The company Universal Gym Equipment, maker and distributor of the 'Universal Gym' multi-station body-building equipment, was founded by Harold Zinkin, the first winner of the muscle-building competition, Mr. California in 1957, and a regular patron of Muscle Beach, a famous body building center in southern California near Los Angeles.


Traditionally, barbells and dumbbells were the primary means of physical strength conditioning and were used mostly by muscle building and strength training enthusiasts. The use of traditional equipment sometimes led to injuries in the hands of people not sufficiently trained in their safe handling. Zinkin's goal was to broaden weightlifting's appeal with equipment that was safer, more compact, and that worked all major muscle groups.

Toward this goal, Zinkin created a multi-station machine that featured separate stacks of incremented weight plates that were guided up and down on solid steel guides. Weight changes were quicker and safer thanks to this unique, user-selectable weight key system. Zinkin introduced this first device that he called the "Universal gym machine". With its introduction, he helped start the fitness revolution that continues across the entire fitness industry. This industry began to grow as more gyms and individuals adopted the Universal gym and other modern exercise machines and as body builders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno popularized the sport and brought fitness into society's mainstream.

The name "Universal" soon became became synonymous with fitness. Zinkin founded Universal Gym Equipment to manufacture and market his products. Along the way, he scored a number of industry "firsts", including such products as the "Dynamic Variable Resistance" technology that varied the resistance applied to muscle groups by an exercise machine throughout the entire range of motion, as well as the "Aerobic Super Circuit", which was a total body conditioning regimen that utilized cardiovascular exercise as well as strength training in a single workout. The Universal gym machine has been used by a wide range of professional sports teams and Olympic athletes, as well as ordinary individuals who wanted to get into top shape.

Zinkin wrote about the Universal gym machine in the prologue to his autobiographical book Remembering Muscle Beach, remembering:

"If I'm proud of anything, it's that machine and the fact that there probably isn't one professional athlete in the world who hasn't worked out on a Universal at least once."[1]


In 2004,the Universal product line included Power Circuit Single Stations, Free Weight Machines, Classic Chrome Single Stations, and the Multi-Station Machines — all based on the design of Zinkin's original Universal gym machine.

On May 16, 2006, Nautilus, Inc. announced the purchase of the Universal brand at an unspecified auction. [2]


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