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9 Fitness Business Models: Which One Is Best for You?

Learning Objectives:

  1. Recognize the high stakes in choosing the right business model to start a fitness business.
  2. Study the nine models and determine which one best fits your strengths as a fitness professional and allows to you to differentiate yourself from the competition.
  3. Start or evolve your fitness business to the business model that best ensures your long-term success and profitability.

Many fitness professionals want to start their own fitness business, but they dramatically underestimate the need to choose the right business model.

Why does this matter?

Well choosing the right (or wrong) business model for you… can mean literally fitness business life or death!

The right model, at the right time, makes things easy to grow (and profit).

The wrong model, at the wrong time, means lots of struggles, stress, and (emotional and financial) pain.

So, what makes up the right business model? Let’s explore that further...

Why Your Business Model Matters

The right fitness business model drives in the right clients, the ones you are best suited to help, and allows to turn your fitness passion into a thriving business.

Right business models also allow you to clearly differentiate yourself from the competition...and grow your income while helping more people transform their lives.

Then there’s the wrong business models. That kills fitness businesses–and just as bad, wrong models drain your energy, enthusiasm and confidence as you try to “make it work”–when really you need to go in a different direction.

To pick the right model, you need to first realize that most fitness professionals think in terms of one or two, without realizing there are nine options (and variations and evolutions) to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. Some will be good fits for you, some will be terrible ones, and some will be “not now, but something to work toward.”

To create the fitness business you dream of (and grows and lasts and builds your confidence), you need to select a business model that plays to your strengths as a fitness professional AND gives you a leg up on the competition.

Model #1: Membership

Membership-based facilities are the oldest and most tested model. There have been (and continue to be) thousands of spins on a membership model – some low cost, medium priced, and high-priced facilities.

The model is essentially always the same...members pay a monthly (or annual) subscription fee to use the facility.

This model makes money when you have more members paying each month than it costs you to run (and maintain) the facility. Plus, additional profits made from other product and service offerings sold to members.

Price Point: $10-$250+/month subscription fees, plus initiation fees.

Pros: Membership models are great opportunities to scale in the right location, when matched to the right market.

Cons: Membership models usually require significant investment to build out and open, often face high competition that degenerates into price wars, and there are very high membership churn rates each month.

Model #2: Group Training

Group training services have been around for a long time, too. They started with martial arts, gymnastics and aerobics, and later moved to outdoor boot camps, yoga, Kettlebell classes, Crossfit, and many more.

Clients pay a monthly subscription service. There is high leverage in the model depending on the coach-to-client ratio and monthly price point you can have anywhere from 10 to 25+ clients per instructor. Classes are usually delivered in a one hour block of time.

Price Point: $100-$250+/month subscription fees.

Pros: There is great leverage with one-to-many delivery of services, many models have low startup costs, and social component of community supports client retention.

Cons: Low startup costs lead to lots of competition entering the market, often racing to the bottom with discounting practices in an attempt to steal market share.

Model #3: Semi-Private Training

Semi-private training is a hybrid model of group training and private training. Generally clients are supported on a 3 or 4 clients to 1 instructor ratio.

In most cases, clients receive individual assessment and program design...yet are supported in their training through a small group format, adding a social “stick” component to the service delivery. Session lengths are typically 30, 45, or 60 minutes.

The demographic is generally middle aged men and women.

Price Point: $300-$500+/month.

Pros: Semi-private is a highly profitable model when session times are maximized. There are generally high retention rates from the “sweet spot” of mid-price point, individualized prescription, great results, and social stick.

Cons: The responsibility lies on the business owner to maximize the number of clients in each training time slot. If only one or two clients are training in the slot, then you reduce the leverage and profitability for that block of time.

Model #4: Private Training

Private training has grown tremendously around the world since the 1980s. There are hundreds of national (and international) organizations that certify personal trainers to deliver private training services.

Sessions are delivered one-to-one and can last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes (or even 90 minutes) depending on the training goals and clientele. You set goals, assess the client, write a program, support training, and then reassess and adjust the programming as needed.

The demographic for this client base can range from 8 to 80, from newbie to professional athlete, and anything in between.

Price Point: $350-$1,000+/month.

Pros: ALWAYS a market for private training. You can narrow your target market to work with the client base you love most. You can share the protocols you are most passionate about. You can choose session length to best serve the client.

And startup costs are minimal. Depending on price point, it doesn’t take a high volume of clients to earn a professional income.

Cons: Model is labor intensive without much leverage beyond raising the price point, which has a limit depending upon the demographic you’re serving. Also, small fluctuations in client base can have drastic effects on monthly income when clients drop off, are on holiday, or the like.

