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Kingpin in His Gym

"I gotta work out so I can kill the world!"
Harry Russo, Schizophreniac: The Whore Mangler

Some Almighty Overlords like to do more than lounge around on nice chairs while waiting for the heroes to attack them in their fortresses. They'll go for a bit of self-improvement instead. Some may get a Training Montage or two, while others may pursue a Dangerous Forbidden Technique or Forgotten Superweapon in parallel with The Hero. Regardless of how they choose to better themselves, showing a villain building his prowess can be a menacing taste of what's to come when the heroes finally reaches his doorstep. Like our good old friend, however, they don't pose any direct physical threat to the good guys at the moment.

One of the ways to show that a villain's Authority Equals Asskicking. However, if the training sessions are shown to be a walk in the park, one wonders how they will make the villain any stronger. Shopping is another popular hobby of villains.

Compare Mob Boss Suit Fitting. Contrast with Slouch of Villainy. In a way, the inverse of Villain Forgot to Level Grind.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • "Rurouni Kenshin" the Big Bad Makoto Shishio has a scene where he is practicing his swordsmanship during the Kyoto Arc.
  • Death Note: Teru Mikami, Light's right-hand man, visits the gym religiously. Given that his method of killing just involves writing down names, this is purely for his own benefit, and has nothing to do with fighting. Then again, considering how animated he is about writing down names, he possibly does it to avoid pulling something.
  • General Silver from Dragon Ball is shown working out at least once in order to beat Goku. It doesn't work.
  • Geese Howard hadn't been the Big Bad since the first Fatal Fury OVA, but in the third, Billy Kane finds him training in the woods. After receiving the report on the heroes' activities, Geese busts out a Raging Storm that obliterates some of the surrounding vegetation.
  • Hayate Blade also shows Ensuu doing crunches hanging off the top half of a bunk bed and jogging in the school gym on two separate occasions before facing off with the protagonists' team.
  • While not exactly a villain, the Raikage in Naruto is introduced lifting huge dumbbells in his gym. Oddly enough, he's the only leader of any group that's been seen training at all so far, despite the setting being a World of Badass supernatural ninjas.
  • Tao Ren is shown working out in the lead-up to his first official tournament fight with the protagonist, who doesn't exactly share his obsessive work ethic. Of course, since Ren is a walking ball of issues and Shaman King the rare shonen series where Unstoppable Rage does not help, Yoh's mellower approach works in his favour.
  • One Transformers Cybertron episode combines this with Danger Room Cold Open by opening with Starscream kicking ass on a bunch of Autobots... which dissipate into holograms.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man
    • While his flunkies were making life a nightmare for Spider-Man, The Kingpin was shown performing some outrageous physical feats like bending steel bars and breaking large objects in preparation for his personal disassembling of Spidey. He is therefore the Trope Namer. A running joke with Kingpin is that he'll pay goons (more often than not, having martial arts training) to attack him for practice. If they lose badly to Kingpin, he'll fire them — but if they put up an actual fight, then Kingpin murders them for making him look bad. He also tends to kill one of his practice partners in every match, so that the survivors will fight harder next time.
    • Eddie Brock's first appearance established him as a gym bunny, who channeled his rage against Spider-Man (prior to actually becoming Venom) via working out.
  • Fellow Marvel Comics villain The Mandarin beat six top martial artists during a training exercise.
  • Subverted by Lex Luthor. Shortly after coming back as his own Evil Clone (don't ask), he is shown training in martial arts in his gym. After his trainer hands him his ass in front of witnesses, he later tracks her down and murders her in cold blood. Inverted in his last days as President, when he is using Venom (a kind of super-steroid most notoriously utilized by Bane) to muscle up.
  • Issue 350 of Captain America showed the recently-resurrected Red Skull practicing his hand-to-hand skills by slaughtering several of the Taskmaster's trained cronies... all of whom were dressed as Captain America. Later stories expanded upon this: Red Skull never tells his would-be appointments that he is going to fight them to the death, just for the added lulz of watching them panic when they realize that Skull was going to kill them.
  • In the X-Wing Series comics, Ysanne Isard is once shown training against Mrlssti laser phantoms while she works on her plots to control the Empire. In one novel she talks to an Enemy Mine while using a weight machine with no sign of strain. Notably, Isard never actually fights people herself, preferring schemes and Manchurian Agents. Apparently she believes the old adage about healthy body, healthy mind.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dodgeball occasionally cuts to scenes of the villain of the piece practicing advanced martial arts, using electrodes on his nipples to stave off temptation, and otherwise forcing himself to remain fit. At the end of the film, when he loses his gym and with it, his fancy exercise tools he becomes morbidly obese in depression.
  • Rocky Balboa's major opponents got their own Training Montages, which often told viewers something about their character: Clubber Lang's dungeon-like basement emphasized his monstrosity while Ivan Drago's almost clinical routines (and his steroid use) showed his lack of "heart".
  • James Bond: A few villains are fond of this:
    • Largo practices his aim with clay shooting in between stages of SPECTRE's plan to detonate stolen nuclear weapons in Thunderball.
    • Scaramanga, The Man with the Golden Gun, has a warped relationship with his diminutive manservant Nick-Nack; in the event of his death, Nick-Nack inherits everything... in return for Nick-Nack actually trying to kill him by hiring the best assassins in the world for Scaramanga to pit his skills against.
    • Max Zorin spars with his Dragon May Day in A View to a Kill.
    • Colonel Moon in Die Another Day, whom we meet taking his Tae Kwon Do frustrations out on a punching bag containing his anger therapist — that'll teach him to lecture Moon. Big Bad Gustav Graves also has some fun at a fencing club. We later find that they're the same person.
  • In the Jet Li film Fist of Legend, the Big Bad General Fujita gets a scene showing him training by hammering nails into boards with his bare palms, smashing slabs of rock, and letting a team of students break thick wooden rods over his body, to establish his overwhelming power and resilience in combat.
  • A similar montage appears in Bruce Lee's Fist Of Fury, the film that Fist of Legend is based on, showing the Russian Petrov bending metal bars and hammering nails into a board with his bare hands.
  • In Gladiator, Commodus practices his swordsmanship against multiple opponents, showing that wealth and power have not made him soft.
  • In Dragon Tiger Gate the Big Bad is introduced and almost exclusively shown in his personal training area... including the climactic battle.
  • The 2011 film adaption of The Three Musketeers shows Richlieu sparring in his off-hours. With three opponents, no less.
  • The main villain in the second Transporter movie is practicing Kendo against multiple opponents in his introductory scene.
  • Robin and Marian establishes the Sheriff as a credible threat by having him practice swordsmanship against three men at once. When he and Robin do fight... well, they're Robert Shaw and Sean Connery.
  • Memnon in The Scorpion King. Mathayus sees him ordering an underling to fire an arrow at his chest, while Memnon is getting ready to block it with his sword, a skill he's known for. At the end, he utterly fails to block Mathayus's arrow.
  • In Snakes on a Plane, crime boss Eddie Kim is shown practicing karate while ordering the title plan. Could have been a Chekhov's Gun for an eventual Kung Fu faceoff with Samuel L. Jackson, but nope.
  • In Kick-Ass, Frank D'Amico is shown training in the gym to show he's a step above his mooks, later on even using his skills against a hapless superhero cosplayer. His son is shown clumsily messing around with some weapons.
  • From Avatar we have Col. Quaritch lifting weights, who comments on the fact he needs to keep his muscles in top condition in Pandora's low gravity.
  • When the time travelers are first brought before Lord Oliver de Vannes in Timeline, he is practicing his swordsmanship skills with a Mook using wooden swords. He then has the Mook take out a real sword during a thrust and kill one of the time travelers, simply because he's French.
  • In Once Upon A Time In China 2, when Wong Fei-Hung meets General Nar-Lan Yuen-Shu (Donnie Yen) for the first time, he's busy working out his martial arts form before surprising Wong with a sparring match, establishing that he's Wong's equal, and not schlubby Armchair Military cum bureaucrat like the rest.
  • The Cynthia Rothrock movie Honor and Glory shows the villain putting himself through an intense workout scene, allowing the audience to see that he won't be a pushover during the final fight.

