Everything about gym design and training machine selection - An active S&C coach thoroughly explains the principles
Everything about gym design and training machine selection - An active S&C coach thoroughly explains the principles
Feeling excited, I searched for the equipment I wanted to purchase through catalogs and websites. There is no doubt that it is a blissful time. However, by the time you are selecting equipment with this mindset, you have already begun the process of creating an "unusable gym." It's the beginning of the end.
...If you were pointed out like this, I'm sure you would be angry. But it is an undeniable reality. 80% of gym facilities in Japan select machines and equipment based on a vague plan, and then plan the layout so that everything fits together. I was relieved that it fit perfectly, but when I tried using it, it was very inconvenient and difficult to use. Due to the inefficient gym space, effective training cannot be carried out.
No matter how talented an S&C coach or personal trainer is, it is difficult to solve the problems of the gym itself.
When many of them arrive, the first thing they do is change the layout of the gym and remove unused machines and equipment. In other words, this is nothing but a judgment that says, ``This gym is difficult to use.''
You probably don't want to build a gym like that either. …If that’s the case, what should I do?
The answer is simple.
Stick to the basic principles of gym design, such as the ``principle of progressive overload'' that is the basis of any training program.
...It turned out to be a rather provocative opening sentence. My name is Yuji Hirota and I am a conditioning coach. I am now in my 20th year working in sports, mainly athlete sports, such as professional baseball and rugby top league.
I may sound like an arrogant person, but I myself have made many failures. After much trial and error, I have come to the conclusion that ``Thoroughly think about how you will use the gym, and then decide on the machines, equipment, size, and quantity you need.''
There are so many people who decide on this part ``somehow'' ...!
It's a long article, but if you read this blog article,
- For your concept and target persona
- How versatile is this space?
- Select the minimum necessary and frequently used machines and equipment.
- Can we create facilities that take ventilation and safety into consideration?
You should be able to create a concrete image.
“I’m not satisfied until I build a house three times.”
It's an age-old saying, but no one can afford to do the same thing at the gym they manage.
It doesn't have to be 100 points. Our goal is to create a ``high-quality gym that can be fine-tuned to accommodate future changes'' in one go.
Let's learn the principles of gym layout with this goal in mind.
Main target audience and concept of the gym
The first thing to check is the target audience and the concept of the gym . If you're still ambivalent about this point, sit down now and make a firm decision. This is because you can never start building a gym unless you decide on the target persona.
I have listed below the basic patterns that I think of. Let's check each one.
When it comes to personal gyms, there are generally three categories:
A category centered on women. For studio-type exercises such as yoga, Pilates, aerobics, and boxercise, you will probably need few machines and minimal equipment. Therefore, the key points are ease of management in terms of space, mirrors, soundproofing, and hygiene.
If your style focuses on dieting, it will most likely be in a one-on-one format. The equipment and space needed will then change depending on whether you want to do it completely 1v1 or mainly in a circuit style with a small number of people. Although the numbers may vary, you will need a power rack, barbell, flat bench, cardio machines, and accessories for strength training.
●Body makeup (size up/pump type)
This category focuses on muscle hypertrophy and building beautiful muscles. Because you have to handle heavy weights, you need an Olympic bar, dumbbells, and many plates. Since we often train each part of the body locally, we want to have as many machines as possible for the back, shoulders, chest, thighs, and calves.
This category aims to improve muscle strength, power, and competitiveness. The big difference from body building is that you do explosive events to improve power. You'll need a platform to drop the barbell on safely, bumper plates, a plyo box, etc.
Also, even if you don't have a specialized field such as martial arts or baseball, you need a space where you can check out competitive movements.
private sports gym
Although it is similar to a personal gym, it is necessary to consider it as a private gym as a medium-sized class. Although not large enough to become a chain, there are many facilities where 20 to 30 people can exercise at a time.
health promotion fitness
A general fitness gym mainly aimed at middle-aged to elderly people. It's aimed at people who want to continue moderate exercise without straining themselves, rather than people who want to push themselves through training, so you'll want to include a lot of aerobic machines such as exercise bikes. Since there aren't many people training at intermediate level or above, a free weight space may not be necessary from a safety and cost perspective.
