Home Posts tagged "fitness business"

Want to Open a Fitness Facility? Consider These Points.

On a recent Instagram Q&A, I received the following question:

"What's your advice for someone who wants to open their own training facility?"

While there are undoubtedly many more directions I could go with this, here's what came to mind:

1. Establish systems that will continue to work as it grows. In other words, don't just fly by the seat of your pants to get through today.

2. Remember that the glamour of autonomy can sometimes overshadow the hard work it takes to run a gym.

3. Be meticulous with scrutinizing your lease negotiation. That expense can make or break a business no matter how good your training and business models are.

4. Get out and observe as many successful gyms as possible.

5.  Find good mentors and/or business partners, even if they are just people you can vent to when you're frustrated. Entrepreneurship can be lonely.

6. Purchase equipment clients will actually use, not just what you like for your own training.

7. Know your numbers. Shockingly few gym owners do.

8. Understand the difference between loss leaders and stupid initiatives that simply devalue your offerings.

9. Communicate with your significant other what entrepreneurship will look like.

10. Follow my business partner, Pete Dupuis, and read everything he's written at www.PeteDupuis.com. We've made a lot of mistakes over the years, and he's recapped them in his writing so that you can learn from them instead of making them yourself.

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Cressey Sports Performance Business Building Mentorship: Online September 22-24

We’re excited to announce that on Tuesday-Thursday, September 22-24, Pete Dupuis and I will be hosting our fifth CSP Business-Building Mentorship. For the first time, this event will be offered in an online format over Zoom. Pete and I have spent over 13 years crafting the operational systems and strategies that fuel CSP today, and we’re excited to pull back the curtain for fellow gym owners.

It is our intention to foster an environment conducive to learning and the exchanging of ideas, so we will be capping the number of attendees who participate. The event will run from 12pm-3pm Eastern time (Boston) each day so that we can account for attendees in many different time zones.

Here’s a look at our agenda for the offering:

Day 1 – Introduction & Lead Generation

12:00pm – 12:30pm: Introduction: The Four Pillars of Fitness Business Success
12:30pm – 3:00pm: Lead Generation: Strategic Relationship Development, Identifying & Connecting with Opinion Leaders, Social Media Strategies

Day 2 – Lead Conversion & Business Operations (Part 1)

12:00pm - 1:00pm : Lead Conversion: CSP Selling Strategy & Methodology
1:00pm – 2:00pm: Operations: Accounting for Gym Owners – Guest Lecture from Mike Graham, Certified Public Accountant
2:00pm – 3:00pm: Operations: Internship Program Design & Execution

Day 3 – Business Operations (Part 2) & Long-Term Planning

12:00pm – 1:00pm: Operations: Hiring Protocols, Staff Development & Continuing Ed.
1:00pm – 2:00pm: Long-Term Planning: Lease Negotiation Considerations
2:00pm – 3:00pm: Long-Term Planning: Strategic Brand Dev., Evaluating Opportunities, SWOT Analysis

Note: we will include Q&A opportunities throughout the presentations and at the end of each day, so the 3:00pm is not a "hard stop" time.

Cost: $899.99

Click here to register using our 100% secure server.

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The Best of 2019: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2019 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.

1. The Most Important Coaching Responsibility - Coaches are some of the most important influences in young athletes' lives on a number of fronts. In this post, I focused on what I believe to be the single most important responsibility of a coach.

2. 3 Thoughts for Getting the Glutes Going -This was a big hit with all the functional anatomy nerds out there.

3. The 4 Most Common Barbell Hip Thrust Technique Mistakes - I’m a fan of barbell hip thrusts. Like most exercises, though, there are some common technique pitfalls. Check them out in this article.

4. Mid-Week Movement Miscellany - This was a collection of random thoughts on movement that unexpectedly proved to be a big hit. I might have to turn it into a regular series.

5. Why Fitness Industry Hiring is Different Than What You Think It Is - The fitness industry is different than other industries on a number of fronts, and approaches to hiring are one such example. Here's why.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2019" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

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7 Small Business Saturday Sentiments

Every year at this time, as a way to celebrate entrepreneurs fighting the good fight in a retail world of corporate giants, "Small Business Saturday" is sandwiched right between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I love the concept, as I've been around small businesses my entire life. My father owned one, my in-laws had one, my brother owns one, my wife owns one, and I'm part of three separate LLCs myself.

