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Muscle-building gym aimed at the 40+ market is going nationwide

Al Urbanski
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Surely, you’ve seen lots of small-space fitness boutiques that teach barre, biking, and yoga. How about one that teaches 70-year-old men to deadlift 385 pounds?

That’s what Idaho-based Starting Strength did for a member named David Aval, who started at 115 before hoisting that heavy load a few years later. Starting Strength is now a fast-expanding chain that expects to have 100 locations nationwide open nationwide to help physically challenged people and rookies 40 and older learn to lift their way to healthy, active lives.

The chain looks to have a good shot at entering retail centers that already house Orangetheory and Pure Barre. Starting Strength’s physical footprint ranges between 1,100 and 2,100 sq. ft and appeals to an entirely different demographic than other boutique fitness chains. It’s also well-primed for profit since just three people are needed to run one of its gyms.

“Our gyms contain between seven and 12 lifting platforms. We have two trainers that can direct a full gym and one associate handling members at the front door,” said Ray Gillenwater, founder of the chain along with partner Mark Rippetoe, whose Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training book has been a top seller on Amazon for years.

Starting Strength’s prices are low. While personal training sessions at classic gyms can range from $50 to $100 an hour, older lifters at this gym pay between $25 to $36 (depending on the location) for 90-minute sessions in which the trainers work the entire room.

Gillenwater used two different brokers in expanding to its current 14 locations, but he recently retained CBRE to move it nationwide. He claimed that tens of thousands of readers of Rippetoe’s book are present in every major market and already have an affinity with the Starting Strength brand.

Starting Strength gyms can now be found in Boise, Austin, Boston, Memphis, and Oklahoma City, among other major markets. New gyms will soon be opening in Chicago, Columbus, Atlanta, Miami, and Tulsa.

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