The ’80s and ’90s were a golden age for action movies, and actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone have left a lasting legacy not only as hyper-strong leading men, but also as an inspiration to entire generations of fitness fans. In a new video on the Athlean-X channel, coach Jeff Cavaliere takes a look at 5 iconic actors from that period: Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Norris. For you, which was the best?
For Cavaliere, there are four key criteria for being a decent training partner, and he rates each of the movie stars on how well he thinks they’d fit into the perfect workout: motivation, physique, training style, and the “factor X”.
The Strongest 80’s Action Heroes, The Ultimate Ranking
Jean Claude Van Damme
While Van Damme was a huge star in his day, Cavaliere doesn’t think he’s the type to help you out in training, so he loses points when motivation is at stake. However, his muscle definition, size, conditioning and the fact that he first trains as an athlete and then as an actor (he was a dancer and a martial artist) makes him a good partner.
“You might think he’s a stoic, quiet guy, but he’s really not,” says Cavaliere, who trained with Florian Munteaunu, the actor who played Lundgren’s son in Believe II. Munteaunu says that Lundgren can train and outperform everyone else, even in his seventies, making him a highly motivating training partner. And like Van Damme, Lundgren was a top athlete before he got into movies, and his training focused on karate and judo before turning to bodybuilding to Rocky IV.
The Terminator himself gets a 10 out of 10 from Cavaliere in terms of motivation, but Cavaliere admits that Schwarzenegger in the ’80s isn’t the most realistic physical target. However, the bodybuilder-turned-actor gets full marks for setting a benchmark and literally writing the book on fitness training.
While Norris had a reputation for playing the toughest guy on screen, Cavaliere believes he’s too good in real life to push anyone too hard in his training. He also deducts points for Norris’s focus on martial arts at the expense of weight training.
Each of the movies Rocky it’s a heartwarming story of underdogs, so Cavaliere thinks Sly would be a great person to encourage you to exercise, and the fitness goal was there too. “When I started on day one, Stallone was who I wanted to look like,” he says.
What Jeff Cavaliere wants from a (hypothetical) training partner depends entirely on what his own personal fitness goals might be. And as for that “X factor”? That depends on your favorite movie.
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