeah. I mean, you should come in fit, but I mean we’re always surprised that people that come not prepared. I mean if I knew, even at my fitness level right now, if I knew I was going to some, for lack of a better word, boot camp for the next four weeks, I’d be working as hard as I could right now.


Boy, it doesn’t… I have a high fitness level, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

No. And I know that actors generally do hear that they might be getting a role in such a film, they will pretty much buckle down and get right into it. I just reading actually something with one of the young actors that might be up for the Fantastic Four, and he was just saying if he gets this movie or even if he doesn’t, I better start working out now just in case!

Well, it’s pretty incredible. We were talking this morning and one of the reasons why, and people I think discount this, one of the abilities that a good actor has is the ability to throw themselves in a role.


And it’s pretty incredible what people can do in four weeks, two weeks, a month, six weeks, three months, six months, if you’re truly dedicated and throw yourself into it. A problem that we say with people is there’s always an excuse. I don’t have time, I have kids, I’m married, I’m busy, I have a job, I’m tired at the end of the day of work. But if you really just give it an honest try, you show up for an hour a day and you work really hard and then watch what you eat, it’s incredible to see what can happen. And what you’ll see with these people, they throw themselves into a role and they’re completely dedicated for three months. But it’s pretty shocking and that’s where those “shocking transformations” come from. It’s not magic, it’s old fashioned hard work and elbow grease. It’s just someone who’s committed for that period of time.

You mentioned Henry Cavill before – the new Superman. What a transformation he made! He’s super huge!
Well, and I will tell you with Henry that I would put him against any other actor on the planet right now in a fitness test, and I’d put money on the fact that he’d win. He is not just… He doesn’t just look good, he is a fit human being.

Yeah, wouldn’t surprise me.

And it was a pleasure to work with him. He was in Salt Lake City over Christmas, but a pleasure to work with him because he just works hard. No excuses. He shows up, he does what he has to do. He challenges himself and he goes home. There was a couple of times in Salt Lake City where he was my workout partner and I gotta tell you, a lot of people disappoint me when they train with me, he didn’t disappoint me in the least. In fact, he impressed me. And so, a guy like that who… He looks that way for a certain reason, it’s because he bought into it. He bought into the training, he bought into our philosophy, he did what was needed to be done, and that’s what happens.

Wow! So, were you working on… Was it for Superman or…

No. Mark worked with Henry. Mark Twight and Michael Blevins worked with Henry. Henry came in December because it’s over Christmas and to show you the type of dedication that Henry has, he came in over Christmas because he knew he was going to start shooting the movie Batman vs. Superman and start training for the movie in January. So he wanted to come in December to continue his training. He didn’t wanna take time off at Christmas.

Wow! That is dedication, isn’t it?

Yeah. He was there over Christmas and New Year’s and that’s what he did. He didn’t go home to England and party. He didn’t do all the things that I suppose a normal person would have done. He said, “I’m not gonna take a Christmas break off, I wanna be as good as I can be,” and he came to see us.

Wow! Is he fitter than he usually is now or is he even bigger?

Yeah. His fitness… I would say that his fitness is progressing every single day. And not just in terms of looks, but also in terms of what I call real, genuine horsepower. I think people, even in the exercise world, would be shocked with what he can actually lift, what he can actually do. The things he is capable of. He doesn’t just look good. It’s actual real, genuine fitness which is really nice.

Have you got a busy slate this year?

Well, yeah. Well, we worked on 300: Rise of an Empire and obviously working with the actors has come to an end. But the promotional period for that is just picking up now. So, with projects like this and… Which we’re really excited to do, and then our own website, we’re gonna be putting some stuff on our website about the movie and various things like that, we’re busy but we’re right into working into the next phase of Man of Steel. Man of Steel 2 is being a filmed. And we’re also working with the girl who’s gonna be Wonder Woman. So, we’ve got fairly a busy year and last year was fairly busy too. And you know it’s not just the actual time that’s spent training people. It’s all the promotional stuff that comes along with it and the interviews… The interviews, the TV stuff, all that stuff will make sure a busy scheduled, but being busy when you have your own business, it’s a good problem to have.

And I imagine that the publicity and all that would be great for you guys too, especially tied to these huge movies, attract more and more clientele?

Well, absolutely, but we’re not interested in getting clientele for the actual gym. In our gym, there’s only about 40 people that train there on a day-to-day basis. We fancy ourselves as elitists and we fancy ourselves as exclusives and not everybody’s allowed to train there. In terms of our… We have an online website and we teach seminars and, yeah, because of the promotion, that would get busier and we would sell more of those type products. But the biggest thing for us is we’re genuinely proud of the people that we work with, and they happen to be people in these movies and I gotta tell you, we’re damn proud when we see people that we’ve worked with really accomplish something.

