What does a modern cardio zone look like? The answer will largely depend on what kind of gym you're asking. Origin Fitness Sales Manager Dugald MacGregor has explored different sectors within the industry to discover what makes a great, modern, cardio zone.


Mainstream Health Clubs

In this article, 'mainstream health clubs' refer to any club that's a traditional local authority run gym, chain fitness facility or independent gym. Looking to entice a large section of the population, these fitness facilities need to provide a broad training offering.

We have found that when it comes to cardio training, the traditional treadmill is always the most popular piece of equipment. Both experienced and novice members will be familiar with it, and the movements involved are so instinctive that most people will be able to create and conduct their own workout, without much guidance from a member of staff.

The State of the UK Fitness Industry Report 2017 points out that the fitness industry currently has a penetration rate of less than 15%, meaning a facility appealing to a broad member base might do well by investing in self-explanatory and instinctive equipment.

Other traditional equipment includes upright and recumbent bikes, elliptical trainers, and a selection of rowing and stepping machines. For a mainstream health club, we would recommend that 80% of the cardio selection consists of equipment like this, which appeals to all and takes minimal introduction and supervision.

The remaining 20% of the cardio zone will be made up of specialist equipment, appealing to members who want a taste of high intensity interval training (HIIT). This equipment can live in the same cardio zone, or be moved to be closer to a functional space, in order for it to be incorporated in to circuits and HIIT sessions. Curved self-powered treadmills, spin bikes, ergometers and other HIIT cardio machines are your 'go to's' in this area.

Remember that this type of equipment will require proper induction and more detailed programming for it to be used effectively. Members could be intimidated by these types of machines, and may not know what to do without being shown by a member of staff or during an instructor led class.


Boutique Training Studios

With a boutique training studio, members are seeking a quick and intense training session instead of 30 minute endurance runs or 2km rowing sessions. 100% of the cardio equipment in this type of facility will need to work with the get-on-and-go training style that suits your HIIT programmes. We've written this in-depth article on how to recognise a great piece of equipment for HIIT.

If HIIT group sessions are the priority, then a large number of the same item may fit the class format. Alternatively, a group circuit would benefit from a variety of cardio equipment types to act as stations for your members. The main aspect of this type of facility however, if the training environment and the community feel associated with a boutique offering.

If budget is a factor, money might be better spent on one particular piece of HIIT cardio equipment, and a professional education session for staff to make sure they can make the most out of the accessories and cardio equipment available. This will increase their programming creativity and effectiveness and saves capital in the long run. Teaching them how to maximise energy inside the gym and teaching them how to create engaging online content might provide you a much bigger return than funneling all your funds into equipment alone.

If you do have the capital to set up an amazing cardio space within your studio, this is an exciting opportunity to provide your members with an incredible selection of unique cardio equipment. The great thing about HIIT is that is suitable to all types of members; weight lifters will like the fact that the sessions are short, and cardio bunnies will enjoy the way it boosts their performance beyond what long hours on a treadmill ever could. Big brands like Stairmaster have specialised in bringing amazing HIIT cardio equipment to the market, so you are not limited in your options when it comes to choosing your commercial gym equipment.


A Shift in Membership Structure

This year, we have seen an interesting shift take place within the fitness industry. The division between boutique studios and mainstream health clubs is blurring, as both sectors try to tap in to the other's membership base. Mainstream health clubs are starting to offer functional training classes and other instructor led programmes to satisfy their HIIT hungry customers. These types of classes are usually found in areas where a mainstream gym is facing boutique studio competition.

Some boutique studios, on the other hand, are starting to expand their class based structures by including new memberships. This allows existing customers to come in outside of class hours and use the space as a normal gym.


If you want to find out more about any of the topics covered, please do not hesitate to contact us for more advice and information.