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Setting Up the Perfect Functional Training Space

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functional training

As functional training continues to rise in popularity, it’s imperative for clubs to understand how they can use the right accessories and setups to create an engaging experience for members.

Three clubs in particular — Blast Fitness, Baptist East/Milestone Wellness Center, and The Alaska Club — have each found the best combination of accessories and setups to maximize their functional training programs’ effectiveness.

Blast Fitness

“We start every workout with mobility and activation warm up before moving into resistance training,” said Bri Sexton, the COO and fitness director of Blast Fitness. “Then we train full body in every class, focusing on range of motion and form, and mixing in compound movements and work in all planes of motion.”

In her classes and equipment choices, Sexton emphasizes a focus on movement. “The best functional training equipment available is bodyweight equipment,” she said. “Learning to move your own body with purpose and integrity is essential.”

Alongside bodyweight equipment, Blast uses equipment for resistance, stability, lateral and core training. “We use resistance bands, Terra Core and Step 360 trainers for stability gains, and we use our FreeMotion incline trainers for lateral work,” said Sexton.

However, one specific piece resonates with members, according to Sexton. “Our members live for the Terra Core trainers,” she shared. “They really encourage and challenge the body in every move.”

Because the setup in functional training programming is just as important as the equipment choices, Blast has intentionally designed its space to facilitate more interactions between trainers and members.

“Our studios are split between treadmills along the walls and a strength station in the room’s center to create a vibrant energy and sense of inclusiveness,” said Sexton. “This gives instructors easy access to every client during the workout, for form and motivation coaching.”

According to Sexton, this connection between instructors and participants is critical to members’ progression through workouts. “The most important thing is the interaction between the coach and client,” she said. “We emphasize form, form, form, so if your space is not laid out in an easy-to-navigate manner, your clients will be left unsupervised in movements.”

Baptist East/Milestone Wellness Center

Setting up a dedicated functional training studio is a good method for maximizing functional training programs, which is the route Baptist East/Milestone Wellness Center successfully took.

“We have a designated part of our facility that’s just for functional training, as well as four studios that, when not in use, are occupied with personal and functional training sessions,” said Jeff Howard, the manager of group programming and promotions at Baptist East.

In fact, functional training makes up a significant portion of Baptist East’s programs. “Most of our trainers incorporate small group functional training into their sessions,” said Howard. “We also offer over 189 land classes a week, and a majority are geared toward functional training.”

Regardless of the setting, Howard likes to use a wide variety of equipment in functional training, based on members’ needs and the location of the workout.

“We like to use an assortment of different pieces of equipment — first, because of the principle of adaptation, and second, the best part of functional training is you can do it anywhere,” explained Howard. “We use med balls, kettlebells, battle ropes, stability balls, BOSU balls, stair climbers, tires, agility ladders, cones, a stationary bike — and the list can go on and on.”

According to Howard, it’s also imperative to be intentional about your functional training setup — everything from the floor space to the music choices can make a difference in the experience.

“Integrate an open space when floor planning, and use a surface that is good for both floor work and mobility,” said Howard. “Timer screens and other visuals are also helpful. And lastly, you should have a great music system — music can help with motivation and excitement.”

The Alaska Club

Another way to execute functional training programs is to incorporate them as an add-on to current membership packages, as The Alaska Club does.

“We offer what we call Team Training at seven of our 14 locations,” said Trent Bogh, the vice president of membership development and personal training at The Alaska Club. “That program has an additional cost, and you can go to an unlimited number of classes in the network.”

Team Training is also bundled with personal training. “If you purchase one-on-one personal training at The Alaska Club, you get unlimited Team Training bundled into personal training,” explained Bogh. “If you train on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can have unlimited Team Training on your homework days, assigned from your trainer.”

Having a dedicated space — equipped for a variety of workouts — has been crucial to the success of Team Training.

“Our functional training area is directly across from our standard weight room,” said Bogh. “It is a fully-turfed area that is blended into an expressway, with a 21-foot GYM RAX bridge that comes across the turf. On that turf, we have three battle rope setups, nine TRX bands, over 30 variations of kettlebells, and a lot more.”

Putting the space in an open area and making it inviting have been critical to the success of functional training.

“We determined we wanted our functional training space in a high visibility area,” shared Bogh. “You can do functional training in your yard, so we wanted to create a space that’s open and inviting.” 

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