California'S Muscle Beach
Muscle Beach has been a California tourist sight for 70 years. Learn about its rich history.
Muscle Beach in California is a place that everyone should experience at least once. Located on Ocean Front Walk just south of Windward on the Venice Beach boardwalk in Venice, California, this is a gathering place for people who want to watch some of the nation’s best bodybuilders strut their stuff. Long ago, Venice Beach was the Coney Island of Los Angeles and had the finest amusements and sights. Today, however, only Muscle Beach and assorted vendors remain.
Muscle Beach was originally in Santa Monica just south of the Santa Monica Pier and was more about fun and entertainment than fitness. People would come from miles around to watch muscle men lift bathing beauties instead of barbells. During the 1930s, Muscle Beach was a haven for health nuts and attracted some of the best bodies of the day. Jack LaLanne, John Grimek, Vic Tanny, Joe Gold (from Gold’s Gym fame), and even the very first Mr. California, Harold Zinkin, all helped to make this physical landmark a legend.
In the beginning of Muscle Beach, acrobats were a popular fixture. Some of the famous and long-remembered acts one could see there were Paula Boelsems and her water-skiing elephant; George Eiferman, who would regale the crowds on his trumpet while lifting weights with the other hand; and Abbye "Pudgy" Stockton, the first great female weightlifter.
When Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach closed in 1959, it was a natural evolution for the bodybuilders and weightlifters to start congregating at nearby Venice Beach at a place called the Venice Beach Weight Pen. Soon, people were calling this locale Muscle Beach, and since then tourists have flocked from all over the world to get a glance at the incredible fitness of these bodybuilders and weightlifters.
Today, Muscle Beach is a newly remodeled $500,000 open air weightlifting facility with state-of-the-art equipment and gear. It has been said that every famous bodybuilder has worked out at least once at Muscle Beach, from Steve Reeves, who was discovered there and went on to star in many Hollywood films, to Charles Atlas and Arnold Schwarzenegger.