I've always been fascinated by looking at what differentiates the ones that thrive from the ones that don't. This chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is pretty sobering.

Having co-owned gyms for over 12 years now, I'm particularly intrigued about what makes small businesses successful in the fitness industry. Here are a few quick observations on fitness businesses that have "made it."

1. They prioritized systems early.

A lot of people get in to the gym business because they enjoy working out and think it'd be fun to run a fitness facility. The problem is that when you're just exercising, you fail to see all the behind the scenes that takes place to keep the trains running on time. The best businesses I've seen set up sustainable systems early so that they can handle growth without having to overhaul their operations.

2. They have a strong owner presence, especially early on.

I know the owner of a restaurant that opened in our town about nine months ago. It's a spot where we'll pick up a healthy dinner to go for the family about once a week, and I ate takeout from there pretty much non-stop when our daughter was born in March. Every time I've gone in - regardless of time of day - he's behind the counter. He interacts with customers, mentors employees, keeps an eye on the cleanliness of the place. It's a huge time investment, but it's the right thing to do to ensure quality control early on, and that systems and expectations of acceptable are established early on.

For some reason, the opposite of this commonly happens in the fitness industry. Many gym start-up owners think fitness businesses are far more "turn key" than they really are, so they take a lot more time away from the operation sooner in its existence. I know it was well over two years in business before my business partner, Pete, and I were both away from Cressey Sports Performance on the same day.

This number might be a bit extreme, but this statement isn't: a strong owner presence drives success on many fronts in any business, but particularly the fitness industry.

3. They compete on offering, not price.

Ask any mom-and-pop pharmacy that got crushed by Walmart in the past few decades how competing on price has worked out, and you'll understand where this is going. Just remember that in many small communities with five different bootcamp-style workout options, competing on price is the quickest way to the bottom. You're always better off differentiating yourself based on offering.

4. They drive business via marketable, differentiated skills - not just passion.

I've written extensively (here and here) on why I don't think passion for fitness alone is a good reason for starting a gym. The most successful fitness businesses out there have other things they do really well; passion just helps to deliver these benefits more consistently and with a better culture. Over the long term, it's hard to "out-passion" a terrible business model or poor training, though.

5. How they do one thing is how they do everything.

Any time I go into a new gym to train while I'm traveling, I take note of whether the person at the front desk (if there even is one), asks me to sign a waiver and health history. To me, it's kind of like a tripwire that alerts me to whether or not they have attention to detail in everything from equipment maintenance, to cleanliness, to staff education. If you're totally cool with overlooking something that important, you're probably missing a lot of other "big rocks."

6. They're authentic.

The staff at CSP and Mark Fisher Fitness have a host of awesome, decade-long friendships even though our client demographics are nothing alike: baseball players and Broadway performers, respectively. MFF's staff does a phenomenal job engaging their clients with crazy outfits, risqué jokes, and bright facility color schemes. These initiatives perform incredibly well for them, but would fail miserably for us with our baseball guys. Conversely, their clients aren't going to nerd out about fastball spin axis, scapular upward rotation, and positional breathing the way our baseball clients do. Both businesses are authentic to what they do well, but that doesn't mean our models are universally applicable across the industry. 

7. They're consistent.

Our landlord once said, "Your clients hire and fire you every day." It's a phrase that's really stuck with me. The best fitness businesses I've seen are the ones that don't have lulls in the client experience, facility look, or quality of training even though over time, all these things tend to "slide" if you let them. Earlier this week, I had my first sick day in 12 years of business, and it made me realize that it had less to do with an impressive immunity strategy, and more to do with the fact that I never want to miss an opportunity for us to get better. The attendance might be excessive, but the lesson can't possibly be overstated.

In wrapping up, I should mention that this small business is having some sales this weekend. Head HERE to learn more about our ongoing 25% off sale on many of my products; it wraps up Monday at midnight. Thanks for your support!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/9/19

I hope you had a great weekend. Here's a little reading and listening material to kick off your week!

EC on the Inspiring Lives Podcast - I joined the crew at Athletic Greens on their podcast to talk coaching and business.

10 Assumptions You Should Stop Making About Your Clients - This might be my favorite blog post my business partner, Pete Dupuis, has ever written, as he covers a lot of common misconceptions of gym ownership.

Training the Hypermobile Client - I've features multiple articles about training hypermobile individuals on this site over the years, and Dean Somerset puts out some good information to complement those materials (you can find them here and here, if interested).

