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What is the secret? How do you know where to begin?

I had the opportunity to chat with our design consultants hoping to gather “the secret formula” to what great gym design entails. Guess what I discovered? The number one goal in our fitness center design process is-- to understand our clients goals, the demographic they serve and the aesthetic they desire so as to best recommend an exciting product suite and functional layout that will accomplish those objectives. And while there is a systematic (and thoughtful) approach, for Foundation Fitness, every project is bespoke. Each design is unique and begins with curiosity & conversation.




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D Outdoor Fitness is HOT! Even when it’s cold out!

(If you haven’t given outdoor training space some thought, please do.)

(Leasing, Electrical, Flooring, Bolting things into place. Don’t skip this.)



A) Cardio Training

Regardless of clientele and training modality nearly every fitness center needs onsite cardio equipment. Why? Because these pieces are by far the most used and most popular equipment pieces in commercial gyms. Here are a few general guidelines followed by a few points specific to our large markets.

1. General Cardio Equipment Considerations For All Facilities

  • The treadmill is the most frequently used piece of cardio equipment in gyms. Start with this. With limited space and budget consider 1-2 treadmills or at least 1 and a second cardio choice. If space for three pieces, two treadmills is also a smart start.

  • Location, weather and air quality will impact the clientele’s ability and willingness to exercise outdoors. Even within a club chain, this may very by location (near a park, bike path, hiking trails) Consider these impacts when budgeting for cardio equipment.

  • Clientele: Why are guests coming to your gym? What is their age range? Are there other, outside options for cardio exercise? Should you consider lower impact pieces, upper body only, wheelchair accessible, etc. The answers may impact your second and third cardio choices.

  • Peak workout times: For many gyms, cardio equipment is heavily in demand when a gym opens, during lunch and during peak after-work hours. For schools and performance training centers, there may be large teams coming in to train all together. By examining traffic volume and potential pileups, we can more easily assess the overall number of cardio pieces for your training facility.

  • Space limitations: Always consider ceiling height, lighting design and the location of any ceiling fans that might fall above the cardio machines - you do not want to place a Climbmill (by Matrix), Escalate (by Intenza) or Palisade (by True) directly under a ceiling fan without sufficient clear headspace! If you’re limited by square footage we can be creative and look to those cardio pieces with a smaller footprint; such as the Versa Climber, rowers that can store upright, and indoor virtual bikes rather than the traditional treadmill and step climbers that occupy more floor space.

  • Cardio Console Selection: Most manufacturers offer a variety of monitor choices to go with their treadmills and other cardio such as stair climbers, ellipticals and some bikes. Console features range from simple LED screens with basic training programs and time tracking. Some have dial adjustments, others offer vivid touchscreen consoles that will connect to social Apps, can stream Netflix, offer smartphone charging and some even offer smartphone mirroring! HIIT style consoles are tailored with quick adjustments and training data. All this to say, we will carefully discuss features and benefits and guide your monitor selection to meet your and the athlete’s needs and your budget.

  • #RepairsHappen Have a plan for equipment downtime whether it’s a few back-up pieces to rotate through or other training suggestions that quickly pull lesser used equipment into play while a heavily used cardio piece is out of commission. We can also discuss a routine maintenance schedule.

2. Equipment by Market:

| Multi-Family Residential

A jumping off point for how many cardio pieces are needed is; Include one of each of 2 or 3 key types of cardio equipment per 100 leasing units. Example: If a building has 300 units, the design plan and budget should include 3 treadmills and 3 ellipticals, bikes, or rowers. Then add a few extras for variety and to capture attention when showing potential residents on tour, for example, virtual bikes with active screens will be seen across the room and add interest.

  • Industry Trends and Sizzle: We know when it comes to winning over residents they are all about the sizzle. We always strive to ensure that your fitness amenity “wows” prospective tenants in the same way your other features and amenities do. We’ll look at industry trends and include a wide variety of equipment to rival that of a commercial club to capture attention and show value when potential residents tour the fitness amenity.

