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Gary Jones (Son of Arthur Jones) - Former Owner and Designer of Hammer Strength Exercise Equipment Company

By Bill Pearl


Gary Jones - Son of Arthur Jones


Gary Jones (pictured above), former owner / designer of Hammer Strength exercise equipment company, was born in 1952, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He spent his early childhood in Slidell, Louisiana, where his father, the eccentric visionary Arthur Jones (1926 - 2007 ), of Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries, Inc., at that time, operated a "Wild Animal Farm."

Although Arthur was American, English was not Gary's primary language due to his mother's Hispanic heritage; consequently, he did not speak English until he entered grade school. Gary experienced a more than an unusual childhood as the son of an obsessed self-seeker. Arthur, a third-world mercenary, packed a loaded pistol in his waist band and owned and operated an import / export enterprise that specialized in snakes, a variety of reptiles, and other exotic animals.
 

Arthur Jones - Guns and Elephants


Gary recalled traveling to Latin America and Africa as a youngster, in a cargo airplane piloted by his father. On these trips, it was always, "Yes Sir...Mr.Jones," to anything Arthur demanded or required. During the 1950's and 1960's, Arthur was also a well-known television personality. His syndicated series included: Wild Cargo, Capture, Professional Hunter, and Call of the Wild. His final television production, "Operation Elephant" aired on CBS in 1970.

As a youngster, Gary did not realize how extraordinary it was to have been involved in the care and feeding of crocodiles, lions, tigers, snakes, and other creatures warehoused at his dad's Slidell, Louisiana, wild animal park. He claims he developed his people skills by showing customers and visitors around the compound and regarded bites from snakes or jaguars as common occurrences.
 

Arthur Jones and Crocodiles


In 1965, the Jones family moved to Africa, where Arthur continued his extensive wildlife movie projects. Gary fortunately found the British school system to his liking as he pursued his interests in math, science and physics. In Rhodesia, Gary discovered a more moderate mentor than his father. The man was a retired engineer who was part of the South African chess team and who, at one time, had tied with world champion Bobby Fischer.
 

Champion Chess Player Bobby Fischer


Gary recalled being taught to practice the game of chess without the aide of the Queen or Bishops, forcing Rooks and Knights to accomplish a check-mate. "This strategy of doing something the hard way was a terrific lesson that I employed years later in my manufacturing business," he said. Recalling their final months in Rhodesia, where his family lived on the edge of a war zone and had to travel and socialize "armed to the teeth," Gary currently views rifle-toting children of war-torn third world countries with a feeling of unpleasant familiarity.

In 1968, Gary's father had reached a point of "no-cooperation" with Rhodesian government officials and made arrangements for his $1.5 million worth of cameras, sound equipment, a helicopter, and two airplanes to be shipped state side. Unfortunately, the Rhodesian government confiscated the lot, which Arthur never recovered.
 

Nautilus Inventor - Arthur Jones


Returning to Louisiana, approximetely $5 million in debt, Arthur borrowed $2,500 from his sister to begin the design of a prototype resistance exercise machine in the family's one-car garage. Working alongside Arthur, 16-year old Gary designed an off-centered cam, configured like a seashell, which they installed in the unit to cause the resistance of the exercise to vary as the users worked their muscles through their range of motion.

Gary's father's strategy for marketing the revolutionary exercise piece became the adopted, "one-set to failure" principle, which Arthur coined as "High Intensity Training."

Labeled the "Blue Monster," the prototype version of the multi-purpose Nautilus machine was previewed at the 1970 AAU Mr. America contest, held in Culver City, California. Arthur, accompanied by Gary, had transported the unit in a rented trailer, arriving with seven dollars in change and an expired credit card.
 

Arthur Jones - Inventor of Nautilus


* Arthur Jones - "The Blue Monster" - Nautilus Gym Equipment

Arthur Jones - The Blue Monster - Nautilus Gym Equipment


The following 14 years, Gary worked for Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries, Inc., in conjunction with two years at Stetson University and nine years with the Orlando Fire Department. By 1984, approximately 4,700 Nautilus Fitness Centers existed in the United States, with complete lines of Nautilus equipment in physical rehabilitation centers, professional sports team training rooms, colleges, high schools, and private training facilities.

In 1986, Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries, Inc., was sold to Texas oil man, Travis Ward (1922 - 2015) (Photo below) for $23 million. Gary stayed on as Vice President and Director of Manufacturing for six months, but grew disgruntled with the new management and walked out without a goodbye.
 

 Travis Ward - Oil Man


In 1988. Gary partnered with Peter Brown and Kim Wood to found the Hammer Strength Corporation, which went into direct competition against Nautilus. Aligning himself with Brown and Wood caused a severe rift to develop between Gary and his dad, due to the partners having sued Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries, Inc., for the violation of their distributor's franchise agreement, following the sale of the corporation. Furthermore, when Gary abruptly abandoned Nautilus, with Travis Ward still owing his father millions of dollars, Arthur became so bitter regarding the trio's alliance that he allegedly said, "Gary's not my son! He's given up that right."

Gary responded, "It's true. I potentially cost Nautilus millions of dollars by walking away from the company. I was the son of the founder. I had a tremendous amount of information, and I was thought to be an enemy of the corporation." Similar to the success of Nautilus exercise machines, Hammer Strength grew to be the number-one brand for plate-loading exercise equipment almost overnight, with sales in the millions of dollars per year. 

Gary, responsible for the design and manufacturing of the Hammer Strength machines, used a highly sophisticated computer program he had written and later sold to Hewlett-Packard Company. He remarked, "I was one of those kids who studied multi-dimensional calculus. I was doing flight problems for my dad before I was old enough to go to school ".

In 1997, Hammer Strength sold to Life Fitness Inc., a division of Brunswick Corporation for an estimated $32 million.

Gary then worked for Life Fitness as he mentored the younger engineers. In 2019, Gary and his wife Brenda, divide their free time between homes in Florida and Colorado. Regarding his late father, Gary commented, "I got nothing...zilch, zip, zero, from the sale of Nautilus. I had no ownership which was the way my dad wanted it. The only financial opportunity I felt I had was to start a new business competing in the field I knew. Arthur taught me a lot. I still read all his books and articles. But he believed in throwing you to the sharks. If you survived, he added more sharks. I didn't mind competing against the outside, but I didn't need that kind of competition from the inside. Understand, I'm not saying my dad was evil. It's just the way it was."


* Arthur Jones has a "Who Blinks First Loses" contest with his pet crocodile.

Arthur Jones and Crocodiles


More information on Arthur Jones can be obtained from ArthurJonesExercise.com.

Books on Arthur Jones can be purchased from here.

An amusing Arthur Jones and Gary Jones story can be read here.

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