Even as he got older, Jack LaLanne still had that amazing physique. It just goes to show that consistency is key.
Jack LaLanne’s workout and diet routine is legendary. Living until the age of 96, LaLanne revolutionized the fitness industry with his incredible feats of strength and muscle along with his vast knowledge of health and fitness. On January 23, 2011, he died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia. His death is sad and unexpected for a man known as one of the healthiest people in the world and someone who would often say, “I can’t die, it would ruin my image.”
The 5’6, 150 lb. LaLanne was known as the “godfather of fitness”, publishing numerous books on fitness and even hosting a famous fitness television show, The Jack LaLanne Show, from 1951 to 1985. He also created the electric juicer known as the “Power Juicer” and a range of other products.
He wrote that as a boy he was addicted to sugar and junk food. He later described himself as a “miserable goddamn kid…it was like hell.” At the young age of 15, he heard health food pioneer Paul Bragg give a motivational speech on health and nutrition. Bragg’s message was so powerful that LaLanne immediately decided to live a healthier lifestyle, studying the anatomy of the human body and concentrating on bodybuilding, chiropractic medicine and weightlifting, something virtually unheard of in the 1930s.
LaLanne opened his own health spa in Oakland, California and dedicated his life helping people live a healthier lifestyle through proper exercise and nutrition. He even designed the world’s first leg extension machines, cable pulley machines and weight selectors, which are the standard in the fitness industry today. By the 1980s there were more than 200 gyms bearing his name. He eventually licensed his health clubs to Bally, which renamed them Bally Total Fitness.
As you can see, Jack LaLanne was truly ahead of his time. He had all the knowledge and passion of fitness to give himself the perfect physique. He did just that.
LaLanne claims he has never missed a workout. When it came to his training and exercise routine, he did a series of stretches in bed as soon as he woke up in the morning. For many years, he would work out at 4 AM to start his exercises but in his later years woke up between 5 and 6 AM. He then went straight to one of his home’s two weight rooms where one room had barbells and dumbbells and the second had weight-lifting machines. LaLanne was one of the first advocates of switching-up routines to keep his muscles constantly challenged and preventing too much muscular adaptation. He changed his exercise routine every 30 days, switching up both his strength and cardio workouts. Changing around your workouts will keep your body growing. If you do the same exercise for long periods of time, your body is more likely to eventually hit a plateau and the exercise can stop being effective. The human body is capable of adapting to the everyday stress we place on it. It’s called muscle memory. Therefore, it’s important to switch it up. LaLanne was able to recognize this and this may explain why he had one of the best physiques in the world during his prime. He knew how to properly train his body when many others didn’t.
He alternated between lifting his upper body (lats, deltoids, pecs, shoulders, and chest). The next day he would work his lower body, including his lower back and waist, as well as his arms (biceps, triceps, and forearms). On Sunday he worked out every major muscle group. He trained until muscle failure, usually doing between 10 and 15 repetitions.
LaLanne performed curls to build strength and definition in his biceps.
What could be considered very ironic is the fact that LaLanne didn’t really enjoy working out. “It’s a pain in the gluties,” he said. “But you gotta do it. Dying is easy, living is tough. I hate working out. Hate it. But I like the results.”
After his 90 minute weightlifting routine, he did a half hour pool workout, something he has been doing since he was a kid. He swam laps and did a variety of pool exercises. Sometimes he even tied himself in place with a belt and swam in place or he would swim freestyle against the current. Swimming is one of the best cardio exercises you could do and one of the best ways to avoid injury when exercising. It’s a low impact exercise that works all the major muscle groups in your body. It improves your body’s use of oxygen without overworking your heart. It helps improve cardiovascular conditioning, muscle strength, endurance, posture, and flexibility all at the same time.
When he was younger, LaLanne had a body as good as anyone.
LaLanne tried to get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, going to bed between 9 and 10 PM. Research has confirmed that 8 hours of sleep is the ideal sleeping time and LaLanne must have realized this. Even when on the road, he still found a way to exercise. If a gym was unavailable while traveling, he would use a towel for resistance or a chair or broomstick to perform exercises and also do sit-ups and push-ups. We know that LaLanne had a craving for exercise but so did his wife, Elaine, who went from being a former smoker and out of shape to exercising daily for 30 minutes.
