Gold’s Gym Celebrates 50 Years in Fitness

In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at Gold’s Gym, a gym chain specializing in exercise and fitness training. Founded in 1965 by Joe Gold in Venice, California, the business has been popular with bodybuilding legends and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Since the first Gold’s Gym opened its doors to customers in the mid-sixties, the fitness industry has changed drastically.

“Back then, there wasn’t necessarily awareness on health like there is today,” said Gold’s Gym President Aaron Watkins.

Eventually, as people grew on the idea of working out, Gold’s became more popular. Then, in 1977, the film “Pumping Iron” was released. A documentary on the world of bodybuilding, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Mr. Universe rival Lou Ferrigno, it provided Gold’s Gym with international attention.

“Pumping Iron really helped our gym,” said Watkins. “It gave notoriety to Gold’s and the association with celebrities has had an impact on us and fitness in general.”

Today, many athletes and celebrities, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, train at Gold’s, according to Watkins.

In 1980, the first Gold’s Gym franchise opened. In 2006, the number of company-owned locations grew to 56. A couple years later, the company faced a hiccup in some areas of its business due to the struggling economy.

“The Great Recession was tough for us, but membership held up,” said Watkins. “Personal training, retail and concessions were impacted.”

In the past 18 months, Gold’s Gym has grown 40% and now has about 700 locations, 148 which are owned by the company, according to Watkins. Their business has even expanded to six out of seven continents, with the exception of Antarctica.

In addition to its personal training and brick-and-mortar locations, the company also features a line of fitness products like treadmills and home gyms.

“We partnered with an equipment manufacturer to get home fitness lines into retail stores,” said Watkins. “It’s an extension of the brand … people like to work out at home when they don’t come in to the gym.”

Watkins said the fitness industry is again innovating today in the digital age.

“The gym industry continues to change at a rapid pace… people want to track their data,” he said. “Tech is being incorporated into their workout experience, which is another change [in the fitness industry].”