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Muscle Beach


The pioneers of what came to be known as Muscle Beach – people like Les and Pudgy Stockton, Russ Saunders, and Relna Brewer McRae – began to lay the foundations of this mecca of physical culture hard by the Santa Monica Pier a few years before the U.S. entered World War II. However, this adult playscape by the sea didn’t fully blossom until the war ended and Americans gravitated to the west looking for a place to relax, get some sun, cavort in the surf, and forget recent horrors. For many of these people – women as well as men – the beach at Santa Monica was an idyllic place to be active without being particularly competitive, a place to explore their capacity for physical dexterity and development, and a place inhabited by a cohort of like-minded people.

After the War, Muscle Beach began attracting huge crowds of spectators on the weekends and holidays who gathered to see the stunts, admire the bodies, and soak up the camaraderie and atmosphere. Those who were fortunate enough to have been part of that scene spoke of it later with almost religious reverence. They tumbled, they lifted weights, they built human pyramids and, in the process, they helped to disprove two malicious myths – that resistance training would make a person musclebound and that women should not take part in vigorous exercise.