Three Decades of the Most Popular Celebrity Fitness Gurus

Back in the 1980s, celebrity fitness gurus first came to prominence – and there were certainly a lot of them – mainly as a direct result of the popularity of home workout programs available on VCR. Celebrities that wanted to increase their presence – or just make a few bucks – jumped onto the bandwagon, with notable names such as Jane Fonda, Heather Locklear, and Kathy Smith releasing their own routines. Home workout videos weren’t the only craze, however.

Jane fonda, Cher, Kathy Smith, Tracy Anderson

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As time went on, television series and online channels began to also increase in popularity, with an increasing number of celebrities transcending from the world of acting or singing and making a name for themselves in the fitness field. There are also cases of personal trainers and fitness instructors that managed to find fame for themselves as a result of their overwhelming popularity. In this article, we take you across three decades, from 1980 to 2010, of the most popular celebrity fitness gurus.

1980: Arnold Schwarzenegger, “You Can Do It!”

Arnold Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American, actor, producer, businessman, and author that gained international fame as a Hollywood film icon with his role in the blockbuster movie “Conan and the Barbarian” in 1982. Moreover, he surprised a lot of people by serving as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 to 2011.

Arnold Schwarzenegger working out in a shirt that says 'ARMY.'

Photo by Greg Mathieson / Shutterstock

However, he’s also recognized worldwide as a fitness guru, as he started off as a professional bodybuilder and even competed in the 1980 Mr. Olympia competition while he was also training for a role in a movie. Despite his hectic schedule, he ended up winning. One of his most famous fitness phrases is, “You can do it!”

1981: Olivia Newton-John, Getting Physical

Olivia Newton-John is an Australian (although English-born) actress, singer, songwriter, and dancer that is best known for her leading role as Sandy in “Grease,” the musical that took the world by storm all the way back in 1971 – and it’s still regarded as a classic movie today.

Olivia Newton-John wearing pink and red '80s work out gear with leg warmers and a headband to complete it.

Source: Flickr

Although Olivia Newton-John isn’t exactly a celebrity fitness guru like some of the others on this list, her smash-hit single by the name of “Physical” was pretty much a fitness video – and it was a global sensation that motivated people to get up, get moving, and – you guessed it – get physical.

1982: Suzanne Somers, The Thigh Master

Suzanne Somers is an American actress, singer, and author that’s best known for her role as Chrissy Snow in the US TV show Three’s Company. In 1982, however, the actress turned into a celebrity fitness personality as a result of her workout infomercials and endorsements for the “Thigh Master.”

Suzanne Somers in a yellow short-sleeved bodysuit with matching leg warmers and a high side half ponytail.

Photo by Kobal / Shutterstock

The “Thigh Master” apparently “Firms and tones your inner thighs, shapes and tones your stomach and abdomen, and tightens your upper arms” – and customer reviews say it really works. Since then, she’s since gone on to write multiple weight loss, nutrition, and health books – many of which have become best-sellers.

1983: Gilad Janklowicz, Bodies In Motion

Gilad Janklowicz, who was born and raised in Israel, became an athlete and devoted to physical fitness during his school days when he regularly took part in decathlon competitions and even hoped to compete in the Olympics one day. He later became a fitness instructor in the Israeli military, which is renowned for its strict regimen.

Gilad Janklowicz is working out in the desert in a blue and black tank top lifting an orange ten-kilo weight

Source: Flickr

Gilad Janklowicz is best known for “Bodies In Motion,” the longest-running fitness show in the US that was first aired in 1983. It was a 30-minute aerobics workout, and Gilad was the presenter and instructor. He also produced more than 30 workout videos, as well as hosting another show named “Total Body Sculpt with Gilad.”

1984: Raquel Welch, Total Beauty, and Fitness

Raquel Welch is an American actress and singer that rose to fame in 1966 with the release of the movie “Fantastic Voyage” – as a result, she won a contract with 20th Century Fox and went on to appear in many more Hollywood films. She was credited for her part in breaking stereotypical “female” roles, instead, playing strong, independent characters.

Raquel Welch in a white bodysuit with a matching headband holding her elbows upward, but her hands clasped underneath her chin

Photo by Moviestore Collection / Shutterstock

In 1984, she released her “Total Beauty and Fitness Program,” which was immediately very popular. It had a particular emphasis on yoga, showcasing various postures. This was fairly unusual at the time, as yoga hadn’t yet become anywhere near as popular as it is today.

