Strength training can be a hard sell to members. “You have to convince women it won’t bulk them up. And, you have to convince men to lose their ego and admit they might need help,” said Adrienne McBride, the director of fitness and programming for commercial clubs at Club One.
Getting your members involved in strength training is invaluable to their workout. The average gym-goer may not be aware of the numerous benefits strength training offers. Clubs must not only educate their members on strength training’s benefits, but they also need to be able to show members how to put themselves through a good strength training workout.
Strength training is a difficult area of the gym to make user friendly. Buying the right equipment will ensure members get the best, easiest workout possible.
“We realize that a large percentage of new members have either never exercised, or have not exercised in years. In order for them to keep using the equipment, it must be easy to use,” said Jason Kroening, the district manager for five Anytime Fitness facilities.
Darren Levy, the director of facilities, construction and equipment for Club One, looks for functionality, ease of use, popularity and how recognizable a product is. McBride added, having too many options could overwhelm members.
Ease of use is definitely important, but safety is an obvious issue. Doug Werner, the COO of New England Fitness Distributors, said the number one criteria for equipment is safety. “Injuries on strength equipment can range from pinched fingers to torn muscles to crushed vertebrae and worse,” he said. “Any facility offering strength training options should place safety above all else, but especially any facility that relies on dues-paying members and a good name.” Werner also suggested looking for how effective equipment is and if it provides an efficient workout rather than requiring excessive repetitions, sets and supervision.
Physical space is also another aspect to consider with strength training equipment. Having enough space for free weights, selectorized equipment and circuit training is important to make sure your members don’t feel like they are on top of each other and there is enough room for everyone to exercise safely.
Flooring presents another potential issue for clubs. The most important feature for flooring is durability, said Jocelyn Dillman, the product manager for Everlast Sports Surfacing with Nike Grind. “Clubs need to find a product that can withstand the constant pounding of heaving equipment and dropped weights without showing any wear and tear.”
Werner recommends that every club have about one selectorized machine for every 125 users and one free weight “station” for every 100 users, with a minimum of about 15 selectorized pieces and 10 free-weight stations for smaller centers.
Tony Gray, the vice president of fitness for The Rush Fitness Complex, said about two-thirds of his gyms are devoted to strength training when you include free weights, plates, selectorized equipment and circuit training. The Rush Fitness Complex makes it easy for members to find the equipment they’re looking for by laying out the floor by type of workout. There is colored upholstery for every section; for example, leg equipment is green and back equipment is purple.
Levy has set up two different circuit training areas. One is near the free weights and the other is off on it’s own to make it not as threatening for other members. “The younger crowd shies away from it,” he said. He has also started building facilities with more functional training space and adjusting areas in established gyms to make more room.
“We are seeing a trend in clubs dedicating more space for functional and bodyweight training,” said Randy Bergstedt, the executive vice president for Total Gym. “Some of the newest functional training tools that are really growing in popularity include products like our Total Gym GTS, battling ropes and TRX.”
Fundamentally, few changes have been made to strength training equipment Levy said. He sees a movement away from traditional workout methods and the start of more incorporation with equipment that uses more than one movement like kettlebells, Power Plate and TRX
Gray agrees that there have been few changes and he would like to see more. He sees total-body conditioning to be a new trend citing that kettlebells have made a comeback and suspension training units like TRX are having an impact on the industry. Rob Rettmann, the vice president of education for The Rush Fitness Complex, noted that they still cater to traditionalists looking for their classic workout equipment as well and always carry a variety of brands for their members.
Introducing Strength Training to Members
“Education is key,” said Kroening. “Members will not use what they don’t understand.“ Members need to learn how to properly use strength training equipment so that they will feel comfortable doing it on their own and be able to do the exercises safely.
Clubs need to remember that strength training is for everyone, said Sean Gagnon, the vice president of The Ab Coaster Company. “All members need it and all members benefit from it. Once a member is hooked on all that strength training can do for them, they will be a member for life!”
Members at Club One get a fitness assessment when they sign up for a new membership. They are analyzed based on their fitness results and matched up with a trainer appropriate for their fitness level and put through an entire workout with a personal trainer. This gives members the opportunity to experience a training session and an understanding of how to use equipment.
The Rush Fitness Complex exposes members to a variety of strength training exercises during their complimentary “Rush Hour” workout upon becoming a member. Gray said they see strength training as an opportunity for their fitness coaches (similar to personal trainers) to teach and educate members. A lot of training is done in front of other members who may be on cardio equipment so they can watch what others are doing with the fitness coaches.
“More and more people are now walking up and asking ‘how do I use that?’” Gray said. “Members are seeing something on TV, like ropes on the ‘Biggest Loser,’ and they’re more likely to ask how to use the rope than how to use the leg extension.”
Offering a group information session at your club is a great way to continue to educate members while not putting them on the spot individually. “Quarterly, we offer informational classes put on by our trainers,” Kroening said. “We have a variety of topics. Some of these classes do concentrate on how to effectively implement strength training into your workout. These classes not only add value to the membership, but often lead to an increase in personal training sales.”
Club One puts on different “How-to” seminars. All 19 clubs participate, McBride said. For March the topic was “How to eat mindfully.” The April topic is club specific — McBride suggested as an example “How to use kettlebells” could be a seminar. The classes are then offered twice a week for four weeks and are free for members. The Rush Fitness Complex has had success holding demonstrations for their members. Recently, they had about 50 members show up for a kettlebell demonstration.
Thinking outside of the box to get members to begin incorporating strength training into their routines can greatly benefit your club. Members who participate in strength training typically see better results, and when members get their desired results, they will likely stay at your club.
Strength training can be intimidating for members, but it doesn’t have to be. Having easy-to-use equipment and constant training will help members realize how easy it can be to incorporate strength training into their everyday workout. -CS
By Ali Cicerchi