The First Three Starting Strength Gyms – An Analysis

by Ray Gillenwater, SSC | October 03, 2019

starting strength gym storefront

There is nothing novel about the observation that training under the guidance of a coach, three times a week, is the most effective way to get stronger. What is novel is the hypothesis that there are enough trainees in major US markets that are willing to pay over $300/month to make it worthwhile for an entrepreneur to open a Starting Strength Gym.

On one hand, paying $300+ a month for a gym membership is nearly equivalent to a car lease – a material part of anyone’s budget that’s not independently wealthy. On the other hand, getting access to a Starting Strength Coach for less than $30 per training session is easy to justify for anyone that’s attempted to do the program on their own and has hit snags with technique, programming, or recovery. Or for anyone that wants to get stronger and realizes there is no other option on the market – not a single national gym chain offers actual strength training.

Now that we have three gyms open, we’ve had several months to test these hypotheses. We’ve also been able to test our assumptions about which cities are most suitable for gyms, which areas in each city make the most sense to place the gyms, which class of real estate is optimal, what size gym is ideal, how to manage each member's individual programming, how to manage group training sessions, and many others.

Evaluating our performance comes down to two important questions: First, are we making people stronger? If we're not, we are just like every other gym franchise. Second, are the gyms performing well financially? If not, they won’t be able to pay SSCs the premium they deserve, nor will gym owners be able to make a living. Let’s look at the data:

Are We Making People Stronger?

Our first data pull from our digital logbook app shows results that stand alone in the fitness industry, since we actually measure them. Below are the average weight-on-the-bar increases, in pounds, between April 15 and August 12, 2019:

Trainee Performance
















Filters: Minimum 4 weeks of training at least 2.5x/week, on average

Are the Gyms Performing Well Financially?

Sales Performance Prior to Gym Openings (Pre-Sales)


Opened 4.15.19

Opened 7.1.19

Opened 8.19.19

Memberships Sold

38 + 20*



Average Membership Price




Lowest Priced Membership




Median Priced Membership




Highest Priced Membership




Monthly Recurring Revenue




Total Pre-Sale Revenue




*Austin opened with 58 members. 20 of those were from the gym owner’s previous gym business.

Year to Date Sales Performance as of August 26, 2019


Open for 20 Weeks

Open for 8 Weeks

Open for 1 Week

Memberships Sold




Average Membership Price




—Lowest Priced Membership




—Median Priced Membership




—Highest Priced Membership




Monthly Recurring Revenue




Year to Date Revenue




The pre-sales performance of the gyms indicates latent demand for Starting Strength. Most trainees signed up, before ever seeing the gyms (since they weren’t built yet), prepaid between $500-550 ($185 intro plus the first month’s dues), and committed to a 3x/week training schedule with a coach that most had never met. These early adopters are willing to make that big a commitment because they understand how important it is to be strong and how important it is to hire a competent coach.

Our next two gym openings, Starting Strength Denver and Starting Strength Boston will be first to run a pre-sale with a lower barrier to entry: $185 at time of sign up, with monthly billing starting after the gym opens. We are running this and several other experiments in parallel. For example, Austin and Dallas are each owned and operated by an SSC. Denver and Boston will join Houston as gyms that are owned and operating by non-SSC entrepreneurs that have hired SSCs. It will be interesting to compare the pros and cons of each approach as the gyms continue to progress.

To date, we have proven several important parts of the model. Our job now is to ensure that everyone involved with the gyms (both trainees and gym owners) get what they signed up for: steady gains in strength. The goal of Starting Strength Gyms is to become to the gym business what Starting Strength is to fitness: a complete model that produces the desired result every time it’s applied correctly.

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