Commercial Gyms in South Africa

Commercial Gyms and Health Clubs?

commercial gym equipment

commercial gym equipment

So you want to start a commercial gym? In this article I will take you through some of the basics that you will need to know in order to get onto the first rung of successful modern day health club, starting a gym business and gym ownership.


If you just want to get down to those questions then you can just skip this very interesting review of where gyms and health clubs come from.

Modern Day Health Clubs and Commercial Gyms

The modern day health club flowed from the original hardcore gyms that were made so famous by legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jane Fonda, (now those were the days!).

Hardcore gyms were;

  • individually owned
  • specialised
  • small
  • and cheap.

During the 1980s a number of gym owners began catering to a more exclusive market and the idea of a “Health, Racquet and aquatic club was born”.

These clubs marked the overall health aspect as well as facilities that were noncore to the gym such as pools, tennis courses, squash courts, restaurants, steam baths, saunas, executive changing facilities and other non core, yet marketable facilities. In addition you would have found high quality commercial gym equipment. 

What Facilities To Expect Modern Commercial Gyms and Health Clubs

commercial gym equipment

commercial gym

As you begin working out your strategy in terms of your health club offering there are a number of questions that you need to begin answering. The first question involves your building renovations.

How big will your gym be and what fitness activities will you be offering?

Here are the main areas that one would expect in a multipurpose facility. Throughout your strategic planning phase and development of your health club business plan you will be deciding on the how these feature in your new gym.

I will give some estimated floor areas of my example health club design based on a total gym floor area of 2000 square metres.

Cardio Vascular Area

commercial gym equipment

Exclusive Health Club

Size 320 square meters of gym training floor, 80 cardio stations.

In a commercial gym this is the most important and impressive area; Get it right the first time with great looking and working gym equipment, (not broken home treadmills!)

In this area you might choose a combination of the following cardio vascular machines

Weight Training Floor.

commercial gym equipment

Personal Training Center

Size 400 square metres, 100 stations

The weight training area is sometimes called the free weights or strength training area or resistance training area. You will be buying gym equipment machines and free weights for this areas including dumbbells, barbells, gym benches, squats racks, smith machines, leg presses, bench presses and power racks.

You will also most probably be adding some commercial gym equipment and selectorised weight stack gym machines as well including lat pull downs, pec decks, pec fly machines, seated rowing, leg extension, leg curls, standing calf raise and seated calf raise machines. See examples of commercial selectorised gym equipment here.

Circuit Training Area

commercial gym equipment

commercial gym equipment

Size 100 square meters and 24 stations.

Circuit training areas are generally the easiest to use for new members and can be the most cost efficient areas when designed and equipped properly.

You will buying a mix of commercial gym equipment, selectorised gym equipment and abdominal body weight benches for his area. It is also common to place a large podium step in the circuit area.

Aerobics Floor.

commercial gym equipment

commercial gym equipment

Size 200 square meters, capacity for 50 people.

With the recent introduction of the “Grid” training at the Virgin Actives around the world, the general use aerobics floor has suddenly become a much more interesting place to be.

What used to be an area for pilates, aerobics steps, aerobics bats and the odd aerobics dumbbells has now expanded into a place for some really hard core workouts.

Now that you will be utilising your aerobics floor for circuit training and functional training then your investment in this asset will be far more efficient. 

Stretching and Core Area

commercial gym equipment prices

Suspension Training

Size 50 square meters

Gym Equipment that you will be buying for your stretching, core training and functional training area include items found under aerobics equipment and crossfit training equipment including medicine balls, aerobics balls, suspension training, kettelbells,

Ladies Only Gym

commercial gym equipment prices

Gym Programs and Advice

Size 60 square metres

A gym within a gym has worked well in all the gyms that I have seen offer the facility. I notice that one of the bigger groups of gyms in South Africa, Planet Fitness embraced the idea whereas the biggest group in South Africa, Virgin Active did not.

The success of the big ladies only franchises should tell us that separate and private areas for ladies to exercises is still a desirable facility in gyms.

You don’t need much, but it does have to be posh, smart, clean and cater for the full range of exercises including.

