The newfound interest in muscle which was sweeping the country prompted the physical culturist George Jowett to start what is considered the first bodybuilding magazine, STRENGTH. Among Jowett's students was a young man who had high aspirations, both as a strongman and a businessman. His name was Bob Hoffman.

In 1932, Hoffman founded the York Barbell Club which became the home base of many of muscledom's early practitioners, including John Grimek. He also started his own magazine; STRENGTH and HEALTH.

Hoffman was highly instrumental in bringing Olympic weightlifting to the fore of the public's consciousness throughout the 1930's. Bodybuilding, on the other hand, held little appeal to Hoffman. He felt that muscles were a pleasant side effect to weightlifting but the pursuit of muscle alone was somewhat shallow. Another ambitious young man intent on beating Hoffman at his own game had different ideas.

Joe Weider saw the appeal of muscle and he concluded correctly that it was the appearance of muscularity and its consequential sex appeal that inspired most men to work out. In 1938, with his life savings of seven dollars, Weider published a crude pamphlet with an emphasis on bodybuilding over weightlifting. He called it "Your Physique." That modest piece of literature launched an empire.

In ensuing years, Hoffman and Weider slugged it out in bitter rivalry--each vying for the bodybuilding community's business with Weider always one step ahead. It's doubtful either of them knew that the business of muscle building was about to get an unimaginable boost from the unlikeliest of places. It was around 1940 when a playground on a Santa Monica oceanfront was attracting hundreds, and eventually thousands of spectators each day. That small strip of land became known as Muscle Beach.


In many ways, Muscle Beach can be referred to as bodybuilding's renaissance. The playground which had rings, a high bar and a platform was a natural attraction for young men looking to display their strength and athleticism. Before long, bodybuilders were migrating to the area to work out, debate training concepts and swap stories on the benefits of everything from goat's milk and brewers yeast to the controversy surrounding "pressing while lying on a bench!" People from miles around would come to view all the beautiful bodies. But the inhabitants of Muscle Beach offered more than muscle.

Juggling, tumbling, gymnastics, and odd lifts of strength were daily fare which provided free entertainment for the hoards of onlookers. The level of acrobatic athleticism was astounding! Human pyramids and acts of impossible flexibility kept audiences mesmerized.

Besides the showmanship and the fun, the performers wanted to eradicate the stigma that muscles were just "for show" and weight training wouldn't cause one to become "muscle bound." They proved their point well. The Muscle Beach crowd advocated the weight training lifestyle as a testament to what the body is capable of accomplishing.


Along with the healthy bodies at Muscle Beach came healthy libidos. At a time when sexual mores were still very much puritanical, promiscuous behavior at the beach was rampant! People were discovering the sensuality of muscle.

The playful spirit hit a stumbling block when the liberal behavior started getting out of hand. The sexual acts were getting more and more blatant. The then discreet gay community was openly letting their presence be known. Scantily clad women would brazenly parade in front of the podium where the bodybuilders were performing. The crowds were getting too large to contain.

Things finally came to a head when a girl accused two of the beach bodybuilders of rape. Although all charges were dropped, the area residents were becoming embarrassed by the scandalous behavior and started complaining. The latest tawdry allegations were the perfect opportunity for the local authorities to step in and close down Muscle Beach.


One of the original Muscle Beach members was Jack LaLanne. Jack opened the first all purpose bodybuilding gym on the west coast. "People said I was crazy," recalls Jack. "But I proved them wrong."

LaLanne designed many of the exercise machines himself and personally worked with each gym member. The gyms proved so successful that a fellow bodybuilder by the name of Vic Tanny decided to go national and open a chain of gyms across the country. He had the right idea but it was twenty years too soon. Vic's lofty dream of profiting from bodybuilding proved to be a little too radical. The franchise went bankrupt less than two years after it opened. The novelty was wearing thin. People were enjoying the post war economic boom and getting back into the good life. The quest for bigger cars and homes replaced the desire for bigger muscles. It looked as if the fitness craze was finally over.


Just when it appeared as if bodybuilding was nothing more than a passing fad, a new Muscle Beach had sprung up just 15 miles down the road from its original location. Its inhabitants were bigger, stronger and more muscular than anyone before could ever have imagined. There was a new electricity in the air, and people flocked from all over the world to the small town of Venice to see and be a part of this young generation of giants who in comparison, dwarfed the musclemen of just a few years prior. It was the end of an era. And a new one was about to begin.

By 1965, bodybuilding had gone "underground." The public had become bored with the ribald gaudiness of strong man acts and the pious blatherings of self-professed health enthusiasts. The political climate was changing. The Cold War was in full force and the fun loving scenarios of frolicking along the beach with glistening muscles seemed out of place with the stark political climate. The college educated younger generation valued higher thinking and social activism. Muscles were no longer in vogue. In fact, bodybuilders were looked upon as quirky odd balls who were little more than fodder for many a hackneyed comedian's night club act. The concept of building one's body was dismissed by a large faction of the population who erroneously equated muscles with a lack of intellect.

Nonetheless, there were those who realized the benefits of weight training and continued to do so.
In southern California, not far from the original Muscle Beach, a cult of young men were taking the idea of muscle building to a new level. They incorporated a more analytical approach to training and nutrition. They upped the ante in terms of intensity and dedication to the pursuit of muscular development. To this new breed, muscles were no longer a means to an end, they were the end.

There became an estrangement between the mainstream and the hardcore bodybuilder. This current herd of bodybuilders didn't fit in. They were considered "freaks." And that suited them just fine.In the meantime, Joe Weider slanted his marketing to this modern day bodybuilder and all the young men who aspired to be like them. He hired the best built and best looking bodybuilders to endorse his products and presented the bodybuilder's life as romantic and exciting. According to Weider, muscles were the way to gain popularity and success! The approach wasn't far from the very first promoters of bodybuilding. But its marketing was a lot more sophisticated.

America was beginning a space program, so keeping in the spirit of the times, Weider claimed to use "Space Age Technology" wherever and whenever he could. The word science appeared abundantly through his magazines, MUSCLE BUILDER/POWER and MR. AMERICA. The Weider training system was deemed scientific. His supplements were scientifically formulated. He even added a special science wing to his operations. Men in lab coats were pictured in advertisements for his product line. An office door with a plaque that read "Research Clinic" was conspicuously featured in pictures of the Weider headquarters. Incidentally, that door led to a broom closet.