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How Top HVLP Gyms Are Driving Growth in 2024

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Execs from Chuze Fitness and Crunch Fitness, two of the fastest-growing gym brands in America, share how they plan to acquire and retain members in the coming years
This article is adapted from a version that originally appeared in ATN’s 2024 State of Fitness & Wellness 2024 report, available for download here

Big-box gyms continue to be the lifeblood of the fitness industry, and the primary way most people experience in-person fitness

Despite a tough real estate market and increased competition from boutique and virtual fitness brands, the prognosis for gyms remains strong. This seems particularly true for high-value, low-price (HVLP) operators, who have struck a chord with cost-conscious consumers, including Gen Z

Athletech News spoke with executives from two of the fastest-growing HVLP gym brands to get a sense of how they plan to drive growth and win members in the coming years.

Crunch To Expand Recovery & Tech Offerings 

Crunch Fitness is one of the world’s largest – and fastest-growing – gym chains with over 2.5 million members and 460-plus franchise locations. The HVLP operator opened roughly one club per week in 2023 and is eyeing a similar expansion pace in 2024. 

Chequan Lewis, the recently named president of Crunch, identified recovery and tech as two areas of focus for the brand in 2024 and beyond. 

“We believe recovery is emerging as a noteworthy trend as more consumers begin to understand its importance for health and longevity – from reducing the risk of injury to enhancing performance and promoting overall well-being,” Lewis tells ATN. “For many fitness enthusiasts, recovery will become a fundamental component of their fitness regimen.”

Chequan Lewis (credit: Crunch Fitness)

Crunch will develop “an even more robust ‘Relax & Recovery program in clubs to meet this emerging need,” Lewis adds.

As for tech, Lewis highlighted Crunch’s groundbreaking partnership with Amazon, which made it the first gym company to enable Amazon One palm-based entry for its members. Amazon One tech is available at select Crunch locations nationwide, where members can check in by swiping their hand over a sensor rather than have to rely on a key card or smartphone app.

“Everyone wants a more frictionless experience, so the integration of technology into fitness facilities is likely to become more widespread,” Lewis says. “Our Amazon One pilot points forward to likely greater adoption with increased awareness and expansion. We will look to stay on the cutting edge in reducing friction throughout the member experience.”

credit: Crunch Fitness

Asked about challenges facing big-box gyms, Lewis cited inventory as a pressing concern for Crunch as it pursues further expansion. The “No Judgements” gym chain is expecting to open its 500th club soon and is continuing to sign new franchise agreements.

“We are always on the hunt, alongside our franchise partners, for viable locations for new clubs,” Lewis says. “Identifying available retail spaces that fit the size requirements necessary for a Crunch gym, at a reasonable investment level, is a challenge.”

credit: Crunch Fitness

As a relative newcomer to the fitness industry, Lewis, a former Pizza Hut executive, maintains that while trends are important, it’s important that fitness and wellness brands stick to the fundamentals. 

“Consumers tend to follow the latest fitness industry trends and fads that they believe will get them the quickest and easiest results. Sometimes, our industry feels deeply reactive to these trends,” Lewis says.” I think we can better serve people on their fitness journey by sticking to – even if innovating on – the fundamentals of fitness and exercise. We should be aware of trends, but we cannot be captive to them.”

Chuze Fuels Expansion With Acquisitions, Strength Training

With over 50 gyms across the country and more slated to open soon, Chuze Fitness has emerged as a new leader in the HVLP gym space.

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According to co-founder and CEO Cory Brightwell, Chuze’s expansion has been fueled by well-timed acquisitions, the strategic use of technology and an ability to adapt to industry trends with innovative in-club offerings. 

“Post-COVID, we’ve noticed that people are focusing a lot more on mental well-being, and of course on free weight usage, as opposed to cardio,” Brightwell tells ATN. “To tap into the free weight craze, we’ve developed ‘Lift Labs,’ which are access-controlled areas featuring free weight equipment … to give our members a more private and less chaotic free weight space to enjoy.”

Cory Brightwell (credit: Chuze Fitness)

On the mental well-being side, “We’ve also put additional emphasis into connecting mental well-being and physical exercise by leaning into enhancing our mind/body class options such as infrared heated yoga and Pilates,” Brightwell says. 

credit: Chuze Fitness

Brightwell adds that big-box gyms face the challenge of needing to integrate technology to lower operating costs, including labor, while at the same ensuring they don’t lose sight of the need for the human touch.

“Rising operating costs continue to burden most operators, and we’ll all need to find ways to leverage technology and other creative automation opportunities,” he says. “Chuze thrives on human connections, so while ensuring that we keep human presence and human interactions present in our gyms, we’ll still need to find a hybrid option in order to stay competitive.”

Overall, Brightwell is bullish on the outlook for fitness and wellness brands in 2024 and beyond. 

“The fitness and wellness space is in better shape this year than last,” he says. “Last year was still a year of post-COVID recovery, and I think this year is the year of stabilization. I believe the industry is now poised to grow with a new foundation that is stable, and a tailwind of consumer education and focus on mental and physical well-being.”

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