T Nation

I would like to open a gym...

Are there any gym owners or resources that I can utilize prior to opening a gym. I live in a town of 16,000 people and we have a small state college with about 5,000 students (total pop during school would be 21,000).

There is one locally owned gym that is made up of 100% machine weights and is pathetic. The college has a nice “Wellness Center” but it has limited free weights and has strict rules (ie. everyone must wear shirts with sleeves).

I think there is a great opportunity to offer a gym that is sligtly hardcore but still offers enough to a wide range of clients.

Any direction or advice would be appreciated.

Bump–just hoping I get a few responses.

Congratulations on your decision to open a gym. Once your facility is open you’ll probably learn that running a gym is more about marketing then it is knowing what your doing training-wise. There are plenty of very successful people in the industry who know absolutely nothing about working out but they know how to get people through the doors and know how to sell memberships so they’re successful… Likewise, there are many people in the industry who are very dedicated to their clients and really know what they’re doing in a gym but aren’t successful because they don’t understand the marketing aspect of it. If you can do these 3 things then you should be successful.

  1. Get people through the door
  2. Get these people signed up on long term memberships.(1 to 2 yrs.)
  3. Retain as many people as possible. -I think the industrywide turnover rate is about 90% of people quit within a couple of months…50% sign up and never come back, so obviously it shouldn’t take much effort to do better then this.
    To get people through your door you have to get creative. Use leadboxes offering trial memberships, use referral programs, use telemarketers and call everyone in the phone book and give them a 2 week free trial- once they show up give them a tour and if they sign up within those 2 weeks give them a discount on a membership…just get creative and learn all you can.
    There are plenty of fitness consultants and resources available but you just have to search for them.


My wife and I have owned our club since 95 and we are just getting ready to move to a bigger facility.
Remember most peolpe could give a crap about being huge and “hardcore”…the average deconditioned house wife(the one that spends the money) just wants a tighten up the flab left over from the last baby she had.
If you are really serious I will help.

Kelly and Coy–thanks for the response. I agree that you have to appeal to the correct audience and that audience would be the ones paying the bills.

I am very interested and motivated at opening a gym and would love to have more information.



I’m glad someone brought this one up. I am in the process of obtaining my ISSA certification, and I have toyed around with opening up a gym in my hometown (40,000). We have two gyms in town and they both are a joke. One is a YMCA and the other is owned by a juice head getting by because he’s the only game in town. I too would like a hardcore following but it ain’t gonna happen. Like coy said, it’s the “Mrs. Joneses” that are gonna supply your income. There are two other cities less than an hr. away that blow us away with their gyms and we’re twice the size…doesn’t make sense. I know it could work but it’s getting the capital to start it up that is the trouble. I would be interested in hearing any suggestions.

I own a small gym (I’ve been training clients for over 18 years now) and if there is any advice I can give you it’s this…

“Don’t do it unless you are rich
or you want to rip people off!”

In order to run a gym that is any good you will piss off anyone who isn’t pretty hard core. That means you will piss off their money. Now if you want to scam people and run a softcore play center it can be profitable. Of course there are a few successful hardcore gyms out there. But those few are exceptions.

One possible solution is the “two-gyms-in-one” approach, where you have the housewives and other “toning” types in one area, with a separate area for real lifters. (Maybe even two different buildings.) Teddy, in your case why don’t you approach one of those out-of-town gyms and talk to the owners about opening a branch of their gym in your city? You could use their money for part of it, and from the sound of it you think that their establishments are pretty good, so there wouldn’t be too much friction in that respect. They make money, you make money. Everyone’s happy.

My gym - a university gym - has recently become more hardcore, much to my delight. It now has a “Cardio Zone” in a separate room to cater for the anorexic women and housewives. Unfortunately, that means for less quality ass gracing the floors of the down-stairs weight lifting area, given the majority of females stick to cardio. As mentioned above, you can get the best of both worlds if you’re creative enough. However, I guess you’re going to need lots of capital to do so. My gym is one of the biggest and best stocked in Australia, since Monash is a pretty big university with enough money to throw around. I’m licking my lips thinking about the improved power-lifting area…

I’ve thought about opening a gym in the future. I think it would be cool for the high school and JC athletes to have a hard core place to go where the staff knows how to train people right. I think that if you want to do it right, it will cost a lot of money to start and it will take several years to start making money. Isn’t good equipment SUPER expensive? Or do most gyms opt for lesser expensive equipment? In any case I still want to open one. The only place to lift in my town is the Ymca (Right stuff and nautilus 24 hour in the next town) and their facility is horrible. The Y just remodled and put in like 100 treadmills/step machines, a zillion machines, and they took away the squat rack.

If you want to do a hardcore gym then do it in your basement…and have your friends pitch in for the EQ.

If you want a business that will pay the bills then open a gym for John Q public…okay if you want to keep the hardcore happy put in a seperate “heavy” room for the big boys…in our new facility we have a womens only area…heavy weight area with sound system and plenty of puke buckets…intermediate area…25 pieces of cardio in the cardio only area…stretching area…running track-great for intervals!!!..day care is a must…nutrition store(we match any internet price…no shipping!)…deli …shake bar…tanning…massage…conference room…saunas…locker room…

So you can have both but it is not cheap!