Gym for full-fledged trainees
The image is Gold's Gym. When performing a similar concept in private practice, the number of aerobic machines can be kept to a minimum. The idea is to first secure as much free weight space as possible and install reinforcement machines to the extent that safety can be ensured.
Group team gym
Next, let's consider a gym for organized sports teams. These categories include training rooms for adult baseball teams and training gyms for competitive sports within universities.
Options will vary depending on size, height, budget, etc., but the main thing to understand is whether the facility is targeted at contact sports or non-contact sports. .
Targeting sports such as American football, rugby, basketball, and soccer. Considering the nature of the sport, where many injuries occur, we would like to introduce not only the usual Olympic bar, but also equipment that can be easily arranged, such as a trap bar and a safety squat bar .
There are also many situations where push and acceleration on the horizontal plane is emphasized. If possible, you should also have a space where you can set up a sled and perform leg drive using resistance bands.
From the perspective of preventing serious injuries, the priority when selecting training machines is to start with machines that work on the back and shoulders, which are difficult to achieve with free weights alone.
Non-contact sports such as baseball and track and field often use Smith machines, cable machines, and segmented resistance bands in addition to basic free weight equipment. When choosing training machines, give priority to leg presses and leg extensions that reduce fatigue and stress in the lower body.
Gym layout and space utilization
Gym concept, main users and uses. Once this is firmly decided, it's time to think about layout and space utilization . The key to completing a ``practical, versatile, and easy-to-use gym'' is how deeply you can dig into a wide variety of topics. Below is a list of things you should check again.
What is the main usage?
First of all, you should not aim for a facility that has all the elements packed into it. Unless it's a large, limited facility in America or Europe, a ``gym that can do everything'' will turn into a ``gym that can do everything half-baked.''
Muscle training that targets individual body parts using strength machines. A fitness space centered around aerobic machines. A full-fledged strength space focused on quick lifts with free weights and heavy weight exercises.
Let's focus our limited space and budget on one thing and narrow down how we will use the gym we are about to build.
What kind of people will use it?
Which proportion of people use the gym, men or women?
The age group that actually uses it is 10s to 70s, which group has the highest volume?
Which category of training proficiency of users is most common: beginner, beginner, intermediate, or advanced?
The training machines/equipment that should be prioritized will vary greatly depending on the target group of the persona.
- Assuming beginner-level women → It is difficult to perform pull-ups as a vertical pull event → Prepare a lat pull machine
- Intended for men who are intermediate or above → Difficult to increase muscle hypertrophy with just regular back exercises → Prepare a plate-load type lateral row machine
- There are various levels, but the majority are in their teens to 20s → There is a high possibility that they will do it hard without considering injury → Prepare a bench pull table that is expected to be effective and has a low risk of injury
You should understand that even when preparing the same back training equipment or machines, the selection criteria will vary depending on the intended user.
Let's clearly define what kind of people will use the gym.
How many people is expected to use it?
Regarding space, it would be unrealistic to expand it to suit the target users. In Japan, most spatial issues are already decided at the outset.
That's why you have to make assumptions about the maximum number of people who will use the space and how many people you want them to use .
Let's consider a case where you expect more than 15 people to use your gym, even though it's about 100 square meters in size.
A style that uses a lot of strength machines will limit the variety of training you can do. However, if there is only one frequently used leg press or chest press machine, waiting time will only increase.
In this case, it is effective to minimize the number of strength machines and prepare multiple power racks . When building a gym, it is necessary to make assumptions such as limiting the training area to ensure safety while also allowing two people to perform different exercises around the rack at the same time.
Let's simulate the practical and realistic maximum number of users while imagining what kind of program prescription will be used at the gym you are about to create.
