Get a FREE Pass to the IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo   Claim My FREE Expo Pass »

Must-Have Equipment for Your Dream Studio

by Ryan Halvorson on Aug 23, 2012

What equipment do you imagine having in your dream studio? Which items would add the most challenge and variety to customer workouts?

We reviewed our latest programs and equipment survey results and informally polled IDEA members, authors, presenters and fitness professionals at large about equipment they couldn’t live without. Here, we present (in no particular order) some must-have pieces of equipment for a successful fitness studio.


Dumbbells are the workhorses of the fitness world. And despite technological advances, they appear destined to remain a fitness mainstay—currently, 97% of personal training studios offer them, according to the 2011 IDEA Personal Training Programs & Equipment Trends report. If you don’t have an array of dumbbells, it may be time to pick up a set, says Boston-based personal trainer Nicole Pizzi, MPH. “Compared with other pieces of equipment, dumbbells are fairly inexpensive, allowing [a] studio to offer a large variety,” she says. “Dumbbells are also a way for clients to track their progress, by comparing their starting dumbbell weight with their current weight.”

Pull-Up Bar

The nemesis of many a young physical education student, the pull-up bar is often considered a tool to measure true fitness—it’s one component of the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test. It also takes up very little space, a boon for smaller fitness studios. “If I could pick only one piece of equipment to have in my arsenal, it would hands-down be the pull-up bar,” says Mike Fitch, creator of Global Bodyweight Training in Miami Beach, Florida. “Without the pull-up bar, you’re missing out on two of the most important patterns: pulling and rowing.” He also finds that the pull-up bar makes a great anchor point for suspension systems or for bands.

Body Weight Leverage Training

Tools like the TRX® Suspension Trainer™, CrossCore® and jungle gym have skyrocketed to the top of many must-have lists. The 2011 IDEA personal training trends report found that 73% of respondents offer body weight leverage training to clients and members. The concept is simple: Attach the device to an anchor point like a tree branch or pull-up bar and use gravity and your own body weight to get a challenging full-body workout.

“Suspension Training® is a studio owner’s dream come true,” says Leigh Crews, owner of Dynalife Inc. in Cedar Bluff, Alabama, and 2011 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year. “For under $200, I have provided my clients with a piece of equipment that we can use for cardio, strength and flexibility. I don’t need much space to use it, and when bagged and stowed, it takes less space than a pair of shoes.”


Sandbags aren’t just for protecting against rising waters. Josh Henkin, CSCS, chief executive officer of Ultimate Sandbag™ Training in Phoenix, believes sandbags offer trainers and clients tremendous versatility. “Sandbag training can be one of the most powerful tools for a fitness professional or program,” Henkin says. “We can use them for corrective exercises and for teaching people—in 30 seconds or less—to squat properly.” What should you look for in a sandbag? Consider vinyl options that are less abrasive to the skin and can be easily cleaned. Whether or not the manufacturer offers education should factor into your purchase, he adds.

Balance Trainers

Balance trainers come in various forms—half-balls, balance and wobble boards, disks and sponge pads. Among the top 10 equipment trends identified by IDEA’s 2011 survey respondents, balance-training devices placed third. IDEA presenter Shannon Fable, owner of Sunshine Fitness Resources LLC in Boulder, Colorado, prefers the BOSU® Balance Trainer. “This is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment at [our] club. This one product allows you to train with dynamic or static moves, standing, seated, kneeling, side-lying, prone or supine. Training your clients three-dimensionally is of utmost importance when you are striving to instill better movement mechanics before adding load. With the Balance Trainer you have access to cardio, strength and core [training], as well as a comfortable, assisting platform for many stretches, and all the while you are improving balance and coordination. If I could have only one thing, it would be a Balance Trainer.”

For more examples of highly prized equipment, please see “30 Must-Have Pieces of Equipment for the Successful Personal Training Studio!” in the online IDEA Library or in the July‚ÄďAugust 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.

Want more from Ryan Halvorson?

IDEA Fit Tips, Volume 10, Issue 9

Find the Perfect Job

More jobs, more applicants and more visits than any other fitness industry job board.

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson IDEA Author/Presenter

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.