So, we watch a movie I guess from a different perspective. “I’m gonna watch 300: Rise of an Empire and see how good the various actors look.” And when you watch Man of Steel, you see how good Henry looks, it’s very… I’m very proud of them. Not proud of what we’ve done, I’m proud of them for doing the hard work and just really doing something that I consider special and remarkable because there’s plenty of movies I’ve seen where there’s been actors come in that haven’t lived up to task. That haven’t done the hard work. So when you watch the original 300, was I think the movie that really sticks in people’s minds with the levels of fitness that you’re gonna see in this movie to the level of fitness people have, it’s pretty incredible what people do to entertain others. And I’m very proud of the work they put in because I know how hard it is, the work they’ve done.

It inspires you yourself basically to get out there, seeing what these actors can do. And I guess that’s a big thing too, a big reward for you guys, seeing that people kinda rush out and go, “I can do… If they can do this, I can do this,” and really get into shape. Good for everyone.

And that’s a part of this challenge with these classes. I think a lot of people, they just don’t know what to do. When you’re sitting in that home, and you wanna be fit, you’re motivated, but you just have no idea of what to do, and I think that’s the first step where people fall apart. For example, I know I’m a new homeowner and I bought a home, and there’s things I’d like to do to my house, but I just don’t know how because I didn’t grow up with a dad who taught me how to do plumbing, who taught me to do electricity. And it’s pretty simple when you get down to it, but that is the barrier where it’s like to change this light, I don’t know how. This light is good enough.

I think that’s what happens to people with fitness where just don’t know what to do. So part of this goal is not just to challenge, it’s not just submitting your video and try to win a prize. It’s okay you’re motivated, you wanna do something. First of all, you’re capable of doing it, you just have to show up. I always say show up, don’t quit, and ask some questions and try to learn. If you do those three things, you’re really gonna benefit, you’re gonna progress, but it’s… Everyone does this. There’s actors that aren’t necessarily fit coming in that make incredible transformations. They just try and they have a bit of guidance. So, like I said, the goal is to truly plan this, to give people that guidance, and to give them opportunity to really get a jump start on the fitness. And I think our hope would be that someone’s not just gonna do two weeks and then fall of the wagon.

I would like people to adopt this kind of lifestyle, if you will, and try the two weeks, and realize that it’s not that hard if you show up and put in some honest effort and they can do it, then maybe they looks towards the resources. They maybe go to the Warrior level plan and they say, “Hey, you know what? I’m gonna do the Elite level plan as well.” Then maybe they’ll say, “I’m gonna repeat them. Maybe I’m gonna go to the Gym Jones website and I’m gonna look for more.” I would love for this to kinda have the effect that people really have some type of meaningful change and incorporate this in their life.

Look, it sounds like a brilliant, brilliant incentive anyway, and a brilliant program in getting involved in here. And a nice tie-in with 300 of course too, so it will bring even a bigger crowd, I would say.

Yeah. I really hope so, I hope people really jump on board and start doing stuff because at the end of the day, you could… I don’t know if you’ve been to our website, but we can come across harsher times, and people think that all we do is train everyday and we’re meatheads, you know, the standard, I suppose, gym persona. But at the end of the day, we just want people to be better. And the incredible thing for us, especially working with the actors is when we do get really fit, and I’m talking genuine true horsepower, as I’ve said before, confidence increases, seriously. You can sense it through the actual… You can sense that in that person. It’s incredible how things change for them. They walk a better posture, they hold their head higher, they believed in themselves more.

And when somebody really gets fit, when you look at the 300 movie, some of those people are so fit, they believe when they’re in that movie that they’re actual Spartan warriors. They believe they are actually… They’re not just acting, and not just putting on a costume and pretending, they believe they’re actually capable of what they’re doing. And I think that’s why the success of the first movie was so incredible was people could watch that movie, you get that, you can feel that carpet, and sort of feel that through the movie screen when someone actually believes in themselves. And so for something like this for the person at home, it’s incredible for me to watch a… Whether it be a housewife or a watch normal person, a businessman, how this training, how getting fit can positively affect the rest of their life.

So I would want people not just to get two weeks of working out. I would want them to get all of that benefit as well, and you’re gonna be fortunate enough to get how-to videos, a plan that’s all laid out for you, all you have to is show up and try your best. It’s sounds hokey and corny, but that’s really all you have to do.
300: Warrior Challenge will start Feb 21

300: Rise Of An Empire will release in Australian cinemas on 6th March 2014