Cardio machines

I would offer at least one treadmill, exercise bike, recumbent bike, rowing machine, stepper and elliptical trainer

Strength Training

You would need to offer a minimum of one adjustable bench, dumbbell set, fixed barbell set, smith machine or squat rack, cable machine or functional trainer,

Stretching and functional area

You will need to offer a small range of aerobics steps, kettle bells, resistance bands, aerobics balls, medicine balls and other fitness accessories.

Spinning and Indoor Studio Bikes

opening a gym

Studio Cycling

Size 50 square meters, 25 spin bikes

Spinning studios and indoor cycling studios are the only equipment that you need for your spin studio. If you can get a great energetic spin instructor involved here then you can really create a vibe and a big demand for spin classes.

Swimming Pool and Surrounding Areas

Size 420 square meters, including the area surrounding a half Olympic pool.

Increasingly gyms are engineering out the wet areas and swimming pools, which means that this example gym could have been a size of 1500 square meters and still catered for pretty much the same membership base.

Bearing in mind that a swimming pool can cost as much as R3m (that’s 3 million Rands) for a landlord or developer then its no small surprise that the budget gyms opening up around South Africa are abandoning the swimming pool as a gym facility.

Changing Rooms

Male and female changing rooms in modern gyms are a peripheral features, yet they can make or break the sales presentation, (assuming you are up to date enough to have a sales team in your gym). Because people can relate the bathroom back to their own bathroom at home you will be making a good investment if your changing rooms, looks great, smells fresh, is clean and hygienic and offers some creature comforts such as well build lockers, clean benches, working showers, hair dryers etc.

Size 100 square metres each

  • Changing rooms would include the following
  • Shower cubicles 8
  • Toilets 4
  • Wash basins 4
  • Sauna or steam room 1 in each changing room
  • Lockers, depending on size 40 to 80 per changing room

Child Care Facility

The childcare facility in a gym has become a very common feature in gyms around the world. I have noticed some gyms that cater for specialised markets don’t offer this facility but I think that is a mistake.

One of the biggest objections to joining a gym is the fact that family commitments need to take preference over other commitments, even health and fitness related.

A childcare facility should be staffed by someone who has patience, people skills and some basic training including first aid. If you can make this an inviting place to come to then, just like the McDonalds, the kids will nag their parents to go to the gym.

Juice Bar

Size 50 square meters

Not all gyms profit from having a juice bar. One very large gym close to where I live has opted for a couple of vending machines.

In my experience this is always best to outsource to someone who knows what they are doing and generate a rental for it. As a gym owner you will have a number of other fish to fry.

Sales and administration offices

100 of the reason for being in business is done in less that 10% of the gym. That is the sales and administration offices. My design has the following office space

  • 1 Club and or sales manager.
  • 4 sales presentation offices.
  • 1 administration office.
  • 1 Fitness managers office.
  • 1 Personal trainers shared office.

If you don’t have a sales team for you gym yet, then you really need to talk to me in order to maximise your profitability. A sales and marketing function is absolutely vital for your gym. I have been into so many gyms where are receptionist tosses over a dog eared laminated list of prices so I can choose the membership that I want.

Here the thing, I know what the prospects want, its what we all want!

  • No commitment
  • No expenses
  • Simple and no hassle.

The last one I can help you with as a business person, the first two will cause the relationship to end in tears I tell you.

If you want to stay in business then you need to keep your eyes wide open when it comes to sales technologies such as rapport, buying styles, push presentations, choice architecture and neuro-marketing.

Cheap memberships can work some of the time and contract free memberships don’t work in South Africa. Yes, I know the gym has tried it down the road, but it still does not work.

I cover all of these areas in my online and face to face sales training courses.

So what else might you find in a modern health club?

There are many other facilities that I have seen in gyms.

  • Put put golf course.
  • Specialised aqua aerobics pools.
  • Weight training dungeons.
  • Dedicated mind body studios.
  • Tennis courts
  • Squash courts

Some of these I would include, some I would not be too keen on.