Is safety ensured?
Usage, characteristics of users, and number of users. Have you established a concrete image? As the situation gradually becomes clearer, the important thing to keep in mind is to ensure that you can train safely .
If safety is not ensured, people may get injured at the facility, or it may cause trouble between users. In the worst case scenario, it could even lead to a lawsuit.
In this article, we will be listing safety considerations for gym facilities, with a particular focus on things to be aware of when creating a free weight space.
●Position of power rack/squat rack
If you're planning on installing a power rack or squat rack in the gym you're building, first decide where to place the racks.
The basics are "the farthest corner in the back" . Please set it farthest from the entrance of your facility.
Unfortunately, in training facilities where free weights can be used, the area most likely to cause injuries and accidents is near the power rack.
Doing heavy squats and deadlifts can cause acute lower back pain or knee pain. However, more common accidents occur due to contact when replacing plates or when loading and unloading bars .
It is wise to install it in a location with the least amount of foot traffic and movement.
Even for experienced athletes used to free weights, the location of the power rack so close to the front of the facility can be extremely unsettling. You can't feel safe training in an environment where others are walking right behind you as you challenge yourself to lift once.
The rack is located at the very back, at the far end . Let's remember this theory first.
●The free space itself is also in the back
I mentioned the rack layout first, but let's prepare a free space in the back zone near the power rack installed in the back. This means placing adjustable benches and bench press tables toward the back .
Free weights involve various movements depending on the event. The possibility of contact is much higher than on strength machines or cardio machines.
Additionally, users who mainly use free weights are generally beginners or above in training, so they tend to handle heavier weights.
After all, it is necessary to prepare the free space itself at the back.
●Position of dumbbell rack/plate rack
While keeping safety in mind, the positioning of the dumbbell rack and plate rack is where you can demonstrate your experience and arrangement skills.
It is essential that it be close to the space you will be using, but it does not necessarily have to be placed right in the back.
A dumbbell rack can be installed like a low wall to "divide" an inner space. It would be a good idea to deliberately place the plate rack in the center of a narrow movement space to save energy and make it possible to take it out from anywhere in a 360° direction.
Racks tend to take up a lot of space and are bulky, so if you can come up with an efficient layout without waste, you can make your space look great and give it a professional feel.
●What is the range of motion of the machine?
The last thing I would like to mention when talking about safety is that you should consider the range of motion of machines that have many different event arrangements .
Smith machines and cable machines can be used in a variety of ways, so they often take up more space than you originally thought.
I don't use the maximum amount of space every time, but when I try to do exercises with a high degree of freedom, there just isn't enough space and I end up colliding with the equipment next to me.
There are too many cases like this to laugh at. For machines with a large range of motion and a high degree of freedom, consider not only the exercise arrangement the facility has in mind, but also the maximum usage pattern.
Are you able to secure space?
When thinking about safety, what we need to think about in millimeters is securing space. From the perspective of building a facility, you definitely want to avoid creating dead spaces while giving maximum consideration to safety.
Let's take a look at the points you should definitely consider.
●Check the height first
When thinking about securing space, the first thing to check is the height . There are cases where the width and depth can be adjusted, but there is nothing you can do about the height.
If you are planning an event such as a box step-up where you jump while increasing height, or if you are installing a power rack or pull-up machine, you will want a height of 3M for that area.
As mentioned above, when building a gym facility, the conditions for the space itself are often determined to some extent.
However, if you are involved in selecting a location or space, please don't forget to check the height first.
This is because people who have little experience building a training gym from scratch tend to forget the importance of ``height.''
●Space required for attaching and removing the plate
If you're thinking about building a gym that focuses on free weights, don't forget to estimate the space required to attach and remove the plates .
Many people use plate-loaded type leg press machines with heavy weights, and use multiple 20kg plates.
There are surprisingly many facilities that have very little space to put them in and take them out, so you have to struggle not only to train, but to change them.
