Happy Birhtday Tony Horton, Too!

Yesterday, we celebrated the birth of our country with everything from solemn to joyous to boisterous celebrations. Not lost to those of us who are devotees of Tony Horton and know what a great impact he has made in so many of our lives with his effective workout programs is the fact that July 2 was Tony’s 50th birthday. He is as fit as ever and here is a celebration of his career.

It’s said that 40 is the new 30, but when it comes to Tony Horton, 50 is the new 25. This will be shocking news to some, but Horton hits the half-century mark today. A few years from qualifying for an AARP membership, Tony is still shredding black diamond runs, climbing ropes, and knocking off pull-ups with the energy that most 25-year-olds would sell their souls for. And he has no inkling of slowing down.

After all, Tony’s barely half the age of his idol, fitness icon Jack LaLanne. So the way he views life, it’s time to kick things up a notch. To Horton, each new decade is like a new training block. So instead of trying to decide which RV to buy, he’ll be spending his “sunset” years looking for ways to top P90X Plus. “Hey, kids, I just turned 50. Now here’s the bonus.”

In the first of a two-part series, we’ll look at Tony’s career at Beachbody®. In part II, we’ll get up close and personal to see Horton’s master plan for aging gracefully. Today, let’s chronicle how a funny guy crackin’ jokes and doing pull-ups on the beach turned into one of America’s fitness heroes.

When Carl Daikeler and Jon Congdon launched Beachbody late last century, they had no idea what it would become. Television fitness companies had, until that time, been synonymous with hokey advertising and hollow promises. There had been some good fitness TV shows (LaLanne’s standing above all others), but no one had been able to sell real fitness—which took hard work—to a mass audience wanting a magic pill. To meet this challenge, Carl and Jon needed a trainer who could not only talk the talk and walk the walk but who could entertain as well. They ended up finding two.

Great Body Guaranteed!™
This low-budget series is a far cry from the slick productions Beachbody markets today. In a throwback to ESPN’s Bodies in Motion shows of the 80s, Tony and Debbie Siebers took turns leading short workouts on the beach. These more specifically targeted versions of 6-minute abs didn’t require any equipment; just a few minutes a day dedicated to training a specific area of your body and a commitment to making yourself tired were required. Oddly enough, it worked. So well, in fact, that the Great Body Guaranteed! workouts are still a part of the Beachbody arsenal and can be good fill-in workouts for when you don’t have time for something longer.

Power 90®
With the knowledge that they could get the public to buy an actual exercise program, Carl and Jon (and the entire Beachbody staff of two) enlisted Tony to come up with something for the masses. Carl, Jon, and Tony would experiment with workouts until they found movements that they thought would work for the widest range of people possible. It had to be simple and doable in a small space, and, most of all, it had to yield great results in a relatively short period of time. Power 90 was born.

This became the flagship program for Beachbody and one of the most popular infomercials on television. Production values were still relatively low, but the exercise was sound and Tony was, well, Tony. Conditioned to needing to endure, rather than enjoy, fitness instructors who’d made it onto their TV sets, the public ate up the comedic stylings of “the fitness clown,” as Horton often referred to himself. When the Message Boards launched, it became clear that it was Tony’s personality that set Power 90 apart.

Ho Ala’ ke Kino
Early on, when Beachbody was struggling to survive, it didn’t have the luxury of providing every fitness need for every person. Both Great Body Guaranteed! and Power 90 used Sectional Progression™, a Beachbody-coined term for progress-overload training targeting specific areas. These programs covered three phases of training: foundation, adaptation, and growth (or mastery). What they had left out was active recovery.

So during the first annual Beachbody Success Story Hawaii trip, Tony went down to the beach. The cameras (or was it camera?) rolled, and Tony made a kinder, gentler workout that was a hybrid of yoga, stretching, and Tony. The result was the first Beachbody recovery workout that, along with a few stretching vids, became the cornerstone of our recovery phases for years.

Power Half Hour®
Bigger things were in the works. And with the success of Power 90 and Debbie Siebers’ Slim in 6®, Beachbody found itself in a position where it needed something harder. And it needed it right now. Tony created a five-workout set of 30-minute workouts designed for those who had graduated from either Power 90 or Slim in 6. This “interim” program became a vital step in the creation of P90X.

While only “30 minutes,” Power Half Hour workouts were a new level of intensity. In fact, they’ll still work well, even for Xers, when used as substitute workouts. They were also more targeted than Power 90. This meant that users could create many different phases of training to keep their results curve going up and avoid the inevitable plateau that happens from using the same exercise program over and over. This versatility made Power Half Hour hugely popular with the Beachbody community during the years they waited for P90X to be finished.

