BOOM: Beyond the Barbells (MULO Specialty Gyms Abound)

BOOM: Beyond the Barbells (MULO Specialty Gyms Abound)

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We live in a world obsessed with longevity and fitness. Exercise has long been a big business. The fitness industry had its renaissance in the 1970s and 80s when the widespread adoption of TV and insights into the role of working out in battling heart disease gave rise to the practices of aerobics and yoga. Celebrity trainers entered the scene, and people like Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons inspired consumers to rock their bodies in specialty gyms. Consumers started investing in in-home fitness equipment during that era too.

Many of us now wear watches, rings, and other gadgetry to track our steps, heart rate, and sleep quality. We track our carbs, calories, and fat on cloud-based apps.

But we also need to gather in places where we can work out with other fitness-minded people (or those who aspire to lose weight and gain muscle.) Some weight-loss centers have had a rocky road, due to digital media. New modalities like stretching have emerged to help our bodies get stronger and last longer.

Now, when people search “gym near me,” they find a wide range of options — for every schedule, price point, exercise preference, equipment inventory, and trainer preference.

The fitness industry is valued at more than $87B today and is expected to grow to $435B by 2028.

Among the multi-location gyms contributing to this growth are:

Mega MULO facilities, like:

  • Equinox (106 luxury clubs with a broad range of classes and amenities)
  • Lifetime Fitness (which has 150+ locations and is now developing co-working spaces and healthy living properties)
  • LA Fitness (with 550 sites, this is one of the largest MULO brands)
  • Anytime Fitness (growing at a fantastic rate, the franchise now has 3K clubs globally and differentiates itself with 24/7/365 availability)
  • Planet Fitness (another fast-scaling franchise, the company has 2.5K locations)
  • Orangetheory (part of the trend toward efficient programmed workouts, the brand has about 1.3K U.S. locations)
  • 24 Hour Fitness (with about 300 clubs, this brand has been around for 35+ years)
  • Crunch (starting in a basement gym, Crunch now has more than 400 locations and is franchised)
  • Gold’s Gym (founded in 1965, this MULO brand has grown to close to 740 locations globally, including locations in 38 U.S. states)

Specialty gyms and workout facilities have emerged over the past decade. But sometimes, these single-exercise gyms have scaled quickly and, hit hard by the pandemic and shifts in consumer behavior, have had to scale down. Among them are:

  • Indoor cycling gyms, like SoulCycle, Flywheel Sports, and Cyclebar
  • Yoga and pilates studios such as CorePower, Yoga6, Pilates Plus, and Fitness Firm. Many of these are franchises
  • Barre studios, such as Pure Bar and the Bar Method, focus on a combination of low-impact dance and fitness
  • Rowing, boxing, kickboxing, and “efficient” gyms (offering 30-minute workouts) are among the other trends we see growing around the U.S. Classes and facilities geared to the growing 55+ population are also emerging.
  • Luxury gyms are application-only and charge as much as $3,000/month for membership
  • Of course, consumers have other indoor sports opportunities, like the recently-launched Picklemall.

Technology has been incorporated into many exercise and wellness facilities — from scheduling training appointments and booking classes to measuring body fat to at-home workouts and food tracking.

Despite the do-it-yourself workouts offered by tech-powered companies like Peleton and Obé Fitness and the continued popularity of home gyms, many consumers still enjoy gathering with others to burn calories and build muscle.

In fact, about 70M people belong to gyms or other fitness facilities.

The industry is clearly here to stay. Whether consumers like to lift, squat, spin, box, kick, or gather at the barre. As long as we have belly fat and muscle, the need to shrink and grow seems timeless and profitable for multi-location (MULO) brands and franchises!



Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.