The layout, where you have to wait patiently for the person next to you to change the plate in the adjacent power rack, is similar to coin parking in the city center.
If an area feels too forced, most people will stop using it.
To avoid putting the cart before the horse, check the width you will need to put it on and take it off from the beginning.
●Consider the flow of people and the flow of people in and out.
In order to run training efficiently, one thing to keep in mind is the flow line .
First, we need to consider the flow of movement. For example, when trying to implement a training program,
- Perform the first event in front of the right-hand side of the facility → Perform the second event in the back space → Move to the front on the left and perform the third event...
Facilities like this lack the perspective of creating flow lines for the flow of training.
As mentioned above, free weights, which are heavy and are often done at the beginning of a program, are placed at the back.
Even in the back space, the right side is the area for the lower body, and the left side is the area for the upper body, so when implementing a program, I would like you to create a flow line that allows you to move as efficiently as possible.
Another point to consider is the flow of people in and out .
The area near the entrance of the facility where the most people come and go should be made wider, and the space needed for movement narrower as you move deeper.
If you have multiple aerobic machines like exercise bikes or strength machines like leg curls, place them so that they naturally enter and exit from the right side. Let's set the details first, such as placing the left side close to the wall and leaving about 30 cm of space on the right side.
●Can ventilation and disinfection be done easily?
Another important factor is whether the gym can be used hygienically for a long time. Because gyms cannot do laundry and share equipment and machines with many people, it is necessary to keep the gyms easy to ventilate and disinfect.
This has been a factor to consider for some time, but it has become particularly important since 2020. Continuous ventilation and frequent disinfection are essential since the spread of the new coronavirus.
There will be some restrictions on the layout, but be sure not to crush areas with windows.
And if you have several options,
- aerobic area
- dumbbell rack area
should be placed near windows as a priority. This is because the risk of droplet infection is higher in the aerobic area, and the sharing of equipment in the dumbbell rack area is much higher than in other areas.
Make sure to thoroughly disinfect these two areas in particular while ensuring constant ventilation.
●Flexibility in arrangement
I would like to organize in advance whether arrangements need to be made within the facility depending on the situation. There is no problem as long as the usage is basically the same and the layout of the machine and equipment does not change.
But for example,
- When using a team, circuit training is conducted inside the facility because outdoor practice cannot be done due to rainy weather.
- Groups may use it to perform a strongman circuit (a series of several power events in succession).
- Occasionally serves as a venue for seminars and events.
If such a case is to be expected, it is necessary to design the space from the beginning in a way that makes it easy to arrange it.
For free weights, use an incline bench or plyo box. If it's a machine, design it in advance so that you can expand the space by moving something lightweight and easy to move, such as a rower or stationary bike.
If you can build a facility from scratch, you'll want to install the power outlet in an effective location to avoid waste. If you are using an existing space, you should consider arranging the outlets so that they do not become obsolete, just like with windows.
It is important to create a space that is approximately 1 meter long and 1.8 meters wide, even if it is just a part of the facility. When using a projector to display a screen, it is a good idea to take care to ensure the minimum necessary space.
●Frequency of collective drill use
Depending on the policy of the facility, there may be cases where collective drills (those that restore and activate bodily functions) are used extensively. In that case, at least one of the four corners of the entire space should be set aside as a "conditioning space."
The conditions for this area are:
- There is a wall that can be used
- Abundant training items
- Highly versatile floor arrangement
There are many drills that require a wall, such as leaning your back or supporting yourself with both hands. It is important to keep the wall stable and usable.
There is a lot of gear needed for collective drills, such as stretch poles, loop bands, foam rollers, and slide boards. Keep all the necessary equipment together while keeping in mind efficient storage without taking up too much space.
There is no need for a shock-absorbing training mat in this area. We recommend that you use a flooring material with no steps. This is because it is the most versatile. If you prepare the necessary number of slightly thick stretch mats for stretching events that require lying down, clients who need them can simply lay them out.
