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How the sport-specific training revolution can revolutionise your gym - Blog.

The latest news, videos and workouts from the Escape Fitness Team.

How the sport-specific training revolution can revolutionise your gym

Even if you don't take part in sport yourself, you can’t have missed the rise in popularity of the weekend warrior and races like Tough Mudder. Just consider the huge number of park runs, marathons, multi-sport events, triathlons and obstacle course races available now, compared with five years ago. People in the UK might call it the Olympic-effect, following on from London 2012, but that doesn’t explain this surge in popularity worldwide. So it can't be all about that 'legacy' the IOC keep going on about.

How the sport-specific training revolution can revolutionise your gym

No, there's more to it than that…

The message that leading a more active lifestyle is beneficial for us finally seems to be getting through. And there has been a clear shift in the mindset of people all over the world. This has certainly had an impact on the fitness industry. We have seen gym and sports membership numbers rising across the developed markets, with even bigger rises in the developing markets.

So with the increase in opportunities to exercise outside of the gym, how do we ensure our industry is prepared to meet the needs of the weekend warriors and sporting enthusiasts?

In this series of articles we have covered the equipment and training methods that are likely to attract more of these types of people. Here, we will look at where these opportunities lie, and how you can take advantage of them...

The risers

There has been a massive shift in the sports and fitness activities being enjoyed by enthusiastic amateurs over the past few years. Once golf was the sport of choice for the businessman or father of two, but now it's cycling, with millions taking their fancy piece of carbon to the streets, clad in Lycra. (And it’s not just the men; the growth in women’s cycling is also incredible.)

Cycling is one of the major risers in popularity; it's accessible and is seen as being a relatively cheap option. Having said that, the upfront investment can initially seem bank-breaking, but, once you’ve crossed that bridge, that's it.

So why would a cyclist be interested in training in a gym?

Bar the obvious spinning sessions which, as you'll know, are a very popular group activity, many cycling enthusiasts know the importance of working on strength and core, but don't know how to do it. So incorporating strength and power training into a cyclist’s training programme is very beneficial. It doesn’t just help from a performance standpoint, it can also yield important postural benefits. This is particularly helpful for the vast majority of cyclists who suffer from muscular imbalances and chronic pain brought on by miles and miles of cycling. So your sports specific training programmes could easily meet those needs.

cyclist’s training programmes


In a similar vein, triathlon has seen a dramatic rise in both male and female participation. The people taking part in these events are even more aware of the need to look after their bodies. The stress placed on strength and conditioning in all triathlon magazines is enough proof to show the demand is there for gym-based programming for triathlon activities. There are already a number of gym chains offering triathlon training but it tends to be running on a treadmill, sitting on a spin bike, and paddling in the pool. Clients can do that in their own time, and without a lot of instruction. What they can't do is develop a strength programme to improve their tri-performance – and that’s where the opportunity lies.

triathlon has seen a dramatic rise in both male and female participation

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has seen a huge increase lately and, as a result, the growth of standalone MMA facilities is on the rise. The interest has been driven from the UFC phenomenon. Once an underground group of fighters who dreamed of big things, now it’s a multi-billion dollar business and one of the most popular sports, worldwide!

If you can offer an MMA programme with specific strength and conditioning, this could help to draw new members looking for a place to train where they can emulate their heroes from the UFC world. Granted, you probably won’t want to turn your facility into bare-knuckle fight night arena. But, with clever programming, you can offer your average member the chance to do the same types of training that these ultimate fighters do. In many ways they are considered to be the ultimate athletes, so you’ll appreciate why training in the same style has become so very popular. (Best of all, your clients don’t have to worry about leaving the gym looking like they’ve gone three rounds with Conor McGregor.)

mixed martial arts on the increase

Obstacle races

What about the obstacle race? There’s no hiding from it, suddenly obstacle races are everywhere. This new sport has grown so quickly that gym goers are looking for places to train where they can improve in their discipline. But there just aren’t many facilities offering them a solution.

So this has to be seen as a massive opportunity for the next few years, and one I feel clubs should capitalise on straightaway. Providing a mix of strength conditioning and military bootcamp style programming can cater for these kinds of events. You don't need to install a load of cargo nets and climbing ropes; you just need to be clever about how you utilise your current tools to mimic events and provide better crossover to the sport.

obstacle races are everywhere


The sport of fitness (more commonly known as CrossFit) now threatens the existence of many commercial gyms. I often get club owners on the phone asking what they should offer now that a CrossFit box has opened down the road. Well, first of all I tell them, don't offer CrossFit. Now, that’s not because I don't like CrossFit, I think it's awesome. But CrossFit is not for everyone.

However, the sport of fitness can most definitely be for every gym goer if you design it correctly. You can create your own competitive training environment in the gym, and provide a solution that caters for more members, but offers the same concept of competitive fitness training.

So there are your opportunities, and that completes this series of articles on sports specific training. Hopefully it has given you some new ideas about how to cater for this growing market without totally changing direction. And hopefully it's inspired you to look upon this as a valid service to offer in your facility.

crossfit is not for everyone

Ready to find out more?

If you’d like to ask any follow-up questions, or if you’d like to find out more about any of the products or services mentioned in this blog, just get in touch. You can email us at [email protected] and we can help you find the right dumbbells for your needs.

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