Photo Credit: Joey Mink

Muscle Beach was established on the beach area south of the Santa Monica Pier in 1933 as a part of a beachfront movement of gymnasts, acrobats and many other athletes who joined together on a small section of the Santa Monica coastline. It was established as part of a beachfront area refurbishment project funded by the national Work Projects Administration (WPA).

The WPA was a government program that was established after the financial crash of 1929, giving jobs to those who lost them because of the depression. The program set out to create temporary employment in construction area projects. In Santa Monica, the program set out to create recreation and athletic centers.

Muscle Beach was not always called “Muscle Beach” though, it was simply known as another one of the city “parks” operated by the Santa Monica Recreation & Parks Department. It turns out though, that having perfect weather all year long at the beachfront recreation center, was a recipe for success. 

Another thing that added to the success of Muscle Beach was the budding Hollywood film industry. The proximity of the park to the fame of Hollywood made Muscle Beach the place to go for stunt men and actors alike. With celebrity sightings all of the time at the park, it quickly became internationally known.

Famous bodybuilders such as Vic Tanny, Jack LaLanne, and Joe Gold used the weight lifting equipment provided a workout area at platform on the beach.

In 1989, the City of Santa Monica officially rededicated the original Muscle Beach to serve gymnasts, acrobats and youth with an extensive gymnastics training area. Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department has continued the primary barbell, weightlifting and bodybuilding aspects and events of the original Muscle Beach fame at the Venice weight pen. 

The Muscle Beach in Venice as a small weight pen on Windward Avenue in 1952. This was later replaced with the large current facility during a complete renovation and Muscle Beach Venice redevelopment effort in 1990. Today it sports an open playground with a gated area that encloses weight lifting equipment and a second area with a sand box containing gymnastic, rope climbing, and acrobatic bars.

Muscle Beach has a long and rich history of weightlifters and gymnasts that will hopefully continue on for years to come.

Author: Mariah Terry