Intriguing Milo of Croton Story Progressive Training

Milo of Croton

Intriguing Milo of Croton Story Progressive Training

When we think about Milo in the Philippines, we may think of this.

Milo logo with Afro-Haired Rio Dela Cruz


But the real story of Milo of Croton Began in Ancient Greece. In the 6th Century BC, there was a wrestler from the city of Croton in the South of Greece.

Milo was a six-time athletic victor at the Ancient Olympic Games held every four years; he won the boy’s title and then the men’s title for 20 years.

He also won seven crowns at the Pythian.

How to Build Muscle Like Milo of Croton

It is said that Milo of Croton built his incredible strength through a simple but profound strategy.
One day, a newborn calf was born near Milo’s home.
The wrestler decided to lift the small animal and carry it on his shoulders.
The next day, he returned and did the same.
Milo continued this strategy for the next four years, hoisting the calf onto his shoulders each day as it grew until he was no longer lifting a calf but a four-year-old bull. [3]

The core principles of strength training are encapsulated in this legendary tale of Milo and the bull.

Milo of Croton: Strength Training: The Core Principles

“When you first start to study a field, it seems like you have to memorize a zillion things. You don’t. What you need is to identify the core principles – generally three to twelve of them – that govern the field. The million things you thought you had to memorize are simply various combinations of the core principles.”
—John T. Reed


Conflicting ideas fill the health and fitness industry with unnecessary complexity and thousands of experts.
If anything I’ve learned during ten years of strength training, mastering the fundamentals is more valuable than worrying about the details.

For example, let’s discuss three core principles of strength training hidden in Milo and the bull’s story.

Here they are.


1. Start too light: Focus on the volume before intensity.

Did Milo try to lift a full-grown bull on day one?

Of course not.

He began with a newborn calf.

Given his wrestling prowess, it is very likely that this was a weight that was easy for him.

It works the same way for you and me.

When you begin strength training, you should start by lifting something easy.

It is only by focusing on volume, repetition, and easy weights at the beginning that you build the capacity to handle heavier weights later on.


2. Don’t miss workouts.

Did Milo try to lift a full-grown bull on day one? 

Of course not. 

He began with a newborn calf. 

Given his wrestling prowess, it is very likely that this was a weight that was easy for him.

It works the same way for you and me.

 When you begin strength training, you should start by lifting something easy.

 It is only by focusing on volume, repetition, and easy weights at the beginning that you build the capacity to handle heavier weights later on.


3. Increase in small ways.

Every day, Milo of Croton calf grew just a little bit an ounce here, a pound there, and yet, these tiny gains added up to very significant weight in a relatively short amount of time.

It works the same way in the gym. 

Do you think you could squat one more pound this week than you could last week? 

Most people probably could. 

Adding just one pound per week for two years, you could be squatting 100 pounds more than you are today. 

How many people do you know squatting 100 pounds more today than they were two years ago? I don’t know many.

Tiny gains add up fast. Average speed can take you far if you keep walking. 

The bar’s weight should grow like a calf in a field: slowly, gradually, reasonably.


Milo of Croton Military Career

milo of Croton in battle

About 510 BC, hostilities arose between Croton and nearby Sybaris when Telys, a Sybarite tyrant, banished Sybaris’s 500 wealthiest citizens after seizing their property. 

When the displaced Sybarites sought refuge at Croton and Telys demanded their return, an opportunity for the Crotoniates to destroy a powerful neighbor presented itself.

 In an account that appeared five hundred years after the event, Diodorus Siculus wrote that the philosopher. 


Pythagoras, who spent much of his life at Croton, urged the Croton assembly to protect the banished citizens of Sybaris; deciding to do so was made and aggravated the dispute between the two cities, each took up arms, and Milo led the charge against Sybaris.

According to Diodorus (XII, 9):


“One hundred thousand men of Croton were stationed with three hundred thousand Sybarite troops ranged against them. Milo the athlete led them and through his tremendous physical strength first turned the troops lined up against him.”


According to Diodorus, Milo led the battle against the Sybarites. He wrote his Olympic crowns, a lion skin, and wielded like the hero Heracles a club.

Milo of Croton was an Olympic Champion ‘Periodonikes’ five times.
Ancient Greece held the Olympics every four years.
He competed at a high level for about 24 years. His appearances included Games at Delphi (one as a boy), ten at the Isthmian Games, and nine at the Nemean Games.

Milo of Croton was defeated (or tied) in his attempt at a seventh Olympic title in 516 BCE by a young wrestler from Croton who practiced the technique of akrocheirismos—literally, ‘highhandedness’ or wrestling at arm’s length—and by doing so, avoided Milo’s crushing embrace. Simple fatigue took its toll on Milo.


Milo of Croton Death

Eighteenth-century engraving of a painting by Georges Georgian depicting the sixth-century Greek wrestler Milo of Croton being attacked by a lion. — Image by © Chris Hellier/Corbis


The Ancient Greeks typically attributed notable deaths to famous persons in keeping with their characters.

The date of Milo’s death is unknown, but according to Strabo (VI, 1, 12) and Pausanias (VI, 14, 8), Milo was walking in a forest when he came upon a tree-trunk split with wedges.
Displaying strength, Milo inserted his hands into the aperture to rend the tree.

The wedges fell from the gap, and the tree closed upon his hands, trapping him.

A modern historian has suggested it is more likely that Milo was traveling alone when attacked by wolves unable to escape; the wolves devoured him, and his remains were found at the foot of a tree.

Tudor Bompa touches base on Progressive Training in his interview on Periodization,


What would happen to someone’s body with the mythical diet of Milo of Croton?

Meat and bread are around 250 calories per 100g.
We can cut down a bit on that estimate since bread right now is way more easily digestible than bread in 600BC, not containing tiny bits of sand and all that.

Wine, in a similar way, was not what it is today. Cut with water, made from grapes low in sugar, the goal was to produce large quantities, not sugary quality.

But even rounding down a bit to account for lower quality of food, that’s about 40 000 calories.

A sumo wrestler eats about 20 000 calories per day.
Ordinary people going to the north pole can eat more than 8 000 calories a day.

So it still seems exaggerated, but maybe not that much. If he was huge, strong, and very active, he might have eaten as much as sumo or more.
Maybe that was not his daily diet, but just how much he once ate.



Progressive overload is nothing new the Ancient Greeks used the technique. However, it is a crucial fundamental of weight lifting that should incorporate into any program where the goal is to build muscle.



  1. http://jamesclear.com/milo
  2. wikipedia.com



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