Training machine/equipment selection
Now, let's finally think about the selection of training machines/equipment. Conversely, don't think about equipment in detail until you've thought through the layout and space utilization stages. This is because it is not possible to decide on the equipment without determining the concept, main target of use, method of use, etc.
Make sure you don't end up making the wrong decision, ``I changed the layout because my favorite appliance wouldn't fit in the space.''
In this section, based on the factors we have considered so far, we will show you the criteria for selecting training machines/equipment.
Aerobic machines vs strength training machines
If you can't decide between the two, choose an aerobic machine . Of course, it depends on the concept and the main user group, but the biggest reason is that it is difficult to always have alternative exercises for aerobic exercise . As for muscle training machines, in many cases you can do it without using a machine as long as you have dumbbells, tubes, etc. Judgment should be made from the perspective of whether or not it can be replaced.
Muscle training machines vs free weight equipment
This alternative is the same as above. Basically, you should choose free weight equipment. This is because they are mostly replaceable and generally cheaper than machines. The exception is the case where there is a reason why it has to be that machine . For example, if the facility focuses on rehabilitation, leg presses and leg extensions that can be done in a fixed position would be a high priority.
Authentic equipment vs. training accessories
It has to be an event called ☓☓ ! In reality, such cases are rare. If it seems possible to replace existing training accessories with training accessories, you should choose a low-risk option.
If you are still torn between these two options after considering the factors we have considered so far in this article, it is better to give priority to training accessories. Simply because the risk is low. Full-fledged equipment tends to be expensive in general, and the ways in which it can be used are often limited.
Training machine/equipment design
Although it shouldn't be your top priority, design is something you should pay particular attention to. Users are more likely to want to use a facility if they say, ``I feel better after training here!'' and the overall evaluation of the facility will be higher.
Here are some points to consider when thinking about design.
●Unity of gym design
When thinking about design, the most important thing is a sense of unity . And the core of this sense of unity is the layout . Let's imagine.
Power racks, which often handle heavy loads and feel oppressive, are lined up from the back of the facility to the far end. On the left side, there are several compact but neatly arranged cardio machines. There are windows nearby for ventilation. In front of it is a space where you can do all kinds of collective drills, and a wide variety of training gear is compactly organized. In the right area, there is a plate load type machine and leg press for the lower body in the back. On the front right side, machines that mainly focus on the upper body are lined up so that they fit snugly together. In the center of the back is an exquisitely placed dumbbell rack, subtly dividing the space where you can safely do free weights. The plate tree is placed so that it is easy to reach from any position without interfering with movement. The flow line near the entrance is wide, allowing users to smoothly perform their training without stress.
how about that?
Facilities like this look stylish and cool. Having a clear intention and concept in the layout of the entire facility creates a sense of unity throughout. So I want you to feel safe. The first thing to do is to clear each of the items mentioned above one by one and make a decision. The result is a naturally unified layout that creates a sexy atmosphere.
If you can clear this point, the rest is just a matter of fine-tuning.
If the colors of each training machine or equipment are all different, it will result in points being deducted. The color will be red to match the concept of the facility. Add the team color blue as a focal point. Although it will cost a little more, take advantage of optional settings such as changing the points for dumbbells and barbells. Small differences will make a big difference and will be greatly reflected in the atmosphere of the facility.
●Risks of unifying manufacturers
I am confident in the sense of unity in the layout. If you want to standardize the appearance on top of that, wouldn't it be best to standardize the manufacturers you purchase?
There may be many people who have such thoughts. It's not your fault. But think about it.
When choosing a manufacturer, the top priority should be functionality. How easy is it to use and how few problems occur? Of course, different manufacturers have different areas of expertise.
Some manufacturers are good at making plate-load type machines, others are strong in aerobic machines, and others have a reputation for Olympic bars.
There are very few cases where it is possible to build a gym with ample budget and no upper limit. In order to get closer to the best gym on a limited budget, it would be better to consider leveraging the strengths of each manufacturer.
