Sometimes when we’re sweating away in the gym, our goals can seem quite far away. That’s why it can be so inspiring to watch other athletes who are at the top of their game — they all had to start somewhere, after all. Here are some of our favourite documentary movies and series about real-life people performing incredible feats of strength that will push you to meet your own workout goals.
This miniseries from Rogue (makers of fitness equipment) documents the traditions of stone lifting in three different countries. Fullsterkur takes us to Iceland, Stoneland to Scotland, and Levantadores to the Basque country of Spain. Until I saw that last one, I had no idea a human being could lift 329 kilograms (over 318 kg) to their shoulder, but you learn something new every day.
Fittest on Earth: a Decade of Fitness
This film takes us behind the scenes of the 2015 Crossfit Games, showing the incredible strength, fitness, and dedication of some of the sport’s top athletes. We follow Katrin Davidsdottir, Tia-Clair Toomey, Sara Sigmundsdottir, Ben Smith, and Mat Fraser as they vie for the title.
This 1977 narrative documentary classic shows us a young Arnold Schwarzenegger as he prepares to take the Mr. Olympia title, competing alongside Lou Ferrigno, who later became famous for his role as the Incredible Hulk. After you watch this, look up Raw Iron, a movie about the making of Pumping Iron, released 25 years later.
Tragically, the sequel about women’s bodybuilding, Pumping Iron II: The Women, is not available on any of the streaming services.
“Unless somebody tells me to stop, or I actually die, I will be World’s Strongest Man,” Eddie Hall says in this movie. He achieved that title just two years after Eddie: Strongman was released. We see Eddie training, eating, competing, and grappling with the threat of injury and the financial side of being a “professional” strongman.
Watching elite athletes is always special, because they do things that most of us could never dream of. Paralympic athletes take that to the next level, excelling in their sports while competing with disabilities. The movie gets its name from amputee fencer Bebe Vio’s nickname for herself, and along the way we see archers, swimmers, rugby players, track and field athletes, powerlifters, and more.
Westside vs. the World
Westside Barbell is a legendary powerlifting gym in Ohio, and this movie traces its history through interviews with coach and owner Louie Simmons and an assortment of athletes who have trained there.
Legends of Strength
This miniseries focuses each episode on a strongman or strongwoman of history, featuring photographs of their feats and interviews with historians who tell their life stories. The series begins with Eugen Sandow, the 19th century showman now regarded as one of the first professional bodybuilders, and goes on to include Louis Appollon, George Hackenschmidt, Katie “Sandwina” Brumbach, and Arthur Saxon.
Home Game details little-known traditional sports from different areas of the world — like Strongland, but for sports other than just picking up huge rocks. They include the Highland games and two different types of wrestling in India and the Congo, to name a few.
The Strongest Man in History
In this… let’s call it a historical reality show, four rival strongmen (Nick Best, Eddie Hall, Robert Oberst, Brian Show) recreate legendary lifts from history. They try to carry the Dinnie Stones across Potarch Bridge like Donald Dinnie, lift a carousel full of people like Paul Anderson, leg press a car like Monte Saldo, and more.