Influence of Gold’s Gym in the World of Fitness and Bodybuilding

Published 12/29/2023, 4:51 AM EST

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Gold’s Gym. The name is familiar to every bodybuilding and fitness fanatic. A gym that has often been elevated to the position of a temple and place of worship. Why? Because this is the furnace of Hephaestus. It’s the womb of Cronos. Burning in its hades, molten till they are broken, and then reforged into the immortals we know and worship- this, is the birthplace of the Gods of Olympia. 

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The Gold’s Gym was founded by Joe Gold for the vision he had way back in the 60s. He had the dream of starting his own gym and finally, in 1965, he succeeded in the mission. But what is the story behind the Mecca of bodybuilding? And how did things start? 

The beginning of Gold’s Gym

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Gold founded the gym in Venice Beach, California and it quickly started getting recognition as a haven for fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders alike. At first, the gym building was nothing grand. Just like every dream starts from something small, the cinderblock building in an abandoned lot on Pacific Avenue was the birth of it all.

Since bodybuilding and fitness, in general, hadn’t gained prominence back then, Gold’s gradually became the go-to place for one to engage in exercise. Even the beach came to be known as ‘Muscle Beach’. With weightlifting equipment stocked in the rooms, slowly bodybuilders started to flock into the place.

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Joe Gold who was a Merchant Marine veteran with an incredible physique, marched into the scene and transformed the fitness world forever. With his background, Gold had an understanding of what weightlifters liked and grabbed the opportunity to improve the bodybuilding community. But this was just the roar of the engine and ignition. Speed was about to come soon.

Gaining momentum

Gold’s Gym started with one of the most legendary bodybuilders, Arnold Schwarzenegger who helped lead the bodybuilding movement in the 70s and kept the gym at the forefront of it. The now iconic yellow T-shirts became famous as Gold’s started becoming a household name and were seen everywhere. Often the t-shirts signified that those wearing them were a part of something much bigger.

In 1977, Gold’s Gym hosted the Mr America contest and in the same year, the movie Pumping Iron was released featuring Schwarzenegger and his friends training at the gym for the Mr Universe and Mr Olympia contests. The team of Schwarzenegger and Gold’s Gym were both catapulted into fame after this movie became a hit. However, there was a small little snag when Joe Gold decided to go back to the sea.

A small little problem

In 1973, the Gold’s Gym was sold because Joe, who was a merchant marine, wanted to go back to the sea. Unfortunately, he not only sold the gym but the rights to the name as well. The problem was major because once the name was sold one couldn’t get it back.

After the gym started to gain popularity and was in all the magazines and bodybuilding shows the owner sold it again and the gym moved to second street in Santa Monica. This time it was owned by actor Robert Blake and after staying in the same location for a few years they moved to Hampton Street in Venice where it still stands to this day.

Fortunately Joe Gold returned from the sea in 1976 and so the pleasant side was that his gym had grown immensely popular and he wanted the gym back. However, since he had sold the name as well he could not keep the name gold anymore. He devised another plan and opened a bigger and better gym called World Gym where all his former friends like Arnold, Franco, Waller, Zabo, Giuliani, Zane, and Platz, came to support him.

Legends still go to the Gold’s Gym

Many legends like Ronnie Coleman, Robbie Robinson, and Mike O’Hearn train at the Gold’s Gym frequently. O’Hearn frequently features the Masters Olympia champion on his YouTube channel. Robinson joined O’Hearn for arm training and they did it in the Gold’s Gym. The 77-year-old completed 10 reps of curls with 60 pounds. O’Hearn and his wife Mora Muresan followed suit. The whole video features them working out their hands, backs, and glutes in the Mecca of bodybuilding.

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Even Ronnie Coleman and Arnie trained in the Gold’s Gym. Schwarzenegger and Coleman trained with seated shoulder press in a YouTube video uploaded by Arnold. They completed three successful sets and moved on to triceps training. The Gold’s Gym saw the legends closing the workout by doing preacher curls for biceps.

The legacy continues

The gym changed hands and locations many times throughout the years and finally, after going through different locations and even closing down for a while, Arnold gave a hand in some of the financing and it again became a famous place. When Joe passed away in 2004, the World Gym closed down and members moved back to square one: their beloved Gold’s Gym. Both World’s Gym and Gold’s Gym are still operational and still welcome bodybuilding fanatics who might become legends in the future. 

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In August 2020 Gold’s Gym was acquired by European fitness giant RSG Group GmbH, which owns the McFit fitness brand and is also the largest fitness center chain in Germany. People still go to the original gym in California. Arnie still takes his bike like old times and trains there just like he did decades ago. Everything has changed but memories remain and the gym keeps on getting bigger. The legacy of Joe Gold will live on.

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Written by:

Tanushree Bhowmick

1,043Articles

One take at a time

I am Tanushree Bhowmick. I have always loved running and sprinting since I was a child and I often took pride in being unbeaten at sporting events in school. The love I had for sport continued to follow me into adulthood.
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Edited by:

Smrutisnat Jena

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