Flex Fitness Systems

Flex Fitness Systems Shark Logo

Founder: Mark Nalley

Year of Conception: 1978

Origin: Orange, CA

Died: 2004

Flex Leverage and Flex Truck

Notes: In the fitness world, some brands rise above the rest, forging their path as icons of innovation, quality, and performance. And among these giants stands Flex Fitness Equipment, a true legend in the realm of fitness equipment. With a legacy spanning decades, Flex has solidified its position as an unrivaled icon, captivating fitness enthusiasts worldwide. Amongst collectors, Flex equipment typically ranks near the top for desirability.

Flex Fitness was founded by Mark Nalley, who found his way into the weight room while training for football during high school and college. What started as a passion for football turned into a passion for weight training, and Mark began to venture into building his own equipment with an ARC welder in his dad's garage. One of Mark's earliest creations was a horizontal barbell rack out of 1-inch square tubing. In November of 1978, Mark took his pursuits full-time and created FLEX. Mark credits Arthur Jones of Nautilus as a source of inspiration and saw an accessible market in the neighborhood health clubs he could tap into. Once Mark managed to get Flex into Golds and World Gym Venice, the products gained recognition amongst bodybuilders. Tom Platz was an early fan of Flex leg equipment.

Flex Fitness Equipment has been at the forefront of revolutionizing training, and the relationship in the bodybuilding industry created a symbiosis to propel it to the next level. From humble beginnings as a small garage-based operation, FLEX grew into a powerhouse. What started as a small operation in a 1,200sq/ft warehouse in Orange, California, eventually made its way to a 42,000 facility, complete with a training facility on-site in Murrieta. Mark has a fascination with sharks that culminated with a massive shark tank at his private residence. It is the competitive nature that the shark symbolizes that makes it the perfect symbol for FLEX. Flex established itself as a leader in equipment manufacturing and an icon in bodybuilding. Large Flex banners or paintings often adorned the walls of gyms, with the shark making an appearance.

Each piece of Flex equipment was meticulously designed, engineered, and tested to meet the demands of even the most dedicated athletes and bodybuilders. Flex was also a leader in adopting manufacturing processes to streamline production. The infamous Flex leverage line appeared in the mid-'90s and was a game-changer for leverage equipment. The chest press was the first leverage machine to make an appearance. Those familiar with this machine know it is one of the most effective chest presses ever.

Unfortunately, having some of the most prominent brand recognition isn't always the best in the industry. Being the biggest shark in the pond makes you a big target for lawyers. Naturally, weightlifting is dangerous, and injuries happen without caution and a sense of responsibility. Flex was constantly battling negligent consumers in court for damages. One of the final nails in the coffin was an injury that occurred on a smith machine, and Flex, along with Gold's Gym, was sued for over $ 14 million in the early 2000s.

Flex was purchased by a cardiovascular company named Star Trac in 2004, seeking to complete its portfolio of products. Sadly, the Flex name was phased out as Star Trac updated the Flex designs. Star Trac has since acquired the Nautilus commercial line and sells Nautilus branded commercial equipment with obvious Flex influences.


Alias: Star Trac

Similar Products: Star Trac, Mega Mass Fitness

Tom Platz with Flex Leg Press

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