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Entries in strength training (4)


How to Compete with the Boutique Studio Trend

This is an associate feature post, sponsored by Iron Grip Barbell Company

If you’re offering group exercise classes at your gym, you already know why the classes appeal to your members. Now more than ever, today’s fitness consumer isn’t just looking for an activity (running, lifting weights, cycling)—they’re looking for an enriching experience. Gym goers expect their workouts to be challenging and motivating, but they're also looking for that feeling of camaraderie and social connection. 

No doubt exercising in a group setting can offer the right combination of communal support and group accountability that keeps a certain type of member engaged. But if you’re not already offering a program that focuses specifically on strength training in a group format, you could be missing a huge opportunity to connect with these members, and open up a more compelling path to retention. 

Here are the top reasons why your club needs group strength training on the schedule: 

Strength training is (still) wildly popular. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2016 worldwide survey, strength training still holds as the fourth most popular fitness trend among consumers. The editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® call it an “essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders.” 

What other activity appeals to such a wide cross-section of your overall membership? So many women are encouraged by the evidence that weight bearing exercise can increase energy levels, help burn fat faster, and ward off osteoporosis that they are embracing a “strong is the new skinny” mindset. But many members want the benefits of strength training as well as the feel of community that only a group setting can provide. 

Group strength training classes are the perfect complement to other group activities. Your members may crave their weekly dose of Zumba-fueled booty-shaking, or rely on a sanity-restoring savasana at the end of a hectic workday, but the most energizing cardio or relaxing stretching can get boring fast if you don’t provide options to mix up those routines. Not only do members need and demand variety to keep them motivated, but for the best results, a balanced fitness lifestyle incorporates strength training. 

So while the ever-popular yoga practice helps improve flexibility, breathing, and balance, a class that focuses on weight-bearing exercises will fill in the gap to build strength, burn fat, and increase bone density. And while getting your heart pumping is key to cardiovascular stamina, nothing reshapes a body and improves health more completely and effectively than strength training. 

Strength training classes won’t just keep members from losing interest, they’ll keep them in your club. Group exercise in general is a popular retention tool for keeping members engaged and motivated. But consider it also as a stepping stone to taking advantage of all your club has to offer. 

The growing popularity of boutique fitness studios (barre, spinning, yoga) or boot camp-style small group training (including CrossFit) means you need to compete to keep members at your full-service facility. A robust group exercise program offers the social experience members yearn for, but group strength classes in particular provide members with something more—a gateway to feeling comfortable using more areas of your club. 

For members who want to learn to strength train but might be intimidated by the weight room, group strength classes provide a welcoming space where they can familiarize themselves with barbells, weight plates, and basic free weight exercises that will help them see results fast and, importantly, introduce them to the rest of your club. 

That’s why it’s important to offer group strength training equipment that is user-friendly and ergonomic, but that also shares the same heavy-duty look of the equipment in the free weight training area outside the group ex studio. If members become comfortable with free weight training in the group ex studio, then it’s only a matter of time before they graduate to using other areas of the club on their own, which helps drive home the value of your full-service club. 

It may even be a bridge to one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer, or eventually specialized high-performance athletic coaching. And an engaged member—who is seeing results and utilizing all areas of the club—is one you’re more likely to keep. 

Iron Grip Barbell Company is the only commercial free weight provider to offer a complete line of exclusively American-made dumbbells, weight plates, and Olympic bars. They operate their own state-of-the-art factory in Southern California to ensure strict quality control and hands-on customer service. Iron Grip is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial free weights, with 23 years of innovation and expertise in the fitness industry. For more information, visit


What is better for losing weight, strength or cardio?

Many of those who join a gym or decide to get in shape do it to also to lose weight. And there is argument on both sides on whether strength training or cardio work is better.

Michele Melkerson-Granryd and Anthony Wall give their opinions in Best Practices.

This question is part of a new feature in Best Practices. On the first Monday of the month we will be taking a question from and then ask our leaders. 

"Is strength or cardio training better for weight loss?"

A: The easiest response to this great question is to say the what’s best for weight loss is choosing an activity that someone will stick with!. Long term exercise adherence is the key to losing weight. It really makes no difference if we put someone on the ‘best’ possible weight loss program if it is so demotivating, intimidating or boring  they quit in the first few weeks!

Now let’s touch on the science and see what the research suggests. If use the analogy of a car engine idling. If the engine idles at a higher rate it is using more fuel. Once we start driving if we drive using more hills, use more power or drive more aggressively then we use more fuel. This is similar to how the body responds, with one great advantage – if, during exercise we drive the body harder our ‘engines’ idle at a higher rate at rest. Cardio training can be effective for weight loss but often becomes an exercise in efficiency – (no pun intended) and we see people over time not hitting their weight loss goals. As people settle into the comfort of a routine they actually become more efficient at the activity and expend less energy and recover quicker. The current research around using high intensity interval training has been shown to be the most effective way to lose weight. HIIT training uses a combination of low and high intensity exercises and constantly challenges to body. Incorporating this style of training not only increases our resting metabolic rate (idling speed) but also in many programs the utilization of resistance is incorporated to increase the intensity of the session. This has the benefit of increasing lean muscle mass. The greater the energy expended during exercise the longer the body uses a higher idling speed to recover. Back to the question – is strength or cardio training better for weight loss? Incorporating high intensity interval training into an exercise program will yield the great weight loss goals.

Anthony Wall
Director of Professional Education
American Council on Exercise 



A: I believe that a truly successful weight loss program has the goal of helping an individual not only lose weight healthfully but lead to lifestyle changes so the weight loss will be maintained. It has to have a minimum of three components: 1) cardio training 5-6 days per week  2) a full body strength training program 2 days per week and 3) a nutritional component that includes food and exercise journaling and educates the participant about their nutritional needs and healthy eating options, and 4) an optional component of life coaching or even referral to a counselor to address disordered eating and exercise patterns/habits when these fall outside the scope of a Personal Trainer’s or Nutritionist’s scope of practice. 

