Pushing the Limits: Fitness Through the Years in America – Legend Fitness

July 5, 2017

Pushing the Limits: Fitness Through the Years in America

For our ancestors, fitness meant more than looking good in yoga pants or performing well on the field. It was a matter of survival. Those who were physically adept fed their families, escaped predators and conquered the elements. Those who weren’t perished.

Today, fitness has evolved beyond basic survival to encompass general health, well-being and athletic performance. In our pursuit of fitness, America has accrued a long list of fads, innovations and methodologies. To celebrate America’s birthday, we thought we would take a trip down fitness memory lane:


  • Fitness legend Jack LaLanne opened one of the first modern gyms, the Jack LaLanne Physical Culture Studio. While his programs and practices eventually formed the foundation of modern training, many were surprised that someone would charge people to exercise. LaLanne introduced the first leg extension machine, the first weight selector for cable machines and designed the first squat machine, now known as the Smith machine.


  • Joe Gold opens the first Gold’s Gym in Venice, California. This facility quickly became known as the “mecca of bodybuilding.” After being featured in Pumping Iron, a 1977 film featuring bodybuilders Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, Gold’s Gym gained international renown.
  • Following the publishing of Bill Bowerman’s book Jogging, running as recreational exercise boomed. Ten years later, an estimated 25 million people were participating in social and fitness running.


  • Judi Sheppard Missett made exercising fun with the advent of Jazzercise. This new form of fitness combined jazz dance, kickboxing, ballet, Pilates and yoga. Most importantly, it was fun! Jazzercisers dressed in headbands and brightly colored tights across the country, while playing the cassette tapes to sweat it out to the sounds of Wham! and Cyndi Lauper.


  • Taking advantage of Gold’s Gym’s success, other corporate gym chains such as LA Fitness started popping up across the nation.
  • Iconic aerobics queen, Jane Fonda, released her first aerobics video, Jane Fonda’s Workout. Her series of 22 video workouts sold more than 17 million copies and proved that people could have fun while working out at home. Richard Simmons also helped people “party off the pounds” using aerobics, music and positive messaging.


  • Billy Blanks put an intense spin on home workouts combining martial arts, boxing, dance and hard-hitting hip-hop beats with Tae Bo. Success stories like Paula Abdul and Oprah were just the right press to get everyone talking about Tae Bo.
  • Infomercials began marketing the latest and greatest fitness tools on the market. Suzanne Somers showed off her “great legs” with the ThighMaster, a frazzled, overweight businessman “got on track” with the NordicTrack exercise machine and a sculpted, shirtless man proved that Bowflex really works.


  • Johnny Goldberg opened his first Spin Centre in Santa Monica. The phenomenon spread quickly and soon people couldn’t get enough Spinning. Others trying to ride the wave created spin-offs such as SoulCycle with stationary bikes, candlelight and high-energy music.


  • CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman launched an exercise program that emphasized whole-body fitness, general preparedness and a strong sense of community. A combination of gymnastics, weight lifting, pull-ups and calisthenics, CrossFit inspired “boxes” to open across the nation and gave new meaning to the names Fran, Grace and Helen.


While fitness fads come and go, Legend Fitness remains an advocate for superior performance and ability. Everyday our products help athletes across the world push the boundaries of what is possible. Whether it’s hitting a new PR or training for the national championship, Legend Fitness is proud to be made in America and support athletes across the globe. Explore our products or contact one of our sales representatives to discuss how we can support your fitness goals today.

Photo Credit:
Sergio Crisantemi Mister Più Blu 2014 Photograph by Adriano Federico Fioretti 1A2F

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