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Help Members Find Their Abs


Club Solutions spoke with Sean Gagnon, one of the founding partners of The Ab Coaster Company, about what clubs can do to maximize their members’ results and even boost sales using abdominal exercises. Gagnon has been in the industry for over 15 years and has worked in several areas of the industry including health club management, rehab and personal training.

CS: Why is a strong core important?
SG: The core is the foundation of human movement. Without a strong core nothing else works efficiently and you are susceptible to muscular imbalance and injury. The great news is that it is not difficult to strengthen your core and it can be done very efficiently and effectively with proper training techniques.
CS: Do members care about their abs? Or, are they focused on just “getting in shape?”
SG: Members, and the population in general, equate “abs” with getting in shape. To most people, a flat stomach means fitness. In the general health club setting, I believe most people care more about how they look than how they feel. The key for health clubs is to understand this mentality and use it to create lifelong members.
CS: How should clubs set up an abdominal area in their club?
SG: A well-designed abdominal area in a club can be a huge selling feature. I have seen clubs successfully build them in clubs worldwide. For example, many Planet Fitness Clubs have a 10-Minute Ab Circuit. Members rotate around in stations solely focused on core exercises. By the time they are done, they have a complete core workout in the bag! Its brilliant. Not all clubs have the room for this so here I would recommend a combination of open floor space, functional tools (Bosu, fitballs, medicine balls) and specific abdominal training machines.
CS: What is the benefit to using equipment to work on abdominals instead of just relying on the standard floor exercises?
SG: A basic understanding of core science answers this question. Your core musculature is designed to do two things: 1. Stabalize your spine; and 2. Move through a range of motion.
Basic floor exercises miss out entirely on the first part. When you are lying on something firm like the floor or a bench you miss out on over half the benefit of core training. You ask your core to stabilize the spine all day long so to train effectively you have to put yourself in unstable positions. This is why exercises like the hanging leg raise, and suspension training are the gold standards. They force you to stabilize and then move through a range of motion. Look at the people that do these exclusively — gymnasts, bodybuilders, athletes, etc. They have the strongest cores!
CS: How can clubs help their clients get the results they want where abdominals are concerned?
SG: A strong core and flat firm abs are not necessarily the same thing. Its important for members to realize that proper training strengthens the core, proper cardio training and nutrition will let people actually see those abs! There are many people with strong cores hidden underneath layers of fat and just as many ripped midsections that are weak and on the verge of injury! I always say that the key is for club owners and trainers to listen to what their member is saying. Most times they will tell you they want this firm, defined midsection. Don’t start overwhelming them with all the science of cardio and nutrition — you’ll have them running for the hills! Instead show them some great new ab exercises at the club. Once you’ve gained their trust, you can tell them the rest of the story.
CS: How can clubs’ abdominal areas be utilized to their max in club tours?
SG: We have learned the mentality of our consumers and know how to give them what they want. The ab section of your club should be a prominent destination on the club tour. If you don’t have one, no problem, you have ab training equipment — get them on it! Trust me when I tell you that having them do a few reps and feeling that ab burn will hook them on your club.
CS: How can personal training departments utilize abdominal stations in their gym?
SG: When I was first starting out in the health club industry I managed a team of 50 plus trainers that worked in our five health clubs. I found it odd that many trainers were not comfortable going up to members they did not know even though this is one of the best ways to gain new clients. They were great in the one-on-one setting, but out of their comfort zone, many faltered. My advice to them was to start with something simple when approaching someone they did not know. Don’t go over and revamp their workout, give them a simple tip and watch what happens! Abdominal exercises are a great entry point to this. We know what a hot button it is and every day you will find someone doing some whacked out new fangled ab exercise. Challenge your trainers to use this simple phrase, “I see you are working hard on those abs — have you ever tried this one?” I guarantee they will be making new friends of the club and gaining new clients in no time!
CS: How do you improve sales with offering members abdominal areas?
SG: Improving sales using abs is no different that improving sales using anything else. Give people what they want, give them more than they expect and create lasting relationships. It’s really that simple. The beauty is that abs are your secret weapon.

Sean Gagnon


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