In this post I am going to highlight what I believe to be the 20 most influential people in the fitness field in the last decade. I am combining both actual reach in terms of popularity and quality of information as I judge it. I am also going to occasionally cheat by combining people to make just one group – hey, it is my blog, I can make up the rules. Here goes:
20. Lou Schuler – Lou has been actively involved in the fitness industry for 20 years. He was an editor at Men’s Health Magazine and he has coauthored many fitness books, including such titles as The Testosterone Advantage Plan, The Home Workout Bible, The Book of Muscle and most recently the New Rules of Lifting Series. His books are popular and read by many looking to gain some insights into the fitness world.
19. Bret Contreras – Bret is best known as the glute guy, as his opening salvo into the fitness world was an 800 page dissertation on the glutes. He is a research freak who also puts his time in at the gym. His recent book Strong Curves is ready for the masses and for those wishing more detailed info he puts out an excellent research review detailing all of the cool research articles related to fitness in one neat and tidy package. He has popularized Hip Thrusts in the gym and has put out numerous training and biomechanics based articles and presentations. I expect him to only move up the list in the next decade.
18. Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove – this husband and wife team, based in CA, have written numerous articles and books, given presentations, run a successful gym, and give seminars to others in the fitness industry focusing on the business side of the equation. They have worked with Lou Schuler on the New Rules of Lifting series.
17. Jim Wendler – Jim Wendler is a powerlifter, former college football player and popular author. He has a direct, no fluff style that appeals to many readers and he created the very popular 5/3/1 program which is a well laid out, easy to follow strength program that yields impressive results for many users. Jim Wendler originated out of the Westside Barbell Club and Louie Simmons but has gone on to make his own mark in the fitness world.
16. Ross Enamait – Ross was a professional fighter but he turned his attention to fitness when injuries sidelined his career. He has since made a name for himself with those that like to train at home, build a lot of their own equipment, but still train in a very hardcore fashion. Ross has put out some excellent books (including Infinite Intensity), DVDs, and he has a youtube channel with many instructional and inspirational videos. Ross leads by example and is capable of some notable strength feats himself, such as being able to perform a weighted 1 arm ab wheel rollout on the toes with perfect form.
15. Charles Poliquin – Charles is a famous strength coach that has worked with athletes of all levels. He has gone on to set up his own certification system, the idea of a Biosignature analysis, and he has his own supplement line. The Poliquin Strength Institute is located in Rhode Island and Charles has written several books, numerous articles and has presented at many different conferences worldwide.
14. Mike Clark and the NASM – Mike Clark is not necessarily a household name, however he founded the NASM – The National Academy of Sports Medicine. The NASM is the largest certifying body for personal trainers in the country, certifying more trainers than the other top 4 certifications combined. The NASM is most known for setting up templates to help clients in the stabilization phase and for focusing on functional training. They also popularized the Overhead Squat assessment used in many gyms today and they are the reason that foam rollers have become a gym standard.
13. Bachle and Earle and the NSCA – Thomas Bachle and Roger Earle edited and put together the NSCA’s (National Strength and Conditioning Association’s) textbook – Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. A staple in university kinesiology programs across the country, this is generally considered the go to text for students interested in strength and conditioning and it lays a solid foundation that can be built upon for years to come.
12. Dave Tate and EFS – Dave is another product of Westside, studying under Louie Simmons and going on to become an elite level powerlifter. Dave is a popular online author and is the founder of Elite Fitness Systems, an online store that sells high quality and hardcore strength training equipment. Elifte Fitness Systems also puts out high quality articles from those that have been there/done that in the field.
11. Michael Pollan – a well known author that has reached literally millions of people, his focus is on the nutrition side of the equation. He has written titles including The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food and his most recent worked is Cooked. He was featured in the popular documentary Food Inc that detailed the current state of the food industry in this country.
10. Eric Cressey – a strength and conditioning coached based out of Boston, Eric has made a name for himself because he is able to combine in depth academic knowledge along with a very strong (no pun intended) practical background – he is an accomplished powerlifter. He has a wealth of knowledge to share and seems to be particularly successful working with baseball players of all levels including those in the pro ranks.
9. TC and T-nation – TC Luoma is a popular author and editor at Testosterone Nation (T-Nation), a very popular online website that features articles from fitness leaders across North America. T-nation focuses primarily on strength training articles built around increasing performance, muscle size, muscle strength, and nutrition and it has interactive forums that tend to attract a more educated fitness enthusiast. The website also sells bodybuilding supplements.
8. Bell Brothers – The Bell Brothers (Mike, Chris, and Mark) have done a lot to impact the fitness industry in the last decade. They were featured in the movie Bigger Faster Stronger (directed by Chris Bell) which attempts to tackle the issues related to steroid use in America. Mark Bell has set up Supertraining Gym which attracts some very elite lifters (the new all time bench press record of 722 lbs was recently set by one of his members Eric Spoto) and he has a website and magazine devoted to helping those interested in increasing their maximal strength and power. Unfortunately Mike Bell passed away in 2008 a few years after the release of the movie.
7. Jillian Michaels – Jillian Michaels is a household name, making herself famous by first appearing as a trainer for the Biggest Loser. She has a strong personality and a lot of charisma and many people are drawn to her. She has gone on to build a bit of her own fitness empire with books and supplements and spin off TV shows. She does have a way with people, however her popularity is not without some controversy and it is not clear exactly how deep her knowledge of fitness actually is.
