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How to Open a Gym: 20 Steps to Start a Gym in 2023

How to Open a Gym: 20 Steps to Start a Gym in 2023

Learn how to open a gym with this easy and quick gym start up guide. Our guide to learn how to start a gym will cover everything from gym market research to gym marketing and gym advertising.

How to Start a Gym Business

What are the steps to owning a gym? Well, you can buy a gym, open a gym, or find a gym franchise to own, but even if you want to learn how to open a gym without any money, you will need to know these key things. Read on for the basic steps to opening a gym, browse through our gym owner guide, and then when you are ready to supercharge your gym and make your gym stand out, then figure out why you should open a gym, and explore the best gym software around, Exercise.com

Exercise.com is simply the best. We were using three or four different apps or softwares to do what we can now do all in one with the Exercise.com platform.
Brandon Stroupe
Founder and President, APEC Sports Performance

Get a demo today!

#1 Conduct Market Research

Not every market will support a gym. And every market is different. Some markets will support a CrossFit box (or two or three!) while others may not—but a Planet Fitness or an F45 could be just the opposite. The type of gym you want to start is closely related to your gym target market research. Understand your target market, the gym options currently available, and why starting your gym will be profitable in this market. Research competitors and have a fulsome understanding of their prices, products, and competitive positioning.

Be sure to model out in-person and online gym revenue, because hybrid gym models will not only open up new gym marketing opportunities, but offer up entirely new ways to conduct online gym market research (pre-selling gym memberships on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. being just one of them).

Payment Splitting

After all, the single biggest proof point about whether you should start your gym or not is if you have real people pulling out real credit cards and swiping them for your gym’s memberships and packages. Think it can’t be done? Think again. Stir up excitement and engagement with boot camps at a local park (or parking lot, for that matter). Get the endorphins and the ACH bank drafts flowing at the same time.

Finally, have a full understanding of your gym cost structure. How much will you pay your gym front desk staff? How much will you pay your personal trainers? How much will your gym lease cost? Understanding all of the costs that go into opening a gym is key.

#2 Create a Gym Business Plan

If you are starting or buying a gym franchise then this part is easy for you, because this is all done for you already. And, frankly, many of these other steps are done for you as well—or, at least you must do them, but on easy mode. If you are not operating on easy mode in the gym franchise world (not without its cons too, we know, we know), then your gym business plan is something you should think carefully about. This is less about a fancy looking deck and more about building confidence in any capital partners you may need to help you start your gym.

#3 Secure Gym Funding

Getting a bank loan for starting a gym, sometimes in the form of an SBA loan, can help give you the capital you need to start your gym. Alternatively, you can use personal savings or a business partner with capital to inject into the business. If you want to start a gym without any money of your own, then getting good at obtaining gym funding by inspiring confidence in those with that money is a critical skill to have. The good news is that if you think through each of these steps to opening a gym, then you will be prepared for almost any question thrown your way.

#4 Choose a Gym Location

As they say, location, location, location. Yes, you need to be online, and yes, you need to have a quality offering, but as discussed in the gym market research phase, you should have a clear understanding of where the best gym location is for your new gym business. And just because it’s an easy commute from where you happen to live doesn’t mean it will be a profitable gym location!

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#5 Purchase or Lease Gym Equipment

The type of gym you start will obviously heavily impact your gym equipment needs. CrossFit boxes vs big box gyms vs fitness studios will have entirely different needs and cost structures. Do your research and get price quotes on purchasing or leasing gym equipment.

Also, keep in mind that commercial gym equipment prices are much higher than home gym equipment. Your commercial gym treadmills will take a beating; they won’t be sitting idle during the day being used as clothes hangars like many a woebegone home treadmill.

