The Evolution Of Gyms

Evolution of Gyms

Todays gyms can be traced all the way back to our ancestors who needed to develop physical strength in order to survive in the wild and hunt for food.

The earliest recorded gyms were in Persia in Zurkhaneh, encouraging fitness, dated over 3,000 years ago. But formal gyms were also recorded in Ancient Greece. The word ‘gym’ was derived from the word ‘gymnos,’ meaning naked. At this time, gyms were built to train young men in bathing, physical education and studying and these training places where built to train men and athletes for the Olympic and public games.

The Entrance To Gramercy's Boxing Gym
The Entrance To Gramercy’s Boxing Gym

But then gyms disappeared for centuries and only came back by the 19th century in the establishment of YMCAs, wherein schools and colleges started establishing gyms. The YMCA also developed a multitude of gyms for games, physical exercises and social sports. Then, boxing gyms came into existence in the 1930s, popularized due to the founding of the Gramercy Gym (Manhattan), with the main mission of training boxers and fighters and not really meant to cater for general public looking for physical fitness exercises.

In 1940, Victor Tanny and his brother, Armand, opened a gym in Santa Monica. It was a small loft that they rented for $35/month and offered membership for $5/month. In 1941, they opened another gym in Long Beach, but the destruction of Pearl Harbor in World War II forced their gyms’ closure. And the war caused many other gyms to close due to blackouts and unruliness of the society, as well as the key demographic all being enlisted. But the war also resulted to an increase awareness and interest among the public for exercise and weight training, and in order to encourage the Americans to train, different magazines, such as ‘Look’ printed and circulated magazines with photographs of robust athletes.

Speaking of reassurance, the US military started employing former regulars of the Muscle Beach in recruiting and training new recruits, so soldiers began bodybuilding, both for exercise and recreation. They saw the benefits of exercise and they needed places to work out when they left the service. So after the war, gyms became in demand once more and so people started establishing them back.

And in 1947, Vic Tanny opened a couple of gyms in the LA area and that by 1960 he had a total of 84 gyms across the United States. But in an effort to retire in the gym industry, he sold his clubs, but left a good legacy to contemporary gyms.

And his most significant legacy to fitness was in the physical aspect of training.

Vic Tanny was called a ‘visionary’ in the gym industry because he offered multiple training options, such as ice skating, watching movies in theater, swimming and bowling and his gyms were among the first batches of multi-purpose gyms for the public, as compared to health clubs being specialized in a particular sport, like boxing.

One of his innovations at that time was the establishment of a gilded gym, a kind of gym that was finished in gold plating, included were the barbells and the dumbbells in the gym. At that, he started introducing the attractive aspect of gyms, which can be both helpful and beautiful to attract more members. He and his brother Armand took gyms out the cellar and made facilities lavishly attractive that prospective members could not resist but sign up.

Another significant name in the gym industry was Joe Gold, a friend of Tanny and founder of the now very famous gym chain ‘Gold’s Gym.’ Joe saw the people’s need for a gym more focused on bodybuilding.

Joe explained that his gym was cramped and dark and so to solve the problem, he innovated how his next gyms would appear. He began installing skylights to make them appear spacious and used concrete flooring to keep up with the heavy poundage from his clients. In short, Gold’s gym came out solid versus the sportier and sleeker gyms of Tanny.

But then, not only Gold and Tanny became gym innovators for Americans, but also Bob Delmontique and Ray Wilson, who revolutionized American Health clubs in the 1950s. They owned over 300 gyms across the US by the end of the decade. One of the owners, Delmontique said that Ray wanted to save the world with fitness and so they introduced the first gyms that catered to clients looking for therapeutic services.

At first, their clubs offered only weights but later on added steam baths, whirlpools and saunas. Delmontique added that they made American Health clubs taste good for the people, and so they included carpeted floors, full-length mirrors, chrome weights and air conditioning and disposed traditional black colors overall. But while they also folded due to financial troubles in 1959, their gyms were among the best at that time.

Fast forwarding: Today gyms experience mass popularization and in fact attract all sorts of fitness seekers, not limited to athletes, boxers, fighters and soldiers, but also the general public and new chains, including Equinox Fitness, Lifetime Fitness and Virgin Active have sprung in the 1990s, too.

Today, gyms keep changing because of consumers who dictate the next trends in fitness. Added to that are baby boomers who desire to achieving not only buff-ness, but also long-term, holistic health. Gyms satisfy consumers’ needs and that they become more advanced than before, and yet they keep on evolving. Let’s find out what is more with the gym industry this century.

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