The “Architect of Anatomy,” Mark Harigian trains and builds gyms, but stresses that “fitness should not be your life.”
By Alyssa Apuzzio
Photo courtesy Teresa Harigian-Nielson of HyeStyleshots Photograph
Ranked fourth in the nation for tennis, Mark Harigian was confident he would become a professional tennis player. However, Harigian’s dream took a hit when he blew out his knee and needed surgery, ending his sports career, but also forming a new career.
“During rehab, I became intrigued with the anatomy of the body. I saw the body like pulleys and cables,” Harigian remembers. “After this revelation, I changed my major to exercise psychology; I ended up becoming a strength and conditioning coach for the 1984 Olympics in L.A.”
This is how Harigian landed in Los Angeles with Roy E. Disney as his first client, among other corporate studios and celebrities.
“Going back, I never knew my background in engineering and physiology would merge together and that I would make crazy custom equipment,” Harigian says.
Today, Harigian is not only a successful workout trainer and gym builder, but he has created multiple patents over the years.
“I came up with a new system for aligning the pins in workout machines, and sold it to Live Fitness, making everything slide better with no noise or clang when using weight stack,” says Harigian. “K Bar is another patent, which was worked on for three years. K stands for Kinetic Energy, it’s a more dynamic workout.”
Harigian’s gyms have also been patented — Harigian Fitness — and have been in high demand from clients for Harigian’s personalized touch, from machines, to color schemes, to customized letters on machine pads.
“My first step with clients, aside from determining a deadline, is to be a psychologist and ask them if they have any injuries,” Harigian says. “I also ask what their short- and long-term goals are for fitness, and what their recreational activities are seasonally.”
After Harigian speaks with them, he will address the client’s injuries and find out what they want and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Ultimately, Harigian says the machines come down to what the clients will enjoy using.
“I take that space [where they want their gym] and fit it to their needs, making it appealing, just like their kitchen or theater room, so they want to go into it and be there,” Harigian says. “I design the equipment according to their goals, recreational activities and injuries. They will have a full-blown gym in a condensed version.”
Harigian adjusts the lighting and ambience of the gym with his design, using mainly natural ventilation, creating a stimulating environment. In addition, Harigian offers his clients two layouts, one that matches the client’s budget, and an over-the-top design if budget is obsolete.
“My product has become a selling point. When left in the home, the leather pads are changed and the names are re-personalized,” Harigian says. “Harigian Fitness became marketing in house listings.”
Harigian allows himself three months to complete custom work. “I don’t just make the gym, but the Harigian workout environment,” he says. “Harigian Fitness is a lifestyle, my motto is ‘fitness should not be your life, but make you fit to go live life!’”
Harigian’s work doesn’t consist solely of gyms; he has also been making “man caves” for clients and athletes.
“One has $3 million worth of baseball memorabilia, and another was built as a 1950s replica with a jukebox, and diner with parlor seats,” Harigian says. “I also build custom garages for collectible cars, as well as bowling alleys.”
At first, Harigian didn’t view his work as an accomplishment. He would ask his A-list clients why they were driving to Harigian, when he should be traveling to them.
Harigian created this multi-station for a contest at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. It incorporates every major upper and lower body part without ever needing to change a pulley or cable. It won for both its function and aesthetics.
“I’m just a normal American guy. I’ve only used American-made steel, everything is made in the U.S.; I’ve been doing that since the beginning,” Harigian says.
Over the past 25 years, Harigian believes he has become a better trainer each year of his life, with his product continuing to improve.
“The biggest change since I started Harigian Fitness would be the mind-set,” Harigian says. “People are more educated now about physical well-being and realize their health is more important than anything.”
Harigian’s future endeavors include Harigian Fitness suites in high-end hotels, where people won’t recognize celebrities and distract them from exercising.
“Your home is your castle, I want to make the gym the go-to resort destination in a home,” Harigian says.