Ask Greg: Issue 150
Greg Everett

Alex Asks: What would you say about the state of weightlifting when iconic gyms like yours and Coach Pendlay's are finding it difficult to thrive. Do you believe our sport is still on the up swing? My plan is to model my gym like yours. Thanks coach Greg.
Greg Says: First, it’s important to understand that in neither case was it an issue of a gym not thriving or surviving. Pendlay worked for Muscle Driver USA, which was an equipment company that created a weightlifting team and provided a space for them to train in their warehouse—it was never a gym business. They made a number of mistakes, such as taking on too many lifters with too large of stipends and hiring too many coaches, but the entire company shut down, not just the weightlifting program, and that was the result of poor business management, the details of which I won’t get into. Suffice to say, the shutdown of that weightlifting team is in no way a reflection of the state of the sport in the US.
Our decision to close our commercial gym was based on quite a few factors. First, the entire reason we opened a gym in 2008 was that we needed a place to train our competitive weightlifting team, and in order to pay for that, we needed to run commercial gym programs—weightlifting alone wouldn’t pay the bills, especially back then. In fact, there wasn’t even the slightest demand for weightlifting classes until years later.
In other words—and this is not to say we didn’t love our clients and enjoy helping them—we never had any interest in running a gym business. It was a necessity for what we actually wanted to do, which was coach competitive weightlifters and produce educational content for lifters and coaches.
Second, you have to understand our location. We were located in the heart of Silicon Valley, which is where I’m from, but which transformed radically in the last few years from a fairly low-key area with relatively high and stable income (good for a gym business) to an insanely crowded, fast-paced, astronomically expensive area thanks to its sudden saturation by tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and many more and their extremely high-income employees. It became not only a place we didn’t want to live any longer, but also a place that was literally impossible for competitive lifters to afford (as an example, a basic apartment in a not even nice area was $2200/mo+).
Fortunately, by this time, we were well enough established that we no longer needed a gym business to survive—the gym itself was never our primary income source anyway. So we made the decision to get back to what we really intended to do in the first place—coach our competitive team and produce content.
The market these days will definitely support weightlifting in a gym much better than it did a few years ago. That said, how well it does will depend largely on the location, the quality of coaching, the competition in the area, the real estate costs, etc., and it’s extremely unlikely that any gym will be able to survive on weightlifting alone. It’s grown, but it’s still simply not that big, and the reality is that the majority of athletes have very little money—that’s why offering other services like general fitness and personal training are usually necessary to cover the overhead of a facility.
Start conservatively and be forced to grow—don’t open an enormous gym with enormous overhead right out of the gate. Do your homework and know the local market. Don’t assume people will flock to you just because you have platforms and bumper plates.

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