The demand for boutique fitness studios and community-oriented small group training continues to rise in popularity. This rapidly growing sector of the health and wellness market seems to be here to stay.

One strong example is global boutique fitness franchisor Xponential Fitness, which saw a revenue increase in Q1 of $20 million in Q1 of 2023 compared to the same quarter last year.

It’s clear that exercise participants want to work out together and they find the camaraderie inspiring. According to the MindBody 2023 Wellness Index, over 60% of consumers find in-person workouts at a gym or fitness studio motivating to help them reach their fitness goals. Small group training is the ideal setting for this.

Designing for small group training or a boutique fitness experience is quite different than designing a traditional club or gym. From the initial approach to the execution, there are many key factors to consider.

FitnessDesignGroup Functional Design Specialist Stephanie Sola walks us through some of these considerations in the following interview

How do you approach designing small group boutique studios compared to gyms? 

Most small-group boutique studio brands are built around specific-modality offerings, making them quite different from traditional gyms. So, the design approach is driven by their offering and what types of workouts they intend to facilitate in the space. This will determine their equipment needs, how people use the space and move through and around the space, how guidance is offered, and more.

For example, a cycling studio will have little to no strength equipment. Conversely, a circuit or HIIT studio may have little to no cardio pieces.  As always, we talk through the business owner’s vision in detail and that will inform our initial design approach.

Fitness space designed for small group training with digital exercise guidance.

You mention guidance, how does that impact design?

Most small group studios are trainer led. It might be one instructor with a group of seven to ten participants, or multiple instructors or trainers for several groups of three to five people. From a design perspective, we want to make sure that there is enough equipment and space to facilitate result-driven workouts. We also take into consideration the instructor’s eye line to ensure the best outcomes for safe and effective workouts.

Sometimes we like to use digital guidance to supplement workouts during “open gym” hours if that business offers it.  For example, the studio may want to offer a “workout-of-the-day,” so patrons can reference the digital guidance on the TV on the wall for the correct form and suggested rep count or how long to do that movement before resting.

What about incorporating small group training into a small footprint?

The great thing about small group studios is that they can work very well within a smaller space.  We wouldn’t be able to design a health club model into 1,000 square feet, but that does work for many small groups.  In fact, 1,000 squad-foot storefront spaces are very common for new businesses. Storefront spaces also offer the potential to expand into adjacent space as they become more and more successful

How important is equipment and storage when it comes to designing for small group training? 

Very important and both differ for every client. Again, we sit down before putting pen to paper to get a full sense of the facility format and future vision so we can tailor solutions from there. How much and the type of equipment is largely based on the format of the group training. There are common accessories and equipment that are used more frequently than others such as dumbbells, kettlebells, and suspension tools, but we enjoy supporting unique equipment curation as well.

No matter the business model, we want to make sure members have easy access to the accessories they need during training. We want accessories stored in a convenient location, so trainers and members don’t have to walk all the way across the room for a simple kettlebell. Additionally, we want accessories and equipment to be stored in a way that presents well. Walking into a studio with weights all over the ground compared to a studio with weights stored in a clean, orderly fashion are two very different user experiences.

Are acoustics and sound considerations when designing for small group training? 


Some studios have loud music during their classes, and if we need to make space for speakers so an instructor is amplified, we take that into consideration during the design process. Adversely, if we need to be sensitive so that sound doesn’t leave the room or building, we can suggest different types of flooring to help dampen sound, like dropped weights or vibrations from cardio equipment. Digital guidance with visual cues is a good option to replace loudspeakers so as not to disturb neighbors.  

Are there specific flooring considerations?

Yes, we want flooring that can support dynamic movements, as well as one that is comfortable enough to be on your hands and knees. Virgin rubber products are common in this type of space, and there are other soft surface matting options as well.

Certain turf products can work well too. That said, there is a range of quality in all those types of products, so we always discuss high-quality options to meet the needs of our clients in alignment with the finish option they prefer. 

FitnessDesignGroup designers are uniquely qualified to create small group training spaces that fit any operator’s vision and needs. Contact one of our Design Specialists to find out more today.