Clothes Hangar Treadmill

Here is a table detailing the average price range for various types of gym equipment for use in commercial gyms:

Equipment TypePrice Range
Treadmill$2,000 – $10,000
Elliptical Trainer$1,500 – $6,000
Stationary Bike$1,000 – $4,000
Rowing Machine$800 – $2,000
Stair Climber$1,000 – $3,000
Free Weights$1,000 – $10,000
Weight Machines$2,000 – $15,000
Bench Press$500 – $1,500
Squat Rack$500 – $1,500
Medicine Ball$20 – $100
Exercise Mat$20 – $100
Jump Rope$10 – $50

Please note that these prices are estimates and may vary depending on the brand, model, and condition of the equipment. Additionally, these prices may not include shipping or installation costs. Be prepared to have to repair and replace gym equipment regularly when your gym is hopefully packed to the brim with exercisers using your gym equipment every day.

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#6 Hire Gym Staff

Yes, you are going to have to deal with people all day long at your gym. Not just gym members, but gym staff. Some will be good, some not so good, and some truly great. Your hiring will be a key part of your success or failure as a gym owner.

This includes making sure every one on your staff is not only trained but accredited and certified with any of the necessary personal training certification companies.

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#7 Develop Gym Policies and Procedures

But if you are a details person, then take heart because implementing top-notch gym policies and procedures are right up there with hiring the right staff for your gym. Even the best, most proactive and initiative-filled gym staff need expectations set with your gym policies and procedures.

Again, gym franchisees have it easy here, but even independent gym owners can take a page from the franchise gym owner playbook. Get creative in your marketing and advertising, not in the basic blocking and tackling of gym standard operating procedures and other basic gym best practices. Talk to those who have run a gym successfully at scale for advice.

Keep in mind that this applies to you, and not just your staff too. Make sure that you have all of the required gym licenses, permits, zoning requirements, and the like.

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#8 Market and Advertise Your Gym

Why is gym marketing and advertising important? You can have the best gym in the world with the best people and the best results around, but if no one knows about your gym, or you have some type of brand perception or market mismatch then your gym will not be a success. On the flip side, often those with the best marketing win, even if their product or experience is only so-so. So take heart, your new gym will have time to improve, but what you cannot do is expect to run a profitable gym if you can’t acquire gym members and personal training clients.

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#9 Train Gym Staff

You know those gym policies and procedures you created? Well, people are people and they tend to ignore or forget things. So if you want your gym to be running like a well-oiled machine then be prepared to invest into gym staff training. Regularly.

Staff Management

#10 Develop Gym Programs

Which gym packages, products, and services will you offer? Will you offer high ticket fitness sales, low cost memberships, personal training packages? Private or semi-private? Group classes? What times? These are all important decisions to make as you shape your gym program offerings.

#11 Determine Your Target Market

Come on, you should be laser focused in your gym target market after doing market research so you should be chomping at the bit on how to identify this target market and sell into it. Is it weekend warriors? Youth athletes? Yoga moms? College bros? Analyze your surrounding area for the opportunity.

#12 Choose a Business Structure

LLC, C-Corporation, S-Corporation, partnership, it seems like the list just goes on. Here, the answer is easy. Talk to a qualified tax or financial advisor to discuss what options you have and what might be best for your gym. A CPA, financial advisor, and attorney will all be useful allies as you identify the best business structure for your gym business.

You will then be able to do the following:

  • Choose an official business name
  • Get Federal and State tax IDs
  • Open a business bank account (and maybe a business credit card)

Many accountants can help you with all of the above at the same time.

Read More: Which business structure is best for a gym?

#13 Obtain Gym Insurance

Here are the different types of gym insurance you may want to consider:

  • General Liability Insurance – This covers the gym for liability claims arising from accidents or injuries that occur on the gym’s property.
  • Property Insurance – This covers the gym’s building and equipment for damages caused by events such as fires, storms, and theft.
  • Business Interruption Insurance – This covers the gym for lost income and expenses if the business is disrupted by an insured event, such as a fire or natural disaster.
  • Professional Liability Insurance – This covers the gym for liability claims arising from professional mistakes or errors made by staff, such as personal trainers or fitness instructors.
  • Accident and Health Insurance – This covers the gym for medical expenses and lost income resulting from accidents or illnesses that occur on the gym’s property.
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance – This covers the gym for medical expenses and lost income resulting from workplace injuries sustained by employees.