Furthermore, these workouts allowed Tony to further display his personality. His clowning reaches an all-time high in this series, which prompted Message Boards debates as to “which Tony” they liked better.

Tony & the Kids! and Tony & the Folks!
Looking to include all demographics, Tony created two workouts targeted at, you guessed it, young kids (Tony & the Kids!) and elderly people who were too deconditioned to stand the rigors of Power 90. Since most people can do Power 90 even with a slight amount of base conditioning, these two workouts served to prepare these demographics to take the next step in their fitness, or at least help them maintain a healthy baseline for everyday living.

Power 90® Master Series
These were actually created after P90X but released before P90X had found its niche. After P90X failed to create a stir, Tony created the Master Series as a veritable X Light program.

We actually knew there was a big market for this because during the creation of X, we would put our members through various training cycles that combined Tony and Debbie’s existing workouts. The combination of Power Half Hour along with Debbie’s Slim Series® showed us that we could get great results with a program of mid-level intensity.

Master Series now holds an interesting niche in the Beachbody lineup. In these workouts, Tony spends a lot of time instructing how to do the individual moves. This means that there are long breaks between the exercises, which reduces the intensity. Of course, these are video workouts, meaning that you see the exact same thing over and over and you can modify as you feel the need. Therefore, once you know the workout, you can fast-forward through the breaks or spend the extra instruction time doing longer sets. For this reason, Master Series is highly versatile intensitywise. The workouts can be used for both a recovery phase after P90X or along with P90X Plus to intensify your training.

P90X®
P90X is simply the best high-level training program ever to be sold to the general public. It took years to develop and no detail was left unaddressed. Many times during its development, it was almost canned.

With the success of Power 90, the need for something more all-encompassing and difficult was obvious. However, for a TV workout program to sell, it needs to appeal to the masses. So selling something that was going to have to appear to include a lot of hard work was going to be touch and go. But that was Beachbody’s issue. For Tony, his challenge was just to create the most comprehensive workout program possible.

He didn’t even attempt to do this alone. Formation began with a series of “round table” discussions with fitness and nutrition professionals from different disciplines. The latest science was then combined with Beachbody’s knowledge of home workouts, input from Beachbody’s members, and numerous test groups. When the dust settled, we had a series of 12 different workouts that followed a highly scientific periodizational principle. P90X was born.

Then it sat on the shelf. Outside of Beachbody members, P90X proved too daunting for the masses. The Beachbody marketing team worked and reworked it to try to find an angle. Finally, that angle was our own community. Eventually, there were so many amazing success stories that it became hard for anyone desiring to maximize their physical potential not to give it a shot. It became the number one infomercial on television; the obesity epidemic leveled off for the first time in 30 years; and Tony became a star.

10-Minute Trainer®
It could be said that this program was based on the science that tells us that 80 percent of your results are gained during your first set of exercise. In reality, it’s based on the polls that tell us that most people are busy. But it also helps that the former statement is pretty much true.

Beachbody is always looking to plug any holes in the fitness dam. The number one excuse for not exercising is lack of time. With 10-Minute Trainer, we knew we could convert many a “timeophobe.” And who better to put together the most efficient 10 minutes of your life than Tony? With test group results that were off the charts, 10-Minute Trainer was an instant success. Who can’t find 10 minutes a day?

P90X® Plus
This answers the obvious “what’s next” question for Xers. In this series, which is not complete like P90X, Tony pretty much ups the intensity to fit hour-long P90X workouts into 45 minutes. The workouts are more holistic in approach, meaning that movements are lumped into—often with quite some difficulty—hybrid exercises that concurrently work many muscle groups. Because of this, not as many different types of workouts are necessary. And while it’s less versatile than standard X, it covers all the bases fitnesswise. It’s a definite upgrade to P90X.

One on One
This series of workouts is just being released and will address the Beachbody theme of “what do you want next.” It actually addresses what Tony wants to do next, which is based on what he hears from you. After all these years, Tony remains incredibly available to his (massive) client base. You can find him on the Message Boards, in Beachbody chats, and in clinics he gives around the country.

In fact, if you want him to create a workout for you, the best way may be to take a stroll down Santa Monica beach on a Sunday morning. Look for a middle-aged guy playing with the kids on the gymnastic equipment. Tony loves to compete, so maybe challenge “the old man” to a pull-up contest, a race up the ropes, or a Jack LaLanne trivia contest. Win or lose, he’ll be psyched to help you out. And he’ll certainly make you laugh.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.