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11 Great Fitness Chains and What You Can Learn From Them


Americans have never had a wider choice of gyms and fitness clubs. From Pilates to functional fitness and free weights training, you can find a fitness chain to suit your needs. The best fitness chains in the business provide a combination of convenience, ambiance, creative services, and technology-focused solutions. 

Fitness chains can vary massively. From budget-friendly big box gyms to more expensive boutique fitness options, what makes some of the best fitness chains so popular? There are many elements that contribute to a successful fitness business. Here, we look at 11 great fitness chains and what you can learn from them. Skip ahead to:

Fitness Chains: What Will the Future Look Like? 

After a year where many people have been cooped up indoors, lockdowns continue all around the world. But the promise of a vaccine could ease restrictions gradually and open up the world to a little normalcy. Despite the coronavirus restricting gym capacity and, in some cases, shutting fitness companies entirely, the fitness industry continues to find creative ways to engage members and generate revenue. 

Virtual workouts, digital fitness, and online personal training have gained immense popularity and continue to grow. Fitness chains are fully aware of the opportunity digital fitness presents to the industry. The online shift in the fitness industry could be a permanent change. Many fitness chains have grown into a hybrid business and look to retain the virtual element of their business even after the coronavirus pandemic. 

The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the adoption of digital home fitness and acceptance of a hybrid business model. Fitness businesses who are struggling with declining gym membership numbers have quickly adapted to hugely popular on-demand and live streaming workouts. It’s time to go hybrid or get left behind.

The Fitness Founders Podcast has an interesting episode on how technology is shaping the future of fitness. Bryan O’Rourke, the President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council talks about the growing influence of technology in fitness, how major tech companies are moving into the space, and what operators need to do to stay competitive. 

What Makes a Fitness Chain Successful? 

Some of the most successful fitness chains are widely different from one another. They all attract and retain members in the long-term. They have loyal customers who choose to renew their membership. So, what makes a fitness chain successful and stand out from the competition? Here are four factors that contribute to that success. 

Member Experience 

Great gyms come in all shapes and sizes with varying specialties. As an increasingly health-conscious nation, the fitness industry has a big opportunity for growth. The member experience is often at the core of a successful fitness business: excellent customer service and member experience equal satisfied and happy members. Happy members are loyal and love your brand and services. 

Attitude and Mindset 

The business owner and employees’ attitude and mindset create the type of atmosphere that will attract your ideal members. It’s the foundation of a good fitness community and helps to create an inviting and friendly environment. Your mindset trickles down into all parts of your business. It’s what will give you the power to create the very best experience for your members. It goes without saying that fantastic fitness classes and equipment are attractive to members. But the way you deliver classes and how you operate your business will set the tone for how members feel when they visit you. 

Financial Management 

A good fitness chain needs to generate revenue. To build a successful business, you need to manage your gym’s finances. The financial aspect of your fitness center is key as you are running a business. Having a diverse range of services, meeting consumer demand, keeping your team motivated, and streamlining your sales and business processes all help to manage your finances in the long-term. During the coronavirus pandemic, many fitness brands shifted to a digital way of working to maintain memberships and continue to generate revenue. The ability to pivot and adapt to changing consumer priorities is essential for future success. 

Health Club Staff Culture 

Your employees are the heart and soul of your business. It’s the people your members are interacting with. The staff culture is incredibly important when it comes to your business. Great fitness chains have a fantastic working culture that members can feel. Something as simple as being greeted by name and seeing your staff interact in a friendly manner can improve the overall member experience. 

For great advice on leading a high-performance culture in a fitness organization, listen to Simon Flint, the CEO of Evolution Wellness. Simon talks about the decision-making process when investing in health and wellness brands, the leadership philosophy that influences an organization’s culture, and how to maintain high-performance.  

11 Great Fitness Chains and What You Can Learn From Them  

From traditional gyms and cycle-centered workouts to all-hours access and personal training, all the best fitness chains offer these and more. Whether it’s complete convenience or a workout with a cult following, here are 11 great fitness chains.

1. Equinox Fitness Club 

This list wouldn’t be complete without Equinox. If you love the more luxurious things in life, Equinox is a go-to for many. The upscale fitness chain has multiple locations in prime spots. It features world-class amenities and a qualification system for its trainers. Equinox offers group fitness classes and on-demand fitness platform Equinox+. 

The equinox business model has allowed the brand to gain major global success. It focuses on creating a special experience and has a cult following in the US, UK, and Canada. Its gym is based around premium, high-end offerings that target a wealthier, more elite client base. Equinox’s target audience and marketing is a considerable area of success for the brand. They have created a brand that goes beyond fitness; it’s more of a lifestyle. 

2. Blink Fitness 

Blink Fitness is a growing budget-friendly fitness chain. It operates with a low-cost membership model and was founded by the Equinox Group in 2011. The Equinox Group owns a range of brands from budget to luxury high-end. Blink Fitness is an unintimidating space with a basic set-up for cardio, strength training, and spaces for stretching. 

With a growing list of locations throughout New York and California, Blink Fitness is currently focused on getting members back to the gym safely and promoting its digital fitness services. The brand has the Blink App, virtual personal trainers, the Blink Blog, and live Facebook workouts twice a week. Blink Fitness uses clever messaging to reassure members that it’s safe to return to the gym with a video highlighting all the latest COVID-secure guidelines at the gym. 

