T Nation

Opening A Gym


OK, here is the scenario. I have been contemplating opening a small fitness center in a city of 80, 000 people. I have a day job that I would keep initially as it allow me to pay the lease out of pocket and I have some equipment to start.

here is what I have:

2 olympic bumper plate and bar sets
1 power rack
2 sets of dumbells (10-70, 10-80)
Flat/Incline bench press
Lat pulldown
Calf raise
Preacher curl bench
4 olympic bars and 600 lbs of weight

here is what I intend to add prior to opening:

Glute-Ham raise
Reverse Hyper bench
3 more power racks
2 bikes
1 treadmill
2 lifting platforms
plyo boxes, bands, chains

I am on a pretty tight budget (in terms of cash for purchasing more equipment maybe $5000)

My basic idea for generating cash flow is the following:

  1. Individual athlete in/off season training
  2. Team fitness/strength training
  3. Fitness "camps" for non-athletes

There would be no membership sales, the gym would be driven by the programs that were run out of the facility.

I live in chilly Canada, so outside training is only a sure thing for 5 months of the year. But I feel that is OK as I am a teacher so the majority of my revenue would be based on summer programs.

My question: any input on equipment choices?
any thoughts on other revenue streams?
Any comments in general would be appreciated...

I am a little nervous to go for it, as there is lots of money (in my eyes anyway) at stake, any input would be appreciated.

If I sign the lease, I will keep everyone posted on progress




Dear Mr Weathers,

It brought tears to my eyes to see that you're thinking of starting a gym without a Smith Machine. You're the man!

If I lived anywhere near you, I'd jump at the opportunity to work out there. I'm sorry I can't offer any type of advice, but I wish you the best of luck if you decide to go ahead with this.

Do keep us updated!


A quick thought would be to implement some strongman type equipment. Sandbags, kegs, tires, sleds. Two reasons for this. The first, it would offer something unique that most gyms don't have and give you a 'hardcore' appearance. Second, the stuff is cheap. Sand goes for about $2.20 a 50lb bag, (USD), kegs and tires are cheap if you do the legwork to find them, and a sled can be made. I realize you are probally limited on space, but I had to mention it. 500lbs of sand will cost you a fraction of the price of 50lb dumbells.
I don't think you could go wrong with another bench or two, and how about some jump ropes as a cheap cardio alternative.
Sounds pretty cool, I wish you the best of luck, and am looking forward to seeing the pictures.


ive been thinking very much the same thing,

here are my thoughts on it
lifting platforms you can make your own with some plywood rubber.

treadmill will cost a bit if its going to be worth it otherwise whats to stop running out side baring weather.

sell the lat pull down for extra $$$ and use use a chin up bar or power rack instead, bands can be used for those without the strenght required

get some boxing bags set up + gloves and focus mits even if you wont use them its still good cardio options

for the bikes get the ones for cycle classes, more like a real bike and easier to maintain

skipping ropes

if you manage to get some teams training there they may have some specific stuff they want, but hopefully they will be willing to help with funding too

otherwise it looks pretty solid, keep us posted with how it goes down, im interested in what develops and ill do the same for you


I totally agree, my only problem is space (only have about 1200sq ft), but...I do coach a local track club and we have a small building full of equipment (med balls, tires, sledgehammers, sled, etc.) sitting at the track which I intend to utilize when we can train outside. I have found that the our athletes really get in to modified strongman type training a lot more than weight training. If I ever get a chance to expand the first thing I will be adding is strongman equipment.

Thanks for your input



Pictures will follow as soon as I get final approval from the city to go ahead, and get it underway, I will continue to ask for input along the way.




We will be making our own platforms, we have done it before and they work great. I still have the rubber from the last ones we made.

I will be looking for a used treadmill (it gets to be -40 here so outside is not always an option) and spinning bikes or monarch bikes, whatever I can find.

Heavy bag and gloves is a great idea, I will see if space allows, Skipping ropes will also be used

Only time will tell if I can make a go of this, thanks for your input.



What part of Canada are you in? I've had a hard time finding a gym that would draw me out of my basement workouts.


It would be a long commute, I live in Alberta!!!


Maybe a few more plates for the free and Oly platforms and DB's up to 100, to start. Otherwise, good luck!!!


Good point, maybe I will sell the extra 10-70 set that I have and purchase some of the higher weights with the proceeds

I am always looking for more iron plates at a good price to add to the collection!!!


I love the Smith Machine for standing calf raises, you can add a lot of weight and keep your balance. Hell of a burn!


