2-3 minutes - Source: BBC
The company said the move would mean the permanent closure of 30 company-owned gyms.
More than 700 gyms operate around the world under the Gold's brand, most of which are franchises.
It is the latest big name to file for bankruptcy during global efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
“This has been a complete and total disruption of every one of our business norms, so we needed to take quick, decisive actions to enable us to get back on track,” chief executive Adam Zeitsiff said in a video statement.
He also moved to reassure customers and employees that the company planned to emerge from bankruptcy protection by August, if not sooner, adding "we’re absolutely not going anywhere".
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection allows a company to continue to operate as it works out a plan to stay in business.
The founder of Gold's Gym, the late Joe Gold, opened his first gym in Venice Beach, California in 1965.
It was most made famous by the 1977 docudrama Pumping Iron, which featured Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Gold's Gym can also boast of a long list of other celebrity users including Jodie Foster, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Tiger Woods.
The announcement came just hours after fashion chain J. Crew became the first major US retailer to file for bankruptcy protection because of the coronavirus crisis.
The New York-based company, which had already been struggling with large debts and weak sales before the pandemic, said its main creditors will take control of the group in exchange for cancelling debts of $1.65bn (£1.3bn).
Under the deal about $400m of fresh financing will also be made available to keep J Crew's operations afloat.
Its 500 stores have been closed by lockdowns and some will not reopen, although the firm has not yet said how many outlets will disappear.