1985: Jake Steinfeld, The Body

Jake Steinfeld, born in 1958, is an American fitness guru whose successful career in the field first began thanks to huge Hollywood stars such as the likes of Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg, who hired him as a personal trainer. Consequently, soon after, he launched the fitness regimen series called “Body by Jake,” which catapulted him into fame.

Jake Steinfeld in a black 'Body by Jake' t-shirt holding up a 'Body by Jake' VHS tape

Photo by Peter Brooker / Shutterstock

He didn’t stop there, however, soon launching a 24-hour fitness lifestyle network called FitTV, which he later sold to News Corp. He then launched ExerciseTV, a fitness on-demand television network, and co-founded the first professional outdoor lacrosse league, Major League Lacrosse.

1986: Jane Fonda, Encouraging VCR Sales

Undoubtedly, Jane Fonda, an American actress, former fashion model, and political activist, is a household name throughout most of the world. Her successful career has spanned decades, and she has a number of accolades to her name, including Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards.

Jane Fonda in a white leotard directing a fitness class for the stars in 1980

Photo by Mediapunch / Shutterstock

However, she’s also a celebrity fitness guru, with a long line of fitness videos named “Jane Fonda Workout.” They’ve been extremely successful, having sold more than 17 million copies worldwide – the most among any exercise series ever made. She encouraged Americans to buy their first VCRs in the 1980s so that they’d be able to do her aerobics-based workout routines at home.

1987: Heather Locklear, Personal Training Sessions

American actress and model Heather Locklear starred in Melrose Place as Amanda Woodward for six years, rising to fame and consequently receiving four consecutive nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama. She also starred in the hit series “Dynasty” for eight years.

Heather Locklear in a red v-neck leotard and a white headband smiling for the camera in a parking lot in 1982

Photo by Globe Photos / Mediapunch / Shutterstock

Heather wasn’t content with making it in just acting and modeling, however, and went on to become a celebrity fitness guru in 1987 with a series of workout videos called “Personal Training Sessions.” These were widely popular and were particularly renowned for her typical 1980s fashion, with bright leotards, leggings, and leg warmers.

1988: Kathy Smith, Project: You!

Kathy Smith was born in Arizona in the US and began exercising after her parents both died as a way of combatting depression and staying on the right track. She then went on to become a personal trainer, releasing a line of workout videos during the late 1980s and 1990s – she’s sold an estimated 16 million worldwide in total.

Kathy Smith in a blue workout top and matching pants with a white stripe

Source: Flickr

She created a nutrition and exercise program alongside the American Diabetes Association called “Project: You! Type 2” to help people with type 2 diabetes. Her daughter, Kate Grace, is also into fitness and even ran in the 800-meter event at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

1989: Chuck Norris, Chun Kuk Do

Chuck Norris is known worldwide for being an actor, movie producer, and screenwriter, with a career that started back in the 1970s. However, he’s also a martial artist and appeared in a number of high-intensity action films, such as “A Force of One” and “An Eye for an Eye.”

Chuck Norris performing martial arts circa 1980

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He is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, and Tang Soo Do, with many victories in martial arts championships to his name. He even went on to found his own martial art discipline, which he named “Chun Kuk Do,” and later trained Hollywood celebrities in martial arts.

1990: Derrick Evans, Mr. Motivator

Derrick Evans is a Jamaican-born British fitness instructor – but you may know him better by his stage name “Mr. Motivator.” He rose to fame in the 1990s by performing high-energy live workout sessions on UK breakfast show GMTV, after which he would offer fitness advice and tips to viewers.

Derrick Evans, known as Mr. Motivator

Photo by ITV / Shutterstock

He was known in particular for his outfits, which were always extremely extravagant, usually consisting of tight-fitting, bright, colorful spandex leotards. As his name may suggest, he was also known for being extremely encouraging, cheerful, loud, and motivating to his viewers. As a result of his television success, he went on to release several workout videos, which enjoyed great success.

