“People are no longer afraid of strength training. All demographics are seeking it.”
Mary Edwards, the director of fitness for Cooper Aerobics, opened the latest installment of the Thought Leaders panel with this statement, and all the other panelists — and the industry as a whole — seem to agree.
Elise Stolzle, the fitness director of Stone Creek Club & Spa, added, “There are no barriers anymore. I’ve got women deadlifting, squatting, Olympic lifting, and it makes me so excited to see that fear is now gone. They don’t care what anybody thinks. They’re just out there doing it and they’re seeing results.”
While it’s clear strength fitness has grown in popularity over recent years, many are wondering what’s caused this increase.
Jon Baraglia, the regional director of club operations and fitness for Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC) Corporate, explained he believes COVID-19’s mask policy has been a contributing factor.
“It’s very difficult to do high intensity training in masks,” said Baraglia. “So gradually cardio and HIIT started to drop, and people moved more toward workout programs that are more traditional bodybuilding and strength training because that was more convenient to do in a mask.”
Because of the increase in strength trainers, FFC decreased the cardio space in its clubs by roughly one third and increased its strength area by one third. Some of its most popular areas right now are the adjustable benches and dumbbell area, Olympic lifting areas, and squat racks. Baraglia said they’ve doubled their squat rack usage, space and purchases over the last three years as a result of the offering gaining a wider audience.
Stolzle shared on the panel that her facility recently remodeled its fitness floor to cater to increased foot traffic.
The main goal of the renovation was to create more usable space. This included adding resilient rubber by Ecore, relocating their main functional training rig from the second story cardio mezzanine down to the main fitness floor in the new rubberized area, and adding various heavy-hitter strength pieces: a hack squat, a perfect squat, hip thrust, cable systems and an additional squat rack.
If you are considering reworking your fitness floor layout, Baraglia suggested not having all your similar equipment in one space. What they’ve done at several FFC locations and have had success with is instead of laying out 10 dumbbell racks and 20 adjustable benches together, they took four of those dumbbell racks — with a lighter weight selection — and moved them to a different part of the gym.
“What you find is you attract a whole new group of people to that area because they’re way too intimidated to go in the free weight area during prime time when it’s packed with people who are at a different workout level, using heavier weight,” explained Baraglia.
If your facility wants to better serve its members but doesn’t have space to add more equipment to your fitness floor, Greg Maurer, the vice president of fitness and education for Workout Anytime, recommended going outdoors.
“Real estate is hard to come by,” said Maurer. “It’s hard to find the right spaces. It’s hard to expand if you’re there and you may not have the capability. So, what we’re exploring more and more is outdoor spaces. I think people can really dig it if it’s set up properly. It’s not inexpensive to do it right though, but I think we’re probably going to see more and more of that across the industry.”
While an increasing amout of facilities are reworking spaces to cater to the rise in strength training, it’s important to know your demographic and their needs before you start joining in. Andrea Ausmus, the director of fitness operations for Gold’s Gym SoCal, said it’s imperative to define your space, know what you want to accomplish and know the personality of this club.
Thomas recommended surveying your members to see firsthand what they want from you.
Lastly, Maurer emphasized the importance of continually learning. For him, one of the best ways to do that is by visiting clubs.
“Club visits are so cool to me,” said Maurer. “We can share with one another and really learn a lot. I can get stuck in my own head and one of the ways to get out of my head is to go to other people and see what they’re doing. It can really expand your thinking in a very positive way.”
Overall, strength training is going to continue to rise in popularity. As an operator it’s up to you to determine the best way to serve your community whether that’s through rearranging your fitness floor, expanding to the outdoor space or simply by continuing to do what you’re already doing.
Watch the full discussion, below.