Today when you think of Muscle Beach, your mind likely goes to Venice, California, but the muscle beach tradition began in Santa Monica. Today, there is just a small sign to represent the history of the original Muscle Beach.
One of the many post-Depression WSA projects, the site of Santa Monica's muscle beach was just another public recreation area in Santa Monica. The proximity to the beach and its popularity with early Hollywood stunt men contributed to the rapid growth and reputation in Southern California as "the" place for gymnastics and other athletics. The beach's fame spread worldwide as WWII soldiers discovered the beach while stationed in LA. By the 1950s, Santa Monica's Muscle Beach was filled with weightlifters, beauty contests, and acrobatics on any given weekend. Athletes came to show off their skills, and onlookers came to gawk at the athletes.
Santa Monica's Muscle Beach provided a public forum for athletes who would later become fitness stars. MuscleBeach.net says,
Anyone can note today that there were key pioneers who changed the perception of weightlifting forever — and to those athletes and physical culture stars, Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach was their springboard to celebrated careers: Steve “Hercules” Reeves, Jack LaLanne who introduced the nation to fitness on television, as well as the commercial giant Joe Gold of “Gold’s Gym” and “World Gym” fame.
At the end of the 1950s, a combination of scandals led the city of Santa Monica to strip the beach of weightlifting equipment, gymnastic platforms, and any signage mentioning "Muscle Beach." Even without the official title, weightlifters and other athletes continued to use the park for decades. In these following years, a Muscle Beach sprang up in Venice and that location is officially known as "Muscle Beach" today.