It’s important to review your gym insurance needs carefully and consult with an insurance broker or agent to determine the appropriate coverage for your gym. Keep in mind that gym insurance requirements may vary by state and by the specific risks associated with your business.

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#14 Develop a Gym Budget and Financial Plan

Work with your gym financial advisor, accountant, or CPA to create a budget for your gym and a financial plan that will help you start and stay on track.

#15 Negotiate Gym Lease Terms

Your gym lease will be one of your biggest expenses, alongside your personnel costs. Choose wisely. Don’t rush into a decision. And negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. And maybe enlist the help of a professional.

Read More: How to Negotiate a Gym Lease

#16 Design and Layout Your Gym

This can be fun, but don’t go overboard. Remember that gym budget and financial plan? Imagine your accountant frowning in disappointment every time you want to go over budget.

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#17 Choose Gym Software

You like how we snuck this one in here, didn’t you? Yes, but of course, it’s still true! Check out the best gym software to save you time and help you increase revenue.

#18 Set Up a Gym Billing System

And you want to bill your gym members, collect gym memberships automatically, not have to chase people down for payment, and do all of those things that every gym owner needs to do in order to have cash coming into the bank account, right? And even better if it could be fully integrated into your software platform, website, online booking, custom branded fitness apps, and more? Yeah, we do that too. Check out our gym payment processing and full gym payments platform.

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#19 Establish Local Partnerships

Other local businesses can be complementary to your gym business. Pay extra close attention to the smoothie shops, the supplement stores, and other businesses that your target market also shops at.

Read More: Gym Partnership Marketing

#20 Launch Your Gym!

Now it’s time to launch your gym! Yes, you can analyze whether you should start a gym, and how to best start a gym, and learn all the steps to owning a gym, and on and on, but at some point, you have to enter the arena, as they say, and just start. We will be cheering you along every step of the way.

AMPD Golf Performance
“Working with Exercise.com and their team has been an amazing experience and a dream come true in terms of accomplishing a vision! Their workout technology has helped us effectively engage our community, and I highly recommend Exercise.com to grow your business!”
Andrew Banner
Co-Founder, AMPD Golf Performance

Ready for the best gym management software platform to help you run your gym?

Get a demo now!

Read More: How to Start a Fitness Business

Opening a Gym Checklist

Opening a gym involves several key steps, and having a detailed checklist can simplify the process immensely. With Exercise.com, you have an all-in-one gym management software that assists with many tasks related to setting up your gym.

  1. Business Plan: Start by creating a detailed gym business plan that outlines your vision, target market, competitors, unique selling points, and financial forecasts.
  2. Find a Location: The location of your gym plays a crucial role in its success. Choose a gym location that is easily accessible and has a high demand for fitness facilities.
  3. Secure Financing: Determine your gym startup costs and secure adequate gym financing. This may come from savings, loans, or investors.
  4. Legal Requirements: Register your business, obtain necessary licenses and permits, and ensure that you meet all health and safety regulations.
  5. Gym Layout and Equipment: Design your gym layout and purchase necessary equipment. Exercise.com can help with equipment tracking and maintenance reminders.
  6. Hire Staff: Hire qualified gym staff, including trainers, customer service representatives, and cleaning staff. Exercise.com’s staff management and scheduling feature can streamline this process.
  7. Marketing and Promotion: Develop a comprehensive gym marketing plan to attract members. Use Exercise.com’s integrated marketing tools to boost your online presence and attract more clients.
  8. Membership Management: Use Exercise.com’s best gym management software to handle memberships, bookings, and client communication.
  9. Open Your Gym: Plan a grand opening event to attract potential members and create buzz around your new facility.

