Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 19, 2021

Jack LaLanne was a pioneer of healthier living.

A man of many world records, he inspired people to take fitness seriously, so it's no wonder even nowadays people come in asking for his fitness regimen.

He was one of the people that inspired me to start my fitness journey a decade ago, and I've been studying Jack LaLanne's life and work ever since.

Here's everything you need to know about this fitness pioneer.

His Stats

jack lalanne wearing a blue onesie flexing his muscles
  • Born: September 26, 1914
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Weight: 150 lbs

Jack LaLanne, or as he’s also called, “the godfather of fitness,” revolutionized the fitness industry.

In numerous books he wrote about fitness, he claimed that he was addicted to sugar as a boy and a junk food junkie.

He had bulimia, which caused him to drop out of school at age 14.

At age 15, he heard a motivational speech by Paul Bragg on health and nutrition, which changed his life.

The speech had such an impact on him that he immediately decided to lead a healthier lifestyle.

He studied the anatomy of the human body and focused on bodybuilding and weight lifting.

Jack LaLanne opened the first modern health studio and was so successful that he had 200 fitness gyms bearing his name.

A lot of exercise machines used nowadays were inspired or created by LaLanne. He’s credited for inventing:

  • Leg extension machines
  • Calf machines
  • Cable pulley machines
  • Weight selectors for the machines
  • Resistance bands
  • The original model of the Smith Machine

Due to his many accomplishments, it’s no wonder that one of the most popular search query questions is about his fitness routine. I’ve spent countless hours studying his life, so here’s what you should know.

Jack LaLanne Workout Routine

man working out outdoors

LaLanne claimed he never missed a workout in his life. He exercised every day for 2 hours before breakfast.

“You’ve got to exercise. Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out.”- Jack LaLanne, fitness pioneer 

This is what his exercise routine looked like:

  • Stretching - He would wake up at 4 am, or 5 and 6 in his later years, and start exercising in bed by doing a series of stretches.
  • Weightlifting - LaLanne would then go to one of the two weight rooms in his home.
    One had barbells and dumbbells, and the other weightlifting machines. He would lift weights for 90 minutes.
  • Cardio - Lastly, he’d do pool exercises for 30 minutes. He’s a huge advocate of swimming and thought this is the best cardio activity because it improves flexibility, posture, strength, and endurance and works all major muscle groups. (1)

LaLanne believed in working to failure, which for him was 10 to 15 reps of an exercise.

7 Workout Tips

portrait image of jack lalanne

I’ve established that LaLanne was a fitness guru. Here is some advice he had for the best workout routine:

  1. Stick to the workout routine — Workout every day, right after waking up
  2. Workout to failure — Select a weight that’s heavy enough so that you struggle to complete the last rep
  3. Never skip cardio exercises
  4. No snacks
  5. Eat at least ten raw vegetables every day
  6. Don’t consume dairy, coffee, sugar
  7. No smoking

His Approach To Getting Fit

man giving a thumbs up while holding a water jug on the other

1. Workout variety

The godfather of fitness was one of the first people who recognized the importance of switching up routines to keep his muscles challenged and prevent muscle adaptation from happening. He changed his strength and cardio routines every 30 days.

This is also what I like to do.

The human body has muscle memory — it will adapt to the everyday stress we put it through. Changing your workout will keep your body growing.

Jack LaLanne recognized this, and it’s why he could have one of the world’s best physiques in his time.

He also alternated days on which he did upper and lower body exercises, while on Sundays, he worked every muscle group.

2. Enough rest

LaLanne knew that 7 or 8 hours of sleep is the ideal sleeping time, and he made sure to get this amount of sleep every night. (2) He usually went to bed between 9 and 10 pm.

3. Consistency

Even when he traveled, he never skipped a workout. If there wasn’t a gym he could go to, he used a towel for resistance training, a chair to perform exercises, or he did jumping jacks and sit-ups.

Jack LaLanne Diet Plan

bowl with water and hair boiled eggs, oatmeal bowl with a spoon

Jack LaLanne had two nutrition rules:

“If man made it, don’t eat it,” and “If it tastes good, spit it out.” - Jack LaLanne, fitness pioneer 

He claimed that exercising is king and nutrition is queen. Together, they create a kingdom.

His diet plan consisted of two meals a day:

  • 11 am — After exercising
  • 7 pm — At a restaurant with his wife

His first meal consisted of:

  • 3-4 hard-boiled egg whites
  • A cup of broth soup
  • Soy milk oatmeal
  • Raisins and seasonal fruit

His second meal consisted of:

  • Egg whites and fish
  • Jack LaLanne salad — ten raw vegetables and four egg whites

His diet plan was full of proteins: egg whites, fish, raw vegetables, and fruit.

