Jack LaLanne was a fitness pioneer in the truest sense of the word. That term gets thrown around often when referring to anyone who has been in an industry since the earth cooled, but in this case it is more than justified. Think I’m kidding?
LaLanne – Innovator or Nutball??
Jack brought us many of the exercise innovations we take for granted today, mostly because they’ve been around so damn long we’ve probably forgotten that someone actually invented them. If you hoist the heavy iron, chances are you’ve loaded up a Smith machine. Even if you’ve only passed through a fitness facility, you’ve likely sat at a leg extension machine and done a few reps. Every hardcore bodybuilder has used a cable crossover to sculpt their inner pecs, and every weight trainer has likely done a set or 500 of tricep press downs on a cable machine.
For all of those machines we can thank Jack. He also had one of the earliest versions of resistance band training equipment. He invented or strongly influenced so many pieces of modern exercise equipment it boggles the mind. Innovator just scratches the surface when talking about this guy. From exercise to nutrition, he defined the modern fitness industry.
His views on weight training were a revelation at a time when even football coaches though weights would make you bulky and slow. How many elite college and NFL football players would agree with that now? Probably not a one, and they can all thank Jack LaLanne for that, at least in part.
Jack even though women should train with weights at a time that most people though that it would make them look overly masculine, a view that was only proven to be true when female body bodybuilders started experimenting with powerful, East German pharmaceuticals in the ’80’s. For the rest of the female population, who shunned daily injections, Jack’s thoughts on women and weight training were proven to be right on the money.
An Early (really) TV Exercise Pioneer
Jack was also a pioneer in that magic medium that brings moving pictures and sound over the airwaves (or now streams over the Internet), TV. He had his own TV exercise program back in 1951 for Christ’s sake! Most of us weren’t even born yet, and he was talking about and demonstrating the benefits of exercise and the fitness lifestyle on television.
Jack LaLanne’s Diet – Backwards??
Although Jack’s early views on exercise, and especially weight training have been more than vindicated, there is one area where he still flies in the face of modern convention; diet. Sure, the contents of Jack’s diet were impeccable for a fitness oriented individual, and could scarcely be beat for staying lean and building muscle. It’s the timing that most modern trainers and nutritionists would take issue with.
Jack was an early proponent of the healthy eating lifestyle, and to that end he ate what can only be described as a champion’s diet. Plenty of vegetables, fruits, eggs, and fish. He loved single ingredient, unprocessed foods at a time when the majority of the American diet was nowhere near as processed as the stuff you’ll find on the shelves of your local SuperFood Market today. One can only imagine that he about crapped his pants at the though of eating much of the stuff that came to be marketed as food later in his life.
If his diet was so darned great, why would anyone question it? It wasn’t what he ate, it was the fact that he ate only two meals per day. Most diet, exercise, and fitness professionals today advocate at least 3 times that many, to promote maximum nutrient absorption and calorie distribution. So, although he expounded on so many of the principles we hold dear today, there was at least one area where he was different until the end.
Speaking of the end, it came when he was 96, on January 23, 2011. Obviously he could teach most people a thing or two about health and nutrition, and he lived just the way he advocated, which is kind of rare in this day and age. It must have worked as he was with us for nearly a century, and could probably kick most people’s ass at an age when most people are trying to figure out how to file for social security. RIP, Jack!