1991: Cher, Forever Fit

Of course, everyone’s heard of Cher, the world-famous singer that’s enjoyed a hugely successful career that’s spanned a total of six decades, which is a major achievement by anyone’s standards. In fact, she’s often been referred to by the media as the “Goddess of Pop” and is still able to sell out concerts even though she’s in her ’70s.

Cher in St Tropez, France, wearing an off the shoulder shirt and headband in the '80s

Photo by Armando Pietrangeli / Shutterstock

It’s not just singing that Cher’s good at – she’s also an actress, appearing in multiple movies. However, many people forget that Cher is also a celebrity fitness guru. The legend entered the fitness industry in 1991 when she released a book named “Cher Forever Fit,” which featured not only workout tips but also nutrition advice and skincare tips.

1992: Denise Austin, America’s Fitness Sweetheart

Denise Austin, who initially began teaching fitness classes after graduating from university with a degree in physical education, rose to fame in the 1990s and became one of the top celebrity fitness gurus of the decade. She has been dubbed “America’s Fitness Sweetheart” after selling more than 20 million exercise videos.

Denise Austin making a muscle at the Sketchers Shape-Up America Tour

Source: Shutterstock

Since then, Denise Austin has gone on to author ten fitness books, including “Pilates for Every Body,” “Eat Carbs,” and “Shrink Your Female Fat Zones.” She emphasizes staying fit naturally, such as by exercising only for a maximum of 30 minutes a day and eating healthily. She tends to center her fitness regimen around Pilates, yoga, and aerobics.

1993: Fabio Lanzoni, Fabio Fitness

Fabio Lanzoni, who is famously known by just his first name, is an Italian-American model and actor who once had his face plastered across the covers of romance novels all over the world. In 1993, however, he decided to delve into the realm of fitness to become yet another celebrity fitness guru.

Fabio with his arms crossed wearing a blue tank top and his hair long and blonde

Photo by ITV / Shutterstock

His self-titled workout video, “Fabio Fitness,” was extremely successful, and he since went on to release a book named “Fabio Fitness: More Than 200 Get-fit Tips for Lifelong Health and Fitness”, which contained what he claimed to be “the best health and fitness tips available in any diet and exercise program.” Topics included motivation for staying healthy, foods for a fat-free figure (including Fabio’s favorite recipes), and body firming.

1994: Susan Powter, Stop the Insanity!

Susan Powter is an Australian-born American nutritionist, personal trainer, and motivational speaker that rose to fame in 1994 when she hosted her own talk show named “The Susan Powter Show.” On it, she discussed topics such as fitness and nutrition with her guests and gave her own personal tips and advice.

Susan Powter holding weights and looking straightforward with 'Building Strength with Susan Powter' written underneath it

Source: Pinterest

She also starred in her own weight-loss infomercial, the centerpiece of which was her well-known catchphrase, “Stop the insanity!” She has condemned the fad diet industry and, instead, advocates a diet consisting of whole foods, organic, low-fat food, and regular strength-training and cardiovascular exercise.

1995: Tony Little, Booming Enthusiasm

Tony Little is an American certified personal trainer who calls himself “America’s Personal Trainer.” He is also a television fitness personality in the US that is best known for his numerous fitness infomercials that aired throughout the 1990s, as well as his popular catchphrase, “You can do it.”

Tony Little pulling a bar up with a grey shirt and workout shorts on

Source: Flickr

He is also known for his distinctive long, blond ponytail and, according to him, his “booming-voice enthusiasm.” Moreover, he has publicly endorsed a lot of popular fitness products – most notably, the Gazelle Elliptical Glider. He is now 74 years old but still keeps fit; however, he can.

1996: Richard Simmons, Sweatin’ to the Oldies

Milton Teagle “Richard” Simmons is an American fitness instructor and video producer that rose to fame in the mid-90s as a result of his personality, which was not only energetic and motivational but also eccentric and flamboyant. He made a line of aerobics videos called “Sweatin’ to the Oldies’ that featured high energy and an upbeat soundtrack.

Richard Simmons in his '80s workout gear that says 'Disco Sweat' on it, waving his hands in the air

Photo by Walter McBride / Shutterstock

Through these videos, Richard Simmons has promoted and endorsed various weight-loss programs. During the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, he came out from retirement at 71 years old to make YouTube videos on his channel to promote keeping fit during the lockdown.

