Why Your Health Club Needs Performance Training

The demand for shorter, more effective workouts is growing.

All club owners are familiar with a certain type of gym member. They spend $200 on designer workout clothes, saunter into the club, sit on a few machines while staring at their phone, stroll a bit on a treadmill while socializing, then go home without breaking a sweat. Later, they’ll tell anybody who will listen that they got their workout in that day.

As familiar as this gym archetype may be, you see it less often these days. Instead, a different breed has become more common in clubs: the performance exerciser. They want fast, intense workouts that provide more bang for the buck. They expect efficiency and results.

This movement is the culmination of the popularity of functional fitness (e.g. CrossFit), heart rate training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), boot camp classes, and extreme obstacle course races. These trends, in turn, have been fueled by the studio movement and wearable technology. All of these concepts are frequently put under the category of “performance training.” Rare is the club that doesn’t offer at least one performance training option, especially if they have a younger clientele.

“Members—especially younger ones, but a growing number of others as well—are expressing a desire to experience ‘more’ in terms of performance training,” states a recent Club Business International (CBI) article. “For them, it’s not just about looking good. It’s about optimal performance, improved function, discovering what they’re made of, and demonstrating what they can do.”

With efficiency comes brevity. Many of these workouts are short, clocking in at a half-hour, according to Mike Fantigrassi, the director of professional services at the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

“Today, in club settings, you’re seeing more 30-minute sessions,” says Fantigrassi. “Members no longer want to do the typical workout of 15 years ago, which was generally hypertrophy- and machine-based—where they’d do a set, and then rest for a minute or two, and then do another set. Now, more trainers are keeping their clients moving the whole time. They’re doing some type of circuit training that’s higher intensity, and they’re keeping their heart rate up.”

So how does a club ensure that their equipment and programming serve this new breed of performance-minded exerciser?

Matching the Protocol with Your Demo

Performance training is rarely a do-it-yourself process. Creating a performance training option in your club is usually thought of in the context of classes or small group training (SGT). It often requires supervision or coaching. Sometimes special equipment is needed, as well as tech devices for self-monitoring.

The demographic breakdown of your members also matters when introducing high-intensity exercise concepts into your club. In general, men and women have distinct preferences when it comes to training and equipment choices. The IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report reveals that men are likely to use free weights, and women prefer Pilates and dance fitness. According to the IHRSA Fitness Training Report, more women (54%) than men (46%) gravitate to small group training, while those figures are reversed for personal training. Also, Millennials (born between 1981-1996) are more likely to opt for trainer-assisted programming, with 40% of CrossFitters landing in the 24-34 age range.

These findings tell you that a one-size-fits-all solution to performance training is a rarity. That explains the unique concepts in high-intensity training that are now popping up in clubs. The July 2018 issue of CBI listed a few of these unique workouts, including:

  • TwerXout, which requires twerking your way to fitness;
  • Olefit, based on the flamenco dance;
  • CardioWave, an intense workout performed in a pool;
  • STRONG by Zumba, which incorporates HIIT protocols in their dance sessions.

There’s no end to the creativity of today’s fitness entrepreneur, which is a strength of the industry. But many gyms don’t have the physical space and budget to support these classes (this is one reason why boutique gyms are great incubators for new fitness concepts).

“Everybody is crunched for time. They want to get the best workout they can in the shortest amount of time.”

Bob Palka, President of Fitness Equipment

Jacobs Ladder - Niagara Falls, NY

Also, many dedicated club members shy away from the social aspect of performance training classes. They want to go it alone.

This has opened up the market for performance-training equipment designed for individuals. And firms big and small are answering the call.

Versatility and Efficiency in One Package

“What a lot of people are looking for is a workout that totally exhausts them,” says Bob Palka, president of fitness equipment company Jacobs Ladder. “They’ll be spent, and say something like, ‘I hate this machine. I can’t wait to use it again tomorrow.’”

This mirrors what a lot of people say after they finish a particularly tough performance-training session. It’s grueling but satisfying. Time-efficient. More bang for the buck.

“I think it’s important for club owners to deliver on the concept where members feel like they’re getting their money's worth,” says Palka. “Everybody is crunched for time. They want to get the best workout they can in the shortest amount of time.”

Article image

Jacobs Ladder equipment can fit all workout needs.

The goal of providing low-impact, high-intensity training inspired Jacobs Ladder to develop the Stairway GTL. A variation of the Jacobs Ladder and Jacobs Ladder 2 products, the Stairway GTL is a commercial stair climber that provides an intense workout tough enough for current Jacobs Ladder clients like the Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and nearly a dozen fire and police departments around the country. Jacobs Ladder products also are a favorite of a number of professional football teams and NCAA athletic programs.

The unique design of the Stairway GTL combines the simplicity of operation with state-of-the-art engineering. Unlike Jacobs Ladder, “GTL” removes the waist belt and is powered by “smart” technology that learns your weight and adjusts the workout to match your body and step speed. And because it’s self-powered and requires no electricity, the Stairway GTL is inexpensive to maintain and priced lower than other commercial stair climbers from major manufacturers.

While the Stairway GTL delivers a workout tough enough for the U.S. Army, it’s easy on the joints, and has a first step of 10 inches—as opposed to the standard 18-inch step of most stair climbers. This makes it easier for older members and novice exercisers to get started and easier to get off when fatigued. Because of its low-impact nature, it’s also useful for rehab work.

The Stairway GTL is an affordable and practical solution for club owners looking to provide more performance-training options. It’s ideal for an individual member, but can still be incorporated into small group training as well.

To learn more about the Stairway GTL, Stairway, Jacobs Ladder, and Jacobs Ladder 2 machines, visit the company’s website, call them at 1-866-697-4100, or send an email.

Related Articles & Publications

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org