In an interview with Katie Couric, LaLanne said his two basic rules of nutrition are: “If man made it, don’t eat it”, and “If it tastes good, spit it out.” In 2004, he told an interviewer, “Would you give your dog a cigarette and a doughnut for breakfast every morning? People think nothing of giving themselves that for breakfast, and they wonder why they don’t feel good.” If asked about his sex life, LaLanne would say that he and his wife still made love almost every night.
His diet and eating regimen centered on only two meals per day: One at 11 AM after his workout and one at 7 PM at a restaurant with his wife. He also took 30 to 40 vitamins a day. His 11 AM meal consisted of three to four hard-boiled egg whites, a cup of broth-type soup, oatmeal with soy milk, raisins and a plate of seasonal fruit.
“Every restaurant we frequent has the ‘Jack LaLanne salad’ which is ten raw vegetables and four egg whites hardboiled,” he said. “I make them throw the fat and cholesterol in the yolk away and you’re left with the best protein known to man. Four egg whites have the same amount of protein as one pound of steak but only 60 calories compared to 1,000 calories.” He ate fish nearly every night at dinner. The only other meat he ate was roast turkey. He didn’t have any snacks between meals. During dinner, he drank wine. “French people live the longest and they have wine with lunch and dinner every day,” he said. “Americans drink milk instead. Milk is for a suckling calf. How many creatures still use milk after they’re weaned? Man.” However, his passion for wine unfortunately led him to a 1991 arrest in which he was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving after failing a field sobriety test. This mistake was one of LaLanne’s worst moments in his nearly flawless life.
LaLanne could do finger pushups better than anyone. This requires an extreme amount of upper body strength, specifically in your wrists.
Timeline of Jack Lalanne’s Feats
(As reported on Jack LaLanne’s website)
1954 (age 40): Swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco underwater, with 140 pounds (64 kg; 10 st) of equipment, including two air tanks. A world record.
1955 (age 41): Swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed. When interviewed afterwards, he was quoted as saying that the worst thing about the ordeal was being handcuffed, which reduced his chance to do jumping jacks significantly.
1956 (age 42): Set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on You Asked For It, a television program with Art Baker.
1957 (age 43): Swam the Golden Gate channel while towing a 2,500-pound (1,100 kg; 180 st) cabin cruiser. The swift ocean currents turned this one-mile (1.6 km) swim into a swimming distance of 6.5 miles (10.5 km).
1958 (age 44): Maneuvered a paddleboard nonstop from Farallon Islands to the San Francisco shore. The 30-mile (48 km) trip took 9.5 hours.
1959 (age 45): Did 1,000 star jumps and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour, 22 minutes and The Jack LaLanne Show went nationwide.
1974 (age 60): For the second time, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf. Again, he was handcuffed, but this time he was also shackled and towed a 1,000-pound (450 kg; 71 st) boat.
1975 (age 61): Repeating his performance of 21 years earlier, he again swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater and handcuffed, but this time he was shackled and towed a 1,000-pound (450 kg; 71 st) boat.
1976 (age 62): To commemorate the “Spirit of ’76”, United States Bicentennial, he swam one mile (1.6 km) in Long Beach Harbor. He was handcuffed and shackled, and he towed 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people.
1979 (age 65): Towed 65 boats in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan. He was handcuffed and shackled, and the boats were filled with 6,500 pounds (2,900 kg; 460 st) of Louisiana Pacific wood pulp.
1980 (age 66): Towed 10 boats in North Miami, Florida. The boats carried 77 people, and he towed them for over one mile (1.6 km) in less than one hour.
1984 (age 70): Handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 mile.
LaLanne performed an incredible feat by swimming and pulling boats.
Jack LaLanne is a true Muscle Prodigy and a real inspiration for the health and fitness community. He educated people on the true importance of health and fitness. His legacy will live on forever.
Check out this vintage episode of The Jack LaLanne Show, Episode 1
LaLanne doing his famous fingertip push-up demonstration