1997: Don Saladino, Shredded from Head to Toe

Don Saladino has been a fitness coach for actors, athletes, musicians, and other celebrity clients for more than 20 years. Examples of his clients include Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, and Liev Schreiber, among others – making him one of the most in-demand personal trainers for the rich and famous.

Don Saladino lifting weights on a bench

Source: Flick

He also came up with a seven-week plan “to get shredded from head to toe,” which is tailored to every individual. “Overall, I’m looking to make sure the body is as strong and as resilient as possible 365 days a year,” he says. Currently, he shares workout videos with his YouTube subscribers.

1998: Billy Blanks, Tae Bo

Although he was born with a problem with his hip joints that impaired his movement, Billy Blanks started studying martial arts at just 11 years old, attending both taekwondo and karate classes. As a teenager, he aspired to be a world martial arts champion but ended up creating a new martial art: Tae Bo.

Billy Blanks leading a Tae Bo class

Source: Pinterest

This was a combination of boxing and Tae Kwon Do, and he opened up a new fitness center in LA to teach it to students. It was popular and soon attracted celebrities such as Paula Abdul, which encouraged Billy to release multiple mass-marketed workout videos. Reportedly, more than 1.5 million sold, grossing between $80 million and $130 million.

2000: Bob Harper, Not the Biggest Loser

Bob Harper is an American personal trainer, as well as a reality television personality known for his role on the show “The Biggest Loser.” Although he had been featured as a trainer on the show since 2004, he was announced as the host in 2015 and was extremely popular with viewers.

Bob Harper at the Today Show in 2013

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He is known on the show for being extremely open and honest about his sexuality, heart attack health scare, and dieting habits. He has also appeared in several Biggest Loser DVD workouts, as well as featuring in the first three seasons of the Australian version of the show.

2001: Shaun T, Hip-Hop Abs

Shaun Thompson – better known as Shaun T – is an American fitness instructor that is best known for his home fitness programs that are marketed for both adults and children. These include “Hip-Hop Abs,” “T25”, and “Insanity” – and they are all extremely energetic and high-intensity.

Shaun T flexing his muscles in 2015

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As a result of his home workout videos becoming so popular across the whole of the US, Shaun T was invited to make a number of appearances on television, on programs such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the “Tyra Banks Show” and “The Dr. Oz Show” – which, of course, catapulted him to even greater heights of fame in the early 2000s.

2002: Jillian Michaels, Sweat, INC.

Jillian Michaels is a personal trainer, as well as a television personality and author, from the US. In 2002, she opened Sky Sport & Spa – a sports medicine facility located in Beverly Hills in LA, California. Soon after, she made her TV debut on the hit NBC show, “The Biggest Loser.”

Jillian Michael holding a weight in front of a poster of herself

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She was known on the show for her tough – but successful – style of coaching. Since then, she’s hosted and co-judged “Sweat, INC.,” a television series, released a number of workout DVDs, written multiple fitness books, and even had her own reality television series, “Just Jillian,” which premiered in January 2016.

2003: Tony Horton, Before and After

Antony Sawyer Horton Jr. – better known as Tony Horton – is an American personal trainer and author. He started off as a personal trainer to a 20th Century Fox executive in 1980, charging $20 per session. Eventually, his clientele grew to include stars such as Annie Lennox, Billy Idol, Bruce Springsteen, and Usher.

Tony Horton at the Super Troopers 2 movie premiere

Photo by Rob Latour / Variety / Shutterstock

In 2003, he created and released his own commercial home workout regimen, which he called P90X. There was a series of infomercials about P90X that showed dramatic “before” and “after” results, promising that anyone could achieve them if they completed the program in 90 days.

2004: Harley Pasternak, Training Catwoman

Harley Pasternak is a Canadian-American personal trainer that has a huge list of celebrity clients. These include, but are in no way limited to, Lady Gaga, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Robert Downey Jr, Jennifer Hudson, and Kate Beckinsale – a pretty impressive selection by anyone’s standards.

Harley Pasternak holding a weight in an outdoor home gym

Source: Instagram / @harleypasternak

This client list was greatly enhanced in 2004 when Halle Berry revealed that Harley trained her for her role in the movie “Catwoman” – the admission got him a guest appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” as well as a book deal. 5-Factor Fitness: The Diet and Fitness Secret of Hollywood’s A-List was published in 2005 and became an international best-seller.

