LaLanne – a man so dedicated to bodybuilding that he last ate a dessert in 1929! – was the original eight-stone weakling turned muscle man, holding the world record for the largest number of press-ups. He was not content with simply turning his own body into a powerful machine, being one of the first people to campaign in the USA for health, fitness and the benefits of a good diet. He also urged Americans to take up bodybuilding and weight training in an era when few had heard of the practice – much less had access to a gym.
In 1936, he opened his own gym, with an adjoining juice bar and health food store. It all sounds de rigeur today, but was a real breath of fresh air in Depression America, and was very successful – before too long there were 100 across the USA.
He eventually ended up with his own pioneering television show – The Jack LaLanne Show was broadcast from 1951 to the 1980s, on which he demonstrated his impressive fingertip press-up technique and gave more down to earth exercise demonstrations, as well as diet tips.
Even into his 90s, LaLanne took two hours a day exercise, with 90 minutes of weightlifting and half an hour of swimming. In fact he was fond of saying: “I can’t die. It would ruin my image.”