TAMPA — Frank Calta’s origin story seems ripped from a Charles Atlas ad.
Beginning in the 1940s, Atlas, a pioneer of modern-day bodybuilding, marketed his workout routine in national magazines via popular comic strips about Mac, a skinny man who ordered Atlas’ book and bulked up when he became tired of being bullied.
While in his early twenties, Calta was 5′10, 130 pounds and, like Mac, he too was “tired of being super skinny,” said son Treon Calta, 49.
So, Calta built a gym in his Pennsylvania basement.
He saw results, opened the home gym to the neighborhood and went on to become a champion bodybuilder and owner of a chain of gyms throughout Tampa.
“He was what Crunch is today,” said Treon Calta, who operates Calta’s 24/7 Fitness at 4913 W. Water Ave., the last of his father’s 11 gyms.
Calta died on Jan. 18.
He was 75. There is no public service planned.
“My dad was a private and a proud man,” Treon Calta said. “He wouldn’t want people crying over him or feeling sorry for him. He’d want to be remembered for how he lived — tough and hardworking.”
His son said Calta’s Pennsylvania basement gym was cobbled together. “He had dumbbells, a friend had something else, another friend had another piece of equipment, and they put it all together and began working out together.”
The number of workout friends became too many for the basement, so Calta rented space in a karate dojo and charged a membership fee. He later moved into a building across the street, and then opened a second location.
“He was building a chain back then,” Treon Calta said. “He called it Results.”
Calta saw results in his bodybuilding career, winning the Mr. Pennsylvania and Mr. North American titles in 1978, according to news archives.
“But he got tired of the cold,” Treon Calta said.
So, in 1978, Calta moved to Tampa.
“He originally joined my gym,” said Leo Ocean, whose Beach Park Health Club is the oldest gym in Tampa. “I still remember him working out and saying he was going to open his own place. He did it. He was a hard worker.”
His first gym, Frank Calta’s Super Fitness, opened in 1979.
A year later, he won the Mr. Tampa and Mr. Florida bodybuilding competitions. He weighed 205 pounds that year, bench pressed 450 pounds and squatted 575 pounds. National fitness magazines featured Calta flexing on the cover.
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Calta expanded his business to five gyms under the name Frank Calta’s Health Connection and later Calta’s 24/7 Fitness, all while mentoring young bodybuilders and judging and sponsoring the competitions.
“He was synonymous with physical fitness in Tampa,” said Eddy Troutman, 51, who owns Powerhouse Gym in Lutz. “He started giving me bodybuilding advice when I was 15 and remained a positive force in my life. He believed in running a successful business, but it was more important that people were healthy.”
Treon Calta recalled times when his father suggested that gym members would get better results if they worked out three days a week rather than five or six.
“Then he would complain that not enough people were at the gym that day,” Treon Calta laughed. “I’d say, ‘Then stop telling people to come in less.’”
Calta began closing gyms after his wife, Tina Calta, died in 2012, daughter-in-law Tammy Calta said. “He was the face of the business. But she was his equal business partner.”
Calta opened five Punch Boxing for Fitness locations, but closed or sold those in recent years, his daughter-in-law said.
“He came to my gym to see me a few weeks ago,” Troutman said. “He was still lifting heavy. I will never forget what he did for me and what he did for Tampa. When you think of physical fitness around here, think of Frank Calta.”
Born: Oct. 29, 1946
Died: Jan. 18, 2022
Survived by: Sons Treon, Trent and Troy Calta