Would Training Like Rocky Really Work?

Whether you are a boxing fan or not, you will have at least heard of the Rocky film franchise, which focuses on the life and career of heavyweight fighter Rocky Balboa.

Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone, follows ‘The Italian Stallion’ from his humble beginnings as a club fighter in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to becoming a world champion and, in the latter movies (and Creed spin-offs) his life after retirement. The franchise, in total, spans eight movies with a ninth due out in 2023.

The movies are famous for their training montages, including scenes seeing Rocky running through the streets of Philadelphia and chasing a chicken. For this article, we will focus on Rocky IV’s training montage, during which Stallone’s character trained for his fight against Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren) in the snowy Russian countryside.

How Rocky Trained for Drago

Rocky IV showcases the juxtaposition between the main protagonist and antagonist’s training styles. The movie switches backwards and forwards between Drago’s highly scientific approach and Rocky’s training camp.

As well as performing traditional exercises such as pull-ups, skipping, sit-ups, punch mitts, and speed bag work; the character also saws wood, throws rocks, carries logs, chops a tree, splits logs, hoists aloft a net of rock and, perhaps most famously, lifts a horse cart with people sat inside. This was all performed in an isolated setting allowing Rocky to focus completely on the upcoming exhibition.

Let’s break the franchise’s famous training montage down:

Wood Sawing

Sawing the wood gives Rocky a solid core workout, working his body in an untraditional way that he is unlikely to replicate in the gym. As the saw moves in front of his body, it causes trunk flexion and makes for an enduring exercise.

Throwing Rocks

Where Rocky throws rocks in the movie, you could replicate this by throwing a medicine ball in the gym. The character again focuses on his core muscles with this exercise, picking up heaving rocks and rotating his body to throw them.

Pulling a Sled

This is another exercise that can also be replicated in a gym and it is amazing for building power and strength. Alternatively, though you do not see Rocky perform the workout, you could also push the sled for a full-body compound exercise that doubles up as excellent low-impact cardio.


The pull-up is a fundamental exercise for boxers, training the upper body and adding power to punches.

Log Carries

Rocky carries the log across his shoulders, performing lunges as he transports the log. This is a gruelling exercise that provides a full-body workout and can be replicated using a barbell in the gym.

Chopping Tree With an Axe

Another exercise that involves rotation of the core muscles, the power required to wield an axe to chop down a tree is substantial. Unsurprisingly, this works the upper body, as well as the core muscles, and requires a good amount of endurance…especially if you want to chop down a fully grown tree.


Skipping is a standard exercise for boxers, and is a favourite of Rocky’s as those who have watched the movies will know already. A skipping rope makes for a brutal cardio exercise that also challenges the person’s hand-eye coordination, rhythm, speed, and timing. The exercise is fantastic for working on a boxer’s footwork, which is incredibly important for ensuring that a fighter remains light and nimble on their feet in the ring.


While sit-ups are a basic exercise that features in many workout programmes, the sit-ups that Rocky performs in the barn are anything but basic. We see our favourite Italian-American performing extreme sit-ups over the edge, fully extending the body. This is a highly advanced exercise not to be performed by beginners or kids, or indeed anyone with a history of back issues. If you do want to replicate this exercise, the edge of a gym’s boxing ring will suffice.

Splitting Logs

Similar to chopping the tree, Rocky also chopped logs as part of his intense camp. This is actually a common exercise within boxers training camps for its explosive, powerful reps that help build knockout blows. Hitting a tire with a sledgehammer will yield similar results in case your gym doesn’t have an axe and spare logs knocking around.

Punch Mitts

Every boxer works punch mitts with their trainers and/or sparring partners. This works on the fighter’s technique, timing, and accuracy as well as combinations. The trainer can also incorporate footwork into this exercise by moving around the area, as well as forcing the boxer to dodge and duck shots of their own as part of combinations.

Speed Bag

Another bread and butter exercise for fighters as Rocky incorporates some of the more standard drills into his training camp. This is one exercise that beginners struggle to master when seasoned fighters make it look easy through their understanding of timing and rhythm, as well as their well-oiled hand-eye coordination.

Hoisting Rocks

Back to the more untraditional of exercises in Rocky’s training montage and there are real benefits to hoisting up a net of rocks as we see the character perform. The body is conditioned in a way it simply wouldn’t be in the gym, using standard equipment, and this exercise involves lots of twisting patterns that work Rocky’s abdominals. This will result in greater power in his hooks, where the body twists and rotates to perform the punch.

Reverse Sit-Ups

The reverse sit-up, or dragon flag, is a great exercise to shred body fat around the core and will certainly cause those performing it to feel the burn. If performing towards the end of a session, when the body is already hurting, this exercise will work your mental toughness as much (if not more so) as your muscles.

Rope Uppercuts

When we see Rocky performing rope uppercuts, we see him bobbing and weaving on either side of the rope as he throws uppercuts. Fighting a bigger man in Drago, this would have been a key aspect of his fight plan knowing that his best chance of victory was to find his way inside of the Russian’s long reach.

Yoke Twists

Rocky performs twists whilst carrying a yoke across his shoulders (as he did the logs earlier in the montage) that provides as much as a cardio workout as it does strength. You can replicate this exercise by using a barbell in the gym in place of the yoke.

Horse Cart Military Press

This is the exercise that comes to mind when you think about the Rocky IV training montage. The exercises engages a whole range of muscles, such as the glutes, lats, obliques, and abdominals. As Rocky lifted the handles above his head, his core will have contracted as he pushed through the additional resistance that three people sitting inside the cart will have provided.

Running in the Snow

Cardio is an important aspect of any training camp and Rocky’s was no different, only that instead of the roads of Philadelphia he had to navigate the snow-covered Russian countryside. The snow makes for an uneven surface, making for higher intensity, that Rocky was having to run on wearing heavy boots that will have forced him to push through the pain barrier. Some boxers have been known to replicate this resistance training by wearing combat boots to run on sand. We also see Rocky running uphill, which would be similar to performing quick dynamic lunge reps, building incredible stamina and endurance.

Does the Rocky Workout Work?

While this looked incredible on the big screen, would this training camp work in real life? According to trainer Rob Pilger, though Rocky’s workout does go heavy on core training compared to real training camps, this has all the making of an effecting programme.

He was quoted as saying by SportsRec: “I think they got it right with this style of old-school, farm-boy, strong-man training.

“Using the yoke for core rotation and doing the military presses with people in the wagon – it actually juices you up and gets you more excited, because it’s a different type of training.”

According to the expert, Rocky got his training camp correct and would be on course to defeat Ivan Drago in the movie’s climax.

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