Opening a Gym Business Plan

Your business plan is the roadmap for your gym, encompassing your vision, objectives, strategies, and financial forecasts. Exercise.com provides valuable data and insights that can inform your business plan. Here’s what it should include:

  1. Executive Summary: An overview of your business, outlining your gym’s concept, location, and unique selling points.
  2. Company Description: Detailed information about your gym, including the services and amenities you’ll offer.
  3. Market Analysis: Information about your target market, competition, and how your gym fits into the current market.
  4. Organization and Management: How your gym will be structured and who will manage it. Exercise.com provides a platform to manage your staff efficiently, helping in this aspect of your business plan.
  5. Services and Products: A detailed list of your gym services and products. This may include membership packages, personal training services, group classes, and retail products.
  6. Marketing and Sales Strategy: How you’ll attract and retain members. You can leverage Exercise.com’s built-in marketing tools to boost your online presence and attract more clients.
  7. Financial Projections: A forecast of your income, expenses, and profitability. Exercise.com can provide valuable analytics to help you develop accurate financial projections.

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Legal Requirements for Opening a Gym

Opening a gym involves satisfying several legal requirements. Here’s what you need to consider:

  1. Business Registration: You’ll need to register your business with local and state authorities.
  2. Licenses and Permits: Obtain necessary licenses and permits from local, state, and federal agencies. These may include a business license, building permit, and health department permit.
  3. Insurance: Gyms should carry several types of gym insurance and personal trainer insurance, including liability insurance, property insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance.
  4. Health and Safety Regulations: Gyms must comply with local health and safety regulations. This includes cleanliness standards and the presence of safety equipment like fire extinguishers and first aid kits.
  5. Waivers and Contracts: Have a lawyer help you draft waivers of liability and membership contracts to protect your business from legal issues.
  6. Employee Documentation: Ensure you meet all legal requirements for hiring staff, including verifying work eligibility and complying with labor laws.

Exercise.com’s platform provides tools to manage legal requirements, like waivers and contracts, all within the platform itself.

Pros and Cons of Opening a Gym

Opening a gym can be rewarding but also comes with challenges. Exercise.com can assist in managing some of these challenges, turning potential cons into pros.


  1. Passion into Profession: If you love fitness, owning a gym allows you to turn your passion into your profession.
  2. Profit Potential: With the right business model and location, a gym can be a highly profitable venture.
  3. Community Impact: Gyms play a crucial role in promoting health and fitness within their communities.
  4. Membership-Based Revenue: A membership model can provide steady, predictable income.


  1. High Start-Up Costs: Opening a gym can be expensive, with significant costs for space and equipment.
  2. Operational Challenges: Gyms face operational challenges such as equipment maintenance, cleanliness, and staffing. Exercise.com provides tools for equipment and staff management.
  3. Competition: The fitness industry is highly competitive, with gyms, boutique studios, and online fitness services all competing for the same customers.
  4. Retention: Retaining members can be a challenge, but Exercise.com’s member management and engagement tools can help boost retention rates.

By leveraging Exercise.com’s comprehensive gym management software, you can navigate these pros and cons effectively, making your gym business venture a successful and rewarding one.

How profitable is owning a gym?

Owning a gym can be highly profitable, but it depends on various factors such as location, target market, competition, and effective management. With the right business strategies and a solid gym management software like Exercise.com, you can optimize operations, attract and retain members, and increase revenue through personal training, group classes, memberships, and additional services.

Read More: How profitable is owning a gym?

How can I open a gym with no money?

Opening a gym with no money requires resourcefulness and creativity. One option is to start small by offering outdoor boot camps or partnering with existing facilities. You can also explore financing options, such as small business loans or crowdfunding. Exercise.com can help you with its all-in-one gym management software, allowing you to efficiently manage your operations and maximize your revenue potential.

Is it hard to start a gym?

Starting a gym can be challenging, as it requires careful planning, market research, securing funding, finding the right location, and building a strong customer base. However, with the right tools and strategies, such as Exercise.com’s gym management software, you can streamline your operations, attract clients, and navigate the complexities of starting a gym more effectively.

What is the toughest thing about being a gym owner?

One of the toughest aspects of being a gym owner is managing a dynamic and competitive industry. It requires continuous adaptation to market trends, maintaining member engagement, managing staff, and keeping up with industry regulations. Exercise.com can help ease the challenges of gym ownership by providing robust features, including member management, scheduling, workout tracking, and performance analysis.