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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One of the first things some individuals notice when they come to observe at @cresseysportsperformance is that we often pair “big bang” strength and power movements with lower intensity drills that might train mobility, balance, or arm care. As an example, we might pair a prone trap raise with a deadlift, or a hip mobility drill with a bench press. We call these low-intensity inclusions “fillers.” Truthfully, though, I’m not sure that this name does them justice, as “filler” seems to imply a lack of importance. In reality, I think these drills have a profound impact on improving each client/athlete’s session. Here are five reasons why.👊 . . What are some fillers you like to use and why? Please share your comments below!

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success – Installment 12

It's time for a new edition of my thoughts on the business of fitness. With Cressey Sports Performance turning 12 last week, it seemed timely. Before I get to it, just a friendly reminder that Pete Dupuis and I are hosting our fourth-ever CSP Business Building Mentorship on September, 23 2019 at our Hudson, MA facility on the day after our annual fall seminar. You can learn more HERE.

Now on to some business concepts...

1. Bigger isn't better; better is better.

There's a great segment in this comprehensive podcast with Naval Ravikant (founder of AngelList and accomplished angel investor) where he talks about the mistake people make when they chase status over wealth.

There are many examples of this in the fitness industry:

a. Gym owners want huge facilities so that they can take nice pictures and boast about the size of it - even though they're secretly frustrated that they can't possibly fill it with enough clients, and it feels quiet even when the gym is "busy."

b. Gym owners seek to get as many members as they can - and ultimately wind up lowering their price points to build that membership. In many cases, the membership goal just leads to a bunch of low-pricepoint tire kickers who devalue services, disrespect the facility/equipment, and magnify variable costs to the point that profitability is a big challenge. Remember: there is generally an inverse relationship between price point and complaints. The less people pay, the more problems they find; it's because they don't appreciate your value (which is a perception, not a calculation).

c. Gym owners look to grow a huge staff to position themselves as the cutting-edge leader of an empire. Behind the scenes, they're frustrated with all the staff headaches that come with leading a large team.

d. Folks chase giant social media followings (in many cases by buying followers) to build status - even though they might not actually deliver enough revenue to justify the time commitment to "cater to" that following. Doesn't it say a lot that Naval - who is an investor at Twitter - even comments on this?

You'll get varying opinions on this, but personally, I think you're better off taking home 50% of a $500,000/year fitness business than net 5% on a $5 million/year one. Gyms don't sell as well down the road as giant technology companies do, and most gym owners aren't as savvy at building long-term business value as they think they are. I think most folks in this industry are better off embracing shorter-term profitability and minimizing headaches ("better") than they are chasing massive growth and risk ("bigger").

If you need a real-life example that we reflect on often, it's the concept of franchising. We get daily inquiries about franchising Cressey Sports Performance to new locations around the country, and are steadfast in our resistance to do so. Franchises can be high reward if you open enough of them and put in a ton of leg work to establish systems, but the thought of having 25-30 locations around the country just isn't appealing to Pete and me at this point in time. Doing so would be chasing big, when the truth is that we have better ideas on how we'll chase "better" with a most sustainable strategy for building the CSP brand that's more in line with our quality of life.

In short, don't be big for the sake of being big. Be big because it fits with your lifestyle and it builds actual wealth - or just be happy staying smaller.

2. Embrace seasonality.

I used to hate our quiet season. It drove me bonkers to have a facility that was really quiet during the baseball season. And, I hated the uncertainty that came with wondering whether all our baseball players would actually return to training when the season settled down. Now, 12 years after we first opened our doors, I've come to recognize that seasonality can actually be a blessing to one's business.

First, quiet time provides invaluable opportunities for long-term planning. This can range from facility improvements to staff continuing education.

Second, quiet periods often give you an opportunity to connect with clients in different environments. For us, that means sending our staff out to cheer on our athletes at games. We support them, meet/see their families, and continue to build top of mind awareness in the community; it's win/win for everyone involved. And, our staff gets out for some fresh air while on the clock.

Third, I've found that there is a staff bonding that occurs around crazy hours. It's not uncommon to see our staff members hanging out in the office together after long days on the floor during our busiest times. As I think back on some of my favorite CSP memories over the years, they often relate to the business, most hectic times we've been through together. We often joke about working overnight - and tearing up our hands as we moved flooring - in moving CSP 1.0 to CSP 2.0 back in 2008.

