No pain, all gains: A mood-boosting strength solution with guaranteed results

As members seek new ways to reach strength goals and maximize motivation, new research findings point to a promising approach for boosting both power and enjoyment with measurable results.

Far from being a flash in the pan, member appetite for strength workouts is stronger than ever. A recent Life Time Fitness survey revealed building muscle is exercisers’ number one goal for 2024 (35.9%) – an increase of more than 3% from 2023.

But with exercisers doubling down on strength in 2024, balancing meaningful outcomes with motivational training is key to maintaining member engagement in what can be a tough training modality. And workout experiences that spark joy are a major draw for modern members. A Mindbody survey of over 8,000 consumers found 33% prioritize fun as a way to support their wellbeing, with strong ties to community and connection. Strength training is the number one group training activity for Gen Z, and the most popular fitness class to bring a friend to.

So how can operators capitalize on latent consumer demand for workout solutions that offer strength and community, with tangible results? Enter LES MILLS FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH™️, a pioneering approach to delivering demonstrable strength gains while dialing up the motivation to keep members coming back for more.

Erin Maw and Ben Main, creators of FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH, looked to the latest sports conditioning and performance training techniques to devise their formula that combines the best of heavy compound lifting and functional strength training. And once they’d perfected the workout, it was over to Auckland University of Technology to rigorously test it. Researchers enlisted 27 participants (16 female, 11 male) with previous strength training experience to take part in an 8-week program assessing the following criteria:

  • Maximum strength performance
  • Jump (power) performance
  • ‘Core’ strength endurance (plank)
  • Confidence and motivation for strength training

As part of their testing, researchers also measured enjoyment levels. Assessments occurred at baseline and week 8 and the findings revealed a strength program offering impressive gains across all variables. Improvements classified as ‘significant’ were achieved in Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Jump Height, and Core Endurance: representing meaningful and impactful changes for these individuals. Standout results included:

  • Squat with loaded barbell : +20%
  • Vertical jump height, as assessed from standing: +19%
  • Bench Press with loaded barbell: +13%

The innovative workout achieves these results by super-setting heavy compound loading exercises with explosive functional movement patterns. Paired together, these movements deliver significant athletic gains. Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, explains the physiological benefits:

“FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH has created an exciting new approach to strength training by balancing a slow eccentric heavy weight load with concentric (explosive) force using a lighter weight.”

“It creates a really unique type of superset – generating muscle pressure and disruption through tension, followed by a contrasting more explosive contraction.. By utilizing specific focuses on the eccentric and concentric components, it maximizes the disruption within the muscle unit, leading to the statistically significant results seen in the research.”

Hastings notes the benefits of functional training are ideal for amateur and professional sports teams alike. “It’s a great workout for sports people because of the high velocity, dynamic movements. You build muscle and strength, while increasing your explosive power and control. It keeps you nimble and means you can move things quickly.”

In addition to significant strength gains, researchers noted that enjoyment levels were maintained at 78% and confidence grew by an impressive 25%. Hastings says the findings are key to understanding how enjoyment can improve outcomes.

“Participants in the trial told us they enjoyed feeling progress in their strength, and their ability to execute ‘explosive’ movements. Many commented that their lower body improvements (strength and power) were most noticeable. Crucially, they found these gains were augmented by the energy of a motivational group environment, which helped them push themselves to greater exertion. This research highlights that the combination of results and enjoyment is a powerful motivating force.”

“We also know confidence and motivation are important predictors of general longer-term adherence. The high enjoyment score and positive feedback provide a strong indication that the program is not only impactful, but likely to attract ongoing participation.”