  • Functional Training Zones - A very popular form of training with a versatile collection of often bright and colorful accessories, functional training suits the multi-family amenity gym perfectly - feeding both the want for on-trend training and the sizzle to help get leases signed. No onsite instruction? No problem as several tools such as the MARS* Digital Training Solution are available to guide users. We further discuss functional training in the strength section.

  • Technology and Virtual Fitness: Technology is growing as quickly within the fitness space as it is everywhere else and to ignore this is to be left behind. In multi-family residences where Apps often control much of the living environment, tenants are perfectly comfortable tapping a screen for workouts, instructional tips, workout data or simply to be entertained and escape into their workout. Foundation Fitness is at the forefront of fitness technology with our large collection of vendor partners. Some examples of the latest fitness equipment technology include:

    • MARS* Digital Training Solution from Escape Fitness is a medium or large sized tablet that attaches to the wall or directly to the Escape Octagon and other racks providing “How-to” instructional videos and workout or set recommendations via touchscreen for their wide range of functional training gear on an eye level, full sized screen.

    • MIRROR is a popular digital training tool that looks and hangs or leans like a standard mirror but when turned on, provides dozens of on-demand workouts and allows the athlete to self-monitor his/her body movement for proper form. Heartrate and workout tracking are also available. Some communities install a Mirror or two in the amenity gym or community spaces. And some have offered the Mirror (for the individual residential unit) as a gift with lease signing.

    • VIRTUAL BIKES; Les Mills Virtual Bike, SoulCycle Connected Bike, Stages Solo and Stages Bike (SB20) are right at home on the cardio floor in Multi-family residential and all commercial properties as tenants and employees choose to ride, connect and compete with large screens or tablets affixed to the bike. The screens serve your facility by glimmering with eye-capturing graphics, visible from across the room. And, the variety of rides and super engaging visuals plus feedback (data collection and in-ride coaching) make each ride fully immersive and the bikes a perfect cardio solution.

    • YOGA & MEDITATION: The demand for rest, recovery and restorative programming keeps growing. As tenants spend more time at home in today’s hybrid work environment, Multi-Family developments are looking for new ways to show tenants that their wellbeing and comfort matters. Now, the very act of taking time for one’s self has become even more convenient. Foundation Fitness proudly partners with Three Sages who has studied and carefully curated restorative wellness solutions and can deliver moments of peace and rejuvenation directly to your fitness amenity, office and individual residences. HD touchscreens and a selection of accessories are put to use with professional and beautifully created courses or moments of intentional breathing, yoga, and meditation. We’ll help you find just the right space for this important wellness amenity. [Check out the Big Sur Wall recently installed at in Denver]

| Corporate Fitness Centers and Mixed Use Gyms (a building with multi-family + office + retail)

Putting together a company gym falls heavily on the want and need of the developer or company. Our team has a strong history designing corporate amenity gyms. The best results stem from understanding why this gym is being built. Selecting the best cardio equipment - and all equipment for that matter - is highly dependent on the developer or company owner’s goals. Here are a few examples.

  • Corporate Showcase – Property developers may request a luxury, showcase gym. Here, custom features and eye-capturing equipment are selected to help lease office space to other companies. These companies then use the luxury gym to recruit highly sought employees. When this is the case, current trends and eye-capturing pieces become part of a larger design vision and recruiting tool.

  • Wellness Program – Companies may target a specific working condition with a fitness or wellness program. One highly specific fitness center design came about when employees noted that they spent all day seated attending to phone calls. The employer requested a cardio-heavy fitness room with a very simple strength offering as a convenient way for employees to take walking breaks.

  • Training specific – A company in Northern California recently requested a gym geared toward group fitness and functional training. The finished design was strong on functional training gear including a heavy bag, a turf track for #tiyr flipping, sled pushing, plyometrics, as well has a rack for TRX and other group fitness accessories. Space dedicated to cardio was smaller, hosting a treadmill, rower and indoor cycling studio.