Don't resent the really busy or really quiet times. They're making memories and giving you opportunities to develop your business and relationships in different ways.


If you've found value in these insights, I think you might enjoy the upcoming Business Building Mentorship Pete Dupuis and I will be hosting on Monday, September 23 . It's a tax deductible expense if you're a fitness business owner, and we'd guarantee that the lessons learned will more than pay for the cost of attendance. You can learn more HERE. - and registration includes free admission to the fall seminar.

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Cressey Sports Performance Business Building Mentorship: September 23, 2019

We’re excited to announce that on Monday, September 23, we’ll be hosting our fourth CSP Business-Building Mentorship, a day of learning with Pete Dupuis and me. This event will take place at our Hudson, MA location the day after our annual fall seminar. Pete and I have spent nearly a decade crafting the operational systems and strategies that fuel CSP today, and we’re excited to pull back the curtain for fellow gym owners.

It is our intention to foster an environment conducive to learning and the exchanging of ideas, so we will be limiting participation to 30 individuals.

Here’s a look at our agenda for the day:

8:30am: Registration & Coffee

Morning Session – Lead Generation & Conversion

9:00am – 9:30am: Introduction: The Four Pillars of Fitness Business Success
9:30am – 10:30am: Lead Generation: Strategic Relationship Development, Identifying & Connecting with Opinion Leaders, Social Media Strategies
10:30am - 11:00am: Q&A
11:00am - 12:00pm: Lead Conversion: CSP Selling Strategy & Methodology
12:00pm - 1:00pm: Lunch (provided)

Afternoon Session – Business Operations & Long-Term Planning

1:00pm – 2:00pm: Operations: Accounting for Gym Owners – Guest Lecture from CSP’s CPA, Tom Petrocelli
2:00pm – 2:30pm: Operations: Internship Program Design & Execution
2:30pm – 3:00pm: Operations: Hiring Protocols, Staff Development & Continuing Ed.
3:00pm – 3:30pm: Long-Term Planning: Lease Negotiation Considerations
3:30pm – 4:30pm: Long-Term Planning: Strategic Brand Dev., Evaluating Opportunities, SWOT Analysis
4:30pm – 6:00pm: Q&A

Cost: $899.99 (includes free admission to CSP Fall Seminar on Sunday, September 22) 


To be placed on the waiting list, please email cspmass@gmail.com.

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Why Fitness Industry Hiring is Different Than What You Think It Is

In the past, I've written a few times about how when we want to expand our staff at Cressey Sports Performance, we only hire from our internship program. In hiring, the goal is to get someone who is both competent for the job AND a good fit for your culture. We can teach that competency in an internship, but just as importantly, an internship give us 3-5 months to evaluate whether an individual is the right fit from a personality standpoint. We actively involve our current staff in hiring to make sure that they're the ones helping to shape this culture. I can't recall exactly, but I believe I initially heard the competency/fit discussion in a book from Richard Branson and his hiring practices at Virgin.

This is an important lesson for all businesses, but I'd argue that the fitness industry is unique in that the pendulum swings much more in the direction of "fit." Why? My theory is that it's because the barrier to entry in this industry is so low that very few candidates show a level of competency so overwhelming that they're "must-hires."

Just last week, my theory was put to the test when a large company reached out to me on a reference check on one of our former interns who'd applied for a job. Here was the email I received:

Hi Eric,

I was given your information from <name removed> regarding a professional reference. Would you be able to answer the following questions, in a timely manner?

How long have you know him or her?

What is him or her work ethic?

What management style is conducive to their success?

What is one strength and one opportunity for improvement?


Eligible for rehire?

Thank you!

You see where I'm going with this? Not a single one of those questions was specific to this candidate's competency for the position? She didn't ask me whether he had memorized the Krebs Cycle or could differentiate between linear and conjugate periodization.

It's crazy, but competency is actually either a) assumed or b) viewed in a way that the organization thinks they can teach a candidate everything they need to know to be successful...as long as they're a good fit.

What does this mean for up-and-coming fitness and strength and conditioning professionals? Let your resume speak to your competencies, but utilize interviews and your references to show just how awesome you are from a fit standpoint. And, if you're looking for a job at a particular location, get in front of your potential employer in person before applying. That might mean doing a facility visit to observe, dropping off your resume in person, or actually doing a lengthier internship at that location.

