There are some seriously competition-worthy physiques throughout movie history, but when casting your mind back to some of the most muscular legends of film, who’s the best? BarBend decided to put that question to the test in a newsletter poll from Sept. 9, 2022, and the results were as clear-cut as they come.
Fans chose between Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian (1982), Sylvester Stallone in Rambo III (1988), Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine (2013), and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Hercules (2014).
Of the 226 readers who weighed in on this meaty issue, Schwarzenegger’s turn as Conan flexed the most with a landslide 40.5 percent of the vote.
Why Arnold’s Conan Physique Still Rules
Since Conan exists in the fictional Hyborian Age, thought to be around 10,000 BC, our fantasy hero didn’t have access to a 24-hour gym or a subscription to an online fitness channel. Instead, Conan’s strength and conditioning resulted from everyday tasks like traversing mountainous terrains, manual labor, and hunting for food. He endured training as a warrior and sword fighter, adding to his size.
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The physique required a mixture of aesthetics and power that few people in the world possessed. Despite being the perfect choice for the role in retrospect, director John Milius initially thought Schwarzenegger looked too good for the part.
“I needed to lose some of the cuts because I had just won Mr. Olympia, and I was way too ripped to be a barbarian,” Arnold wrote on Reddit in 2016. (1) “So [Milius] told me to eat normally and not diet at all.”
According to Variety, Schwarzenegger undertook an intense 18-month regimen involving weights, rope climbing, and broadsword training for his authentic barbarian look. (2) The man who helped push Arnold through many of those marathon sessions was none other than his real-life training partner and fellow Mr. Olympia, Franco Columbu.
The Best Movie Physiques, By The Numbers
While Schwarzenegger comfortably won the poll with his portrayal of Conan, One voter wrote of Linda Hamilton’s role as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day:
Ripped and not too bulky. She was a beast in that movie.
Hamilton’s portrayal of Connor racked up a firm second place with 21.1 percent of the vote.
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Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules followed in third place with 14.1 percent of the vote. For this role, Johnson’s personal trainer, Dave Rienzi, focused on strength training in order to give the former WWE champ a back, shoulders, and chest progression that looked fit for a warrior. (3)
Sylvester Stallone’s return as John Rambo in Rambo III (1988) nabbed fourth place in the poll with 12.8 percent of the vote, while Hugh Jackman came in fifth with 11.5 percent for 2013’s The Wolverine. For this outing as the famed Marvel mutant, Jackman said he trained three hours a day and ate six to seven meals per day to achieve “a leaner, more animalistic look.” (4)
These movies might not clock in at much longer than two hours, but it takes months of training and dedication to craft an iconic big-screen physique.
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- Cooper, Gael Fashingbauer. “Schwarzenegger Confesses He Was ‘Way Too Ripped’ to Play Conan,” CNET.com, June 27, 2016
- King, Susan. “‘Conan the Barbarian’ at 35: How Darth Vader Helped Arnold Schwarzenegger Beat the Muscle Man Stereotype,” Variety.com, May 13, 2017
- “The Rock’s 4-Week Plan for a Herculean Physique,” Muscleandfitness.com, 2014
- Weintraub, Steve. “Hugh Jackman Talks Finally Putting ‘the Real Wolverine’ on Screen,” Collider.com, May 28, 2013
Featured Image: @the80sdecade on Instagram