Best Training Montage

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The fitness nerd in me loves watching sports…not necessarily to root for a team, but rather I appreciate athletic effort along with seeing athletes accelerate, jump, and perform other feats of performance. I know, weekends at my house are a real hoot. But I also love watching a good movie, and there’s something special about seeing a character go through a training program to become the hero of the story.

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Now, I never tell anyone to go to Hollywood for training advice. In fact, you should run the other way anytime you see a tabloid or listen to an actor or musician explain their training routine. However, some of these movie scenes can get you pretty fired up and even ready to train hard. Yes, some of them are a little far-fetched, and even ridiculous, but it’s Hollywood – it’s supposed to be nonsense!

Without any further ado, here are some of my personal favorite training montages. They appear in no particular order…

Bloodsport (1988, Jean Claude Van Damme)
Ah yes, Jean Claude Van Damme, aka JCVD. The man known as Muscles from Brussels was the action star of the early 90’s. This guy deserves royalties from Tae Kwon Do studios world-wide, because every guy wanted to bust out his signature jump spin-scissor kick. You did need to be able to do the splits and understand the fact that the kick would never work in the real world, but it didn’t stop plenty from trying it out.

Getting to the training montage: Van Damme plays a disciplined student focused on winning a deadly tournament. He submits himself to getting whacked with a stick, sparring, and trying to hit as many scenes as possible without wearing a shirt. Can you catch a goldfish with your bare hand while blindfolded? I didn’t think so. Absurdity aside, you have to appreciate his character going from young punk to a disciplined and mature adult thanks to his training. Van Damme’s character goes through the gauntlet of paying his dues in order to achieve the ultimate feat: winning a prized tournament in honor of his master.

G.I. Jane (1996, Demi Moore)
I’m not sure what made more headlines: Demi Moore playing a female lead who attempts to become a NAVY Seal, or the fact that she shaved her head for the role. It’s with that shaved head that Demi proceeds to bust out some pulls ups, dips, and even tries a one armed push up! She garnered national attention with the look of her physique and ushered in the era of strong is sexy. She also got into a bare knuckle fight with a NAVY Seal, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

Karate Kid (1984, Ralph Macchio)
Okay, we’re talking the real Karate Kid here, not that awful remake featuring Will Smith’s kid. Let’s just be clear on that. Anyway, the legitimate version was the ultimate in learning self-confidence, as Daniel Larusso feels completely lost: he’s moved across country with his mom and is getting terrorized by a group of guys who like to ride ATV’s, play beach soccer, and practice karate. And you thought you had problems. But you have to love the fact that Daniel Larusso’s teacher, the famous Mr. Miyagi, doesn’t try to rationalize with the bullies and doesn’t try to soften Daniel. Instead he puts up a challenge where Daniel needs to enter a tournament in order to be left alone by the bullies. In the process, Daniel learns self-respect, discipline, confidence, and a devastating crane kick that requires your opponent to stand exactly in one spot and not move while you set the kick up. There’s the classic wax on, wax off stuff, where Mr. Miyagi makes Daniel earn the Karate lessons by paying his dues through various jobs of manual labor. The movie is a classic but stop after you watch the second one: the third installment just doesn’t have the same feel once Macchio has a massive growth spurt and is walking around at 6’3” and 150 pounds.

Rocky (Various sequels, Sylvester Stallone)
The world champion of training montages, there was never a challenge that wasn’t defeated by Rocky Balboa. Regardless of your favorite version, Rocky did it all. He switched trainers, lifted weights, ran up mountains, sprinted on the beach, and even grew a pretty sweet beard while training old school in Russia. Our personal favorite was actually the sixth version, titled Rocky Balboa. Yes, Stallone was an old man but he sure did rock the training. The montage went back to the old school soundtrack and featured Stallone throwing around some pretty big weight with squats, deadlifts, and cleans. One could argue that there’s some validity in the training because Stallone does some work with chains, which has actually been proven to help weightlifters increase the speed in which they lift a bar. It’s pretty hard to watch these movies and not getting just a little pumped up during the training montage.

So there you have it: some movies with excellent training montages, getting UEFP’s recognition for their promotion towards training and what it can do for you mentally. Notice there were no water aerobics, BOSU ball calisthenics, or stupid gimmicks? Nope, just real training that works (including catching a fish with your bare hands!).

Next time you feel a little sluggish and might feel like skipping out on a training session, maybe pop one of these movies in and see what happens.


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