With the recent rise in popularity of the boutique fitness industry, it’s easy to forget that one of the most popular Venice workout hotspots has a long city history, and a pretty unique origin!

In the wake of the Great Depression, The Works Progress Administration worked to  reimagine infrastructure across America. Millions built bridges, schools, and parks across the country to serve industry and facilitate recreation.  In 1933, The WPA installed public exercise equipment just south of the Santa Monica Pier, giving rise to a completely different kind of “heavy lifting.”

The warm and welcoming climate and a steady influx of visitors and tourists meant that Muscle Beach was the perfect spot for the birth of fitness culture. Gymnasts and acrobats attracted large crowds on a daily basis. The beach’s weightlifting platform served as a stage for prominent athletes like Jack LaLanne and Joe Gold. Muscle Beach provided many Americans with their first look at modern exercise.

Muscle Beach Exercises in 1955

In 1951, the City of Los Angeles installed the weight pen at Venice Beach. As the original Santa Monica location lost its luster and fell into disrepair, Venice became ground zero for contemporary bodybuilding. Young men like Dave Draper, Chet Yorton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger turned into legends at Muscle Beach Venice. Every day, their sweat, grit, and willpower served as an inspiration to the city of Los Angeles, the country, and the world. Their efforts defined peak performance, physical skill, and effortless charisma for an entire generation.

The original Muscle Beach location

In 1987, the City of Los Angeles officially opened a brand new Muscle Beach Venice, with state of the art weightlifting facilities and public seating for visitors. In 1989, the City of Santa Monica rededicated the original Muscle Beach to serve as a hotspot for their original clientele of gymnasts and acrobats.

Today, both gyms thrive with spectators and athletes. While tourists enjoy the free entertainment, or the selfie opportunity in an iconic beachside Los Angeles destination, bodybuilders seek the chance to prove themselves in the most renowned fitness arena in the country. Muscle Beach fulfills the WPA’s mission: by the people, for the people.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

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