2005: Gunnar Peterson, Focus on Function

Gunnar Peterson is one of the most sought-after personal trainers that is best known for his work with celebrities and professional athletes. These include, but are not limited to, the Kardashians, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Billy Dee Williams. He owns and runs a private training facility in Beverly Hills, where he sees up to nine clients per day.

Gunner Peterson is standing by his weights in a home gym with athlete's photographs all over the wall

Photo by Brooker / Cook / Shutterstock

He told Sports Illustrated, “My main focus is function” – and his expertise in functional training and his passion for developing innovative fitness techniques is what he is most widely recognized for. He also released a book in 2005 called “G-Force,” which outlines what Gunnar calls the four “F-words”: Focus, Freedom, Function, and Foundation.

2006: Tracy Anderson, Mogul to the Stars

Tracy Anderson is an American fitness mogul that is arguably best known for the Tracy Anderson Method. She got her big break in 2006 when Gwyneth Paltrow visited her LA studio and lost a significant amount of weight. Gwyneth Paltrow then told Madonna about Tracy Anderson, who consequently gained even more popularity.

Tracy Anderson about to lead a 'Train Like an Angel' workout

Photo by Kristin Callahan / Ace / Shutterstock

In 2015, she launched TA Video Streaming, an online fitness program. Each week, subscribers to the program receive new workouts that are filmed by Tracy in real-time at one of her studios. She also launched a pregnancy workout DVD collection that is aimed at women in both the pre-and-postnatal periods.

2007: Jackie Warner, Thintervention

Jackie Warner is an American fitness trainer that is best known for appearing in Bravo’s reality television series “Work Out,” which started in 2006 and gave a behind-the-scenes look at how she managed her day-to-day business and personal and professional relationships, which were often controversial. Due to its success, in 2007, Bravo launched a second season.

Jackie Warner doing squats

Source: Facebook / Jackie Warner

Jackie Warner’s television appearances didn’t stop there, however – in 2010, “Thintervention with Jackie Warner” aired on Bravo, following the fitness trainer as she helped eight people to lose weight – one of which was Jeana Keough, a former “Real Housewives of Orange County” star.

2008: Justin Gelband, Victoria’s Secret Extraordinaire

Justin Gelband is a personal trainer for many of the world-famous Victoria’s Secret Angels, responsible for helping the top models get into the best possible shape before strutting down the runway in the internationally acclaimed fashion show. Although he says that getting into shape isn’t a quick or easy process, he does have some basic advice.

Justin Gelband pulling a rope attached to a ballet pole

Source: YouTube

“The one thing,” he says, “Is limiting the amount of things you are putting into your body that you do not need. No sugar (except for berries), no salt, no alcohol, limit your carbs.’ I work closely with Dr. D’Adamo’s blood type diet.”

2009: David Kirsch, the Butt Guy

David Kirsch is a personal trainer to a number of celebrities and also known to many as “the butt guy.” This is mainly due to the fact that he has helped global stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Kate Upton achieve their famously toned rear ends. Moreover, he authored the “Butt Book” in 2009 and the best-seller “The Ultimate New York Body Plan.”

David Kirsch holding a microphone in an activewear shirt

Photo by Babiradpicture / Shutterstock

David Kirsch describes himself as “a wellness visionary with over two decades of experience in uncovering the connection between mind, body, and spirit” and says his philosophy is “Sound Mind, Sound Body,” which “transcends fitness to encompass wellness as a whole.”

2010: Mary Helen Bowers, Black Swan

Mary Helen Bowers is a former dancer in the New York City Ballet, where she danced for a decade. Since then, she has turned into an American celebrity fitness guru, with a list of clients including, but not limited to, Zooey Deschanel, Liv Tyler, Kirsten Dunst, Helena Christensen, and Dakota Johnson.

Mary Helen Bowers in a leotard in a ballet position holding a bar

Photo by Fairchild Archive / Penske Media / Shutterstock

Impressively, she helped train actress Natalie Portman for her Oscar-winning performance in the movie “Black Swan.” In 2012, she released a book titled “Ballet Beautiful: Transform Your Body and Gain the Strength, Grace, and Focus of a Ballet Dancer,” which was fairly successful.

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