Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 163 lbs
Body of Work: The Eye of the, Storm, Spartacus, McLeod’s Daughters
When there’s a casting call to portray one of the vamps or werewolves on HBO’s True Blood or a Roman soldier on Starz’ Spartacus, the aspirants know one thing: They’d better be jacked. When it came time to cast Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, a prequel to the original hit series, one winner emerged: Dustin Clare, an acclaimed Australian star making his U.S. TV debut. “Dustin turned up in pretty good shape,” says key stunt fight coordinator Allan Poppleton. “We just had to mold him to suit the ‘Spartacus Machine’—make him a little more lean and mean.”
“I always try to stay pretty fit and active,” Clare told MF. “When I’m not working, I weight train three times a week and swim and surf as much as I can —in the summer, you usually find me in the water.”
To transform Clare into a killing machine from the history books, Poppleton put him, as well as the cast’s other actors and stuntmen, through a three-week boot camp of rigorous cardio, weapons, fight training—and plenty of gym work. “We wanted to burn a lot of calories to reveal the actors’ abs, while also teaching them to realistically handle their weapons when it came time to film a fight scene,” says Poppleton.
Workouts began at 90 minutes each and progressed up to four hours a day, five days a week.
Each workout session began with what the crew called the “circle of death.” The group formed a circle, then lifted and tossed heavy sandbags and medicine balls to one another. Then came gymnastic moves, footwork drills, and sparring with swords, spears, and daggers. Each day ended with MMA-based conditioning circuits, including sled pushes, battling ropes (swinging a long rope up and down as fast as you can), kettlebell and sledgehammer swings, and tractor-tire flips. "The circuits usually lasted 30-40 minutes, and we got maybe two five-to-10-minute breaks over the whole four-hour session," says Clare. "Sometimes we even wore weighted vests to make the workout tougher."
To get truly lean, Clare also had to change the way he thought about food—particularly with regard to making smarter choices. Meals on set included lean meats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and an occasional indulgent dessert. "It really helped out the actors to have the right options readily available," says Clare. "It gives you a really big advantage over having to do it all on your own."
Once filming began, the Spartacus crew spent their downtime focusing on maintaining their gains. "After boot camp, it's really up to us to stay in shape," says Clare. "I weight train on Saturdays, and Sunday is a rest day. On set, we have a small gym set up with bars, kettlebells, sandbags, and a Swiss ball. Everything is extremely functional. We need to stay flexible and strong to do the kind of fighting we do on set."
Clare's favorite technique he's picked up while becoming a gladiator? "The 10 to One," he says. Pick eight to 10 exercises—one for every major muscle group—and do them as a circuit. Perform 10 reps the first time through and then rest 30 to 60 seconds. repeat for nine reps, then eight, and then so on down to one rep each. "You'll really burn, but int he best possible way. After all, if I'm not keeping fit, I'm not doing my job."
Which is being a lean, mean fighting "machine."