Well, you are finally ready to do it. You are going to open your very own personal training studio.

I know how you must feel; I was there myself two years ago. I was excited and very nervous at the same time. Money was tight, and I could only afford to rent a 500-square-foot office space. The good news is that if you plan well, you can do any exercise that you can do in a full-size fitness center. Think beyond single-use machines, and get back in touch with your creative side.

Start Simple
Recent trends in fitness have benefited small studio owners immensely. Functional training has been shown time and time again to be effective in getting results for clients. The best part about functional training is that its main requirement is space. If you add in some basic functional accessories you can provide great workouts for your clients without ever using a single machine. Of course, this does not eliminate the need for traditional training methods; you simply need equipment that can multitask.

When you are trying to determine what to outfit your studio with, start with the most basic and most versatile. In my opinion, the two things that you have to have in a training studio are stability balls and adjustable dumbbells. With these two pieces of equipment, there are literally thousands of exercises that you can do. As a gym trainer, we forget that stability balls can be used for more than just abdominal exercises. They can be used in place of a bench, as a pivot for pushups, as a light medicine ball and countless other uses. Dumbbells are fairly self-explanatory, but in a small studio, space is of utmost importance. Do not buy 20 pairs of dumbbells that take up an entire wall; get a system that nests within itself. There are several of these on the market, and any of them will save you tons of space.

While those two pieces are essential, I consider a bench, Olympic weight set and resistance bands to be almost as important. While a ball and some weights will provide good workouts, you do need to have some variety. As I mentioned earlier, functional training is your best friend in a small studio. Using exercise bands, you can recreate any cable movement that you would want. I actually prefer bands to cables for a few reasons. Mainly, the resistance can be changed mid-set by having the client step toward or away from the anchor point. The other reason is psychological. We have all had clients that told us they could not do an exercise because it was “too much weight,” yet all they had done was look at the weight stack. With a band, there is no weight for the client to see. It completely eliminates the “too heavy” factor while providing just as much resistance. If you are reluctant to incorporate band training because they do not provide enough resistance, you are buying the wrong bands. I have seen guys that bench 250 pounds get demolished with bands. They work.

Then Get Equipment that Multitasks

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s talk a little bit about optional equipment that does a great job of multitasking. Probably the first piece of weight equipment that I would consider buying is a cable machine. There are many on the market, but I prefer the models that have articulating arms and dual weight stacks. This will allow you to change angles and create many different exercises from a lat pulldown to a cable bicep curl. While these are great, I do not have one in my studio because of one main defect: They can only be used by one client at a time. I may not have much space, but I like to be able to have a few people training at the same time. Due to this, I have a piece of equipment that is located in the middle of my studio and uses resistance bands. It has anchor points all over it so that I can create any angle I want, but it can be used by multiple people around the different sides. As an added benefit, using bands instead of weights significantly reduces the cost of the unit.