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Resistance Training

Did Jack LaLanne Invent Resistance Training?

By Serene Wilken on May 19, 2021 8:00:00 AM
4 Minutes Reading Time


Today, resistance training wouldn’t be the same without the exuberant Jack LaLanne helping to popularize fitness gyms across America after 1936. He broke the mindset of his time around using weights for exercise and demonstrated his many feats of strength, highlighting the benefits of resistance training. One of his famous quotes referencing a healthy lifestyle “Exercise is your king, and nutrition is your queen. Together they create your fitness kingdom.”

Jack LaLanne is known as the godfather of fitness. He opened one of the first fitness gyms in America in 1936 in Oakland, CA, and he is credited with designing lots of popular resistance training equipment still used today in modern gyms. But above all, he is best known for bringing the gym into your home with his famous television show The Jack LaLanne Show, which ran from 1951 to the 1980s.

He would demonstrate exercises you can do with resistance bands, body weight, and using dumbbells, all in the comfort of your own home. He inspired America, and especially women, to exercise and not be afraid of resistance training, as he put it in his introduction to his show, “ I’m going to show you how to look better, feel better and live longer.”

LaLanne wasn’t always a health nut but was initially inspired by Paul Bragg, an alternative health food advocate, when he was just fifteen. LaLanne was a “sugarholic and junk food junkie,” as he put it before he heard Paul Bragg’s live lecture about nutrition and fitness, which inspired him to take action with his own body. As soon as he began exercising and eating right, he never looked back.

Along LaLanne’s journey, he had a determination to demonstrate his feats of strength to America. Like the ancient Greeks, his physical feats included completing 1,000 push-ups and 1,000 chin-ups in 86 minutes in 1959, and in 1984, at age 70, towing 70 boats 1.5 miles in Long Beach harbor while he was shackled and handcuffed. He could do a one-armed, one-finger push-up while stretched out on the floor. His strength was simply remarkable. He was consistent and committed to sharing his message with the world about the benefits of exercise.

As he aged, he was driven to keep showing the world that you, too, can do anything if you put your mind to it. His daily workouts were 2 hours long, and he kept them going well into his 90’s. A typical workout for LaLanne would be 90 minutes of weightlifting and 30 minutes of swimming. It was clear that having consistency with resistance training changes your body.

Where did resistance training come from exactly?

Clearly, LaLanne was a prime example of how fitness can change your life, attitude, and overall health, but the birth of resistance training goes back much further in history.

Just like LaLanne would demonstrate his physical feats of strength, competition to establish who can lift the heaviest weight has been recorded in history over the ages. As a measure of strength and power, the ancient cultures of China, Egypt, and Greece used weightlifting as a form of exercise to prepare for battle and strength competitions. Artwork in these ancient cultures documented the strength training of the ruling class to scare away potential enemies. The ancient Egyptians used sand and stone as resistance, and exercise was illustrated on ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 3500 BC.

Free weights used as resistance training are also seen 2000 years ago as dumbbells being used by the Greeks to help them jump farther in a long jump for the ancient Olympic games. In the middle east as well as India, long clubs were used for strength training and stability training, now known as Indian clubs. No matter what the object was, resistance training was being practiced across cultures continuing into the first Olympic games in 1896.

Resistance training has lasted this long because it is a proven way to build strength, stamina and promote muscle growth. There is nothing else like it that has stood the test of time through various cultures. Thanks to Jack LaLanne for his dedication to breakthrough the mindset of his time, resistance training found its way into our homes and popular gyms.

Today with The Resistance Training Revolution, Sal Di Stefano gives a clear example of how a resistance program can change your body. Sal is revolutionizing resistance training in this book and sharing his passion for helping others make real change in their lifestyles, just like Jack LaLanne. Sal is on a similar mission as LaLanne was to break the mindset yet again around resistance training for the average person.

The Resistance Training Revolution | By Sal Di Stefano

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Serene Wilken

Serene Wilken is a graduate of UCLA, and a senior Pilates and Mobility specialist in Northern California. She grew up as a gymnast, which inspired her to pursue a fulfilling career in fitness for over ten years. She holds certifications in Functional Range Conditioning (FRCms), TRX, BASI Pilates for Injuries & Pathologies, as well as BASI Pilates Mentor Program with Rael Isacowitz. She is a strong believer in continuing education, self-growth, and pursues to expand her knowledge of movement so she can help others thrive in their own bodies. 

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