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Choosing the Right Strength Equipment

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Strength Equipment

Strength equipment is a key piece of any fitness floor. Perfectly complementing the workout members can get with cardio equipment, a healthy variety of strength equipment rounds out the selection for members.

“Gyms need to accommodate a wide variety of clients, so their strength pieces need to be versatile,” said Brooke Smith, the national fitness sales director of VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa with locations in Oregon, Texas, California and Colorado. “You need to cater to the traditional lifting crowd with your barbells, free weights and plate-loaded equipment, but also the populations focused on injury prevention or rehab, or who are new to fitness, with a well-rounded assortment of selectorized equipment.”

Between plate-loaded pieces, selectorized pieces and free weights, there are several equipment types to choose from. Then there’s deciding who to work with, as well as considering the preferences of your members. All in all, buying strength equipment can be stressful.

Because there are many factors to weigh when making your buying decisions, these five clubs have shared their insights for choosing the right strength equipment:

Cincinnati Sports Club

“There is never a one-size-fits-all solution to what strength equipment to include on a fitness floor,” said Phil Norton, the operations manager at the Cincinnati Sports Club in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

However, according to Norton, there are some types of equipment that are a safe bet for good usage. “Free weights, dumbbells, benches, squat racks, stretching mats and functional equipment will always be a staple of your floor, and give you a lot of flexibility with your layout and footprint,” he explained. “In addition, a line of selectorized machines are a staple for new users and seniors.”

The types of equipment you need will change over the years, so as you’re updating your fitness floor, it’s important to partner with reliable equipment vendors.

“Reliability is the No. 1 thing,” said Norton. “Our membership will not decrease if we don’t have the latest and greatest, but members will cancel if the equipment doesn’t work. The manufacturer’s track record and willingness to make things right are important.”

Results Fitness

According to Rachel Cosgrove, the owner of Results Fitness in Newhall, California, the most important consideration for choosing strength equipment is the space your club has available, especially in smaller boutique environments. “The main question is how versatile an equipment piece is and how much of a footprint it has,” she said. “If you can only do one movement and the equipment has a giant footprint, it won’t be a good choice when you have limited space.”

Certain equipment pieces are also popular because of their ability to give members the level of intensity they’re looking for in their workouts.

“Functional training pieces, including using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and cable machines, are definitely becoming more popular options because they are effective at getting a lot done for our time-crunched clientele,” said Cosgrove.

VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa

An emerging industry trend has been more Olympic-style lifting in clubs, likely coinciding with the rising popularity of CrossFit over the past decade.

“We’re seeing more people who want to use their bodies in athletic ways, so Olympic lifting and powerlifting are becoming more popular,” said Smith. “Tire flips, battle ropes and plyo boxes are also getting popular as people want to be strong, as well as mobile and functional.”

Just as mobility and functionality are important to members, strength equipment longevity is a big plus for clubs. 

“Solid warranties and a five-star service department are important — clubs need their equipment to be reliably operational, and repaired or replaced promptly when defects or issues occur,” said Smith. “Reach out to your industry network for recommendations on preferred vendors, and stay up-to-date on the equipment provided by competitors.”

Castle Hill Fitness

The needs of different members should guide your equipment buying decisions.

“The equipment really depends upon your demographics,” said Michele Melkerson-Granryd, the general manager of Castle Hill Fitness, with two locations in Austin, Texas. “We find members who are 50 and above are still very comfortable with selectorized equipment. However, [members] under 50 are more likely to utilize free weights, squat racks, etc.”

When setting up fitness spaces, Melkerson-Granryd prefers versatility. “With squat racks, a bench and some dumbbells, I can pretty much do anything,” she said. “Functional cable crossovers with a bench are also really versatile and require less moving.”

If you’re unsure of which vendors to talk to or which pieces to test out, it’s beneficial to lean on industry peers for recommendations.

“Talk to other club owners and managers who have similar needs, and find out who they work with and why,” advised Melkerson-Granryd.

Franco’s Athletic Club

In a specific class format, your strength equipment selection will likely be smaller, as it’s intended for specialized usage.

“We want to have free weights for our specific style of training, and also make sure we have enough of it for an entire class to use simultaneously,” said Chandler Davis, the head coach of the CrossFit Franco’s program at Franco’s Athletic Club in Mandeville, Louisiana. “Having enough barbells, bumper plates, dumbbells and kettlebells for a class of up to 20 people is a top priority for us.”

Staying on top of developing trends and member preferences will help steer you in the right direction. “Follow the trends within the strength equipment segment,” advised Blayne Hare, the fitness director at Franco’s. “For example, resistance training is very important and needs to be implemented in everyone’s training regimen.”

With so many trends and member needs to factor into your buying decision, it’s best to come up with a list of companies and begin your search from there.

“For major purchases, find at least three quotes and compare them closely,” said Joey White, the director of operations at Franco’s. “What are similar issues these manufacturers experience? How is their customer service? Is the equipment easily serviceable? Are parts readily available? Each of these components is extremely important when you consider the longevity of your investment.” 

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Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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