  • Fitness within a smaller space – Have a small space or empty office? No problem. As offices and buildings shift working spaces to meet demands of a hybrid work force, we’ve seen smaller, 1-2 person fitness and wellness rooms popping up. Employees who have a quick break in their day can book time in a “cardio pod”, a small space outfitted with a treadmill or bike and a yoga and wellness feature to get a private or semi-private workout. Add a cleaning protocol and online calendaring system for reservations and employees are set. The style and options for small training pods is limitless. We’ll happily put a concept together for you. Contact Us

What's the most fitting health & wellness space for your team? Let's Chat!

| Commercial Health Clubs, YMCAs and Rec. Centers

Cardio selection will vary wildly, as it should! There are a few must haves as we've discussed above and then there are some - more specific to a certain type of training modality that we’ll show you as well. Let’s talk through some of the variables to create the best collection of cardio equipment for your cardio floor.

Must-Haves: treadmills, indoor cycling bikes, ellipticals and stair or some sort of climber, and rowers.

  • Understand the number of gym-goers anticipated to workout every day and during peak workout times. If 100 people enter the gym at 6am to workout, understand where they’re going. Group class? Pool? Even if in for a strength workout, they typically want to warm up. Have cardio options, heavy on the treadmill, for 25% of them. **This is very dependent on location, clientele and space available for a cardio floor. We value all insights from our clients and will guide you through these equipment decisions.

Our experienced team and broad variety of cardio options make finding a supplemental piece of equipment easier. CLMBR, Hydrow, Escalate by Intenza, Alpine Runner, S-Force Performance Trainer are just a few.

| Boutique Studios

Boutique studios generally cater to a specific demographic and training modality. Could be yoga, boxing, barre, HIIT, indoor cycling, or another training program. The Foundation Fitness team begins by looking at floor space, budget and of course the established training modality. By understanding the larger picture we can better guide in the appropriate cardio pieces and quantity needed

  • Indoor Cycling Studios:

    • Would members be interested in on-demand classes when no class is scheduled? Consider Stages Solo, Les Mills Virtual Bike or the Soul Cycle Connected Bike. Or we can discuss virtual class options on demand.

    • Foundation Fitness is proud to offer a complete array of Stages Indoor Cycling bikes and accessories for your studio classes and have extensive experience designing cycling studios.

  • Yoga, Restoration, Barre-style classes:

    • Will your clientele want to warm-up prior to class? Another opportunity to add some supplemental cardio pieces where space allows.

    • Rowers, indoor cycling bikes and Climbers take up very little space but give a little cardio boost pre or post class.

3. Cardio Floor Layout

Once equipment has been selected, how does it all line up? We are well experienced in planning around walls, windows, doors, ADA accessibility and access to closets and restrooms. Other considerations include the traffic flow, sight lines, and what else is happening nearby. One recent upscale gym design has windows (hello natural light!) with a view into a co-working space. The question becomes, what goes on the gym side? Facing cardio into the co-working space could be a nuisance for people trying to work, “Hey Neighbor! (??)” Placing functional training gear near the windows risks an errant medicine ball or abrupt noise and vibration from flipping tires. The solution comes easily with experience; the controlled motion and activity around selectorized strength equipment was the right choice.

Other considerations include:

  • Have a bank of windows or a pool? Align the cardio to face out and offer the view.

  • Power requirements: Cardio solutions of premium quality exist both with and without the need for power. Many self-powered devices such as the S-Drive and S-Force Performance Trainers from Matrix and the TrueForm and Assault treadmills as well as premium bikes from Stages SC3, SC2, SC1 do not require electricity for power.

