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    Acquisition & retention

    Major gains: How clubs can leverage the strength trend to drive growth

    A massive category in every sense, strength can be difficult to do well for club operators. With wide-ranging expectations among members and endless varieties, covering all bases can be next to impossible. Here are four key considerations for nailing the strength category.

    Jo Bryce

    Unless you’ve been living under an especially heavy weight plate, you’ll have no doubt noticed the meteoric rise of strength training in recent years.

    Operators across the world have been swapping out cardio equipment for extra weights stations on the gym floor, while a raft of new strength-based classes have quickly come to prominence – particularly as a means of alleviating lengthy queues at the squat racks.

    The breadth of the category has been one of the key drivers of its growth, with endless options for members to embark on their strength journey. But from an operator’s perspective, this makes it difficult to cover all bases. So what’s the best way to understand member demand and maximize the potential of the strength trend? Here are four key considerations for clubs seeking to nail the strength category and keep members coming back for more:


    Sculpt workouts – such as Pilates and yoga – are back in vogue thanks to their ability to enhance both mental and physical health. Sculpt is one of the fastest-growing workout categories and the promise of improved muscle strength and endurance makes it particularly appealing for young members, with 68% of Gen Z taking part in these workouts.

    “Modern Pilates is definitely heating up the fitness scene,” says Les Mills Presenter and Program Creator Erin Maw. “I’ve been obsessed with these workouts for the better part of five years. ‘HIIT’ Pilates, sweat Pilates, Barre body classes … I love exploring them all. And my running coach recommended that I do yoga to help with recovery.”

    But you don’t have to be a Les Mills master trainer to get the benefits of sculpt. For those at the beginning of their fitness journey, sculpt workouts are a great place to start building foundational strength. Based around simple, easily replicated movements with intensity levels moderated by the individual, sculpt workouts help people to track their progress by increasing the time under tension they can achieve.


    The increasing popularity of strength has been bolstered by the growing numbers of women taking it up. Social media-savvy strength lovers are taking to TikTok for inspiration, with the hashtag #girlswholift attracting a whopping 12.8 billion views as of November 23.

    And it’s the rise of influencer culture that retention expert Dr Paul Bedford believes is having the biggest impact on traffic to the weights area. He believes the fixed position of strength training lends itself to a ‘watch-and-learn’ mentality, noting: “Gen Z see this content on their social media feeds and are then inspired to go and copy it. It’s called Vicarious Learning (learning through watching) and it’s something we’ve always done in gyms – trying out things that we see other people doing around us. Now you have a network effect through social media and the massive trend towards strength training as a result.”

    But Dr Bedford adds that the reliance on phones for guidance has its limitations, “to the extent that users won’t tend to engage with the experts on hand to support them in the facility”. Opportunities then, for operators to offer their expertise and drive greater levels of engagement among younger members.


    For members struggling with where to start their strength journey, the old adage ‘safety in numbers’ remains true. By offering group training sessions to those new to strength, operators can help counter the intimidation that comes with getting to grips with weights and unfamiliar movement patterns, reducing the risk of potential injury. Starting amongst others who are also new to the category removes any perceived judgment and allows your Instructors to pay close attention to encouraging confidence and good form.

    Dutch operator Lifestyle and Health Club Magic recently took this approach when delivering LES MILLS STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT™ to its members. Founder Scott Elder explains: “We run STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT with a maximum of 12 members per class. That way it allows us to personalize the coaching based on what each participant requires. It helps make the process more personal, in addition to the floor coaching. It gives them an excellent grounding for when they’re ready to move on to free weights.”


    Convincing your members to try strength won’t be the biggest hurdle operators face when it comes to the trend – but keeping up engagement levels among those already lifting might well be. In an age of fitness gamification, apps and wearables are being combined to inject the enjoyment of gaming into fitness experiences. Adapting this approach in your facility allows clubs to harness the addictive power of gaming to make members’ training more engaging, motivating and enjoyable.

    There are many ways to approach this, but one that’s been repeatedly shown to have the desired impact is the fitness challenge. Done well, these are a great way of building community and shared purpose among your members – there’s always a real buzz around a great challenge. This in itself drives member engagement, satisfaction and loyalty.

    But a challenge also drives loyalty simply by harnessing human nature: the desire to better ourselves, to prove our worth against others… to win. And to keep trying – that is, to keep coming back to the gym – until we do. However you tackle them, fitness challenges are simple ways to boost friendly competition and self-motivation, helping members form ‘sticky’, retention-busting friendships that increase their reasons to return. Check out our top tips for nailing challenges in your club.


    Les Mills has crafted a new series of programs to meet the specific demands of Gen Z and put your club in the fast-lane for growth.