Top Ten Questions for New Gym Owners When Opening a Gym

opening a gym

Commercial Gym

The top ten questions every gym owner should be asking before opening a new fitness facility:

  1. Site choice: where will my gym go?
  2. Equipment choice: commercial or light commercial? What make? What type of warranty?
  3. Design of facility: Who will design it? How much do they know about gyms?
  4. Marketing campaign: Who will I sell to? How will they know that I am opening a gym?
  5. Finance options: Who is lending me money? What type of business plan do they want to see?
  6. Pre-opening campaign: How many members will I have on the day I open? Will I cover costs from day one?
  7. 100 day plan: What does my countdown look like? Is it realistic?
  8. Staffing sourcing and training: Who will I employ? How will I train them to look after my company?
  9. Competition Analysis: Who am I competing with? Are my ideas relevant to the industry?
  10. Pricing and Membership Structure: How much will I charge? How can I ensure maximum return and efficient use of my resources?

If you have your own gym already have you considered:

  • Equipment upgrades: When and how do I upgrade my equipment to remain competitive? Some bigger groups do this every three years.
  • SWOT analysis of your business: How much has the market changed since I opened? How much will it change over the next year? Do I have a plan B?
  • Revising your pricing and membership structure: Do I have a two-tiered membership approach to maximise return from a diverse market?
  • Reviewing the usage and relevance of your current facilities: How can I maximise my returns from the finite floor space? What new facilities and services should I offer?
  • New membership growth rate: Are you satisfied with the number of new members that you are currently enrolling?
opening a gym

Commercial Gym

We have extensive experience of direct marketing of health clubs, gym design, management and fitness facility operations.

Contact us for a complimentary needs analysis and questionnaire. We will design a solution to match your available budget.

Gym Set up Services include

• Design of floor plan.
• Provision of 3D CAD gym design.
• Finalising business plan. The base plan must be supplied by the client.
• Supply of legal contracts and administration paperwork.
• Guidance in terms of access control and administration systems.
• Telephone and email support concerning marketing and operational issues.
• Assistance with the design of primary memberships as well as secondary sales offerings.
• Basic design of marketing campaign.

On site Gym Setup assistance can include:

• Training of staff; usually sales and operational staff over 2 to 5 days.
• Running of a presales campaign.
• Evaluation of premises and various locations.
• Development of business plan and strategy sessions.

Onsite assistance is also offered anywhere in South Africa and is billed at a daily rate.

Discounts can be discussed for longer periods of training or of running a pre-sales campaign.

This type of assistance is invaluable when it comes to making a long term decision about business location and or strategy.

The standard strategy session is usually run over two days. It utilises the Clem Sunter structure used in the “Games Foxes Play”. This methods works through a whole series of potential scenarios and helps the owners arrive at a considered business strategy for your new gym

This is best value service which we offer as it allows you to tap into more than 40 years of combined commercial health club experience.

Most small gym owners spend between R250 000 and R1000 000 on equipment with us.

We offer 5% of that as free consultation.

For clients who have not finalised premises, we suggest that they simply make use of us on a consultancy basis. Further down the line, a discount will be passed on if and when equipment is bought.

When using our consultancy services, all of your designs and business plan advice will be yours to keep and there will be at no stage any obligation for you to make a purchase from our company if you decide to use another supplier.

Don’t spend your hard earned money on being schooled in hard knocks and risky ventures.Get it right the first time when you buy equipment for your gym and set up the strategic plan. Help is just an email and click away.

you thinking about spending more than you should on quality advice? How would you know until you speak to us to us to tell us that you need to see more information?

See how you feel after you look at what we have to say then feel free to call me to see how else we can assist you in achieving your goals quickly and with the best combination of services and low price. You can call me after reading this on 071 863

That’s the end of this brief introduction on the commercial gym.

See some more of my articles on how to set up a commercial health and how to start a gym.

Here is to your success.

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About miles
Hi! my name is Miles Harrop. I am an educator, writer and life coach specializing in fitness, wellness, human behaviour and brain based coaching. I help you to transform your body by helping you buy the right gym equipment first time around, and to learn how to "change your mind" so that you can transform your body easily and effortlessly. Let me help you achieve your goals today!