  • Indoor Cycling is trending up! We’ve talked (above) about the high value of virtual cycling bikes on the cardio floor. A cycling or mixed use space with bikes, balance and functional training gear is also very common. We see companies roll bikes to the roof for a gorgeous sunset ride. Another company regularly rolls bikes from their studio onto an adjacent patio for fresh-air cycling followed by an occasional happy hour. #corporatewellness

  • Rowing is another popular cardio option. Hydrow and Aviron offer intense coached workouts, beautiful backdrops and gamified rowing sessions that deliver a full-body cardio punch. Water Rower, Matrix Rower and Octane Ro continue to be very popular. Many rowers can be tipped up against the wall as needed to gain floor space during class time. Some rowers offer a dual function in the upright position to mimic the upper-body work of skiing. #SoManyChoices

Foundation Fitness offers Full Service

Gym Design and Equipment Sales, Installation and Support

A complete consultation will include floor layout in 2D and 3D design giving clients a chance to see and evaluate their fitness & wellness amenity and make changes before equipment is purchased. High-end 3D design plans and design suggestions are available for an additional fee.

Learn More about our cardio solutions

B) Strength and Functional Training

The Old School design rule, “pack in as much equipment as space allows” worked in the past. Today, making room for safe and effective use of all the new types of equipment requires more thought. As we work together toward creating your best fitness center design we’ll start by considering the clientele/athletes/fitness enthusiasts you’ll cater to and their training goals.

1. General Strength Equipment Considerations

Strength Machines: Traditional selectorized equipment (weight lifting machines with weight stacks) offer a well-rounded workout to athletes and gym-goers of all ages and abilities, beginner to advanced. Selectorized equipment can be grouped or placed in a number of configurations as floor space and training dictates.

How do you anticipate the strength equipment being used?

  • Full-Body Training for overall fitness: A full array of machines provides a full-body workout to a wide range of clientele. Commercial selectorized equipment is available in a variety of styles and custom finishes to meet nearly any budget and can beautifully showcase your brand.

Peak Performance and Body Building: In some cases selectorized equipment is chosen as a supplement to free weights and would be placed in the “free weight” area.

  • Functional and Body-Weight Training: When a gym is geared to other training methods such as TRX body weight workouts or functional training tools, supplementing with a few machines will help round out a training program.

2. Strength Training and Loose Weights

*Free weights, power racks, Olympic benches, where to start!?!?

This is an area that requires special consideration due to the nature of the exercises and safety concerns that are inherent with them. These may be the main focus of your facility (if you are a high school, college or sports training facility) or it might make sense to leave this type of equipment totally out of your design altogether (for an unstaffed facility concerned about safety). We can help you decide how important free weights, power racks, and benches are for your project, and if they are, which equipment selections will work best to meet your space, budget and safety requirements.

General Free-Weight Considerations (see* above)

  • Dumbbell selection: The collection of dumbbells is dependent on the athletic abilities of your gym-goer and available space. We typically begin with a basic set ranging from 3lb-25lb (pairs). Add above that; 30lb, 35lb, 40lb, as needed. We will guide you through building out the proper set.

  • Barbells: Available in plate-loaded (plates are added to empty bars) or pre-loaded. Careful consideration will be taken to select a solution best suited to your athlete, space, gym type and budget. There is a lot to consider from a safety and space standpoint. Let’s Chat.

  • Benches and racks: Our equipment manufacturing partners offer a wide range of benches and racks to suit your space, athlete and budget. Standard commercial-grade benches and racks will work in most commercial gyms and studios where free weight training is applicable. Being mindful of athletic abilities and gym location, any facility catering to professional level athletes and body builders should consider Olympic racks and benches structurally designed using stronger metals and safety features to withstand the extreme, competition weight.

    • Special flooring should also be considered with Olympic weight set-ups.

    • Bench options include flat, incline and decline benches. 1-2 benches per set of dumbbells. Additional bench needs will be determined by the type of racks purchased

    • Mirrors are important for monitoring form.

