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Embracing the Group Mentality

Group X

Group X has remained popular for health clubs for one reason: the sense of community it inherently provides. Through Group X, members are able to connect with a group of peers in a challenging yet encouraging workout environment.

“The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) designated group training as No. 2 on its list of the top 10 fitness trends for 2018,” said Mo Hagan, the vice president of program innovation and fitness development at GoodLife Fitness and Canfitpro. “There are so many offerings and so many ways to bring group fitness to the forefront of any club.”

Chances are your club already has Group X programming in some capacity — but there might be a different offering you’re missing out on. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of what’s currently trending in Group X.

Functional Fitness

According to Hagan, “The ability to move optimally for everyday life is more important than ever.”

As a result, it’s no surprise functional fitness has continued to grow in popularity.  “Functional fitness — training our muscles to work together by simulating daily common movements like carrying groceries — is back to claim the No. 1 fitness trends spot for 2018,” said Hagan.

Part of the functional training movement is the demand for smaller, versatile and easily moveable pieces of equipment.

“Classes have moved from very big pieces of equipment to smaller pieces of equipment,” said Donna Cyrus, the executive advisor for group fitness at Crunch. “For example, The Axle from Power Systems is a new piece that looks like an extension of a weighted workout, but it’s a cardiovascular workout.”

Light and collapsible equipment like The Axle are a win-win, being easy to store while giving members workouts they want. “We’ve found our members really like a combination of light weight and being able to use it for sculpting and other toning exercises at the same time,” said Cyrus.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

A bungee class at Crunch.

According to a survey by Canfitpro, HIIT workouts ranked as the second-most trending workout in the fitness industry. No matter how popular functional fitness becomes, there will always be a place for intense workouts aimed at high-calorie burns.

“How many different versions of HIIT can you offer?” said Cyrus. “Right now, there’s a combination of HIIT and low-impact training that includes multiple strength components and a hardcore, high-end expenditure, married with a better rest period in between those hardcore pushes.”

Among the most popular — and arguably most intense — HIIT workouts in the industry are based on martial arts. “We’re starting to see a pickup again in martial arts training, specifically boxing,” said Erin Kelly, the chief strategy officer at Brick Bodies.

Express Workouts

“Members are looking for shorter-duration workouts — more than ever, people are so time-poor they want shorter and more effective training in a class format,” said Kelly. “HIIT classes and programs that deliver results and accommodate people’s schedules are very popular.”

There just aren’t enough hours in the day between work, cooking, a hobby or two, and getting some sleep, so express workouts are a dream come true for many members.

These workouts don’t just benefit the members, however. Clubs can get higher daily member volume simply by having a higher number of shorter classes available.

“[Express workouts] allow you to offer more time blocks to get more people through more classes more often — you can give more options and maximize the usage of your club,” said Kelly. “It’s a win-win for both sides.”


“The boutique fitness experience remains very popular in the U.S. — but is leveling off in growth — while continuing to see growth in countries like Canada and Australia,” said Hagan. “Boutiques are 100 percent focused on creating group and small group fitness experiences and a community feel that keeps consumers coming back.”

A TRX group fitness class at Crunch.

Cyrus echoed the same sentiment, having seen the continued popularity of boutique classes at Crunch. “There’s a major trend in classes that have more of a boutique representation,” she said.

A sense of community is one of the main reasons members seek out Group X classes in the first place, and creating a sense of belonging and a culture of encouragement is the strength of boutique clubs.

Ultimately, this is the reason they tend to succeed despite high prices, according to Hagan. “Consumers appear not to be turned off by the higher rates as they feel they receive great value for their money — they get exactly what they expect from the class,” she said. “Boutique-style members like to belong to a studio because it’s ‘a lifestyle,’ ‘it’s cool’ and ‘I get exactly what I came for.’”

Virtual Fitness

The digital age has created an expectation of instant gratification. There’s an online function for every item on your to-do list, from grocery shopping to paying bills, and working out is no different.

Through virtual fitness, exercisers can access workouts at the touch of a button. And you might be able to guess which age group these services are most popular with.

“Millennials are attracted to the group fitness experiences that are virtual-based because of the technology itself,” said Hagan. “I also believe it has something to do with how they can control their schedule, and choose exactly what and when they partake.”

Virtual fitness is so popular because of its convenience and flexibility — members can do their favorite workouts when and where they want, while gyms can use it as a visual and auditory complement to a more theatrical group workout class.

“You should have high-quality content that helps maximize your space, but also gives people the option to workout when it’s convenient for them,” said Kelly. “At Brick Bodies, we’re looking more toward virtual cycle programming, specifically Les Mills content and other immersive programming.”

Staying Relevant

It’s important to remember some of these Group X trends might not be the best fit for your club. The key is to be aware of all that’s out there, so you can make an educated decision on the programs you do decide to add to your schedule.

“I would strongly recommend club owners and operators get themselves to conventions that focus on group fitness — IDEA, Canfitpro’s World Fitness Expo, SCW, for example — so they can get and stay informed, and so they can experience the latest trends and new programs,” said Hagan.

If you know of another gym that offers a specific class you’d like to implement, consider paying a visit. “Go experience a program for yourself,” advised Kelly. “You need to know what these programs look like, feel like and what the experience is like so you can then speak authentically about what you’re trying to deliver in your own facility.”

As you’re making the decision to implement or eliminate Group X programs, don’t be afraid to take an analytical approach.

“It’s really about diving into the numbers — making data-driven decisions around attendance and engagement, then assessing the programs that are driving good numbers,” said Kelly. “Group exercise often becomes that area of the business that’s not overly scrutinized from a data perspective.”

In addition, it’s imperative to instill your club’s mission, core values and commitment to members into every class you launch.

“In order to deliver great programming, you have to have consistent elements present in everything you’re launching,” said Kelly. “That’s what the members are expecting — great experiences. It’s up to us to deliver them.”

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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