Walt Marcyan exemplifies what barbell training should be; something entwined in your life that makes you a better man...
Here is Walter Marcyan's obit from his son Parker:
Dr. Walter (Walt) Marcyan, age 94, formerly of Glendale and founder of Marcy Fitness Products, died on September 6 of natural causes at his home in Escondido. For his eighteenth birthday his mother gave him the money to buy his first barbell/dumbbell set, from that point forward Dr. Marcyan became an avid weight lifter and committed himself to a life dedicated to exercise, physical conditioning and agility. His early career combined competitive weight lifting, hand-to-hand balancing and adagio routines. He was one of the early Muscle Beach fitness advocates and magazines at the time referred to him as “one of the strongest men in the world”.
He began competitive weight lifting at 19 and at 165 lbs. won his weight class in the Illinois State Championship and the Central AAU Championship in both 1933 and 1934. He went on to win the Pacific Coast Championship in 1937, and the California State Championship and the Golden Gate International Exposition Championship in 1939 with official totals of 775 lbs and 785 lbs respectively. Other Marcyan lifts included a 300 lb pullover and press, 400 lb clean to the shoulders, and a 205 lb one arm snatch. His personal best on the three Olympic lifts, at a body weight of 190 lbs, were Military Press 282 lbs, Two Arm Snatch 262 lbs, and 330 lbs Clean and Jerk – totaling 874 lbs.
During the late years of the Great Depression Marcyan and three friends developed a hand-balancing act and entered show business as The Three Sizes. With a succession of partners, he performed around the country and with his then partner, Roberta Roberts, was booked to perform a private hand balancing, adagio and tumbling exhibition for the Shah of Iran at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Their big break came with an invitation to perform at Europe’s most prestigious theater, the Scala, in Berlin. Confident that they had finally reached the big time, the pair found themselves a week later fleeing Berlin because Hitler had invaded Poland. While his partner was able to borrow enough money to buy passage home, Marcyan worked as a mess boy on the freighter to earn his way back. He returned to California and took a job at Consolidated Aircraft at sixty cents an hour throughout the war years.
Marcyan trained for competitive lifting, not as a bodybuilder, yet as a contestant in the first “Mr. USA” contest sponsored by Vic Tanny and Bert Goodrich at the Shrine Auditorium in 1949, he placed sixth. The event was complete with a full orchestra and celebrities ranging from Shirley Temple to Van Johnson, the competition marked the beginning of professional bodybuilding.
Marcyan opened his famous “House of Health”, the first of seven Los Angeles area gyms in 1946, and also began manufacturing exercise benches and machines. He was the first to offer personal trainers to assist members, the first full amenity gym complete with juice bar, sauna, wet steam, and game room. The facility also included the first complete women’s training program as a separate gym run by the famous Abbye “Pudgy” Stockton. Stockton was the first recognized female weightlifter and strength athlete and a regular at Muscle Beach.
In 1960 he began publishing Physical Power magazine to promote weightlifting to athletic directors and high school and college coaches. An early advocate, he was one of the pioneers who helped convince athletes they could substantially improve their athletic performance through weight training. On youth fitness, he wrote, “The primary goal of our physical education and athletic program should be; that every American boy and girl should be stronger and healthier and that they should have attained the knowledge to maintain these blessings through later life”. By the time President Kennedy introduced the first President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Marcyan had the laid the groundwork for future physical fitness programs in schools throughout the nation.
In order to further his understanding of physical conditioning he enrolled in the Los Angeles School of Chiropractic Medicine, graduating in 1965. Seeing a need for more sophisticated equipment, he began developing machines for use in professional gyms and institutions. Dr. Marcyan introduced the Circuit Trainer in 1965 a multi station weight machine that allowed as many as sixteen people to work out simultaneously moving from “station” to “station” and exercising all the muscles in the body after making the complete circuit. Marcy Circuit trainers were used at universities, military bases, high schools, police and fire departments and professional gyms through the United States and around the world.
Marcy Fitness Products was the leader in the home gym equipment in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. The company brought innovative quality exercise equipment into the home. Compact multi-station machines that fit easily into the average size room. The first home gym “The All-In-One” was developed in 1960. In 1969 the company introduced the Master Gym with the patented “automatic barbell” offering dozens of exercises, the convenience of pin weight selection and safety in a compact home unit. Numerous inventions followed that elevated the market in home equipment. After the assassination attempt on President Reagan, Dr. Marcyan equipped a state-of-the-art gymnasium at the White House and also at Reagan’s private home in California to aid in his rehabilitation.
Along with other early pioneers and friends like Jack LaLanne, Bill Pearl, Vic Tanny, and Joe Weider, Dr. Marcyan helped establish the field of physical fitness. According to LaLanne, “Walt was a very modest man with big talents and he made major contributions to weightlifting and physical fitness. It was a pleasure and a privilege to know him, he helped a lot of people”.
He was a charter member of the Northwest Lions Club of Los Angeles and the recipient of the Lion’s Club International Melvin Jones Fellowship Award. An entrepreneur who believed in the American system of free enterprise and individual liberty, he actively supported the National Heritage Foundation, Hillsdale College, The Pacific Legal Foundation, The Ludwig Von Mises Institute, and the Cato Institute. He was dedicated to traditional American values and supported charities that help families in need, especially those that provide assistance to help people gain self-sufficiency.
Dr. Marcyan and his wife Betty, who pre-deceased him by twenty-two hours, were married for 51 years and leave four children, Parker (Margie) Mahnke; Betsey (Dennis) Lutge; Gary (Carol) Marcyan, Susan Marcyan; and sixteen grandchildren and great grandchildren.