Though Muscle Beach today generally refers to its location in Venice, the original Muscle Beach was located directly south of the Santa Monica Pier and it started the physical fitness movement back in 1934.
Muscle Beach began when the Works Progress Administration installed exercise equipment immediately south of the Santa Monica Pier. Gymnastic and acrobatic exhibitions were routinely held there on city-provided equipment. The weight lifting platform on the beach provided a workout area for such famous bodybuilders as Vic Tanny, Jack LaLanne, and Joe Gold.
The Santa Monica platform was removed in 1959. After the closing of the Original Muscle Beach, the bodybuilding and fitness movement shifted south to the somewhat lesser-known Venice Beach Weight Pen. It was (and still is) operated by the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department. The small weight pen near Windward Avenue was replaced in 1990 during a complete Muscle Beach Venice redevelopment that included bleachers for spectators.
Today Muscle Beach is considered one of the treasures of Venice. Once the home gym of bodybuilders Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, it consists of two main areas: a gated area that encloses weightlifting equipment and a sand box with gymnastic, rope climbing, and acrobatic bars.
Visitors at Muscle Beach can watch a show from the bleachers, or work out “in” the outdoor gym.
A day pass to work out is $10, a week pass is $50 and a year membership is $170.
Muscle Beach Venice is on the Venice Boardwalk at 18th St. 1800 Ocean Front Walk. Venice, CA 90291.
In 1989, the City of Santa Monica officially rededicated the original Muscle Beach. It provides an extensive gymnastics training area. However, the bodybuilding events that were originally performed at the original Muscle Beach have been held at Muscle Beach Venice since the initial closing of the Santa Monica facility.
While most people simply refer to Muscle Beach Venice as Muscle Beach, the word Venice was officially added to the name to distinguish it from the original Muscle Beach. Both facilities exist today.
See more photos after the break….