Top 10 Training Montages

Is this the definitive list of movie training montages? Check out our picks and be sure to let us know your absolute faves!

April 23, 2013

By Alex Zakrzewski, Online Editor

The training montage is in many respects a lost art of movie making that was honed to perfection during the action hero era of the 1980s. A well-edited training montage, set to the right pulse pounding soundtrack can motivate even the most sedentary of couch potatoes to at least attempt a push-up. Check out our list of top montages below and be sure to let us know your all-time favorites!

10. Rocky (1976)

Let’s start with the montage that started it all and one of the most memorable scenes in film history. Set to Bill Conti’s iconic “Gonna Fly Now”, Rocky’s blue-collar grit and determination is epitomized in his simple yet punishing workout that focuses on one thing – good old-fashioned American hard work!

9. Hard to Kill (1990)

In this 90s action classic Steven Seagal pulls a 50 Cent and survives a series of lethal gunshot wounds. After spending seven years in a coma, Seagal must overcome his crippling muscular atrophy to avenge his murdered family. Using a blend of conventional exercise and meditation, he painfully rebuilds himself into the baddest man ever to wear a ponytail.

8. Hero and the Terror (1988)

In this forgotten flick Chuck Norris plays a cop determined to catch a notorious serial killer known as “The Terror”. To prepare for this arduous task Chuck hits the gym hard. After all, it’s muscles that close murder cases not crime scene analysis or anything pertaining to actual police work. There’s not a lot to this sequence but at least Chuck demonstrates very proper form when performing upright rows.

7. Rocky II (1979)

Rocky prepares for his second bout with Apollo Creed by training the same gritty, no-nonsense way that worked so well the first time around. Interesting fact, the overhead/behind-the-neck press combo Rocky performs was originally called a Bradford Press after weightlifting champ Jim Bradford. However, following the film’s success, the move will forever be best known as Rocky Presses.

6. No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

After being visited by the ghost of Bruce Lee, mild-mannered Jason Stillwell trains himself into a karate master just in time to face a menacing Russian gangster (JCVD in one of his first roles) at a local martial arts tournament. The needlessly convoluted plot aside, this bit has all the key features that typify an 80s montage. Cheesy soundtrack, corny exuberance, jerry curl – yes, this sucker has it all!

5. Rocky Balboa (2006)

The final installment of the Rocky franchise is a fitting and poignant conclusion to one of Hollywood’s great underdog stories. After the debacle that was Rocky V, Stallone brings back all the old elements that made the first few installments so memorable. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the montage. Set once again to Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now”, Rocky trains like he did in his prime by lifting heavy weights, running really far and beating the crap out of dead cows.

4. Kickboxer (1989)

Along with Bloodsport (1988) Kickboxer established the “Muscles from Brussels” as one of the biggest action stars of the era. In this unforgettable sequence a supremely ripped Van Damme puts on a display of real life martial arts prowess and flexibility that is at times painful even to watch. The montage would arguably be perfect were it not for the piercing panpipes arrangement blaring in the background.

3. Rocky III (1982)

This time around, in order to outwork Clubber Lang in the ring, Rocky does away with his traditional routine of punching meat and chasing chickens and instead subjects himself to a cardio-intensive regimen of sprints, skipping and swimming. As we mentioned in our list of Top 10 Action Movie Physiques, Stallone prepared for this one by getting into his best shape ever, achieving a bodyfat percentage of just 2.8!

2. Pumping Iron (1977)

For those of us born after 1980 this seven-minute segment is the closest we’ll ever get to experiencing the “Golden Age of Bodybuilding”. While Arnold and Lou train their asses off in preparation for the 1975 Mr. Olympia, bodybuilding legends like Franco Columbu, Robby Robinson and Ed Corney look on encouragingly. Definitely required viewing for all young bodybuilders.

1. Rocky IV (1985)

Like the Mona Lisa, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony or Mario Bros. 3, the montage from Rocky IV is a defining masterpiece. Not only does it epitomize everything that was great about 80s action movies – including larger-than-life physiques and a synth-heavy soundtrack – it established the Italian Stallion as a Cold Warrior who fought for the values of democracy against a steroidal Soviet automaton. It also features Stallone performing some incredible feats of fitness including a set of barn loft sit-ups that would make even the toughest bodybuilder’s abs scream for mercy!

Bonus Montage! Team America: World Police (2004)

No spiel for this one. Just sit back and enjoy!