The Top Training Scenes From Movies, TV and Anime

By on January 24, 2018

I firmly believe that a training scene can improve pretty much any film or TV series. Pride and Prejudice? Would have been ten times better with a good training scene.

When done right, a training scene or montage can be incredibly motivating. We see our favourite on-screen heroes go through gruelling regimes that test them mentally and physically and push them to superhuman heights. We get inventive new training ideas, and pretty much an entire character arc or heroes journey crammed into a few minutes of sweating and grunting. Very often this is combined with a rocking soundtrack and superhero-worthy soundtrack and the result is a perfect shot of inspiration that’s more effective than any pre-workout.

With that in mind then, let’s break down some of the best training scenes in movies, TV and anime and what makes each one so great.

Rocky Balboa

You’re going to see the Rocky films appearing on this list a lot… and that’s exactly as it should be!

The training scene in Rocky Balboa is short and it may not be an instant classic. But the reason I love it personally, is that it shows us that at his ripe age Rocky (and Stallone) has still got it. Seeing him train his way out of old age and retirement to overcome even greater odds than usual is epic and incredibly moving and the slow-burn nature of the film up to that point makes it all the sweeter. I love it when we see a hero broken down and taken to their lowest ebb, only to come back just as strong as before.

As for the training methods themselves, we see a lot of more modern, functional techniques (hammering tyres, squatting, kettlebells). It ends with his ascent up the steps,

The Matrix

The first Matrix film was incredible for so many reasons. This is one of the films that got me into martial arts and this scene is one of the big reasons why.

It’s pretty different too. Neo learns kung fu in an instant via a plug on the back of his head (they don’t have Bluetooth in the Matrix) and so instead, it’s his ability to let go of his mental restraints that is being tested. Cue an awesome fight scene between superhuman martial artists, directed by the legendary Yuen Woo Ping.

Drunken Master

Drunken Master is one of the classic films that launched Jackie Chan’s career and it happens to showcase some of the creative awesome training methods put on film. From balancing on large buckets while filling them with water, to being controlled like a puppet, to crushing nuts, to performing some pretty wicked hanging sit ups. An of course it ends with Jackie’s demonstration of the Drunken fighting style! Jackie’s films from this era were often filled with long scenes of him practicing martial arts forms and it’s a testament to his sheer physicality that this is so entertaining.

Arrow

It is my firm belief that there should have been more superhero training scenes on this list. As it is, there aren’t as many as you might think (honourable mention to Batman Begins in this respect). The training in the Arrow almost makes up for that though. Steven Amell is in incredible shape and appears to do this kind of training for real. It began with the classic Salmon Ladder scene and he’s been outdoing himself with inventive bodyweight and functional since then. Amell is so badass that he took part in American Ninja Warrior and did incredibly well.

Want to learn more about training like Steven Amell and Arrow? Well then, check out the full video on the subject on this very channel!

Kickboxer

Jean Claude Van Damn took a pretty decent stab at the training scene with both Bloodsport and Kickboxer. While the films are pretty similar, Kickboxer has the more impressive montage, showcasing Jean Claude’s insane flexibility and high kicking ability. Highlights include roundhouse kicks performed under water, torturous leg stretching devices and repeated shin kicks against bamboo trees – a real training method used by Muay Thai Kickboxers! It ends with a coconut being thrown from a tree onto his abs and a cheesy one liner. Perfect.

Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow

While Drunken Master is undoubtedly better-known, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow is actually my favourite classic Jackie Chan kung-fu movie. It features just as many awesome inventive training moments: more bowls of water (and eggs), a crazy-good V-sit, more actual martial arts and a little less gurning.

I’m a huge fan of this film in general and it’s one of the reasons I started training and martial arts. That, and the interest of my step granddad who had me doing all kinds of similar things when I was a teen – from snatching coins from my own forearm to doing sit ups with sticks behind my head. Yep, for a few years I was pretty much living in an anime. Which was awesome, of course!

Mulan

One thing you’ll notice in many of these scenes is just how awesome the music often is. Donny Osmond’s ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ from Mulan has to take the cake.

“We must be swift as the coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon. With all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon.”

Fun fact: Jackie Chan actually sung a Cantonese version of this song!

The animation is great and it’s an uplifting scene where Mulan is not only developing the strength and speed she needs, but also winning the respect of her colleagues.

Honourable mention to Hercules, which takes a lot of inspiration from Rocky… and Superman actually. That’s a pretty cool combo.

