Capturing imagination in the gym


Functional fitness is definitely a key trend in the fitness industry. Hardly any development has affected fitness centres to the extent to which the functional training trend has.


In recent years the challenging total body workout has asserted itself on the market and an increasing number of fitness entrepreneurs integrate new training areas into their clubs. The possibilities of functional training are infinite; therefore, a definition is virtually impossible.

However, it is clear that this is a workout involving three-dimensional movements in space – which is in contrast to the machine workout, with its main focus on individual muscles. Therefore, choosing the right equipment is especially important because it can define how successful your exercise programme will be.

You might have the most amazing training ideas, but if your gym is not designed accordingly, they will merely remain ideas. Clarifying what the parameters of your workout should look like should be the first step.

Some of the questions that need to be answered are:

  • One-on-one personal training or small group training?
  • Open gym or supervised training?
  • Men, women or professional athletes?
  • Training philosophy?
  • Circuit training or block periodisation?

Anyone who is still uncertain, or not ready to make a permanent decision, should apply the following thumb rules:

  • What does an item of training equipment cost? How many clients can it serve simultaneously? What is the cost-benefit factor?
  • How can I ensure maximum “work flow”?

The “free area” is a functional training gym’s component one should not underestimate. As a rule of thumb, one should reserve 9-10 square metres per member (budget operators tend to calculate on five persons per square metre).

When talking about free areas, one inevitably deals with the division of the gym. It should be based on the current and future training needs and facilitate the previously mentioned workflow.


Key Elements

Leading experts in the field of functional training agree that each workout should consist of different key elements – such as resistance training or conditioning – in order to achieve the best possible result. The division of the total space into thematic areas serves as an example and pre-supposes an existing and reproducible training system. Whether you decide on four, six or any other number of key elements is up to you.

An arrangement based on the consecutive key elements of a training session provides various advantages. From an economic standpoint, the most important role is that the gym owner is able to exercise a maximum number of customers or members without delays or bottlenecks.

For example, a new group, team or personal training unit can start every 15 minutes.

Here’s a good example of a division of areas:

  • Prehab (foam-rolling, etc.)
  • Speed, Agility and Quickness
  • Performance
  • Strength
  • Cardio


What’s Reasonable?

From a business perspective, functional training is a blessing. Consequently, the requirements for establishing such an area, or even outfitting a new studio, are relatively low. Clearly cable pulleys, various types of medicine balls and foam rollers or mini and super bands are a must.

Naturally, as a functional training coach or personal trainer, one dreams of numerous things such as sleds, weight vests, a treadmill or a weightlifting platform. However, knowing the difference between “nice-to-have” and “must-have” is essential. So think twice about the cost-benefit factor.

Nonetheless, it is necessary to optimise the expenditure side in order to keep the business overhead as low as possible. Whether the studio is under-utilised or not, things such as rent, electricity and heating costs need to be paid from Day One. Once your customer base grows you are free to gradually make more investments.

Even if you have the budget, it is not wise to immediately make all the equipment available. Instead, spread it out over several weeks or months. That way, members are made happy two or three times, instead of just once in the beginning!


Studio Re-design

If you run a gym that is already in operation, it makes sense to consistently work off the aforementioned analysis parameters. Generally speaking, functional training is suitable for all target groups: from young people to housewives and even 70-year-old retirees. They all benefit from a functional training area in your gym due to various reasons.

The challenge for a gym that is already operational lies in the fact that a complete restructuring of the training area may be difficult to achieve. The habits of current members, the training behaviour and the expertise of the coaches, or the term of the leased training equipment are common obstacles.

In this case it makes sense to consider a restructuring of the existing training equipment. In doing so, one should mostly focus on freeing up as much space as possible, which you can then use for functional training.

Think of the 9-10-square-metre per person as the number of members or clients who can work out there at the same time depends on it. Ideally, the newly created area is immediately next to a (hopefully existing) area offering dumbbells, cable pulleys and perhaps power racks.

As a gym owner, you’ll probably most benefit from the fact that functional training equipment can easily be transported from site A to B. This will allow you to respond to peak periods and perhaps even offer different forms of training (personal training, small group training, etc.) at the same time.

Well-trained staff capable of improvising, even in the worst case, is absolutely essential. Forming a functional training circle that varies, say once a month, is a great way to get started in this field of training.

Even the mere re-arrangement of equipment (ropes, balls, obstacles, etc.) can make the member feel like s/he is experiencing something new. Naturally, the implementation of a clear training system based on clear specifications of progressions and regressions would make sense in this context.


Execution Is Everything

Establishing a functional training area does not mean that you’re done; one also needs to know how to  use it in order to generate maximum profit. Thus, if you hope to achieve an increase in sales by simply establishing such an area with all of its exceptional sounding, exercise equipment, you will inevitably find yourself disappointed.

Therefore, use the attention bonus and turn it into profit by means of consequent utilisation of the newly established area. The great thing about functional training is that, ultimately, no space has to remain unused.

Not everything that says functional training is in fact about functional training. To obtain an optimal, value-added facility, it is important that the use of a functional training area or a functional training studio involves a high level of expertise. You must keep in mind that functional training is not a temporary trend but the future of fitness training.

Your entrepreneurial advantage is clear when looking at the aforementioned list of necessary initial equipment. In conventional fitness training, the total cost of a functional training studio would merely suffice for the purchase of two treadmills.

But why serve only three customers simultaneously if you can make 16 happy in the same time? So what are you waiting for?


– Maximilian Lankheit, Mike Boyles &  Hannes Thies


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