Ben Steadman Interview with The Fitness Network

The Best Ways To Maximise Gym Floor Space

Ben Steadman is the Business Development Director at EXF Fitness.

Since his arrival in September 2017, Ben has built strong strategic partnerships which have set EXF Fitness for an exciting year ahead. EXF Fitness have launched a new website, streamlined their product portfolio and are about to start reaching for distribution channels globally. Ben is driving UK sales and has targeted several major UK chains this year to ensure the EXF brand steps out of the shadows and becomes a major force within the UK and global fitness market.


We spoke to Ben about:

– How a fitness facility can maximise on gym floor space

– How gyms can make a small space look larger

– How gyms can select equipment to best utilise space 

– The future of bespoke storage solutions

1) How can a facility maximise gym floor space?

I would suggest the first thing to do is look at the outcome; what you’re trying to achieve, where you want to go, what you want to do with it – because there are certain circumstances where you’re limited. For example, if you need a spin studio, you’re going to be pretty restricted on choice unless you can look at footprint, how big the machines are, their different weights and sizes. That’s the same for treadmills, for cross trainers, for functional units, for everything. So you can find yourself limited in some circumstances. We try and give people our advice to get the best use out of their space.

The first one is flooring; it’s a big part of what we do, using different coloured floors; do we go with solid blacks, do we go with coloured fleck, do we use a percentage of fleck with solid brighter colours? Generally lighter colours make a space feel a little bit bigger. Secondly, as well as the colours, do we prefer to use a level surface? So to give you an example of that, if there’s a platform and someone wants a lot of lifting platforms, straight away if you drop a 60 or 80mm lifting platform on the floor you’ve then got steps, so once it’s no longer level, you’re restricted on what you can do around the space. Those platforms pretty much dictate what goes on there. However, if you can be involved with the build at an early stage, we can sink the platforms into the flooring, so we can build the drop zones within the flooring. That’s the ideal world, though. If we can’t do that, we can still, when we lay the rubber, provide build-ups that make the floor appear level – which will make the space look bigger and add functionality.

I would suggest that people in the industry have a habit of overselling kit. At the end of the day, everyone needs to make money; so they will try and fill your gym. They’ll try and sell as many cross-trainers, treadmills, bikes and steppers as they can possibly fit in your space. I think in this situation, people just need to stay strong to their values. If this is a functional space, let’s leave it functional; let’s leave it clear; let’s do the whole storage concept. Every set of dumbells comes with a storage rack; it’s a case of me saying: ‘I don’t want your rack, we’re going to bespoke you a rack’. So we don’t provide anything now, we’re called ‘no stock’; everything we build is bespoke, not modular. So we can use walls, we can use posts, we can use pillars, we can use the ceiling, we can have a rig where it doesn’t even touch the floor… obviously that limits you to a point, but everything’s bespoke. Don’t be fooled by the whole modular thing; there are limitations on what you can do. The same with rigs and storage. Let’s look at where you’ve got space, let’s look at where you’ve got alcoves, let’s build you storage either into those alcoves or within your rigs. There are a million-and-one ways to bespoke things and I would strongly suggest that the future of the industry lies in bespoke.

2) How can gyms make a small space look larger

We can use colours (we tend to use lighter ones), we can add lighter colour to the floor, we have a range of colours ranging from black, solid black, to an off-black, a grey all the way through to your solid colours, to the point where we don’t do much white floor. But, you know, even turf we have white turf, black turf green turf, there’s an endless amount of colour through the spectrum, our range allows us to do that which is quite unique. So colour is a great way to make a space look bigger if you do it properly. The walls are the same principle; mirrors are an old-school way of making a room look bigger. That’s the main thing with regards to colours and how we use them on the walls and in the flooring. Now, bespoke again, we keep hitting on bespoke. To be truly bespoke you have to be able to sit with someone and say: ‘You tell me what you want, you’ll get exactly what you want.’ It’s not a case of “well we’re limited to this size or this length or this height.” It’s your gym, it’s your space; we’ll give you exactly what you want.

3) How can gyms select equipment to best utilise space?

So what kit to chose to make the most out of what you’ve got? We find a massive variation in space; some clubs like Gymbox are huge, but even they have to select carefully what kit they want, because they have a lot of members. So in regards to what we provide, we’ve talked before about functional rigs and how you can integrate a functional rig into a space; the industry now is very HIIT focused; short, sharp interval training-focused and very weight training-focused. All of that type of kit can be manufactured to help best use the space; as I’ve already mentioned we don’t do standard. There are some great products out there – the industry is full of amazing products and our competitors are getting very, very strong, but when it comes to kit it’s about the details. Can you have benches that fold against the wall? Can you have racks that fold against the wall? Can you integrate half racks onto your functional training rig? And with that, you can start to select your floor and the bits and pieces around that floor and the way that floor is built up so you don’t need platforms. We don’t really sell that many platforms anymore, unless you’re into Olympic lifting; we tend to build them into the floor when we have the opportunity to.

There are popular bits of kit now are more practical, like your Ski-erg, and your Concept 2 where you can stand them against the wall. They are all aligned with current industry trend, CrossFit, they’re the types of kit you need and they don’t take up much space. The whole treadmill/cross-trainer – you know some treadmills are huge, and they take up a massive amount of space whereas a lot of our customers now it’s all about space, “give me space”. With recent trends, the remit is: “give me space as much space as I can have, because I want a team of 15/20/25 rugby players in here training; I want them all to be able to work out and have maximum use of the kit. So a lot of it is just open space. I appreciate the industry is vast and a lot of places still have cardio and fixed resistance, so I suggest people look at their footprint and look at what the outcome is. Go back to the basics and say: ‘right, what do I actually want? What do my members want? Do I want lots of cardio, do I want powerless treads?’ Which are again, a very trendy thing that’s come along with massive benefits. You have to be careful about what you chose, don’t be railroaded because people will try and fill your gym full of kit. And I’d suggest that you don’t want your gym full of kit. Be focused on what you want and select carefully.\

4) How can functional areas be adapted to maximise space?

I’m going to go back to what we’re all about. We stand for bespoke, I feel it’s the way forward. Don’t get a space and plonk a functional trainer in the middle of it. Yes, there may be time or budget constraints that mean that may be the only choice, but even with that, if you’re going to drop something into the middle of a room, let’s make sure everything on that unit is exactly how you’d want it. Don’t be driven by ‘oh well that’s how it comes”, it’s that width”, “it’s that length”… no it’s not. It might be for them… but let’s make it, let’s make you something you actually want.

Posted in Gyms & Clubs, Interviews, The Fitness Network.