How to Start Your Own Fitness Gym


Are you an avid weightlifter or a gym rat? Do you want to make money doing what you love and spend your free time doing? If you want to run your own gym and believe you could grow a profitable one that matches your vision, you will find this article helpful as it provides the items needed for you to get started on the right path.

Table of Contents

Business Permit and License

​Before thinking too far ahead, you need to understand what permits and licenses may pertain to your business by checking out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website

Each state may have different oversight and requirements. Make sure to be thorough on your research into the state regulatory laws before opening a fitness gym. For example, California requires an automated external defibrillators and staff trained CPR among other basic necessities.

​Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An employer Identification number registration is required for local and federal taxes. Apply for it online at the IRS website.


Insurance is essential in providing protection from any unexpected event that may damage your property and being liable for accidents occurring on your premise. Therefore, it is important to know whether or not you are insured properly for various scenarios. Trusted Choice has a section of their website about the different liability and insurance coverage that are relevant to fitness gym. For example, insurance coverage ranges from facility to employees and even covers customers’ accidents and injuries.

Based on your location, specific state or local laws might minimally require a liability insurance to run your business. Regardless if you are required to have liability insurance or not, implementing a rule for all prospective customers to sign a waiver and release form is paramount for protecting your gym from being sued for self-caused injury.

Health and Fitness Certifications

To diversify your gym’s offerings, consider having a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and/or health coach available on site. Additionally, it may be helpful to have your own health and fitness certification. Doing so would initially help attract clients without hiring the positions above. If you need to obtain a loan or investment, the certification also adds authentic and professional credibility to your name.

ACE study programs offers certification exam study materials as well as other content to get you ready for certification in personal training, group fitness and other specialist certifications. NSCA is another option if you would like to have certification focused on strength and conditioning.


Location is crucial to the success of your business. The following are attributes you should look for in determining the locations best suited for your gym: proximity to highly-populated area and large companies, visibility from the street, transportation convenience (car, walking, public transport) and parking space availability. Another item to consider is whether or not the selected location already has an established fitness gym. If the location only contains fitness studio that only focuses on specialized classes, such as a yoga studio, then your gym should be able to assimilate to the area without fighting over clients.


Before finalizing on a rental space or buying any gym equipment, you should know how much space you will need. Do you plan to have enough space to run specific small group training session or are you envisioning a large facility that has nice amenities to complement the numerous gym equipment? You need to create a list of needs and wants that categorizes equipment and amenities you would like to offer your customers.

To Franchise or Not to Franchise

Whether to franchise or not should be a serious consideration. Franchising may not allow you to build your own brand, but its benefit may outweigh the negatives.

Yes to Franchising​

The franchise route could mitigate risk and be easier to promote your gym with an established brand. Franchise features and benefits greatly vary. Advantages of franchising is the access to a business model with proven success, training assistance and access to their proprietary technology. These technologies may consist of software applications and/or their gym management system.

However, based on the chosen franchise brand, the initial costs and monthly fee could be steep. Keep an eye out for the numerous miscellaneous fees, not including the royalty and franchising fee, that may be associated with franchising. You should also pay attention to whether the monthly royalty fees are directly linked to the gym’s gross revenue or if they are a fixed amount and incorporate that into your decision.

No to Franchising​

Being able to grow your own brand and vision is an exciting opportunity that would have been negated, if you chose the franchise route. Saying no to franchising allows you to build your own name. Be aware that this choice will need more responsibilities, such as marketing and developing your own system for managing and running your business.

Gym Equipment​

Unless you are specializing in a specific type of fitness program, you will need have a diverse set of gym equipment to fit everybody’s needs and maximize your customer base. The following are common items present in most fitness gyms.

Power Rack

A versatile and important equipment, especially for powerlifters, is the power rack. This contraption is great for doing free weight workout and you could position the bars according to the required height needed for exercises like squats and military press. Exercises could also be done safely as horizontal bars or nylon safety straps would impede the barbell and the attached weights from falling lower than the bars set position.

Based on the model and type chosen, other exercises such as bench press, dips, pull ups and shoulder press could be completed with the power rack. Rogue Fitness has an array of customizable power rack options available on their website.

Rubber Flooring​

Rubber flooring act as crash mats for dropping weights. They are important for preventing damage to equipment and the floor in scenarios where a customer accidentally or purposely drop weights to safe themselves from injury. Rubber Flooring Inc. has a large variety of options to choose from and should be worth checking out.

Bumper Plates

Bumper plates are great complementary equipment to the rubber flooring. They are commonly used for squats, deadlifts and Olympic lifting exercises. Fringe Sport has a nice collection for all your bumper plate needs.


Visit Fitness Giant’s website to pick different type of bench and tool options suitable for your gym.

Dumbbell and Barbell Set

Fitness Factory has a huge assortment of dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and racks to hold them.

Cardiovascular Equipment

Treadmills, elliptical machines, rowing machines and stationary exercise bikes are must-have items in your gym. Members will expect some variation of these options for their aerobic exercises. Nordic Track is an popular choice for these types of equipment.

Marketing Campaign

Upon denying the franchise route, a gym owner must be more involved in the marketing aspect if they expect to have a continual growth of new members. An online marketing presence is crucial and an opportunity to show how your gym is unique and stand out from other nearby competitors.

User Review and Recommendation Websites

It is common these days for most people to read reviews of local businesses online before even stepping a foot into the facility. Make sure you sign up to these type of websites, such as yelp and google review. You should also have a Facebook page dedicated to your gym that provide status updates on any unique activities or promotions offered.

Building a Website

Contracting a person to build a website for your business is common practice. However, if you rather save money and would like to routinely update your websites without having to contact your contractor each time, then you should look into GoDaddy and Squarespace. They are two great options for creating a professional looking website by yourself.

Online Ads and Search Online Optimization (SEO)

Online ads and SEO are additional options for increasing your business’ online presence. Both will take time and effort to implement properly, but is doable if you are willing to take the time to learn it. Otherwise, you can outsource these activities to a contractor or agency.


The following are software options that would reduce the time dedicated to administrative tasks.

Billing and Tracking Customers

Zen Planner is a cloud-based software for tracking and billing your customer. They automate the payment process, send your customers reminders and provide receipts for all transactions.


Gusto is a fantastic option for dealing with your staff’s payroll. Their web-based software has the ability to automatically process all payroll as well as file these payroll taxes for the local, state and federal level.

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