Gini Grimsley, the director of fitness product for VASA Fitness, shares tips for creating awareness and use of free weights in fitness facilities.
In a post-COVID era and with 2022 in full swing, there is a renewed focus on holistic health and wellness. Americans are looking for efficient modalities that will help them get and look in shape but are no longer interested in the hamster wheel of running endless miles on a treadmill.
Strength training – specifically using free weights – has been on the rise in recent years, especially among women. The American College of Sports Medicine found strength training with free weights was the fourth most popular form of exercise in their Top Trends Survey for 2022. As Americans ditch their at-home workouts and return to the gym, creating awareness and ease of use for free weights around fitness facilities will help members reach their goals and keep equipment expenditures under control.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training stresses the musculoskeletal system and aims to increase its output after a period of recovery. More simply put, challenging the body’s muscles using weights will create fatigue and microtraumas that will eventually make those same muscles stronger, assuming the body is given sufficient rest and recovery.
Strength can be achieved by using a variety of different weight forms including:
- Free weights (dumbbells and barbells)
The key to achieving lasting results with this type of training is to continuously cycle through periods of stress and recovery. Free weights used during strength training force stabilizing muscles to work harder to prevent the weight from falling. They also provide members with many movement options and make your gym more user-friendly by accommodating various levels of fitness. Dumbbells, barbells, and more recently kettlebells, are proven time and again to be popular among several subsets of members including aesthetic athletes, functional movers, general fitness exercisers and active agers.
Benefits of Strength Training with Free Weights
If we compare the body to a car, cardiovascular training helps your build a huge engine, but without an appropriately strong frame, that engine won’t take you very far. Strength training helps build the body’s muscles and will make cardiovascular training more efficient. This allows for increased capacity and makes activities outside, like picking up children or carrying groceries much easier. Stronger muscles also reduce stress on joints and increase range of motion.
When combined with some cardio and active recovery activities like stretching, yoga and foam rolling, strength training can have a huge impact on body composition. The stress of this type of training also has a powerful impact on bone health, keeping osteopenia and osteoporosis at bay for much longer.
How to Incorporate Free Weights at Your Gym
As more clubs invest in strength training opportunities for members, club layout and equipment selection are essential to member retention and satisfaction. Smaller facilities may be better off avoiding machine-based options all together and should lean into free weights, which take up less space and provide more freedom of movement and exercise variety for members.
Free weights tend to be more budget-friendly and require less maintenance than machines. Larger facilities can offer a blend of free and machine weight options because they have more square footage to play with and generally a more diverse membership base. Big box gyms like VASA Fitness attract a variety of members who have a multitude of needs, so providing plenty of space for training with free weights for members with general health goals and even those with more performance-based goals is a necessity.
Learn More: Empowering Personal Trainers to Meet Changing Client Needs
Keeping free weights visible and accessible will help to drive members to this space, especially newer members who might find bulky and complex machines intimidating. Additional equipment may be needed to support the use of these tools like benches and mats. It’s imperative, though, to ensure members have enough space to safely use dumbbells and barbells. Even creating a dedicated functional space will help with overflow from the free weights area and might give you the opportunity to house non-traditional free weights like kettlebells, balls, sandbags and sleds.
Group fitness formats are beginning to incorporate more strength-based exercises that improve body composition and exercise capacity. Formats like Les Mills have led the way to incorporate strength formats in the group fitness arena with classes like BodyPump, and now more formats are enjoying similar success to blending strength and cardio just by adding free weights.
Help Your Members Feel Comfortable with Free Weights
Provide members who are new to fitness with an introduction to the gym, especially the free weight areas, so you can help them feel comfortable in your space and with the equipment you offer. Many members will avoid various parts of the gym if they seem foreign or intimidating. Lead members on an extensive tour or provide a complimentary session with a fitness professional so you can introduce the member to areas of the gym they might not be familiar with and answer any questions they have.
No matter your facility size or membership base, providing multiple weight options is one of the best and more popular training modalities for the upcoming year and beyond. Free weights and a variety of strength training equipment will allow people of all abilities to train a wide range of movement patterns. Weights will continue to be a great investment for club operators as more members feel confident training with them and more group fitness formats include strength-based movements.
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