I used to sell gym memberships for a Gold’s gym, so I’ll let you in on a little secret…Strippers, strippers, stippers. Comp. memberships (or at least charge them dirt cheap) to a handful of hot ass strippers. When you take that potential member on the ole gym tour and you aren’t getting a good vibe from him…Well, just make sure to walk him past “Trixie” who is now on the buttblaster with her well trained rearend wiggling “come hither” in the air. I know for a fact that I sold many, many, memberships to guys because of the window dressing (so to speak). Yeah, I know sleazy, but it worked.

you may be pleasantly surprised when you start procing equipment. The good stuff is considerably less expensive than the weight machines and all the “bells and whistles” cardio equipment. I’ve been pricing equipment lately to open a personal training gym- much smaller scale than a regular gym. The equipment I’m looking at is high quality but not nearly as expensive as a Chest Press or a treadmill.

I appreciate all the feedback. I never thought I had the population to support a 100% hardcore facility. I like the idea of split rooms but trying to cater to the masses pushes the cost of opening up. In my old home town (1 hour away) there are two really nice gyms. I may approach one of them to see if they could offer some assistance.

Thanks, Mac

Obviously, a balance has to be reached between having a hardcore atmostphere and having the type of atmosphere and resources that will draw in the (physically smaller) masses, which will keep you in business and make you money. HOWEVER, I DO believe it can be done successfully, yet I don’t think I’ve yet seen a place that put all the pieces together just right.

I am not a gym owner, just a customer of many gyms over the years, so I’ll offer my humble thoughts on what would make a great gym – one with the necessary “hardcore” attitude and resources, yet also one that’s comfortable and diverse enough to bring in the housewives and beginners (and hopefully some hot chicks too!).

  • AT LEAST 2 squat racks.
  • Dumbells that go up to at least 150’s, in FIVE POUND INCREMENTS. These small increments are even more important at the high end of the range!
  • A good parallel dip device, and at least one good chinning device. (Believe it or not, I’ve been to several large gyms that offered neither)!
  • Flat benches that aren’t too wide. I used to go to a gym where they were probably 12 inches wide, and I was like, “WTF?!” That’s so wide that you can’t pull your shoulder blades back properly while benching.
  • Forget Nautilus-type curling, tricep extension, etc. machines. The only MACHINES you need are a good leg extension, leg curl, calf raise (diff. types), leg press and maybe a good back exercise machine or 2 (see HAMMER STRENGTH, especially their seated row machine).
  • Personally TRY OUT all machines before you purchase them! Although made by major brands, some are just plain stupidly designed – a leg extension machine where the ankle pad doesn’t go down nearly low enough, and the angle of operation is just too obtuse or too acute, or otherwise all f—ed up. Just try them all out before buying!
  • Try to arrange the equipment so that BODYPARTS are grouped together as much as possible, rather than separating them by “machines vs. free weights.” For example, in one area of the gym you should have squat racks, leg press, leg curl, leg extension, etc. On another side of the gym you might have a power rack, Hammer Strength back machines, pulldown machine and chinning bar. (You get the idea). And try to keep the dumbell racks pretty centrally located.
  • With regard to decor, if you have a little sitting room with chairs, juice bar, etc. near the front desk, or away from the weight room, it’s fine to have nice, cozy decor THERE (meaning plants, carpeting, pretty pictures, objects that are pink, etc.). However, KEEP THIS ATMOSPHERE AWAY FROM THE WEIGHT ROOM! Great workouts are as much about attitude and the mental zone you can enter as they are about equipment. If you want to see your T-levels instantly convert to E-levels while trying to psych up for a heavy set, just take a quick glance at some pink benches and potted plants.
  • As I mentioned in a previous post, KEEP THE MUSIC REAL!!! Many gyms make the mistake of thinking that I’m there to dance, rave, or boogie down to the faves of Studio 54 – well I’M NOT!!! I’m there to get aggressive, focused and psyched up! I know you can’t play death metal at all times, put keep it hard rock. And whatever it is, make sure it’s upbeat, energetic, and won’t put anyone to sleep. (Oh LORD, if only there were SOME gym on the planet that could get the friggin’ music right)!!!

I have much more to add, but that’s all for now.

Appreciate the input, people. I like the idea of a personal training center, especially since I have a solid amount of equipment (rack, PowerBlocks, 2 Swiss balls, lots of weights). Probably would be hard to make a good amt. of money though.

I have a problem with people who believe that taking money away from someone who has worked hard, went to school, or sacrificed time and money before they became wealthy is completely wrong. I am self-employed and have had good years and bad years, but I have always worked hard. Five years ago I filed for Bankruptcy yet have climbed out of it and now own a small home and new car and can provide necessities and reasonable wants for my wife and children. Yet I get reamed every year with taxes.

On the other hand, my younger brother of 30 years lives on my mother's couch, does not support his daughter (who is 6 and has to prepare her own breakfast)and lets everyone else care for her. He has no living expenses, does not contribute to my mother's household (maybe he buys a gallon on milk once a week), works part-time and has done so for the past ten years, yet he gets a nice chunk of cash back every year. As far as the gov't is concerned he's a poor single father who claims head of household.

If feel as though what I pay in taxes is simply sent over to him.

Your ideas support the punishment of those who expect more of themselves.

I went to the IHRSA show recently,it’s “the Largest Fitness Conference in north america”
(aside from the hype its actually pretty cool)
all the equipment companies display their wares and you can actually go and workout and get free supplement samples handed out by fitness bunnies.Its not just equipment its anything to do with a gym,software,flooring,sound systems,layout plans,financing,you name it.I’m sure you could get a lot of resources and contacts.The next one is in Phoenix in March.
Good Luck.

Hey I am really seriously into the subject i am in the middle of doing research on opening a gym in my hometown in Puerto Rico and would love some info!!!