Is Your Gym Setup Functional, or Just Pretty?

So you’ve found the space, signed the lease, and begun to envision the look and feel of your soon-to-open gym. I’m excited for you. Facility design is probably my favorite part of the entire gym start-up process.

Be warned: Hastily setting up your spot in a way that is visually appealing as opposed to functional is likely to cause a number of headaches for you and your business soon down the road.

Here are three quick and simple recommendations as you map this out in your mind:


1. Consider the Flow of Programming

When you look at a typical Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) program, you’re likely to see a progression that moves from foam rolling, to mobility work, to movement training on the turf, to the med-ball area, on into the weight training space.

If you were to then review a floor plan of our training space, you’d see that this programming format forces clients to utilize the gym in a way that allows for them to move from one step in the process to the next without crossing the training space or getting in the way of athletes who are in the midst of later stages in their program.

As you design your gym layout, make sure to ask yourself whether the placement of equipment or space for movement training compliments the typical format of your program design. If you’ve got to walk between power racks, across the farmer’s carrying lane, and through a deadlifting station to get to the med-ball area after finishing your warm-up, it’s time to revise your approach.


2. Put Thought Into Sightlines

You never know when you’re going to be operating up against the top of your advertised client-to-coach ratio while running a semi-private training model. When you are, it is helpful to operate in a space where your coaches can see the entire training floor from just about any vantage point in the gym. Your space should be arranged in a way that a coach could spot something from across the gym and quickly react to share a coaching cue. This is impossible if there’s a big functional trainer sitting in the middle of your space.

Important Note #1: Outside of equipment positioning, I’d also encourage you to avoid spaces with blind spots or multiple rooms. Two rooms means two coaches, even if you operate a semi-private model with just a pair of athletes in the gym.

Important Note #2: There is a point at which the space becomes too large to allow for coaching “across the room,” regardless of clean sightlines. Once you get up above the 10-12,000 square foot space range, this becomes an issue. There’s only so much ground you can cover in a pinch.   

3. Think About How You’ll Showcase Your Space

Whenever I have the opportunity to give the CSP sales pitch in-person, I begin the process by walking the prospective client through the gym. This step allows me to expose him to our training environment and provide a clear visual of our coaches instructing clients through their individualized programming. As I do so, we walk past a series of signed and framed MLB jerseys (social proof) while athletes are showcased working hard (tangible proof).

When executed properly, the gym walk-through can effectively close the sale before I’ve even had to discuss pricing.


The reason this option exists is because we’ve deliberately positioned our facility to accommodate non-training-related foot traffic (parents, observational guests, etc.). We can transition from office to warm up space without impacting the flow of the gym. This also allows for incoming clients to smoothly transition from checking in at the front desk to kicking off their warm-up.

This approach requires that we tie up some valuable real estate that could otherwise be used for training, but we know that we’ll strategically put it to use as a selling tool. Make sure to ask yourself during the design process if you’ve created a setup that will accommodate impactful facility tours while clients are in the gym.

Not Just for New Gyms

Unless you’ve bolted your equipment to the floor (which you should eventually do with your power racks), there’s still time to rethink your approach. In fact, it took a handful of unpleasant CSP staff member shin injuries for us to conclude that the chest-supported row needed to be repositioned in our first space.

Only time and experience will tell you exactly how your clients will move through the gym, so nothing should be deemed permanent until you’ve found your groove. However, a little planning on the front end will reduce the likelihood that you find yourself taking it all apart and starting over again before you’re out of month one.


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