Jack LaLanne was a pioneer. Addicted to junk food and sugar as a boy, he turned his life around and became the face of fitness across the world. He reinvented the role of the personal trainer, which is now a profession practiced all over the world.

LaLanne was a trailblazer in the business of health. He opened the first commercially successful fitness gym in 1936, and invented dozens of patented pieces of gym equipment. His television show, the Jack LaLanne Show, was broadcast in the United States for 34 years, and launched the ‘public fitness guru’ across the pond.


Described as an ‘animal’ by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack LaLanne often displayed amazing feats of strength, conditioning and endurance in order to show the public that anything was possible if you trained hard enough. 

The ‘godfather of fitness’ is known for organizing and achieving some absurd things. Here are some of his most ridiculous feats.

Swimming From Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf Whilst Handcuffed

Alcatraz island is notoriously hard to escape from. The prison island lies two kilometers off the shore of San Francisco and is surrounded by high currents at all times. The only prisoner that ever managed to escape by swimming was found in hypothermic shock on the shore and promptly returned to captivity.

Jack LaLanne, however, thought it could be done. At the age of 41, he agreed to be handcuffed before attempting the perilous swim. When interviewed afterwards, he nonchalantly claimed that the worst part of the ordeal was the fact he was unable to perform a jumping jack when entering the water due to his handcuffs, a favorite of personal trainers at train.fitness.

Lots of Pushups

Jack set a rather absurd record for pushups in 1956, when he completed 1033 in 23 minutes in order to celebrate the nationwide syndication of his television show. The show aimed to teach ordinary Americans how to stay fit and healthy, but many tuned in just to see Jack’s ridiculous feats of strength.

In the show, LeLanne often used a strange showman’s trick: he would mesmerize children by getting his German Shephard, Happy, to play on camera. He would then instruct the entranced kids to go and get their parents so that they would exercise with him. Not subtle, but apparently very effective.

Chin Up, Mate

In 1959, Jack performed what he described as his hardest ever fitness stunt. He performed 1000 jumping jacks and 1000 chin ups in just under and hour and a half. What made this so grueling, apart from the obvious, is that Jack claimed that the skin on his hands started to peel off during his chin ups. He felt unable to stop for fear that he would be seen as a failure. Don’t worry Jack, I don’t think anybody would have called you a failure.

Jack Kept performing bizarre feats of strength and conditioning until he was 70 years old – when he pulled 70 rowboats for a mile through the sea whilst handcuffed and shackled.

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