On an average day, the Venice Beach boardwalk is populated with breakdancing street performers, vendors selling incense and palm readings, tourists from all over the world, and sketchy clinics advertising medical marijuana cards. But a few times every year, a stretch of the beach becomes flooded with muscles, as men, women, children, and the elderly line up to compete in the Muscle Beach bodybuilding competition.
The name Muscle Beach nods to the long history of beachfront bodybuilding on Los Angeles's west side. Today, the Venice Beach Weight Pen—an outdoor gym on the Venice Boardwalk where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to pump iron—carries on the legacy of Muscle Beach, including the bodybuilding events.
The contestants are amateurs, but the competition is stiff, and some bodybuilders come back year after year to compete for various titles. We sent photographer Michelle Groskopf behind the scenes to capture the rippling muscles, tanning lotion, and glittering gold prizes.