How functional training and other trends have made an impact on the buying habits of club owners big and small.
Each year new trends are introduced to the health club industry. Some make an impact on buying habits, while others appear as just a quick blip before disappearing altogether.
Functional training fits into the first group. Not only has it not disappeared — it has continued to grow in popularity — and is now influencing the way club owners go about outfitting their clubs.
“Functional training has changed the way you’re looking to lay the club out so you can maximize the amount of space that you have,” said Mike Feeney, the executive vice president of New Evolution Ventures (NeV), which owns a number of health clubs including Crunch and UFC Gym. “In the past, if you had 12,000 square feet of space, you pretty much filled it with equipment. Now, I have to figure out how to save 2,000 of that to be open square footage for my training staff.”
Rick Zimmer, a partner at Fitness Connection, which has clubs in Texas, Nevada and North Carolina, agreed with this assessment. He explained that functional training spaces are being incorporated into almost all of Fitness Connections’ clubs, equipped with a number of functional tools such as TRX straps, BOSU balls, plyoballs, sleds, turf and more.
According to Zimmer, this has helped to create a more well-rounded facility. “We’re a full-service facility, and the facilities that we provide include tons and tons of cardio, a lot of pin-selected equipment, a lot of free weight equipment and then the functional training would be another area along with that,” he explained.
Why has this trend made such an impact on not only club layouts, but also purchasing habits? According to Derek Gallup, the senior vice president of fitness and retail for UFC Gym, that is because members are asking for it. “Our members are requesting — and we are delivering — workouts with much more dynamic movements with a great deal of open space,” he said. “We are designating more open space and creating larger pathways throughout the gym.”
However, Gallup explained that although functional training has become more popular, the need for traditional equipment — such as ellipticals, treadmills and selectorized machines — will always exist. “Traditional strength and cardio pieces will continue to be a mainstay of the offerings fitness centers provide to members,” he said. “[But] in the future, these pieces may take up a little less space and have larger pathways around them.”
With that being said, equipment manufactures have taken notice of the staying power of functional training and begun offering larger pieces of equipment that incorporate functional movements. Gallup referenced the Star Trac Turbo Trainer in particular. “It provides for an awesome mix of cardio and isokinetic resistance with a lower and upper-body workout, all at the same time,” he said.
For Zimmer, the VersaClimber is a great example of a larger piece of equipment that provides the benefits of functional movement. “It’s a very tough piece of equipment, but done properly it definitely helps with the overall fitness of [the participant],” he said. “As the functional trend has grown, [functional training pieces] have greatly advanced from very simple, universal machines, to now you have pieces that are a lot more complex.”
In addition to functional training, Feeney said another trend that has influenced his buying habits is interval training. “I am looking for more cardio-type pieces that can adapt to interval training, meaning products I can get on quickly and do one to two-minute intervals, and maybe be rotating multiple people,” he said. When asked what pieces of equipment would allow for this, Feeney explained the Star Trac Turbo Trainer and Concept2 Rower were good examples.
Feeney also predicted that powerlifting would begin to make an impact on the outfitting of health clubs. “I think we’re seeing the rebirth of the old powerlifting moves … which are becoming a more requested element from the trainers and existing members,” he said. “The CrossFit wave is some component of that.”
Ultimately, when it comes to buying trends, evaluating what’s best for your facility and member demographic is crucial. “For us, we’re trying to hit everybody — from smaller people, to larger people, to the person that has been fairly sedentary, to the advanced athlete,” said Zimmer. “So as new things come on the market I would think like us, people in our industry would be looking at those things and evaluating what’s going to fit their facility and members, like we do.”
By Rachel Zabonick