When Chuck Norris wants an egg, he cracks open a chicken. Well, that's not exactly true but there's a reason an entire website full of one-liners like this exists. Because <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/lifestyle/entertainment/184?page=2" target="_blank"> Chuck Norris is badass</a>. As a child he wasn't quiet so tough—he was often teased and would dream about beating up his bullies. After high school he joined the Air Force and got interested in martial arts, which helped him get ripped. Back from duty, he opened his own MA school and taught a celebrity roster including the Osmonds, Priscilla Presley and Steve McQueen. In the professional world, Norris became a six-time world karate champion, the first man in the Western Hemisphere to be awarded an 8th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and the star of the incredibly crappy <em>Walker, Texas Ranger</em>.
At just 15 years old, Jack (also known as The Godfather of Fitness) got interested in diet and exercise and began studying Henry Gray's <em>Anatomy of the Human Body</em>. About six years later, he opened his first health spa in Oakland, California, and got heavily invested in bodybuilding, chiropractic medicine and weightlifting. LaLanne designed the world's first leg extension machines, pulley machines using cables and weight selectors—all of which are now a standard in the fitness industry. He swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, set a world record for 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes, and single-handedly towed boats filled with people. His thinking was considered ahead of his time and, in 2002, he received his own star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.
At the lowest point of fitness celebrity John Basedow's life he described his body as a "bowling pin on legs," with no shoulders and a big, wide middle. He challenged himself to get in good enough shape to appear in a fitness magazine. After failing with countless exercise routines, fad diets and over-hyped supplements, he created his own regimen. And with that, <em>Fitness Made Simple</em> was born. His book (with bonus video!) launched a crazy career in the fitness world and made his face—and washboard body—one of the most recognizable in the biz. Even if it does look Photoshopped.
The wildly popular fitness guru, known for his boot-camp style P90X fitness program, actually had his sights set on becoming an actor after graduating from college. But after moving to Los Angeles in the 1980s, Horton began working out at the legendary World Gym in Venice, California. By the late '80s, Horton had become an established personal trainer—helping to tone the bodies of numerous celebrities and athletes. His list of famous clients include: Rob Lowe, Sean Connery, Bruce Springsteen, Usher, Tom Petty, Billy Idol, and Sheryl Crow. His success as a motivator and renowned expert in the fitness field fueled the sales of his exercise DVDs and created a massive legion of followers. Just how successful is the Tony Horton franchise? It's estimated that his catalog of fitness programs has exceeded $500 million in sales.
Once one of the top American boxers (hence his nickname—<a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/sports_and_recreation/athletes/174" target="_blank"> The Greatest</a>), Ali was known for his powerful jabs and lightning fast footwork. (He once joked that he was so fast he turned off the light switch and was in bed before the room went dark.) During his prime, Ali's daily workout was more than what most men do in a week: He'd get up at five o'clock to stretch and run six miles. Then he'd eat—but only natural foods such as chicken, steak, green beans and potatoes. Every afternoon, he'd hit the gym for three hours for a warm up, shadow boxing routine, a stint on the bag, some sparring and floor exercises. Not surprisingly, Ali retired with an overall professional record of 56 wins and just 5 losses.
Though power lifter Bill Kazmaier only came in third place his first time out at the World's Strongest Man competition, he dominated for the next three years, taking first place from 1980 to 1982. Kazmaier set a bench press world record at 661 pounds and another for straight deadlifting at 887 pounds. At his peak, the Big Kaz was around 6-feet tall, 340 to 360 pounds and had a 40-inch waist. And for some bizarre-yet-awesome reason, Kazmaier's muscle-ridden body has been used in reputable studies of saurpods. Yes, experts are comparing this mammoth of a man to a dinosaur.
Though never a fan favorite (Lewis was viewed by many as arrogant and abrasive), this New Jersey native is one of only four <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/exclusives/230" target="_blank"> Olympic athletes</a> to win nine gold medals. In skill, he was the Michael Jordan of the track & field world. As a college student at University of Houston in 1981, Lewis was ranked number one in the 100-meter race and the long jump. At the 1984 Olympics, signing in at 6-foot-2 and 173 pounds, Lewis won four gold medals—the first of which was the 100 meter at 28 miles per hour in 9.9 seconds. He's also one of only three Olympians to win the same event four times.
Forget the pot-bellied portrait on your $100 bills. Young Ben Franklin was quite the looker. At 17 years old he was almost six feet tall and strikingly muscular and barrel chested. Few people in the 18th century knew how to swim, but Franklin taught himself and took frequent dips (he even thought about becoming a full-time swim instructor and is the only Founding Father in the Swimming Hall of Fame). While working in England at a print shop, he made a conscious choice to drink water instead of alcohol to improve his ability to perform in the shop. It worked: Most printers could only carry a single tray of heavy lead type but a muscular Franklin usually carried two and got promoted. Franklin also became a vegetarian, believing that veggies were healthier than meat. This diet was less expensive and left him more money to spend on books—beefing up his brain too.
Before going Hollywood, Eastwood worked manual labor jobs including stints at a steel mill, as a hay baler and as a lumberjack. And in the 1950s, he was drafted into the army: "I'd always done muscle-training exercise," Clint said to <em>Muscle and Fitness</em> a few decades ago, "things like chins, clips and calisthenics, but it was when I was in the Army that I discovered the weights—the kind of training you'd call bodybuilding today." While he wasn't trying to get jacked, Eastwood wanted to stay fit and went on the record during <em>Rawhide</em> warning people to stay away from carbs and rich desserts. He was <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/lifestyle/entertainment/184?page=5" target="_blank"> famously fit</a> enough to perform his own stunts (including the famous scene in <em>Dirty Harry</em> when he jumps from a bridge to the roof of a moving school bus).
The King of Sweden told Thorpe: "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world." And in the early 1900s, he was. The Native-American athlete dabbled in track & field, baseball and football. He won gold medals for the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, was a collegiate football all-American in 1911 and 1912 and was voted top American athlete of the first half of the 20th century in 1950 (looks like the King was right!). Thorpe's accomplishments were great but his greatest was the founding of the American Professional Football Association, as it went on to become the NFL.