5 Ways to Get More Out of Your Functional Fitness Program

Functional fitness is here to stay and that’s great news for the health club industry. Here’s why.

The functional fitness revolution is over. Functional fitness won.

The movement began taking shape in the early 2000s in independent studios, outdoor boot camps, HIIT group training, and CrossFit boxes. At first, traditional health clubs saw it as a threat. Functional fitness was, after all, the creation of trainers and entrepreneurs working outside of the traditional health club market.

But the industry responded by doing what it does best: learning and adapting. Clubs found a way to integrate a range of functional fitness training by modifying boot camp and CrossFit-style workouts to fit into a more traditional gym environment. Instead of competing with boutiques, mainstream clubs created studio spaces within their own facilities, giving members a best-of-both-worlds experience: specialized programming with the comforts of a traditional club.

“But the industry responded by doing what it does best: learning and adapting.”

What makes functional fitness so adaptable is its broad applications. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, “Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports.”

This deviates from traditional muscle-building bodypart training and cardio-only workouts. Functional fitness focuses more on whole-body training and core stability performed at a high intensity or in intervals of high and low intensity. It can accommodate everything from performance training to balance work for aging populations.

Functional fitness gave clubs a tool to increase non-dues revenue, strengthen retention rates, and market more programming choices to prospective clients. Functional training promised quicker results with shorter workouts, due to its intense pace. And it often introduced a more social environment through group sessions.

By now club operators should be able to answer these two questions:

  • Do you have a functional fitness program at your club, and if not, why not?
  • Are you getting the most out of your functional training programming?

5 Ways to Get More Out of Functional Training

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Here are five ways to get more out of functional training that can fit almost any situation.

  1. Market it to Millennials and Generation Zers. These younger demographics are more interested in diverse training modalities and group training. And despite the perception that Millennials lack the resources for purchasing extra services, they’ll make an exception for wellness and fitness. One recent report found that Millennials spend more on fitness than college tuition. Make sure you give them a functional fitness option.
  2. Use small group functional training as a gateway for personal training. Some people, especially new members, may be too intimidated or self-conscious to sign up for personal training. Small group training (SGT) utilizing functional fitness is a good way to introduce the concept to members not quite ready for one-on-one sessions. After they get comfortable with the techniques and tools used in functional training—and have more interaction with your club’s trainers— they’ll be more open to signing up for traditional personal training classes.
  3. Research what functional fitness training system matches your member profile. Functional fitness isn’t brand specific, which is good, but you want to make sure you have the appropriate programming for your membership. A 31-year-old man interested in building muscle is going to want a different functional fitness workout option than a 45-year-old woman looking to lose weight. Also, make functional fitness a key part of your onboarding and engagement strategy. When introducing new members to your club, have options ready that match their goals.
  4. Reserve a dedicated space for functional training. This is key. Having space reserved for utilizing the specific tools of functional fitness is important. Whether it’s squat racks, kettlebells, medicine balls, or a full line of free weights, the equipment you’ll need won’t take up floor space like traditional cardio units, such as stationary bikes. With proper storage options in place, a functional training space won’t dominate your club.
  5. Invest in quality training equipment for your functional fitness programs. This is essential. A dedicated functional training space should be stocked with state-of-the-art tools that are durable and, well, highly functional. Top-of-the-line free weights, in particular, are crucial. You need dumbbells, barbells, and Olympic plates that are easy to grip, have beveled edges, and are realizable for heavy use.

Your choice of free weights for your functional fitness program matters for quality and safety. When doing floor work with dumbbells, such as pushups while gripping dumbbells, you need to be able to trust the brand you use.

The Brand of Choice for Functional Fitness

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Iron Grip Barbell Company is the largest provider of commercial free-weight equipment on the planet, and the functional fitness movement has made them even more invaluable to the industry. Since the company was founded in 1993, Iron Grip has developed numerous innovations that make them the ideal free-weight supplier for the high-volume, rigorous demands of functional fitness.

Iron Grip’s heavily engineered, cutting-edge technology includes:

  • 12-sided edges on dumbbells and weight plates. This innovation was pioneered by Iron Grip and ensures that weights won’t roll away when they’re set on the ground, which happens frequently in functional training during burpees, rapid interval rep schemes, and other movements.
  • Advanced urethane coating, formulated by Iron Grip, that provides long-lasting durability and protection from the punishment of functional fitness use.
  • Nearly indestructible solid steel dumbbells that are press-fit and then welded using precision-machined handles and heads in a compact design. These weights are easier to handle than many traditional bolted dumbbells.
  • Integrated handgrips, which provide a sure grip and superior stability for the range of fast movements that are common in functional training.

Everything in the Iron Grip line is manufactured exclusively in the U.S. And they provide co-branding opportunities on their equipment with richly detailed and permanent custom engraving. This is especially valuable for clubs who make functional training an important part of their branding efforts.

Iron Grip free weights have been the industry standard for so long, it’s easy to assume that the functional fitness movement wouldn’t have taken off as quickly without them. With their innovative design, solid construction and functional advantages, Iron Grip free weights can make a huge difference in any functional training programming.

Visit Iron Grip’s website for more information on their products and services. You can also call their toll-free number: 800-664-4766.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org