Jack LaLanne – Real Strength Now Master Series


We don't die from old age, we die from inactivity. Me? I can't die, it would ruin my image. I wish I would have said that. Well, I just did say that. But, originally it was said by The Godfather of American fitness, Jack LaLanne.

Jack LaLanne was born in 1914 in the era when doctors said that lifting weights or extensive exercise would cause a heart attack. It would also cause women to turn into men, and take away all sex drive. Athletes would become muscle bound. In other words, don't touch a weight, don't do any exercise, not even a pushup. Jack Lalanne proved them all wrong. He was a skinny kid, and described himself as mean. I’m not sure what he meant, maybe he was a fighter, but one thing for certain; he was not happy with himself, until he began regular exercise. That gave him self-esteem and eventually became his calling in life.

Joe Pilates, another great master of exercise said, "We should be in our prime on our 70's and not old until we're nearly 100." Well, Joe didn't quite pull that off. He died at 83, blamed by many on his addiction to cigars. Jack Lalanne did, nearly. He was still training at 95...

In my book Real Strength Now, in which I feature sections on many old masters, I write about Jack Lalanne, who, at 70 years old, and while handcuffed and shackled towed 70 boats, carrying 70 people from the Queensway Bridge in Long Beach Harbor, California to the permanently docked Queen Mary, a distance of about one and a half miles. I watched him do it on a video. It was sort of a breast- stroke movement, except his wrists were cuffed; I actually tried it in my own pool, and I'll tell you 50 feet was tough, and I didn't have the shackles on. So Jack was in pretty good shape at 70, to say the least.

Another feat, amongst many which I mention in Real Strength Now: at 45 years old LaLanne did 1000 pull ups, and 1000 jumping jacks in one hour and 22 minutes. He actually walked what he talked. His training was intense. Usually lasting about an hour and a half to two hours a day. Sometimes performing 20 sets of exercises for one group of muscles with only a 10 second break between sets. He was obviously into cardiovascular fitness. I also was curious as to what he said about breathing but couldn't find any direct quotes, so I watched him on a couple of old training tapes. His breath, during exercise, was in through the nose and out through the mouth.

I remember his TV shows from the 1950's, the kind of shows my mother watched, which were a very watered down version of his real exercise routines: they often featured him singing, "Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream." Jack ha a very good voice. Attributed to his chest expansion exercises, and at the end of each verse, Jack LaLanne would say, "All right, remember the important thing." And the organ, playing in the background, would build. “Remember the big breath.” Then he’d breath in as he bent forward then out through his mouth as he came back up - a big diaphragmatic breath. Jack LaLanne never took breathing for granted. He used his diaphragm, filled his lungs and lived to be 96. In fact, a lot of the equipment in my gym is the result of Jack LaLanne: the leg extension machine for the quadricep muscles of the thighs, the pull down machine for the back, and lots more.

Yes, Jack LaLanne is rightfully called The Godfather of American Fitness.


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