15 Fitness Icons Who Have Transformed Lives

Some of us have that natural push to succeed in the gym, yet many of us just haven’t got it in us. We need that little extra incentive and more often than not, that comes from an external source.

fitness icons

Whether it’s a famous actor, a fitness pioneer or even just the guy who’s seemingly lifting from dawn till dusk, there are certain individuals who act as icons and allow us to get that little bit extra from our sessions.

As you’ve probably gathered from the title, we’re about to drill down and identify the fifteen people who we believe are some of the biggest fitness icons the world has ever seen. Struggling to get in the mood for that workout? Take a look at these guys for inspiration…


Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Little else needs to be said, does it? You just knew that Arnie would be mentioned in this list and to be honest, it’s rightly so.

While he might be known for his politics career, which was spearheaded by his hugely successful acting, before all of this he was a champion bodybuilder. He was Mr. Europe, Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia – will anyone else in the world make those claims?

He still dabbles in the bodybuilding industry, putting his name to various magazines related to the sport, but it’s his past which really showcases his best work.


Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

This is another man who saw his fitness exploits showcased on the big screen. Bruce Lee is another one of the most famous actors out there and has headlined some of the most successful martial arts films of all time.

The way that Lee differs from most other martial arts enthusiast is his dedication to the physical aspect of the sport. While he had obviously nailed technique down to a tee, his body was able to perform moves that some of us thought were impossible.

For example, how many guys do you know who are able to do one handed push-ups, using just their thumb and index finger?


Alberto Perez

Alberto Perez

Zumba is one of the most renowned fitness classes out there – but ask people who Alberto Perez is and you’ll probably be met with a frown. Perez is actually the person who brought this phenomenon mainstream.

Arriving from Colombia, and speaking very little English, Perez managed to convince one gym to give him a chance. That’s all he needed – with Zumba taking off at a pace that has almost been unparalleled.

The fact there are now 30,000 teachers of this class (and millions more participants) says everything you need to know about what this guy has done for the fitness industry.


Jenny Craig

Jenny Craig

If you thought this roundup was just going to concentrate on guys, think again. There are plenty of inspirational fitness females out there and Jenny Craig is one of them.

Rather than muscle building, Craig is an icon for her weight loss achievements. Her weight loss company, which was founded with her husband, has helped millions of people around the world shed the pounds.

Her approach is regarded as revolutionary and while there are plenty of fads around when it comes to weight loss, her products are regarded in the minority of those that actually work.


Denise Austin

Denise Austin

Another female icon comes in the form of Denise Austin. There are plenty of women trying to jump on the exercise video bandwagon these days, but few will garner anywhere near the success that Austin has. She’s sold over 20 million videos over time, as well as having ten top fitness books on the shelves.

When you combine these achievements with her regular fitness show (which has been the longest running in the niche of all time), it makes Austin an absolute inspiration to everyone in the country who is looking to take charge of their fitness.


Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris fitness

Yet another man who has made the move from martial arts to the big screen is Chuck Norris. A karate champion one year, Norris has starred in some of the biggest films over time such as The Delta Force and Firewalker.

However, the reason he’s an icon is for his work before acting. Few people realize that he is a six-time undefeated World Karate Champion (Middleweight division), while he was also an 8th degree Black Belt Grand Master in Tae Kwon Do. In terms of the latter, he became the first man in the Western Hemisphere to do this.


Billy Blanks

Billy Blanks

He might not be as famous as some of the names we have reeled off so far, but Billy Blanks is undoubtedly an icon when you look at the history of fitness. He’s the inventor of Tae Bo – the famous workout which manages to combine martial arts and boxing for terrific results.

Considering the success of Tae Bo – Blanks inclusion in our list just can’t be disputed.


Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas fitness

Something you may have noticed through this roundup is that we have focused on a lot of individuals who have inspired the world through their fitness videos and shows.

Charles Atlas is unique in the way that he’s probably the man that inspired all of these people. Back in 1922, he marketed the Health & Strength course which was said to transform a “97lb weakling” into a serious bodybuilder.

Funnily enough, he was never a “97 lb weakling” himself – this was pure marketing spiel. Nevertheless, his course worked a treat for millions.


Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda fitness

This is another individual who has probably changed the lives of millions by her specially designed fitness program. Quite amazingly, Fonda’s career could have been so much more different had she not suffered a serious injury whilst being a professional ballet dancer.

It meant that she was forced to look towards other avenues and considering the fact that her exercise package sold 17 million copies, it goes without saying that the move was vindicated. She seems to appeal to new mothers, and an older generation of fitness enthusiasts.


Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne fitness

Jack LaLanne is one of the more interesting inclusions on our list and his approach was very much centered on healthy living. Dubbed the “Godfather of Fitness” by many, his idea was to prevent people becoming ill by teaching good fitness and health principles.

The fact that he also invented various exercise equipment simply enhances his reputation.

Unsure if his philosophies really worked? Let’s not forget that Lalanne lived until he was 96-years-old.


Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels fitness

Most of you will be aware of Jillian Michaels for her role as a personal trainer on The Biggest Loser, but her successes really span much further than that.

She’s one of the “hardest” personal trainers around and while this might be difficult for some people to live with, it’s worth noting that Michaels was previously overweight before making the jump to fitness enthusiast.


Bob Harper

Bob Harper fitness

On the subject of The Biggest Loser, we couldn’t leave out Bob Harper could we? This is another focal point of the famous television show and another guy who has changed millions of lives.

It should be noted that Harper still hasn’t forgotten his roots. While The Biggest Loser takes up the majority of his time, he still teaches Saturday group fitness classes as well as writing for countless publications who want to delve into his fitness secrets.


Richard Simmons

richard simmons fitness

Another fitness video junky, but another individual who has changed the life of millions and simply has to be classed in the “icon” category.

No fewer than 50 fitness videos have been authored by Simmons but as well as this, he made the unusual pledge to go out on tour. This meant that he was always available to his followers – usually spending around 250 days every year out on the road.

His career spanned over thirty years and as we all know in the fitness industry, only the very best survive this sort of test of time.


Kiana Tom

Kiana Tom fitness

Sure, we’ve featured plenty of TV fitness instructors – and many of these have been female. However, Kiana Tom is a completely different breed, she’s one of the few who encouraged body shaping and lifting weights.

For ten years she “sexed up” bodybuilding – appearing on ESPNs Body Shaping and inspiring the nation. She wore minimal clothing whilst running her shows, which of course made her a national talking point.


Dara Torres

Dara Torres fitness

We haven’t focused on too many athletes through this roundup, which is why we’re finishing with one of the most impressive women known to sport. Back in 1984,

Torres was swimming in her first Olympics. Incredibly, almost three decades later, she came ever so close to appearing in a sixth Olympics. Unfortunately, she just fell short, but at 45-years-old one could maybe forgive this!

She’s still the oldest woman to ever swim in the Games and towards the end of her career, she was competing with girls that were half of her age. She goes by the philosophy of “age is just a number” – another reason why she’s an absolute icon in our eyes.

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Professional Health and Fitness Coach,
(Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Nutrition Specialist)

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