Strength training has had remarkable growth over the past few decades. But the last couple of years has seen old-school strength training surpass all expectations. And every gym owner who is responding to the surge in demand for strength training is seeing a significant growth in their membership numbers.
Every demographic is doing strength training today including older adults, teens, men, women, athletes and rehabilitation patients. Every night at our fitness clubs, 70-year-olds are squatting and bench pressing. Most days, over 50% of the members using our squat racks and lifting platforms are women. This is a dramatic shift from the training patterns from five years ago.
Ten years ago, some of our fitness clubs had just one professional power rack. Today, each club has up to 15 power racks and lifting platforms. We are also constantly adding extra space for new strength training areas.
And it’s not just men who are strength training more than ever before. Most of our fitness clubs have optional ladies-only gyms. For years, our ladies-only gyms never had hard-core weight training equipment. Today, our ladies’ gyms have several weightlifting platforms, power racks and huge racks of dumbbells. The day of the basic 10-station circuit for women is gone.
All this demand has been driven by members who want to lift weights. At West Wood Clubs Ireland, we have even branded our new strength training areas “Just Strength Gyms.”
I presented at the 2023 IHRSA to 700 club owners and managers. I asked the question, “Who else is seeing a growth in strength training?” Every hand went up.
I believe the growth in strength training is driven by three things:
- Social Media: The rise of social media and fitness influencers has played a huge role in the growth of strength training. With Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, it’s easier than ever to access information on fitness and exercise. This allows people to find inspiration and motivation from other people who have achieved their fitness goals through strength training.
- Results: The access to fitness information online means our members and clients know what is going to get them the best results before they ever meet us. If they want a stronger, slimmer, more toned body they know the best way to achieve that is through regular strength training, rather than hours and hours of cardio.
- Adaptability: A huge advantage of strength training is adaptability. Strength training can be tailored to suit the needs and goals of every age and fitness level. New members who have a very low level of cardiovascular fitness can still do weight training. This adaptability means people can work at their own pace.
The growth of strength training in our fitness clubs can be attributed to several factors, including the benefits it provides, social media and fitness influencers, and its adaptability to individual needs and preferences. And the price — I can fit out a huge strength training gym for the cost of a couple of treadmills.
Great to see this strength training growth trend but let’s not throw the baby (pin-loaded selectorized equipment) out with the bath water.
I like the topic called “strength training service delivery systems”. The measure is “What approach gets the maximum number of members doing effective strength training for life?”
Although there are clear benefits to racks and lifting there are consumer benefits (convenience and time-efficiency) to a single set program on a 5 to 9 station row, where members are given pre-set program cards to match the machines. Doing the line only takes 20 to 30 minutes. A well designed card pre-programs progressive overload and so it is self-updating.
In a single set prescription, each machine only takes 60 to 90 seconds, so, allowing for set and weight setup, a member can enter the 1st station of the line every 2 minutes. That’s a capacity of 30 members per hour.
The sales people can use a trial visit and ask the prospect “That took just 20 minutes. Could you fit that in?” and “If you had done this just once a week, for the past 52 weeks, would you be in better shape now?”
Almost all prospects will say yes. Then the sales person can say “If you come just once a week, (as some members do) that can make a real difference. Twice works better. And any cardio or classes you do are a bonus. Do you think you could fit in a 30 minute workout once or twice a week? This can help sales conversion when selling to pre-exercisers.
This can also help retention. One of the biggest reasons for cancellation is “I’m just not coming enough to make it worthwhile.” If the expectation is set low (one 30 min session per week) then less people will cancel for this reason.