6. Dan John – Dan John is an educator, author and athlete with decades of experience. He is an accomplished thrower but now makes his name putting out detailed, easy to read, no nonsense fitness information. He keeps thing simple but effective and thus appeals to many fitness enthusiasts both old and young. Google his name and you get over a Billion hits (yes, you read that right). Granted he has two first names so he is cheating a bit, but the entire first page is all about him so he is impacting a lot of people and one could do a lot worse than to follow Dan John.
5. Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell – I don’t believe the popularity of Westside has surged in the last 10 years but it is still a very popular, tried and true way of training to increase max strength. Louie runs Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio which has put out an amazing number of powerlifters with near super human strength. He has been around strength and fitness for many decades and has a wealth of practical knowledge. Sometimes his material can be a bit tough for the novice to decipher but once one gets a handle on the method it is a pretty cool and original way to train.
4. Lance Armstrong – Another household name, Lance is likely the most popular cyclist in the world have won the Tour De France 7 times. He has authored books, appeared in movies such as the cult fitness classic Dodgeball, he set up the popular site Livestrong which features articles, tutorials, and calculators to help educate those interested in fitness and health. He is a cancer survivor and has a foundation that has raised millions of dollars to help fight cancer. His public persona has recently taken a hit after he finally admitted to doping when in the past he had vehemently denied it.
3. Joe Weider – Joe Weider was widely known as the Father of Bodybuilding and he was involved in fitness for more than half a century. He brought Arnold to America and he established many of the popular bodybuilding magazines. The magazines seemed to peak in the 80’s and 90’s, their popularity started to fade likely to due to the heavy emphasis on steroid users, fake weights, and over use of ghost writers, but they still impact hundreds of thousands of readers every month. Joe Weider was a visionary that brought bodybuilding into the mainstream. However he was not without controversy including having a bust made of himself but using someone else’s body (Robby Robinson’s – without his permission) and crushing any attempts by the bodybuilders to unionize. He passed away in 2013.
2. Rip – Mark Rippetoe is another individual with extremely solid practical knowledge combined with a deeper understanding of how the body works. He is best known for his seminal work Starting Strength, which goes into great detail on how to perform and coach the 5 classic barbell lifts – the squat, bench, deadlift, military press, and the clean. He has authored other books, put out educational videos, performed countless seminars and has quite a following. It is now quite common to see the Starting Strength readers in the gym, wearing their converse shoes, squatting deep with good form looking at the floor and doing sets of 5 reps. He likely deserves the most credit for making full squats the norm as opposed to an anomaly in the gym.
Before we get to number 1 on our list, there are a few honorable mentions that I feel deserve a call out. They weren’t included in the official list but are likely to be heard from more and more as time goes on:
Arnold – If this was the 80’s or 90’s Arnold would be the on the list, heck he would probably be number one. His effect on the fitness field has waned a bit but he is still exceedingly popular and seems to attempting to be making a comeback into this arena with the recent launch of his website and his recent autobiography. After all, if I don’t have to mention his last name and you know who he is, he must be having some sort of an impact.
Layne Norton – Layne is a popular bodybuilder, powerlifter and PhD whose goal is to educate the public with scientific knowledge and lead by example in the gym – 2 pretty good goals if you ask me. He has a strong following and my guess is that following will only grow, I expect to see him on the list for real in the next decade.
Nick Tumminello – Nick is a trainer and coach currently based in FL, he runs Performance University. He writes articles, gives presentations, and has a popular youtube channel with almost 10 million views. He focuses on a hybrid approach to strength training and conditioning and was listed as a Best of the Best Trainer by Men’s Health.
Gene McIlvaine and NPTI – Admittedly I am biased since I work for NPTI, but NPTI has revolutionized how personal trainers become educated. Starting off with just 4 schools 12 years ago, NPTI now has 30 schools across the country and now graduates over 2000 students every year. Changing the idea that self study, a weekend seminar, and one test with no practical assessment can really prepare a trainer for a career in the field, NPTI puts forth a 500+ hour, 6-12 month long program that is an actual school for personal trainers. How big will we grow in the next decade? Only time will tell.
John Berardi – Berardi is a nutrition expert known for helping thousands of clients build muscle and reduce bodyfat. He has put out the popular Precision Nutrition program which lets one get certified in nutrition, very nice for those personal trainers that don’t get a nutrition education with their personal training certification. He puts out solid info and he doesn’t just talk about eating right, he walks the walk as well.
And here is our number 1 most influential person in the last decade for the fitness world:
1. Greg Glassman – Greg Glassman isn’t a household name but what he started is. Crossfit has taken the fitness world by storm in the last decade and has at some level impacted almost every trainer, from those that have “drank the koolaid” to those that hate Crossfit to everybody in between. Crossfit gyms have sprouted up seemingly overnight to populate the country and the idea of no machines, short, intense workouts for time where everybody does the same thing is very appealing. 10 years ago few people knew what a Turkish get up, a muscle up, Fran, or going Paleo was but now everybody knows it thanks for Crossfit. It has even become its own sport, with a popularity that has managed to surpass powerlifting, weight lifting, and bodybuilding combined all in one decade. Whatever your opinions are about Crossfit, you can’t argue it hasn’t changed the fitness landscape - for better or worse.
It is always tough when you put together a post like this, some really excellent individuals are left out and maybe some people you didn’t think deserve to be included were. Tell me what you think – who did I leave out, who should I have left out – in the comments section below.