    • It's common to include some selectorized pieces such as a lat-pull machine and leg press into a free weight area to round out a workout and/or for safety reasons. We’ll find the solution that best suits you

Storage racks and solutions: Available in various footprints and customizable with colors and logos to high-lite your school or facility name or brand. Proper storage helps keep weights in order and floor space clear.

3. Functional Training:

This workout style has risen in popularity and requires more open space and careful planning. One of many benefits to functional training racks is the sheer versatility in size, shape and accessories to precisely meet your the training space and budget. A few tips our team follows when designing functional training spaces:

Defining Floor Space for Large Movement:

  • Kettle bell swings, battle ropes, sand bags, medicine balls, and ball targets demand sufficient surrounding space to avoid swinging into or disrupting other gym-goers. Floor marking can assist in defining these areas.

  • Turf tracks: Perfect for sled push and pull, tire flipping, speed and agility training, a track quickly identifies that active motion takes place in that area. Turf is available in many colors and can be specially marked off for distance, for individual training spaces or as needed .

  • Body Weight and Boxing; Escape Fitness, Matrix Fitness, Torque, Hoist and TRX build commercial grade rigs and racks designed specifically to hold body weight straps, heavy bags and other accessories. These professionally designed racks are safe and sturdy for training and offer efficient gear storage.

  • Depending on the shape and location of the rack, training spaces can be created with floor markings, carpet or rubber mat patterns or defined by the upright posts and horizontal storage trays in a rack.

  • Rack Positioning; Racks are available free standing or wall mounted. They are fully color customizable with paint color and finish and are scalable in size to meet nearly any branding and space requirements. These large rigs serve dual function as a standout piece setting your fitness center apart.

  • Body Work: Space for floor work such as rolling, stretching, and small muscle band work should be specifically designated by flooring or walls.

    • DO NOT put stretching space near the bathrooms

    • DO NOT “dedicate” space for floor work in a main traffic path

    • Storage racks for mats, rollers, bands and other recovery tools help keep the space tidy.

4. Strength and Functional Training- Floor Layout

  • Noise and vibration. Prior to creating the equipment layout, understand what will be directly beneath the gym and specifically a free weight floor. Noise and vibration from dropping weights will carry through a ceiling even with proper floor mats. Ideally, position free weight sections over a storeroom, garage, balcony space but not directly over offices and apartments..

  • Liability with loose weights. Squat and power racks and many bench exercises are not ideal for fitness centers that remain mostly unsupervised. There are always safety concerns in any gym but our experienced team and broad equipment selection will help design a space and minimize risk.

    • Minimally, post signage to announce the risk of training alone and to find a training buddy.

    • Ideally, supplement free weight areas with selectorized machines to round out a balanced, full-body workout and limit heavy weights to stacks within a machine.

Foundation Fitness puts time and care into the layout of your strength and functional training areas. Your gym should deliver safe training, meet ADA compliance, cords and wires should be tucked away and traffic flow should be efficient. These and other factors make working with our professional design consultants a worthy investment.

C) Group Fitness

Mixed use spaces have taken the place of dedicated, single modality spaces. Offering group classes is a great way to keep members, employees and tenants actively engaged.

  • Hiring a group exercise or wellness programming company can be a winning amenity. Live instructors and trainers can guide gym-goers insetting up training plans, and increase commitment to any onsite fitness center, classes and wellness programs.

    • Consider both fitness and restorative classes. In absence of live classes, companies like Three Sages (restoration, yoga, breathing, recovery) and Les Mills Virtual (Body Pump, Body Combat, Yoga etc) add group fitness variety and can be scheduled or run on-demand.

    • Indoor cycling classes through StagesStudio+ or virtual bikes are also popular. Stages bikes can quickly and easily be moved to the side of a group training room for an alternate class type.

    • Plan your storage solution for mats, balance balls, bands, rollers and other group class accessories.

D) Outdoor Fitness is HOT! Even when it’s cold out!

