Dave Thomas Owner The Business of Lifting WeightsWritten by Dave Thomas
Owner, Performance360

Provide better fitness to people and your gym will grow.

The end.

I wish it were that easy, but I have to fill some words because this is a blog post and it can’t just be one sentence. Or, maybe it can and I am doing it wrong. Either way, I’d like to quickly chat about something that’s very important for your gym, and something that frankly a lot of places automatically assume they are knocking out of the park when maybe they aren’t.


It’s easy to get caught up in attracting and converting customers, brand differentiation and a lot of things that matter very much and are critical to our success as gym owners, but none of that matters a lick if you’re not providing a great service once people are in the door. You can have the fanciest sales strategies in the world, the best customer service, but it’s moot if your fitness offering is lackluster.

Today’s quick and dirty post is all about taking a step back and evaluating what you provide and how you provide it. I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to run your programming. We all have different philosophies and niches, and a lot of different idealogies work for a lot of different people. However, I am certain of three successful commonalities that any school of thought shares, that I keep at the top of mind to help me re-calibrate every time I put together a new cycle for our members.

Is it simple?

I live by a very strict personal mantra when writing workouts. Simplicity is what people stick to, complexity is what drives people away. Though our members might disagree from time-to-time judging from the WTF quizzical looks we sometimes receive during walkthroughs (ahem, 3131 tempo work), a large part of our training success is that it’s easy to pick up what we’re trying to do, and it’s easy to stick with it.

The foundation of our training are simple, compound movements that are performed with regularity, complimented with a dash of complexity for new motor learning and to keep it fresh.

Complexity is like salt. The amount matters.

If a movement has a very, very steep learning curve to master and it’s not something that can benefit most people, then you might want to ask yourself if it needs to be in your program. Never forget that the basics are the basics for a reason. Believe in them and never abandon them.

Does it progress all levels?

This is a big one, and one of our treasured philosophies at Performance360. I am not a believer in separate classes for fitness level at all. For some places it works great, but I don’t personally like the idea of classicism in a place that is supposed to bring people together, and I am of the mindset that if someone thinks they are too good or advanced to get benefits from the basics then they can go elsewhere.

The key is making sure they are in fact still getting benefits from the basics in the exact same setting a new athlete is learning how to body weight squat. Here’s a simple question to assess this. When you perform the back squat, is everyone doing the same percentage? Or do you have deviations left and right of the board depending on experience level?

At our gym, beginners do not touch a barbell until they’ve passed certain checkpoints, and we know that trained athletes need percentages greater than 85% on a consistent basis if they wish to continue to get stronger, so we simply have three levels of movement in a given class.

It might look a little something like this.

6 x 8 Goblet Squats –> 5 x 5 Back Squats @ 50-75% –> 4×2 Back Squat @ 90%

Everyone is performing the same movement (squat) at relatively similar timing, but individually deviating for what makes most developmental sense.

One workout. Everyone progresses. As you can see there’s approximately zero rocket science behind this, just a little bit of basic knowledge and common sense.

Is it goal oriented?

Let me just say that I don’t think there is anything wrong with a “random” workout. I think that we tend to take writing workouts too seriously when it comes to Gen Pop, but there does need to be a goal associated with the workout, even if it’s just, “Train the posterior chain”, or “Work your fucking ass off.” If you have a plan of some sort and can effectively relay that to people about to perform it, then you get buy-in and a sense of purpose with the workout. With that, people return.

When zooming out, we used to have a very loose structure to our programming, but when zoomed in, there has always been a precise plan for that day. A year ago, we made the switch to more structured zoomed out mesocycles where, for example, we work on squats, carpet cleaning move out and hang cleans, and kettlebell windmills for six weeks as the main focus. Both have worked very well for us, but I like the structured mesocycles a bit better.

The important takeaway is that the common denominator to however you program is that there must be a “why” attached to everyday, and it must be relayed and coached to your athletes performing it. It must be beaten into the ground.

Ultimately, I don’t think programming is a complicated equation. Keep it simple, make sure you have systems in place to target each level of athlete that comes through your doors, and make sure there is a “why” behind the day that’s preferably part of a bigger plan. Stick to this recipe daily and I predict you see your current members attendance rise, and your new membership follow suit.

Questions or comments? I would love to hear your thoughts on successful programming or struggles in providing it, so drop ’em below.