Skip to main content

Larry Westfall and the Total Gym Story

Share This article The Beginnings of the Total Gym

In 1974 Tom Campanaro worked at an exercise equipment company that produced a low-end version of a gravity training device. It used an individual’s body weight as resistance. That year he and partners Dale McMurray and Larry Westfall founded the Total Gym Company. When they did, the benefit of exercise was barely a blip in the public consciousness. The machine that Tom, then a competitive bodybuilder, developed with his partners encouraged “functional exercise,” a technique that recreates the movements we perform every day with and against gravity. The machine engages all muscle groups, allowing more than 200 functional exercises on 10 calibrated levels of incline resistance, which includes full range of motion, upper and lower body stretching and strengthening exercises, and comprehensive aerobics. They say Total Gym is safe and effective, easy to use, and facilitates the five key components of exercise: cardiovascular endurance (aerobics), muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.

Amid a booming fitness craze in the early '80s, the partners began soliciting specialty dealers, forging relationships with 200 stores that exclusively sold fitness equipment. In 1981 alone, the three partners attended 210 conventions across the U.S. They recruited and trained more than 350 people and dispatched them to conduct in-store demonstrations on the Total Gym. Through this channel and by attending trade shows, Total Gym sold 36,000 machines in 1984.

The year 1987 brought a strategic shift in Total Gym’s target market when the company discovered that a significant number of sales were to physical therapists who knew the benefits of functional exercise. The company was renamed Engineering Fitness International Corporation (efi Sports Medicine). After years of touting the benefits of functional exercise, the medical community finally caught on.

Enter Chuck Norris

The real breakthrough came with the venture into infomercials and a deal with American Telecast. Chuck Norris, a Total Gym user for more than 20 years, sealed the deal when he agreed to be the company spokesman. Having Norris as spokesman thrilled Larry, who says he has always been into fitness and the martial arts. A long-time fan of Norris, Larry has enjoyed working with Norris.

Today more than one million units have been sold worldwide; one billion dollars worth of Total Gyms have been sold through the infomercial and retail stores in more than 85 countries.

Resource for Rehab

Reaching farther than the rehabilitation and consumer markets, Total Gym has been used by the USA Olympic Gold Medalist Men’s Volleyball Team and Track & Field Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee for rehabilitation and strength training following a leg injury.

Efi Sports Medicine products are also used by hospitals, athletic trainers, and sports medicine facilities throughout the country, which recognize it as the most effective tool for functional rehabilitation, strength and sports-specific training, injury prevention, and overall conditioning. Today, efi provides a wide array of functional equipment to more than 14,000 clinics, schools, hospitals, athletic training centers, and health clubs.

Bringing God into the Mix

When they founded Total Gym in 1974, Larry was searching for a purpose. He soon realized that he had to bring the Lord into his life. A strong believer, he wanted not only to help himself, but to serve others. Larry says his role is usually behind the scenes, while Tom is the face people know.

Share This article