Perhaps you have an empty side yard or a tennis court that could be put to better use. There is no denying the growth in outdoor fitness across all vertical markets and with that comes the demand for professional performance training tools designed specifically for outdoor use.

Standard equipment will not withstand prolonged exposure to salt air, UV light, wind, rain and snow. Let’s protect your equipment investments.

Foundation Fitness works with premier brands such as Escape Fitness, BeaverFit, StayFit Outdoor, and Kompan all of whom offer customizable equipment and training tools from cardio, strength, functional training for any outdoor space and climate. We have solutions for weather-proof accessory storage and even mobile training solutions for teams and training groups on the move. No longer an afterthought, if outdoor space exists, let’s use it.


  • Equipment Leasing: Were you aware that leasing fitness equipment is an option? This is a very common and at times more viable solution to deliver the best possible exercise experience within the confines of one’s budget and equipment needs. Learn More.

  • Electrical Requirements: For every layout we design, our Design Consultants map out any electrical, Coax and Wifi/ CAT6 connectivity that might be needed for the proposed equipment and specify the best location for wall or floor outlets. We also suggest cord management solutions to provide a clean aesthetic look and to keep cords safely out of the way while also helping to manage power surges and drops.

  • Flooring 101: We are asked about flooring solutions for nearly every project – What flooring should we use in the gym? There are a lot of viable options, and during selection, keep in mind; flooring should compliment the look, style and value you want to achieve in your space and also- how your flooring choices will perform for it.

    • Choose flooring with intention and as a showcase feature. Flooring adds to the overall aesthetic while also designating specific training areas within that space. We work with premium suppliers like ecore that understand proper measurement, wear and tear, have guidelines around the order of installation, wall boards, large training rigs and anything else that may come up in a unique gym design.

    • We encourage rubber mats over (on top of) traditional flooring for loose weight areas.

    • We suggest carpet or better yet rubber flooring under strength and cardio machines. A more robust flooring should be considered when heavy Olympic weights are to be used in an area.

    • Consider adding professional floor markings for functional training zones, and your custom logos where applicable to showcase your brand.

  • Securing Equipment Safely: Some pieces of equipment, for safety reasons, might require bolting down into concrete floors or to the vertical and horizontal beams within a wall. Once we finalize a layout, we share the equipment specifications and installation requirements (and deliver any bolts and brackets at this point) to ensure these pieces can be safely secured and so that General Contractors (GC) know where to add any additional support/backing if needed before drywall goes up. *Some pieces of equipment may be installed by the manufacturer directly.

The ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act)

The ADA is taken into consideration when laying out cardio equipment specifically and other equipment as well, regardless of whether or not the machines can be used by a disabled person. Foundation Fitness works with the developers, school leadership and gym owners to understand the demographic of those who will be using the equipment and accessing the space. When necessary we may suggest “adaptive use” equipment to meet those needs. We offer equipment solutions and will create floor plans with proper clear space for disabled person access. If you’re looking for more complete detail here, there are many good resources for understanding ADA compliance online.


“It has to begin with a conversation [with the developer, builder or studio owner] to find out what they want. Most have ideas but sometimes if we’ve worked together before, they just want me to do it.” - Michelle Mills, Foundation Fitness

That - we believe - is the secret to great gym design. We believe strongly in our team of Sales + Design Consultants, order management and installation teams. Our team works together regularly, sharing ideas and industry know-how in order to deliver beautifully finished fitness centers. We work closely with our clients to understand the full scope of the project then utilize our diverse product portfolio to execute a shared vision. We’re so pleased to share these insights into our design process. And in doing so, we hope to have gained your trust and confidence.

Thank you for considering Foundation Fitness | Fitness Center Design for Every Space



The team of Foundation Fitness Sales & Design Consultants: Michelle Mills, DJ Koons, Katie Morris, John Coffey, Ian Krieg, Jeremy Bloom, Giorgio Usai, John Wallace and Director of Sales, Jayme Seppala

Author experience: Sarah Sager

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