We have a very successful program called the Weight Loss Challenge that we run every winter. It is a 12-week, team based program. The team that loses the greatest combined percentage of their weight wins three free months of membership. Each team is led by a trainer and a nutritionist. The trainer leads a 60-minute group workout each week preceded or followed by a 30-minute group meeting with the nutritionist. There is a complete package of handouts and education information covered each week. The trainer gives the team members homework (workouts) to be done on the days the group doesn’t meet. In addition, many of the team members are also doing small group training or personal training sessions. 

Many of these groups or sub groups of the challenge will stay together after the Weight Loss Challenge is complete to help provide accountability and motivation to maintain the weight lost and/or accomplish new weight loss or fitness goals.

Michele Melkerson-Granryd
General Manager
BodyBusiness Health Club & Spa


To see the answers for this question on, click here.

One of the most frequently consulted sections of IHRSA’s Website,, is “Best Practices,” which features answers from industry experts to a wide range of thought-provoking questions. Beginning this month, we’ll highlight some of them in this new CBI column.

Visit to read responses to more than 100 questions such as these or to submit a question of your own to be answered.


More women are looking at strength training

Gone are the days when women wanted to be super skinny. So are the times when they felt it didn't matter how they looked.

Now while we are at a time when being fit and in shape is at an all-time high, it is not surprising that more and more females are hitting the gym and doing weight training, Crossfit and more to looked toned, sometimes even a little muscular.

In a six-year span fron 2004 to 2010 the number of health and fitness magazines increased 62%, according to the National Directory of Magazines. And in that time period Women's Health saw its sales jump 375% for the magazine with a 1.5 million circulation.

For more, read the CBS Miami story.


The Death of Traditional Strength Training?

This Best Practices question, orginally published on September 13, 2010, has been updated with more answers.

Fred Hoffman, Brian Sekula, Phil Kaplan, and Darren Jacobson discuss functional vs. traditional strength training:

Q: “I am getting the impression that there is a major change in the way people train in terms of a bigger focus on core and functional training. Does this mean the end of the road for traditional resistance equipment and the rise of dedicated PT studios catering for this new style of training?”

Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., Director of International Services
The Club Synergy Group

A: Functional training is growing and as a result, there is less focus on traditional resistance training modalities. Take a look in any personal training studio, regardless of size, and you will see less equipment and more open space. Part of this has to do with finances, as traditional resistance machines are expensive. But a bigger and more important reason is they are limited in what they offer. You can only do so much with a leg extension, chest press or seated row. But you can do a lot with tubes, dumb bells and medicine balls.

Clients want to be healthier but they also want their lives easier. Leg extensions and chest presses on plate-loaded machines has little transfer to everyday life. Body squats and push-ups directly influence the way they get off the floor or stand up from a chair.

While this doesn’t mean the end of plate-loaded machines, the larger gyms still exist; it has signaled a shift in the approach to training. This is a win-win situation for trainers and clients. Personal trainers win because the expense of purchasing costly and rarely used equipment is not a necessity. Clients win because they get the results they want.

Brian Sekula, Director
Health Performance Institute

A:Great question, and a legitimate concern. Having been in this field for 30 years, I’ve witnessed major pendulum swings, and with each swing something time-tested is thrown out the window, at least for a period of time.

Functional training isn’t new. In fact, it’s old. If anyone thinks Power Systems invented the medicine ball, or that the TRX was the first apparatus to incorporate body weight and free leverage variations, take a look at an old physical education book from a century ago.

So am I suggesting in 100 years we’ll swing back to resistance equipment? Not at all. That equipment is here to stay, but like the balls, bands, BOSU’s, and ropes, the “machines” and “weights” are tools.

Functional exercise should be exercise customized to facilitate greater ease in the life of a given individual, and we know conventional strength training brings hypertrophy, strength increases, increased bone density, and the newer research links it to elevations in GH, testosterone and brain function! Resistance exercise is here to stay, and the machines and systems that have been “the standard” for the last few decades are simply joined by a variety of supplemental tools.

Newer trainers may get excited by the roles they can play in leading bootcamps, and running circuit training systems, but in no way does their chosen methodology invalidate the legitimacy of the old “sets and reps” approach.

Phil Kaplan, President/Owner
Fitness 21

A: Over the past couple of years there has been a definite shift towards core and integrated functional training. This has been echoed by the technicians and scientists in the industry as the "correct" way of training. We have also seen a far greater number of functional pieces of equipment entering the market place. This has in turn allowed a number of specialized facilities to pop up offering functional, tri-planar and integrated movement training as a competitive edge over their neighborhood club or larger multipurpose chain that may be slow on the transition.

It must however be said that while this trend has been clear, there is still the reliance by many facilities towards the traditional selectorized, non functional and isolated equipment of the past. The reason for this can be explained through the eyes of the consumers.

To transition to the pure core and functional approach is a risk that many facilities will not easily undertake, the safety net of the non-functional, isolated and artificial load-selectorized pieces is here to stay as the bread and butter for most facilities. As time passes many facilities are creating functional zones as additional spaces beyond the selectorized pieces, however this is through careful placement and a well thought out process of education for staff and members alike so as to not upset the natural demand of the greater member base.

I believe that while traditional resistance equipment is here to stay, it will have to share the floor with the new age functional pieces that will become more prevalent as our members become familiar and in turn start demanding more of it.

Darren Jacobson, Head of Fitness and Product
Virgin Active South Africa