Please refer to the article below as it may be helpful when choosing a training machine.
My long post is finally nearing its end. I would like to thank you for your cooperation thus far. As a token of my gratitude, I would like to send you some advice as a summary.
Avoid making fatal mistakes
First of all, this is it. Avoid fatal injuries that will leave you feeling traumatized and wondering, ``I'll never build a gym again.'' To that end, let me tell you one typical and biggest failure pattern.
``Introducing large appliances that become bad debts.'' This is it.
A typical example is a cable smith machine that looks great and can be purchased at a relatively low price. When I bought it and installed it, it didn't slip well. There are many breakdowns. However, there are many users and it is crowded, so there are always complaints. They take up a lot of space and require a lot of money to remove.
This pattern of failure should be avoided at all costs. I just happened to mention this as an example, but I'm not trying to tell you that you should never include a cable machine. Concept, target users, layout and functionality. After carefully examining these factors, we will decide on installation.
This is just my experience, but if you're creating a gym from scratch, it's best to fill it with less than too much .
There is no surefire way to succeed, but anyone can make it a tough battle. It's about carefully breaking down typical patterns of failure.
Visit the facilities of seniors who have opened their own businesses and listen to their advice.
Although everyone would probably do this, it would be beneficial to tour the facilities and get advice from seniors who have already opened their own gyms or who have experience in building gyms.
At this time, there are two things you should keep in mind. One is to "listen to failure stories rather than success stories." The other thing to do is to ``without any preconceived notions, try to list out the points that will go wrong as if you were using the gym.''
Experienced people often only want to talk about what went well. It's for show, and I don't want to mention my failures if possible. But it is from the mistakes of our predecessors that we can gain the most fruit.
``Now that you are successful, are there any moments where you think, ``I didn't do this...'' or do you have any regrets?''
Try to get to the heart of the matter while trying to listen in a way that tickles the other person's pride.
When people continue touring facilities, there is a tendency for many people to become satisfied with the act itself. Personally, I try not to tour more than one facility on the same day. This is because it is difficult to come up with fresh insights.
That's why I want you to be aware of the second point: ``Raise the points that won't work as if you were using the gym without any preconceptions.''
“Oh, why is there a lat pulldown machine in this location?”
“It would definitely be more efficient to place that preacher curl table diagonally in front of you.”
What you need to be careful about at this time is not to fall into thinking that the answer is correct . Ultimately, there is no fixed answer when it comes to gym design. As long as there is a solution that satisfies owners and users, that's fine. Be wary of facilities that are too rigid in their ideas of what they should do, as they will lose some of their appeal.
Still, this kind of perspective is the best practice to improve your training gym design skills.
Just be careful not to say anything out loud in front of the seniors who kindly allowed me to observe, and write down at least three key points when you return home.
Let's talk to Uchino Gym
Creating a training gym is profound. Experience points are also a big factor. If you read this article and feel like, ``I'd like to hear what you have to say...'', please feel free to contact Uchino Gym .
The staff's knowledge of equipment is top-notch, and they never hide negative points or disadvantages for the sake of sales.
I have been involved in creating the layouts of many gym facilities, and in 2019 I was in charge of the design and layout of Nihon University's Inagi Performance Center, one of the largest university training facilities in Japan.
We have machine/equipment professionals, personal gym professionals, and sports field professionals. It is also wise to utilize people with professional knowledge and experience.
I've been thinking about it so much that I don't know where to start or how to think about it... For such people, it may be possible to grasp an image that can be used as a starting point.
Gyms are always evolving
A training gym facility is a living thing. It becomes a place where you breathe and metabolize every day. I want them to have the will to constantly evolve. Above all, make it a place where you can feel enchanted every day.
A place that is more attractive and easier to use than it was a year ago, six months ago, or a month ago. Building a training gym is not the end. In fact, it just started from there. It is "the end of the beginning."
I'll end this long article with the sincere hope that this article will help you get started from a good starting point.