Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Workout of the Day: Goodbye Universal

When we toured the apartment complex that would become our home, the manager showed us the small gym and "The Arnold", a chrome, multi-station gym popular in the 80's. It matched the decor of the building as it was built in I believe 1983 and hasn't changed much. The metallic contraption reminded me of high school when I worked out on a Universal machine in the weight room. It was pretty all encompassing with weighted stacks for Leg Press, Bench Press, Pull Downs, Shoulder Press, Cable Curls along with a Chin and Dip bar. Multiple participants could work out simultaneously and get in a good pump by simply moving around the stations. Universal Gym Equipment was founded by Harold Zinkin in 1957 after Zinkin spent decades lifting weights at Muscle Beach and was the first Mr. California bodybuilding champion in 1941. Wanting to expand the work out business and make strength training safe for novices, he developed weight machines where stacks of iron rode steel guideposts so you couldn't drop it on yourself. Instead of changing plates or dumbbells, you just popped a pin into the stack and kept pumping. The standard Universal Gym had 8 to 10 exercises attached to it's large frame. But rival Nautilus came a calling in the 80's (even though their one exercise machines were kinda lame) and by 1998, Zinkin was retired and Universal was acquired by Flexible Flyer and then Nautilus in 2006.

After working out on the Universal Machine in high school, I don't think I ever saw one in a gym again. One day driving I saw one in front of a garage and in workout videos featuring the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone and Bill Wallace. While the machine in our complex is actually an old and dusty Paramount, it still works just fine but is missing the Chin and Dip bars sadly. I like the fact that it's a bit of a relic because it alienates young Thundercats who don't have a f*cking clue how to use it and choose to plod along on the treadmill instead while still being fat and out of shape. Sadly, the times are a changing and the Paramount is going away. The property manager is redoing the gym with new equipment in their first phase of fixing up the joint so they can charge us more rent. I'll be sad to see the Paramount go away because it really is a great piece of equipment. I wonder how much and how long it will take to haul away because you're talking about thousands of pounds of weights and room filling metal frame to dismantle. It's time like these I wish I had a house and could put it in the driveway. Thanks for the muscle memories, Universal!

Here's kickboxing champion Bill "Superfoot" Wallace using a Universal. Personally I wouldn't do straight sets as you can see how much time is wasted just in resting. You could easily turn this into a circuit by simply moving from station to station, alternating muscle groups and exercises.


  1. Hi. I have a question please. You talk about Universal but then you call it Paramount. I've researched and researched and can't find anything about a vintage Paramount weight machine. We have found one with chrome plated weights...it is very unusual...never seen anything like it. I need information please. Thank you.

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  4. Man they had this machine in the prison I was in. This got me stronger then I've ever been before. I wish to find one one day