What gym makes the most money?

The profitability of a gym depends on various factors, including location, target market, services offered, and management strategies. Different types of gyms can be profitable, such as high-end boutique gyms, specialty fitness studios, or large-scale health clubs. With Exercise.com’s gym management software, you can optimize your operations, track financial performance, and implement effective revenue-generating strategies to maximize your gym’s profitability.

How do I start a small gym?

Starting a small gym begins with identifying your target market, securing a suitable location, obtaining necessary permits, and acquiring the essential equipment. It’s important to create a unique value proposition, offer quality services, and provide a personalized experience. Exercise.com can assist you in managing your small gym efficiently with its gym management software, including member check-ins, class scheduling, and personalized workout plans.

Is owning a gym a good business idea?

Owning a gym can be a promising business idea, as the fitness industry continues to grow and people prioritize health and wellness. However, success depends on factors like market demand, competition, effective marketing, and efficient operations. With Exercise.com’s gym management software, you can streamline your business processes, enhance member experience, and position your gym for success.

How do I start a gym for beginners?

To start a gym for beginners, focus on creating a welcoming and supportive environment. Offer beginner-friendly classes and programs, provide clear instruction and guidance, and promote a positive fitness culture. Exercise.com’s gym management software can help you track member progress, create tailored workout plans, and provide valuable resources to support beginners in their fitness journey.

How do I open a gym in a small town?

Opening a gym in a small town requires understanding the local market, identifying unique offerings, and building strong relationships with the community. Emphasize personalized services, community engagement, and strategic partnerships. Exercise.com’s gym management software can assist you in efficiently managing operations, tracking member data, and implementing effective marketing strategies to attract and retain customers in a small-town setting.

How do I start a gym without an instructor?

Starting a gym without an instructor requires focusing on equipment-based workouts, providing clear instructions on proper form and technique, and offering pre-recorded or virtual training programs. Exercise.com’s gym management software can support your efforts by providing online workout delivery, tracking member progress, and facilitating communication between trainers and clients.

How much does the average gym make a year?

The average gym’s annual revenue can vary significantly depending on factors such as location, size, target market, and services offered. According to industry reports, gyms can generate revenue ranging from $500,000 to several million dollars per year. With effective business strategies and Exercise.com’s gym management software to optimize operations and revenue streams, you can work towards achieving higher revenue goals.

How successful are gym owners?

The success of gym owners varies depending on factors such as location, market demand, competition, and management strategies. Successful gym owners are often those who prioritize member experience, offer diverse and engaging services, effectively market their facilities, and leverage technology to streamline operations. Exercise.com’s gym management software provides the tools to enhance your gym’s success, including member engagement, scheduling, and performance tracking.

How do gym owners make money?

Gym owners make money through various gym revenue streams, including membership fees, personal training sessions, group classes, retail sales, and additional services such as nutritional counseling or wellness programs. By effectively managing these revenue streams and optimizing operational efficiency with Exercise.com’s gym management software, you can increase your profitability and success as a gym owner.

Is owning a gym stressful?

Owning a gym can be stressful due to the demands of managing operations, staff, finances, and member expectations. However, with the right tools and strategies in place, such as Exercise.com’s gym management software, you can streamline processes, automate tasks, and reduce stress by efficiently managing various aspects of your gym business.

Is owning a gym a good business idea?

Owning a gym can be a good business idea, as the fitness industry continues to grow and people prioritize health and wellness. However, it requires careful planning, market research, effective marketing, and a solid business strategy. With Exercise.com’s gym management software, you can optimize your gym’s operations, enhance member experience, and position your business for long-term success.

Are gym owners successful?

Gym owners can be successful, but it depends on factors such as market demand, competition, effective business strategies, and management skills. Successful gym owners are often those who prioritize member satisfaction, offer quality services, adapt to industry trends, and leverage technology to streamline operations. Exercise.com’s gym management software can support your success by providing the tools you need to efficiently manage your gym business and deliver an exceptional member experience.