3. Planet Fitness 

Planet Fitness has over 2,000 locations. It’s a mammoth fitness franchise in the industry. What’s interesting about Planet Fitness is the way it has weathered the storm through the coronavirus pandemic. Back in 2019, Planet Fitness celebrated its 2,000th location and grew its annual revenue by more than 20%. Then, 2020 hit, and the company’s sales growth came to a sudden halt. 

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In the first lockdown in March 2020, Planet Fitness started streaming workouts on Facebook within 48 hours. The following month, they partnered with iFit and started streaming app workouts, and created an extensive digital library of more than 500 workouts. With competitive boutique fitness brands and personalized member experiences, it’s unclear what the future holds for Planet Fitness. But they moved quickly, and their efforts landed them in the top 10 of the Franchise 500 at the end of 2020. 

4. Orangetheory Fitness 

Orangetheory Fitness offers group fitness workouts around high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The workout uses a combination of treadmill and indoor rower to improve agility and strength while burning calories. You wear a heart rate monitor during class, and you can find out calories burned, splat points, and time spent on each block of exercise. The workout is designed to be smart and efficient. 

The fitness studio quickly shifted to an online format with its app Orangetheory at Home. Both members and non-members can access the digital workouts, record out-of-studio stats, and find healthy living tips. 

5. SoulCycle 

A lot of people rave about SoulCycle. It has an almost cult-like following. Heading to your nearest SoulCycle was a way of life and it really set the gold standard for indoor cycling. Then the pandemic hit and everyone went home. Many people turned to the fitness brand Peloton for their home-cycling fix. Peloton is now seeing huge amounts of growth.  

Although they may be a little late to the home fitness party, SoulCycle announced its at-home stationary bike back in October along with an unlimited streaming membership program, and financing programs. SoulCycle is leveraging its cult following with a new product and betting on home fitness. 

6. Life Time Fitness 

Life Time is an established brand founded in 1992 and has over 150 destinations. The health club features a massive range of equipment, including Olympic lifting platforms for deadlifts, kettlebells, dumbbells, and TRX suspension trainers. Overall, Life Time fitness centers are on the higher, more premium end of fitness chains. 

Interestingly, Life Time is expanding more into work and living space concepts to integrate high-end health clubs into work and life. The brand is also using technology and digital fitness to continue to engage members. Its online fitness platform, Life Time Digital, gives users access to Apple Fitness+, training programs, live streaming, and on-demand fitness classes.  

7. LA Fitness 

LA Fitness was formed in 1984 and continued to stay relevant in the health club industry for several decades. The gym chain has more than 700 clubs across the US and Canada. LA Fitness has continued to grow partly due to its ability to maintain consistent management across all its locations. 

Every LA Fitness gym you walk into is clean, equipment is well-maintained, and there is complete consistency across all the chains. With hundreds of locations, LA Fitness offers services for beginners and your standard gym-goer. 

8. Pure Barre 

Pure Barre was founded in 2001 by dancer and fitness guru Carrie Rezabek Dorr. In 2009, Pure Barre became a franchise and continued to grow in popularity. There are over 500 Pure Barre locations. Originally, Pure Barre marketed itself towards stay-at-home moms, but this evolved over time. Classes tend to be low impact and great for people who don’t want to lift heavy weights. 

In the world of barre workouts, you have plenty of competition like barre3 and the Bar Method. Pure Barre appears to remain a favorite for many barre-lovers. In recent times, the Pure Barre Go platform gives members access to the studio barre workout on-demand. 

9. CycleBar 

CycleBar is all about creating a friendly and fun indoor cycling environment. Similar to SoulCycle, CycleBar offers cycle-only classes at different abilities. Xponential Fitness acquired CycleBar back in 2017. After acquiring the business, Xponential Fitness shifted CycleBar from selling packages to recurring memberships. 

Like many other businesses, their entire way of working was turned upside down at the beginning of 2020. To keep revenue coming in, CycleBar launched CycleBar Go to take their workouts into the virtual world.

10. GymGuyz 

GymGuyz is slightly different from your standard gym or fitness studio. Instead, they are a home mobile personal training and franchise company. They bring the workout to you along with the equipment and make sure everything is tailored to your needs. It has a unique delivery method and is one of the fastest-growing fitness chains. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, the core concept of GymGuyz remained the same. But they shifted their business model to integrate digital services. This involved going completely digital with personal training sessions, streaming workouts, and performing outdoor training sessions. 

11. UFC Gym 

UFC Gym offers a range of group classes, private MMA training, and MMA-style youth programming. The chain has a big focus on families and kids which you don’t tend to find at gyms. Classes use a range of fighting styles to create an effective and challenging workout. 

UFC Gym has more than 135 locations around the world. Despite closing their doors, UFC Gym has been open about reopening safely when the time comes. The brand is unique with a focus on community and youth programs, but it’s currently facing its biggest challenge yet. 

In Summary 

Many people go to a gym to work out and exercise, but they also socialize and unwind. A great fitness chain not only provides a place to work out; it creates a friendly and enjoyable environment. Some of the most successful chains know that you have to move swiftly in the fitness industry to remain relevant and keep your members engaged. By having a profound understanding of your target audience and how they think, you can offer services that drive value and generate revenue. 

The Top 10 Barriers
Slowing Your Fitness
Business Growth

In this e-book, we will list the most common barriers that
slow fitness business growth and list some of the tips to
help overcome them.
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