Our hiring processes are one of the subjects Cressey Sports Performance co-founder Pete Dupuis and I cover in great detail in our Business Building Mentorship. Our next offering is going to be online-only on September 22-24. For more information, click here

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5 Strategies to Avoid Overthinking Strength and Conditioning Programs

I frequently run Q&A sessions on my Instagram stories, and sometimes, I'll get an inquiry that warrants a detailed response that goes beyond a 15-second time limit of the small amount of text I can squeeze into a respond. This question is one such example:

The more I learn, the more stressful I find programming for athletes. Any tips for this?

First off, I should acknowledge that this is an incredibly common problems for not only new trainers, but experienced coaches as well. The curse of knowledge is a very real thing that can lead to a lot of frustrated tapping on the keyboard as you write up programs for clients that really don't require things all that advanced. Here are a five strategies I've found to help:

1. Identify the biggest rocks and circle them.

After I write up all my notes on an evaluation, I go back and circle 2-3 things that I view as the highest priority items. Maybe it's very limited cervical range of motion, or brutal single-leg strength. If it's a resting heart rate in the 80bpm range, maybe we need to hammer aerobic capacity. Regardless, I find that when you definitively identify and highlight the highest priority items, it makes it easy to get the ball rolling on the program and build some momentum in the "don't sit in silence and overthink things" direction.

2. Think quality movement first.

When joints move efficiently (work from "neutral"), it impacts a host of other systems. You take longer to shift from aerobic to anaerobic energy systems strategies. The length-tension relationship is optimized to enhance strength and power. The lymphatic system works more efficiently to optimize recovery. Effectively, moving efficiently has a "trickle down effect."

These downstream benefits are why we take so much pride in our warm-ups. They shouldn't just get your body temperature up, but rather, they should also work to reduce bad stiffness and improve good stiffness. For instance, with a back to wall shoulder flexion drill, we're reducing bad stiffness in the lats, scapular downward rotators, and lumbar extensors. Meanwhile, we're establishing good stiffness in the anterior core, deep neck flexors, and scapular upward rotators.

3. Acknowledge that you very well may never use some of the tools in your toolbox.

If you're working with post-pregnancy women who are just looking to lose their baby weight, don't expect to use French Contrast Training. And, if senior citizens are your niche, your extensive knowledge of plyometric progressions probably isn't going to have much of an impact (sorry, bad pun).

If you hire a contractor to fix something at your house, he rolls in with his toolbox, but isn't emotionally attached to the idea of using a chainsaw, hammer, screwdriver, or any other specific tool. Rather, he matches the right tool to the job in question, even if it means all the other tools are unused that day. You have to be willing to recognize that a ton of the things you've learned over the years may, in fact, be completely useless for you.

4. "Batch" your programs.

Believe it or not, I have an easier time writing a program for a professional baseball player with years of training experience with us than I do writing a program for an untrained female. The reason is very simple: I write a lot more programs for baseball players, so it's familiar and I have a lot of related cases from which I can draw perspective ("X athlete is similar to Y athlete, so I can build on the success I had with that athlete instead of reinventing the wheel"). For this reason, try to write multiple programs for similar demographics in the same sitting instead of breaking them out to different programming sessions. As a general rule of thumb, I never sit down to write a program unless I'm doing at least 3-4 programs in that sitting.

5. Build on the previous program.

Most of the time, when I write a program, I'm writing it right over the top of the previous month's programs, as doing so allows me to contemplate progressions and regressions quickly and easily. Never, ever start by staring at a blank programming template!


In closing, remember that program design is only as complex as you make it. When in doubt, simplify!

This post delved into programming strategies, but the truth is that our programming is just one aspect of the systems that make our two Cressey Sports Performance facilities what they are. In our upcoming Cressey Sports Performance Business Building Mentorship, CSP co-founder Pete Dupuis and I will pull back the curtain on these systems to help other gym owners improve their systems. Our next offering will be in an online format September 22-24. For more information, click here.

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The Best of 2018: Strength and Conditioning Features

I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each post being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2018 at EricCressey.com:

1. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training

This is definitely my longest standing active series, and while I don't update it every month, it'll always include some gems.

Installment 30
Installment 31 

2. Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success

This series touches more on the business aspect of fitness.

Installment 9
Installment 10

Installment 11

3. Performance Programming Principles

I made it a goal to write more about program design this year, as I think it's a big hole in the market.  These were a few steps in that direction:

Installment 2
Installment 3

The Best of 2018 series is almost complete, but stayed tuned for a few more highlights!

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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series