A couple of points that, I think, need considering.

How much competition is in the immediate area and what facilities do they offer, prices, equipment?

What is the culture of the local people ie city slickers, manual workers etc.? Whilst many at T-Nation may want to use sandbags, kegs etc., are they likely to attract people to the facility. Unfortunately, people DO like using the smith machine!

Are you planning on holding back some of your budget to cover, what may be a slow start to the business? Sometimes, people (not necessarily you, just people in general) just jump in to things both feet first without covering all angles and looking at all possible problems.

If people can only train outside for 5 months of the year the cv equipment looks a bit sparce. A couple of secondhand concept II rowers could probably be bought fairly cheaply. I'd also look at buying all your equipment as reconditioned as opposed to new. You usually can't tell the difference. Is there also enough equipment for team drill/workouts etc.?

I do think not charging membership fees is a mistake. Not everyone will want to pay for one of your programmes, want to be part of a camp or be an athete. By broadening who you cater for you'll maximise your potential revenue.

Also, to bring some revenue in quickly you could offer lifetime membership for the first 15-20 takers, for say $1000. This would ease some of the financial burden straight away and you'd probably be less stressed!


Ps. hope it all works out.

I'd love to have some capital to start my own place up!



I'd bring the dumbbells up to 100 and add another bench or two, I know you have power racks, but people like to bench.


I have owned a gym for 8 years so I'll give you my thoughts. Equipment sounds good for what you plan to do. I would suggest getting several benches that could be used for whatever, DB benching, benching in power rack, triceps work, step ups, etc.

Also plan on doing lots of advertising, especially when just starting. I don't know what the market is like in your area but it seems you are targeting a very small percentage of potential clients. It sounds like a great place for those on this site but most people that train wouldn't even know what a band or chain is for. Don't get me wrong, I hope you can make it work. Memberships would be a good idea. An open house, door prizes, T-shirts, maybe some free sessions, discounts for signing up then, or with a friend. Use your imagination.

Again, I don't know your area, or if there is a big demand for this or how much competition there is. Somehow you need to get the word out about your business, what you have to offer, what sets you apart from the competition, why they should go to you instead of somewhere else. Just some ideas. Good luck, hope this helps you out a little.


A pair of paralel bars/dipping station (presuming the power rack can be used as a chinning bar). If it can't be used like this, a chinning bar, to.
Strength, Vlad


I love it too. You can adjust the bar to elbow height with safety's and then put your towel over it (evenly, so there's no risk of it falling off). Then go hit the bench and bust your shoulders and chest to death with the heaviest dumbbels you can lift for 10-sets of three or whatever your fancy is.

When you're fried from the real work, can hardly stand-up; and you can't even lift your arms up to wipe the sweat off your face, the good old Smith Machine is there still holding your towel like a soldier [/sarcasm] - I'm just havin' a little fun, I hope you don't mind. :slightly_smiling:

I think Smith's are worse than bosu-balls.



ok, before you open a gym, here are some questions you need to think about, some food for thought so to speak.

Is the area that you plan to start a gym, blue collar? I ask this question because chances are if you are trying to open a hardcore gym, you need to make sure that it will attract the right crowd of people.

White collar folks simply don't want to get shit between their toes. Case in point: the last gym i trained at Marco's Powerfactory was in a pretty white collar area, but it ran out of business, the gym i train at now is a very blue collar neighborhood and is definitely attracting the right kind of people.

I know that not so many people think of that but it is soo true. it is far more simple than people think, psychology plays a huge part in how us humans think, that's why gyms like Metroflex, Westside Barbell, Nazareth Barbell, etc. are in blue collar areas.

Another thing to consider is p.r. (public relations) by that i mean use a website like EliteFts, or even nastrongman to attract some big names to your gym. If you can get someone like Ed Coan, Jesse Marunde, or Hugo Girard(since he lives in Canada) to train at you gym, many hardcore lifters will be interested.

Also go to local powerlifting, and strongman meets, maybe even boxing or wrestling matches and talk to them about your gym. Pretty soon word will get around, and you should attract the elite, hardcore crowd.


I am going to try and target athletes for in and off season training. I am planning an open house and I will do a personalized postcard inviting many of the coaches and sports executive in the city to the event.

I have placed an ad in the community activity guide in the sports section (which is mailed out to every home in the city), and I hope to have the city paper do a feature article on this new business (even if I have to pay for it as an ad). I was considering a billboard...Has anyone had any experience with this?

Thanks for your input,