Rocky 3

This scene from the Rocky franchise is iconic for all sorts of reasons. Stallone was in absolutely incredible shape at the time, Apollo proved to be an awesome training buddy/coach and of course there’s the ridiculous ending where they leap around in the sea. And the crop top. Only in the 80s!

The bulk of the training focusses on Stallone’s speed, rhythm and footwork which makes it a little different; along with overcoming the fear that’s holding him back with a little help from Adrian.

Never Back Down

Never Back Down is a cheesy movie that is basically what  But the thing is… it’s actually pretty awesome – the training montage especially so. The soft rock ‘False Pretense’ fits the training scenes perfectly and there are some creative training methods on display here – such as using a ladder for monkey bars, kettlebell juggling and throwing bricks around. The foot race on the docks is also very similar to the scene from Rocky 3. Props for showing respect!

Dragon Ball Z: Goku in Increased Gravity

Dragon Ball Z is packed with awesome training scenes and methods. From chasing monkeys, to training in the hyperbolic time chamber to enduring huge gravitational forces. Some of the most memorable training scenes though are during Goku’s trip to planet Namek, when he trains to fight Freiza. It culminates in the gravity machine breaking and forcing Goku to go beyond his limits just to survive. Props for turning a training scene into an entire storyline!

Once all is said and done, Goku arrives on Namek and takes apart the Ginyu Force in one of the coolest scenes in the series.

And yes, I’ve heard your requests: I’ll be doing a video on weighted calisthenics very soon!

Vegeta Trains for Super Saiyan

While Goku did it first, Vegeta did it better. First we get to see him go Super Saiyan for the first time, along with the awesome Vegeta Super Saiyan theme. Then we see a far more intense version of the gravity training, complete with incredible art and animation. Then we see him training on a desolate planet and pushing himself to the point of death.

Training doesn’t get much more badass than that. And the scene features some of Vegeta’s best lines too:

Let me ask you: does a machine like yourself ever experience fear?

The intensity of my training was maddening… a basic training game became a desperate struggle for survival.

I decided to continue my training in the solitude of Space.

I wish I lived the kind of life where I could say things like that and be taken seriously…

Karate Kid

The modern version.

Look, the original has to be one of the most well-known training scenes of all time. But that said, the newer version has Jackie Chan in it. And sweeping shots of the Great Wall of China, and Jayden Smith dodging tennis balls. And let’s be honest, the ‘crane kick’ from the original scene is just ridiculous…

The film is filled with plenty of other small training moments, tributes to the original film and a great piece of music from Fort Minor. This film was better than it had any right to be!

I wish Jackie Chan would train me…

Baki the Grappler

Baki the Grappler has some great training and fight scenes but episodes three and four where Baki goes to train with Ando has to take the cake. Baki is training in the wilderness – climbing cliffs, kicking trees and running with boulders strapped to his back – which always . But what sets this apart is the explanation behind how Baki pushes himself beyond normal human limits – which is based very loosely on real science. He learns to override his pain barrier by releasing endorphins and to access heightened reflexes by tapping into his ‘near-death focus’ – essentially a flow state. It all ends with him fighting an ape.

Rocky

Of course, we can’t forget the original rocky films now can we! It’s thanks to this film that we have training montages at all and in many ways, the original is still one of the best. The music by Bill Conti has become the definitive training music, there are tons of interesting training ideas and then there’s the iconic run up the steps to finish off.

Rocky 4

This has to be among my most-watched film scenes of all time. And it really is the pinnacle of all training montages. We have in fact two back-to-back montages here with music from the excellent Survivor and Vince DiCola (of Transformers the Movie fame) respectively. The contrast between Drago’s modern, high-tech training set-up and Rocky’s back-to-basics log-cabin workout makes for a great visual metaphor and there are tons of awesome feats of strength and inventive methods on display here. Highlights include Stallone shoulder pressing a carriage, performing Bruce Lee’s Dragon Flag and pulling a sledge. The climax, featuring Stallone roaring his opponent’s name from on top of a mountain is about as iconic as it gets.

And that’s a pretty great climax for this post too…

Draaaagoooooo!

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About Adam Sinicki

Hi there! My name is Adam Sinicki, I'm an entrepreneur, psychology graduate and amateur bodybuilder interested in fitness, self improvement, technology and transhumanism. I run an online business (NQR Productions) which allows me to live the lifestyle I want: getting time to hit the gym and to work on my projects and apps. Stick around and I'll be sharing my experiments and adventures in brain training, bodybuilding, productivity, business and technology.