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Each and every year, functional training pops up as one of the biggest trends in the health and fitness industry. And gyms across the U.S. are transforming to reflect that. More and more clubs are carving out space for functional training tools and accessories, including kettlebells, battle ropes, sleds and more.
Take Grayton Beach Fitness in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, as an example. According to Paul Hunter, the club’s owner, over the years they have added a greater variety of functional tools to meet consumer demand, including medicine balls, instability training devices, Versa-Tubes and TRX.
“Our members and guests alike have increased the amount of utilization of our functional equipment,” said Hunter.
However, with this rising trend comes new challenges, in particular, how to educate members on using functional tools and accessories in the safest way possible.
“With the selectorized equipment, everything was pre-dictated by the machine,” said Hunter. “Whichever company made the machine dictated the path of motion and the range of motion. With functional fitness, it’s a matter of teaching people how their body moves properly — without getting hurt and to decrease their risk of injury — and how best to apply those loads so you have a safe and effective exercise. It doesn’t happen naturally.”
To ensure safety, Hunter advised having a “safety monitor” for the functional training area at all times. For example, this could be a personal trainer whose goal is to ensure members are using functional pieces correctly and that their form is sound.
“Their responsibility is to make sure that one, they have the education to instruct correctly, and two, to be able to control the floor to ensure that safe movements are happening,” advised Hunter. “As a trainer there’s always an opportunity to gain a client. That’s the way I’ve looked at it. I’m always on the exercise floor watching and monitoring members.”
The piece of functional equipment Hunter sees members struggling with the most is kettlebells. “Unfortunately, I see people after they get hurt sometimes,” he said. “Kettlebells are the most common culprits, because it’s the heaviest piece of accessory equipment that is used with the most momentum. Just some basic education on how to swing a kettlebell properly could make a big difference.”
When it comes to safety, ensuring functional fitness accessories and tools are stored correctly is essential as well, to hopefully mitigate the chances of members tripping over an improperly placed kettlebell or battle rope.
This is why VASA Fitness keeps certain items behind the front desk, to ensure they’re stored properly and deter from theft and excessive wear and tear. “We keep bands and other small items behind the front desk for check out,” said Whitney Huff, the executive assistant at VASA Fitness.
When it comes to keeping functional accessories and tools stocked, VASA Fitness does monthly orders at all 24 of its locations, along with an inventory count. Pieces that are the most popular include kettlebells, bands, slam balls, plyo boxes, mats, TRX straps and BOSU balls.
But no matter how popular an item, once again, educating members on proper usage is paramount.
“The ultimate thing is to get the education right,” continued Hunter. “When I talk to my members, the thing I’m constantly asked is, what’s the best piece of exercise equipment? My answer is ‘you.’ Because you’ve always got you with you wherever you go. The better you can learn to move you around, the more effective you’re going to be.”