    Literature 
  • Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride, with his Zoo of Death. In fact, we first see him wrestling an ape.
  • Dune: Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen participates in gladiatorial matches, trading traditional means of rigging the fights with his own, to make it look like he's in danger and earn prestige. This almost backfires when the slave in question nearly kills him. Feyd, impressed with and knowing how to play to the crowd, doesn't do the traditional mutilation of the body, instead allowing him to be buried intact, as a sign of respect.
  • Benito Ramirez of the Stephanie Plum books actually does train in a gym, being a boxer. He uses it to great effect to terrorize women.
  • Prince Xizor inverts this in Shadows of the Empire: He has an "exercise chair" which stimulates his muscles while he lounges around in his fortress, giving him exercise without him having to lift a finger. He has constant problems with the chair's voice-chip pronouncing his name, though. Darth Vader is also seen training against lightsaber-wielding battle-droids, which helps to characterize his frustration with his inability to fight an opponent with the power of the Force.
  • One Redwall villainess is a decent swordsbeast, as we see her Training Montage consisting of slaves throwing vegetables at her to be sliced midair. Unfortunately, like most Redwall villains she turns out to be hopelessly inept when her opponent is armed and angry.
  • In The Fifth Elephant, the Ax-Crazy werewolf Wolfgang is introduced doing one-handed push-ups, followed by one-handed handstands. Oh, and he does this stark naked. While both his parents are in the room. Well, they're already naked around each other in wolf shape...
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, Galbatorix qualifies. For one, he actually rules the Empire he's in charge of. He also breaks into the minds of the Eldunari he has under his power to make him even more powerful. Third, he searches for the true name of the Ancient Language of magic, which would give him power over all spellcasters and over magic itself. He succeeds on all three accounts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played for laughs in Doctor Who when the Delgado Master, locked up in a sea fortress, exercises on a rowing machine. It doesn't seem to be working, though—the Doctor remarks that the Master has put on weight!
  • Stargate Atlantis: When we are first introduced to him, Commander Kolya of the Genii is having a sparring session with some of his military subordinates.
  • In Season One of The Wire, Big Bad Duumvirate Avon Barksdale and Russell "Stringer" Bell were shown working in the gym and on the basketball court while planning gangland operations.
  • The Wild Wild West recurring villain Dr. Loveless is sparring with his minions when West first meets him. As a dwarf he's not a physical match, but he seems to specialize in a martial art involving his walking stick and makes short work of them.
  • In Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Crassus has a scene in which he spars against a retired gladiator, his fighting coach. This scene establishes him as a threat to the swordsmanship of Spartacus and reveals his Finishing Move: a Bare-Handed Blade Block.

