When is Less More?
No one wants to work out in a library. The tight squeezes, looming shelves sensory overload not only impede movement, they kill creativity and motivation. Minimalism in design is currently "in" with the design world, but clean lines, sleek frames, and pops of color might not come to mind when you think "fitness center." Sometimes when planning a new workout space, less equipment is more.
Capitalize on Cardio
Different sources report "average" treadmill size, so we averaged their averages and found they're around 6' 6" by 3'. On top of that, add an elliptical or two, an upright bike, a recumbent bike, a stair-climber, and maybe a rower. Congratulations, over half your room is gone! Here's a few ideas how we can break this down:
Combine Equipment: There's few pieces of cardio equipment that can emulate the workout of others, but those units are fantastic in space-limited environments. Take the Arc trainer pictured above; it can be adjusted to be a climber motion, an elliptical-style workout, or a gliding motion. If you find yourself asking, "yeah, but what if more than 1 person wants to use the Arc at a time," don't worry. We'll get there shortly.
Eliminate Others: Sure, treadmills are always going to be necessary, they're a staple. Others, however, can be picked and chosen depending on your users. Finding which units works best is a matter of knowing your clients and knowing your options. Take recumbent vs upright bikes for instance (SPOILER ALERT: the workouts provide the same outcome). Just a heads up, this next paragraph is going to be really science-y.
The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy released a study back in 2014 examining differences between Pedaling Upright and Recumbent Ergometers (bikes). There was a similar study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health that compared Cardiovascular Responses between Upright and Recumbent Cycle Ergometers. The results between both were that all fields: EMG data of the (A) rectus femoris, (B) semitendinosus, (C)tibialis anterior, (D)medial gastrocnemius muscles, Systolic blood pressure, RPP, Vo2 Max, oxygen pulse, VCo2, and Ve) were statistically insignificant. So when it really comes down to it, pick the one that matches your user profile the best. The reality is, most preferences are purely placebic; thus workouts provide the same outcome!
When shopping for machines, it's best not to look at the total number of users, but to look at the number of users in the fitness center at peak hours. We can't tell you exactly how we find that number, but it involves a formula that includes total employees, ages, male/female split, and a few more details. Once we have that number we're able to create a plan of what we would expect your facility to look like on a day-to-day basis. This breakdown includes estimates for both strength and cardio users.
So let's jump towards the end and say you've had a successful evaluation and found your predicted strength users are higher than you initially anticipated. Maybe Dual Action Machines will allow the workout you'd like to provide with the floor space you have to work with. Easy adjustments and specific designs make these units great for users of all skill levels, and see lots of success in un-manned fitness centers.
Utilizing one machine to do two or three actions is great, but if you're really feeling the squeeze check out Functional Trainers! With a Functional Trainer, users are able to engage in exercise for both large and small muscle groups, cutting down on space and keeping the units from being dedicated to specific actions. One possible downside to these units is they can intimidate newer users. Consider getting a poster or hosting an open house to maximize the success of Functional Trainers.
Focus the Free Weights
It's easy to go overboard on free weights, especially with so many people doing so many actions. If potential members hear about a new fitness center opening up, requests will probably come flying in for everything from Olympic Trap Deadlifting Bars to Power Cages to (heaven help me) Shake-weights.
When it comes time to make a decision, this is one area where Less Is More can really shine through. Instead of all the specialty bars and handles, maybe 5lb to 50lb dumbbells, 5lb to 30lb kettlebells, and a couple adjustable benches. A quick Google search provides pages and pages of "Top 10 Best Dumbbell Exercises," "The Best Dumbbell Exercise for Total Body," or Bodybuilding.com's library of 139 Dumbbell Exercises. The versatility of these weights and the information available to users all but ensure the new main request will be "Can we get pairs going up to 100?"
This is another area where getting swept away in a flood of requests is easy. To make things easy, there are four items that are at home in every center; resistance bands, medicine balls, inflatable balls, floor mats. Everything else can be evaluated on an "as needed" basis, but starting with these three items is pretty much a must. The best part about these items is that they're highly functional, most can be stored on a wall, and pair well with the next segment:
Super-Charge Open Space
Open space is not dead space. Even with very little square footage in your fitness center, an area where multiple users can lay down and full extend is crucial. With the recent trends in fitness, this area is often utilized by small groups looking to do interval training, or a dumbbell circuit. This is more than an ab-zone, so keeping this area free of balls, dumbbells, and other clutter is a great way to maximize versatility. In fact, if you're looking to create an "ab-zone" consider a few body weight pieces. They help the user engage stabilizers and core muscles in ways that floor exercises struggle to hit.
Utilize your Users
While this guide is a decent starting point, there's only so much we can predict on a website. The reality is, your users may consist of a demographic that adheres to none of our general rules, and only you will know. The best feedback you can get is from your users, and the worst feedback you can get is an empty fitness center. Sorting out the sense from the nonsense, however, is a different story.
Capitalize on Cardio by consolidating what you can and eliminating redundancies.
Maximize Machines by outfitting for peak hours and consider dual machines and functional trainers.
Focus the Free Weights by limiting to highly versatile units (dumbbells, kettlebells, and benches)
Assess Accessories by using basic items (bands, medicine balls, inflatable balls, and mats)
Super Charge Open Space by leaving users room to move
Utilize you Users by generating feedback and separating the sense from nonsense.