Is it a good investment to open a gym?

Opening a gym can be a good investment if you have a solid business plan, understand your target market, and can differentiate your gym from competitors. Conducting thorough market research, creating a unique value proposition, and implementing effective marketing strategies are crucial. Exercise.com’s gym management software can help you optimize operations, enhance member engagement, and maximize the return on your investment.

Is making a gym a good business?

Making a gym can be a good business if you have a passion for fitness, understand the market demand, and can offer unique services or experiences. It requires careful planning, strategic marketing, effective management, and a commitment to providing exceptional customer service. With Exercise.com’s gym management software, you can efficiently manage your gym, engage members, and drive the success of your business.

What are the initial steps to take when planning to open a gym?

Begin by researching the fitness industry and analyzing your competition in the area. Develop a clear business plan outlining your gym’s concept, target audience, and financial projections. Your business plan should also include estimated costs, revenue projections, and a marketing strategy.

How much money do I need to open a gym?

The cost of opening a gym can vary significantly based on factors like location, size, equipment, and services offered. In general, expect to spend anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 or more to open a gym. Expenses to consider include rent, utilities, equipment, marketing, staffing, insurance, and maintenance.

How do I choose the best location for my gym?

When choosing a location, consider factors like accessibility, visibility, nearby competition, parking availability, and the demographics of the surrounding area. You’ll want to ensure that the location caters to your target audience and is convenient for potential members.

Read More: Best Locations for Gyms

What type of gym should I open and how do I determine the target audience?

Consider your personal interests and expertise, as well as the preferences of your target audience. You may choose to open a traditional gym, a specialized fitness studio, or a niche facility catering to specific fitness goals. Identify your target audience based on factors like age, fitness level, and interests, and then tailor your gym’s offerings to meet their needs.

Read More: How to find a gym target audience?

What do you need to open a gym?

Legal requirements vary by location, but you’ll generally need to register your business, obtain a tax ID number, and apply for necessary permits and licenses, such as a business license and health department permit. You’ll also need to secure insurance, such as general liability and property insurance, to protect your business from potential risks.

How do I purchase the right gym equipment?

Research popular gym equipment, focusing on items that will appeal to your target audience and align with your gym’s concept. Purchase a mix of cardio machines, strength training equipment, and functional training tools. Be sure to consider both new and used options, as well as leasing arrangements, to find the best fit for your budget.

How do I market my new gym and attract members?

Create a comprehensive marketing plan that includes online and offline strategies. Leverage social media, online advertising, and content marketing to reach your target audience. Develop partnerships with local businesses and engage in community events to increase your gym’s visibility. Offer promotional deals, referral programs, and incentives to attract new members and retain existing ones.

How do I hire staff for my gym?

Hire qualified professionals with relevant experience, certifications, and a passion for fitness. Ensure that your team members are aligned with your gym’s values and can provide excellent customer service to your members. Consider hiring personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and front desk staff to create a welcoming environment.

Read More: How to Hire Gym Staff

How do I manage the ongoing expenses and financial aspects of running a gym?

Track your gym’s financial performance by monitoring revenue, expenses, and cash flow. Use accounting software or hire a professional accountant to help you manage your finances. Regularly evaluate your gym’s profitability and adjust your pricing, marketing, and cost-saving strategies as needed to maximize your return on investment.

What are some key tips for ensuring the long-term success of my gym?

Focus on providing excellent customer service and a positive gym experience for your members. Continuously invest in equipment maintenance, staff training, and facility improvements. Stay informed about fitness trends and adapt your offerings to meet the changing needs of your target audience. Lastly, prioritize member retention through ongoing engagement and by creating a strong sense of community within your gym.

Athlete Performance
Exercise.com has become an essential piece to our brand and business model. The ease of use and consumer reports have allowed us to maintain great client relationships and rebuild others.
Logan Zagrodnik
General Manager, Athlete Performance

If you want to join the many gym owners utilizing the best gym software to run and grow their gym on the Exercise.com platform, get a demo to see how you can open a gym and grow a gym today.

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