Icarian Gym Equipment

Founder: Howard Briles and Karl Johnson

Year of Conception: 1977

Origin: San Fernando, Ca

Died: 2000's

Lateral Raise

Notes: Like many of these origin stories, Icarian was conceived in a gym owned by Vince Gironda in Studio City, California. Howard Briles, a local P.E. teacher, was working shifts at the gym and wanted to upgrade some crudely made equipment. Gironda was known for training in a particular way and wanted his equipment designed to meet His demands. Unfortunately, Gironda's early iterations had fallen into disrepair, and Howard started bringing life back into the facility. Howard began to make handles for the gym by utilizing the metal shop at the school where he was teaching P.E. He then moved on to adorning the benches in actual leather rather than the cheap plastic they had initially. Briles and Karl Johnson had become quite good friends during his time working at Vince's while helping Karl rehabilitate from a motorcycle accident. Karl is credited with coming up with the name Icarian due to his interest in Greek mythology and the story of Icarus.

After gathering some capital, Howard Briles and Karl Johnson bought some welding equipment and set to shake things up. Icarian first set up shop in a church basement, where they received their first big job for a high-level home gym. The two often utilized wooden 2x4s to prototype their designs before making metal iterations. This led them to use 2x4 tubing rather than 2x2, which was the industry standard then. Icarian was known for its heavy steel, and the plan was to appeal to the hardcore bodybuilders with the beatings they threw at equipment. This tactic worked; gym owners would fill their space with these tanks.

It wasn't long before schlepping gym equipment up church stairs got old, so Icarian moved to its first location next to a gas station. As Icarian's designs progressed, Howard was the brains behind the biomechanics of each creation, while Karl was the artist that would bring it to fruition. The relationship was working, and orders were pouring in. Icarian can be credited with making the first commercially available hack squat machine inspired by a homemade piece at Vince's gym. It was also one of the first to develop a Pec Fly Rear Delt combination machine. Unfortunately, a fire forced the company to move to an abandoned candle shop building, where they had to scrape the wax off the floor for days before they could resume production.

Icarian continued to grow till it ended up in a vast 30,000 sq/ft state-of-the-art facility. Howard and Karl continued to focus on development, but the company needed to catch up on manufacturing and front-end management. Manufacturing improvements were made after implementing standardization, but toward the end of the 80s, things were getting tense for the company Icarian started to find itself in trouble. In 1988 Karl sold his half of the company to Howard and went on to pursue artistic endeavors. Finally, Howard sold the company to Voit Sporting Goods in 1990 as a last-ditch effort.

Now under corporate control, Icarian continued to exist during the 90s, but the company was different after Howard left the company during that period. Howard remained in the industry, working in various roles. Precor purchased Icarian in 2004 and briefly produced a line resembling the original designs. Eventually, Precore absorbed the line and discontinued the name.


Alias: Flight, Precor

Known Associates: Precor, Atlantis

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