    Theater 
  • In William Shakespeare's Cymbeline Cloten is proud of his prowess with the sword. What he fails to take into account is, his sparring partners know he is 1) the Prince and 2) borderline Ax-Crazy and will have them killed if he loses a match. Naturally, once he's up against a real opponent he's quickly killed.

    Web Comics 
  • Though not shown on-panel, dialogue states that The Order of the Stick's villain, Xykon, spent the entire duration of Roy's absence researching new spells and crafting magic items, the Evil Sorcerer's equivalent of working out. Of course, the nature of reality there renders him incapable of doing this for longer than 8 hours per day, and, as a lich, he doesn't sleep, either. As such, he generally spends the rest of his day messing around in a bid to alleviate his boredom, which is what the reader usually sees whenever Xykon is present.
    • And by "messing about", we mean "coming up with inventive and horrific ways to kill prisoners, and making book on how long they last in the acid tank with the mutated sharks."
  • Anita, either Big Bad or Dragon in Errant Story (you can argue it either way), is introduced getting a workout to hone her already awesome combat skills.

    Western Animation 
  • Count Dooku, a.k.a. Darth Tyranus, was shown sparring with General Grievous in the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. Most other master vs. apprentice fights in the Star Wars universe tend to be cases of attempted Klingon Promotion although they could be considered training for the apprentices. (It should be noted that Grievous is not technically Dooku's apprentice, as he is not a Sith, or even a Force-user for that matter. The fact that he is one of the few beings that is formidable in lightsaber combat without being Force-sensitive is something that makes him truly unique as a villain.)
  • Spoofed in The Simpsons, where Mr. Burns makes Smithers work out on his behalf.
  • In Gargoyles, David Xanatos enjoys sparring in a dojo. As always subverting such things, he shows how Badass he is by losing to his Battle Butler and then commenting on how surprised he was that Owen has improved.
    Owen: Would you prefer I pretend to lose, sir?
    Xanatos: I'd fire you if you did.
  • Both Prince Zuko and Princess Azula each spend one of their respective first appearances in Avatar: The Last Airbender practicing their firebending. Zuko demands to learn the advanced techniques even though Iroh insists he hasn't mastered the basics yet. Azula, on the other hand, does the advanced bits flawlessly—but completely freaks out (foreshadowing her ultimate Villainous Breakdown) when one hair falls out of place.
  • Done three times in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. The first occurs with the Shredder, who gets a training scene in the episode "Darkness at the Edge of Town". The second occurs with Karai, whose very first scene is of her training. The third time occurs in a supplementary short of dubious canonity, also featuring Karai, which shows her apparently killing the four turtles... until its revealed that they're actually advanced training robots.
  • In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, mobster Rupert Thorne is in his private gym, punching a bag while a henchman - named Dicky - holds it for him and urges him on. Thorne is clearly getting a little tired, but then Dicky says, "Come on, boss! No wonder the Batman is runnin' circles around ya!" Thorne snarls and hits the bag furiously, ripping it out of the fixture and knocking Dicky out. Then he grabs a towel from another thug, mentioning before he leaves, "Oh, and when Dicky gets up, tell him he's fired."
  • Tombstone does this in The Spectacular Spider-Man — fitting, since that adaptation promoted him to the Kingpin's usual role (they couldn't use the trope namer himself due to rights issues).
  • In one episode of Superman: The Animated Series, while it's not really "in a gym", Lex Luthor is seen practicing archery - for bonus points, he does this while on the phone with Lois Lane and asking her "Do you really think I would jeopardize the safety of this planet just to settle my personal grudge against Superman?". And then hitting a bullseye with a shit-eating smirk.


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