Go into any large gym in world, and you will get hit by the whirs, lights, bangs and glitz of all the equipment and the facilities in which it is housed. You want to open your own training studio, and you think, “How am I going to compete with that, let alone try to choose the best, most effective equipment?”

First, understand that you could train even an Olympian — except maybe an equestrian — in a small closet with very little, if any equipment at all. But then again, you could certainly train their core and improve their fitness in a simple area with very little equipment at all.

Second, start simple and small, and build slowly. Otherwise, you may buy equipment that you don’t need or buy equipment that you later find isn’t worth the money.

Third, think about the popularity of boot camps. Most of them are successfully run with a yoga mat and a pair of dumbbells. Nothing fancy, just an area full of athletes and a bunch of sweat and desire.

Now that you’re in the correct frame of mind, and because most successful studios operate with more than a few dumbbells, let’s create a list of equipment that you should consider. Also, let’s take a look at some equipment that perhaps you should hold off on and put on your dream list for later on.

It’s a Start
My first studio contained an Ironmaster Gym set, a 14’x17’ platform and a rack of dumbbells. That’s it. I was open for business. To this day, we still utilize our Ironmaster equipment. Whoever designed this equipment was really thinking because it is universal, has a small footprint and is incredibly simple and trainer-friendly.

After a few months, we added two pieces of cardiovascular equipment: a treadmill and an elliptical trainer. We still use those same two pieces but have added a recumbent bicycle and a second treadmill. Interestingly, there is often a line of clients waiting for the treadmills, yet the elliptical trainer sits in the corner unused.

That was all we used, quite successfully, for our first three years — just dumbbells, the Ironmaster and two pieces of cardio. If I had to do it again, however, knowing what I now know, my purchase list would look something like this:

Dumbbells, Plates and Racks
We bought our equipment through Troy Barbell for years. It is one of the largest wholesale manufacturers of plates and dumbbells, and their prices are reasonable and their quality excellent. Our rack of dumbbells runs from 2.5 pounds to 90 pounds, but we rarely, if ever, use anything heavier than a 55-pound dumbbell. If you are just starting, I’d recommend getting a rack from 2.5 pounds to 60 pounds and add as necessary over time.

We bought some rubberized plates and have some iron plates. The rubberized plates are tough to clean and tend to hold dirt. Unless you are planning to drop the plates from a snatch, the iron ones are less expensive and easier to clean. However, it is my recommendation that you buy the rubberized dumbbells, even if they are more expensive.

Buy a good steady rack that will last forever. We went through several inexpensive racks before we finally spent money to buy good, solidly constructed racks that have lasted us now for over five years. We also have an upright bar holder in each studio, which we didn’t get until recently. Once we got it, we realized how much we were preserving paint on the walls by not leaning the bars up against them.

Accessories and Extra Equipment
In each studio (my facility has different workout rooms we call “studios”), we have an extra thick mat for core exercises and for any exercise where the client lies on the floor. Invest in high quality mats that will last. The inexpensive ones that we used to buy would get torn too quickly and look tattered before we could replace them.

We also have two or three of each level of resistance bands. Again, spend the money to get a quality band that will last. There is nothing worse than when a cheap band snaps in the face of a client. There are many brands, lengths and styles. They can all serve the same purpose as long as they last. Once you see a slight tear in a band, dispose of it and replace it before using it again.

Every studio has four to five different weights and sizes of medicine balls. The medicine ball styles are limitless, but we have several with handles, a couple without handles, and one or two D-Balls, which are great when you want a ball that won’t bounce. As you know, the possibilities are endless with medicine balls, and they generally last a long time. Although they can be cost-prohibitive, the ones we originally bought are still with us since we spent the money to get high-quality medicine balls.

We also have one or two stability balls in each studio. One is 75 centimeters in diameter and the other is 65 centimeters. I cannot stress the importance of getting the highest quality ball you can find. Although it has never happened in our studio, a damaged ball could quickly deflate, causing injury or instability.

Gym flooring can be frightfully expensive. Before we opened, we priced rubberized gym floors through several companies and realized it would cost upwards of $1,500 to cover each studio.

We found that (and I am serious here) the 4’x6’ rubber mats at our local Tractor Supply store were 75% less expensive and worked great. We planned over time to replace it with a “real” gym floor, but to this day, we have the same cow-barn flooring that has yet to wear out and still functions well.

Anything More Is Just Toys
I can’t state strongly enough to start simple and add anything else in small doses. Every month or two, I add a new “toy” to our mix to add motivation to the trainers and the clients with whom they work. It’s like Christmas when we get new BOSUs or accessories for Ironmaster equipment. Over time, we’ve added pull bars and rings, climbing ropes and some crazy ab equipment, but the only reason we did that was to keep the energy high and the exercises fresh.

A studio doesn’t (and in my opinion, shouldn’t) be overly complicated in order to impress a client. In fact, one of our selling points is that we are a simple studio, and we share that, “In our studios, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.”

Cliff’s Equipment Resources
Various equipment
Various equipment
Crossfit-style equipment
Gym equipment
Plates, bars, dumbbells and racks
Cardio equipment
Used cardio equipment

Cliff Latham (www.clifflatham.com) is the President of Cutting Edge Seminars, a corporate consulting and training company that specializes in stress recovery and wellness applications promoting productivity, premier health, energy and life balance. He earned advanced exercise physiology and sports nutrition degrees and has more than 22 years experience as a fitness and weight loss expert, university professor, strength coach and track and field coach. Contact Cliff at 979.695.6400.


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