Incorporating Functional Training Zones in Your Facility

Incorporating Functional Training Zones in Your Facility

Whereas exercisers used to independently hit the cardio floor and/or weight room – for cardio or strength days – the distinct lines between the two modalities no longer exist today.

Functional workouts typically incorporate both cardio intervals and strength training, along with plyometrics, speed drills, power work and more. Influenced by CrossFit, Orangetheory, boot camps and HIIT, functional workouts at health clubs, corporate fitness facilities and student recreation centers now are a must-have, along with a dedicated area for them.

But clubs no longer can simply pull some machines from a corner, throw down some turf and claim to offer functional fitness. Indeed, the bar for functional training has been raised, and fitness centers that offer effective specialty spaces are benefitting from additional traffic, programming and revenue.

PLAE has significant experience in helping equip many modern functional training zones at different types of fitness facilities globally. To create or revamp a functional training area to maximize usage and success, here we highlight several important considerations: design/layout, equipment/accessories, and programming/promotion.



Finding space for functional training may take some creativity, because ideally, you should aim for 1,000-3,500 square feet. Clubs can convert gym floors, racquetball courts, offices, storage spaces, cafes or common areas into functional workout areas. Or they reduce the size of the cardio floor or weight room by removing pieces of equipment in order to make room for this dedicated training zone.

If possible, locate your functional training space in a highly visible area, where members can easily see the action. You don’t necessarily have to wall off the area, but use flooring and equipment to clearly designate its borders. Tucking functional training away in a basement or remote room can limit interest and traffic.

While bare-bones settings are popular in CrossFit boxes, expectations today are higher at health clubs, corporate fitness facilities and student rec centers. Extras like special lighting, motivational graphics and music add to the energy and the unique experience.

Proper flooring is critical not only for aesthetics, but also for performance and safety. Highly durable surfaces, from rubber to turf to synthetic wood, are essential, and those with shock reduction, energy return, and noise mitigation are a definite plus. Some rubber flooring and turf also can include inlaid markings for specific activities.

Regarding layout, functional training is all about open space, so locate equipment at the perimeter of the room and off to the sides so exercisers can freely maximize movements and range of motion. Organize equipment logically based on programming and training so that users don’t have to constantly walk all over the room and create more traffic.

Many functional equipment manufacturers offer layout services to help determine how best to use your space.



How you equip your functional training zone depends on the amount of space available, your member demographics and programming. Workouts should address stamina, strength, power, balance, and flexibility, and having a variety of accessories and tools accommodates different fitness levels, stimulates results and helps encourage adherence over time.

Common tools for functional training include:

  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Barbells
  • Weight plates
  • Plyo boxes
  • Battle ropes
  • Tires
  • Resistance bands/tubing
  • Slam balls
  • Medicine balls
  • Stability balls
  • Sleds
  • Heavy bags
  • Balance trainers
  • Cones
  • Agility ladders
  • Mini-hurdles

Single-unit functional training units facilitate multiple exercises in one compact area, and multi-jungles incorporate several stations for circuits and simultaneous use by many exercisers. Some use cables and pulleys with weight stacks, or have suspension training capabilities, pull-up bars, ball targets, anchors for resistance bands, monkey bars and more. Freestanding or wall-mounted, they come in a variety of configurations to fit your space. Some include built-in storage for accessories, which is a bonus.



With functional training zones, the biggest mistake is to equip the area and then just leave it alone, hoping that curious members wander in and figure it out. Functional training equipment and accessories are not necessarily complicated, but aren’t totally intuitive either. They are not the same as a selectorized machine, for instance, that most members can understand by following the instructional placard.

For a thriving functional training space, first train your staff on all the equipment to ensure safety. Many manufacturers provide training for fitness professionals, as well as fully developed functional training regimens. Then offer equipment demos to members, and run free small group training (SGT) sessions initially to better acquaint exercisers with functional training.

Determine if your staff will develop ongoing programming, or if your club will purchase or license it for individual personal training, SGT or larger classes. Then continually communicate your offerings via marketing, social media and promotions and giveaways. Highlight the functional training zone on prospect tours, and solicit and post testimonials on your website, app and other communication vehicles.

Functional training is here to stay, and the most successful fitness facilities are equipped with dedicated spaces that offer members a variety of equipment and creative programming options that help them meet their fitness goals.

For more information about functional training zone design, click here.

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