In the past, the majority of larger fitness facilities more or less followed a standardized floor plan that included rows upon rows of a fixed range of motion, selectorized machines. Ironically, despite their large size, these machines were targeting the smallest of muscle groups — one machine for hip abductions, one for triceps, etc.
While these machines play a pivotal role in the commercial fitness world and fill a need for the everyday gym goer — remove the intimidation factor, allow for independent training and help with form — they also take up a ton of space and often lack the efficiency, or what we often refer to as “the Swiss army effect,” that functional fitness tools offer.
Enter today’s model for success, which includes the essential tried and true selectorized machines, in addition to wide open spaces reserved for functional training. Even fitness coaches and informed enthusiasts have cleared space for functional tools and layouts. And this trend has been a long time coming.
In a New York Times article from 2013 titled, “Fitness Playgrounds Grow as Machines Go,“ David Harris, VP of health and human performance at Equinox remarked, “I wouldn’t say [selectorized machines are] obsolete, but there is a huge downtick in traditional strength-training equipment,” to make room for open space for members to move freely.
Even more, with full-blown subcultures (for example, Crossfit) dedicated to the principles of functional fitness, social media and an overall savvier fitness population, the member demand has never been stronger. According to a story by Rachel Bachman published in a December 2017 issue of the Wall Street Journal, the percentage of cardio machines to weight training equipment sold around the world dropped from 64 to 36 percent last year. Bachman also references a study that showed UK gym-goers reduced their total time spent on cardio machines by seven percent in 2017, even as overall gym use increased.
Beyond the mere trend factor, there’s an imbedded efficiency and ROI that goes hand-in-hand with a properly implemented functional training model. In a 2018 IHRSA article titled, “Is Your Gym’s Equipment Killing Member Retention?,” Sanjiv K. Chopra, CEO of Fitness Evolution (and overseer of 61 Fit Republic health clubs in California and Washington State), stated, “[You] generally, have to replace your cardio every three to five years, because technology is increasing so fast…Buying a cardio machine these days is a little bit like buying a laptop.”
On the other hand, with functional training tools for example, a gym can conduct a wide variety of instructor-led individual and group training sessions for a broad range of clients using multi-purpose equipment that takes up very little floor space and is easily stored.
California Athletic Clubs (CAC) President Eric Schmitz also recognized the benefit of trading out a portion of their traditional machines to create a more functional, open space. “Interest is going to continue to grow,” stated the CAC President. “More and more traditional clubs will revise square footage to incorporate [functional training] products. A big trend in fitness will be resource reallocation as club owners transition away from traditional cardio equipment and machines and convert to open space with suspension training and other functional fitness tools.”
Nick Vay is the senior director of North American sales at TRX.