He always favored raw to cooked food because of its health benefits. The only other meat he indulged in apart from fish was turkey.

LaLanne was also a health food pioneer — he invented the first modern juicer. Juicing was a regular part of his nutritional routine, but he found old-fashioned press juicers to be time-consuming, and it left a lot of pulp behind.

So, he created his own countertop juicer — The Jack LaLanne Power Juicer, which wasn’t bulky and could be used daily. You can still buy his juicer nowadays.

Supplements

close up image of medicine pills

To keep his health in prime condition, LaLanne used dozens of supplements, such as:

  • Magnesium — To keep him strong and boost exercise performance. Magnesium also lowers blood pressure and is anti-inflammatory. (3)
  • Calcium — To keep the bones strong and help regulate blood pressure.
  • Vitamins B — For energy production.
  • Vitamin A — For regulating cholesterol levels.
  • Biotin — To regulate blood sugar levels. (4)

Other workout routines:

His Fitness Records and Fitness Achievements

jack lalanne shirtless during his earlier years

To show that age is just a number, Jack LaLanne completed some jaw-dropping fitness feats:

  • 1954 (age 40) — LaLanne’s first world record. He swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. He swam the Golden Gate Bridge underwater, with 140 pounds of equipment, including two air tanks.
  • 1955 (age 41) — LaLanne swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. He swam from the Alcatraz while handcuffed; when interviewed afterwards, he said that the worst part was being handcuffed, as he couldn’t do jumping jacks.
  • 1956 (age 42) — He set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes
  • 1957 (age 43) — Swam the Golden Gate Channel while towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser
  • 1959 (age 45) — Completed 1,000 chin-ups and 1,000 start-ups, and his fitness television show — The Jack LaLanne Show — went nationwide.
  • 1974 (age 60) — He swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed for the second time in his life.
  • 1975 (age 61) — LaLanne swam the entire length of the Golden Gate, the same as he did 21 years earlier, while handcuffed and shackled, while he towed a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1976 (age 62) — He swam one mile in Long Beach Harbor while towing 13 boats representing the 13 colonies, containing 76 people.
  • 1979 (age 65) — Handcuffed and shackled, he swam Lake  Ashinoko in Tokyo, Japan, while towing 65 boats loaded with Louisiana Pacific wood pulp, which weighed 6,500 pounds.
  • 1980 (age 66) — He towed 10 boats which carried 77 people for over 1 mile in less than an hour in Miami, Florida.
  • 1984 (age 70) — He towed 70 rowboats, one with several people on it, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Harbor to the Queen Mary. Once again, he was shackled and handcuffed, and because of powerful winds, the swim took him 6 miles to complete.

3 Great Accomplishments

old jack lalanne and younger jack lalanne

1. TheJack LaLanne Show

To fight the criticism that followed him everywhere, LaLanne started writing books and then turned to television.

He got his television exercise program — The Jack LaLanne Show. It started as a local show, but as LaLanne gained popularity, his tv shows went nationwide.

It eventually became the longest-running fitness tv show — it aired from 1953 to 1985.

2. Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness

jack lalanne with arnold schwarzenegger

In 1968 LaLanne met 21-year-old Schwarzenegger, who just became Mr. Universe.

Schwarzenegger saw LaLanne doing chin-ups and push-ups and challenged him, but LaLanne beat him easily.

This was the start of a lifelong friendship.

When Schwarzenegger became the governor of California, he relied on Jack LaLanne’s fitness knowledge, and Jack was one of the founding members of the Governor’s Council.

3. Lifetime Achievement Award

Jack LaLanne was recognized for his work in the fitness industry and was awarded an award in 2007 in Muscle Beach, California.

He was also inducted into the California Fall of Hame, and he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

LaLanne claimed that dying is easy; living is difficult.

"I can't die; it would ruin my image." -Jack LaLanne 

He died aged 96 of respiratory failure due to pneumonia.

The Final Verdict on Jack LaLanne's Story

Now you know all about Jack LaLanne's impact on the fitness world. If you want to focus on healthy weight loss or get in shape and build some muscles, follow LaLanne's guide.

Remember — it's all about changing life habits and not dieting.

If you know any other facts or tips about Jack LaLanne that I didn't mention, let me know in the comments below.


References:

  1. https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/a-look-at-swimmer-muscles-by-stroke/
  2. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-magnesium-benefits
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318724

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