Model #5: Online Training

With the rise of the digital era, service providers have been able to scale their client base beyond their local market.

Services are generally delivered via email, web, and video-call. You often include an online membership center with a group of resources, as well as an online forum or group to build community among clients with common goals.

It can be challenging to engage commitment to the program without being physically present to support a client in person, which is why the demographic for this service is generally the intermediate to advanced fitness client.

Price Point: $150-$300+/month.

Pros: You have tremendous flexibility and freedom, and an unlimited market with the ability to serve anyone that can be reached online.

Cons: You’ll need to grow digital sales and marketing skill sets if you want to grow an online client base … and these skill sets are much more comprehensive than the ones you need to grow a local client base. The model can be also more difficult to scale beyond the solo practitioner model.

Model #6: Workshops

Workshops can be delivered in a one hour, half day, or single to multi-day format. They are generally marketed and fulfilled locally to participants that live within driving distance of the workshop location.

You often have a specific learning objective. Education and training topics can range from nutrition to skill-based practices like Olympic lifting, as well recovery subjects like foam rolling, or any other subject matter that participants value and will invest time in learning more about.

Price Point: $50−$2,000+ one-time fee.

Pros: There’s great leverage and profitability. It’s a great addition to another business model for a local-based service business.

Cons: Workshops must be continually marketed and sold. That requires travel to multiple locations within a local market that fits the target, or a varied course structure that allows the model to be resold on a regular basis to the same client base. There is no recurring revenue in the model.

Model #7: Camps, Retreats, and Certifications

Camps and retreats are centered around an “immersion learning” experience for the client.

They are generally delivered in destination locations where the participants are not only buying fitness training services (that often include multiple sessions per day, chef services, and lodging), but they are investing in experiences that create memories and build friendships within a small community to last a lifetime.

They are often sold to a well-defined target market.

Pros: There’s great leverage and profitability, and tremendous price elasticity in the model. Events are often fun experiences for everyone in great destinations. This model is well-suited for the independent practitioner that wants a truly “lifestyle” type business.

Cons: Events must be marketed on an ongoing basis. There is no recurring revenue in the model.

Model #8: Fixed-Term Challenges (30 Days - 12 Weeks)

Fixed-term challenges go in and out of fashion and popularity. This trend is currently on the rise again. Usually, they run 30 days ot 12 weeks.

The model is used in selling services to support the client in the achievement of a short-term goal like body transformation, training for a big race, climbing a mountain, or something similar that challenges the participant to become a better version of themselves.

The model is most known for 12-week body transformation type programs, made popular by a number of people, but notably Bill Phillips and the Body For Life program.

Price Point: $500-$2,500+ one-time fee.

Pros: The model can be marketed and sold on a simple rolling launch strategy repeated throughout the calendar year. You’ll have great leverage and the defined term length in the program keeps clients highly engaged in the pursuit of their short-term goal.

Cons: Requires a big enough market to support the continual sale of the program because of the short-term nature and lack of recurring revenue with clients.

Model #9: Nutritional Supplements

The nutritional supplement industry is a global industry that generates billions.

Fitness clients are generally already purchasing products, but they are also looking for expert guidance about which products they should be taking and how to integrate them into their nutrition plan and daily habits.

There are no startup costs for independent distributors, there are usually great margins, and the model has virtually no limitations on the number of customers that can be served each month.

Price Point: $50-$250+/month.

Pros: No startup costs, tremendous leverage, and great margins.

Cons: Almost none, other than the search to represent a product line and brand that aligns with your beliefs and values.

Choosing Your Model

Now, those are a lot of choices. How do you choose the one(s) that are best for you?

Here are some guidelines:

Bottom line: Choose a business model that fits your strengths and allows you to differentiate yourself from the competition. There are many ways to earn a living in the fitness industry, but choosing the right business model will ultimately determine your income potential (and happiness/fun!).

Finally, understand there are no problems, only “decisions to make” in moving forward. Know the landscape, your numbers, and invest in developing the skills you need to be successful (before you need them)!


Selecting the best model that’s right for you is a high-stakes choice. The right choice allows you to stand out from the competition, inspire the right clients for your business, and build your confidence as you grow your fitness business. But a poor choice will mean struggling to compete and struggling to make a living.

Want to start the fitness business you’ve always dreamed of, build a client base, and earn professional income? Register for our free START YOUR OWN FITNESS BUSINESS on-demand training and get step-by-step strategies, system, and secrets to choose the business model that’s right for you, so you can take your fitness passion and turn it into a highly profitable business doing the work you love!