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Is Your “Advanced Class” a Cancer for Your Gym?

The art of catering to the interests of advanced athletes without polarizing your gym members.


Let me get this straight. The fittest people in your gym want more because they aren’t regular students anymore. They are “elite.” Furthermore, they think they are going to Regionals. The answer? The answer is often the “advanced class.” It’s great. Athletes can do what they want without the silly constraints and responsibilities of a regular membership while polarizing your gym with “us” and “them” vibes.

The problem with the advanced class in many cases is that it can be a cancer for your gym, and it’s often not a real business concept. Plus, it often makes for a lot less community feel and a lot more schoolyard cliquey.

The real trick with evolving your general physical preparedness program is to provide value for everyone involved. In this case, the key stakeholders are the advanced athletes, the gym community and the business. Observationally, most gyms that I see that implement this program do one of two things.

The first variation that I often see looks less like a program and more like a club. Only a handful of students are cool enough/fit enough to partake. The general vibe is distracting to the core business of the gym and ends up being the clique in the corner, which stirs the undermining question from students in the regular program, “If this is so great., why are they doing that?”

The second variation I see is an advanced class that falls within the structure of the general membership but isn’t fundamentally different. Usually, the program is just more work with less coaching. Furthermore, this class often becomes a gray area of who is “advanced” and who isn’t. Next thing you know, if you have double-unders and do workouts as prescribed, you’re advanced.

Surely, these aren’t the only ways advanced classes are run nor are these the only ways they falter, but these are common issues I see, which leads to the point: How can we do it better?

I think the best evolution of programming for more advanced athletes looking for more training is a real issue that can and should be addressed. I think we know that at some point, six sessions a week of your GPP program isn’t necessarily better for your athletes than five. Furthermore, we might agree that seven sessions isn’t better than six and so on.

In a perfect world, the “advanced class” would benefit all the stakeholders mentioned above. Consider that with this program, we have more specific information about the athletes (i.e., they will train more, have better compliance and probably have less issues with following a training schedule), therefore, adding a more progressive (and scalable) strength-and-conditioning structure can add value to anyone who is wanting more, not just the fittest eight outliers in the gym. This would handle the needs of the advanced athletes’ interests.

I’d argue that most gyms that try to evolve their GPP programs fail to consider that most of their newer athletes have compliance issues, can’t handle volume and, therefore, participate in a program that is so specific that they’re actually loosely participating in a program that would be great for someone with regular four-plus-days-per-week compliance but actually worse than a truly constantly varied program.

Furthermore, this program should have a business element to it. Since we mentioned the program can still be scalable, there’s value for anyone wanting more, including a paying population of students. This would have a cost and would handle the needs of the coaches’ and gym owners’ needs.

The context of this advanced program being less about the cool kids and more about the paying members who want more structure, more specifics and more top-end performance means it doesn’t polarize the gym. The regular GPP students can appreciate that there are structured programs (with accountability) for everyone, which allows the regular GPP program to be more true to what it is, the “advanced” program to be more true to what it is, and neither detracts from the other.

Though this is a loose conceptual piece, I think it may help shift gyms away from a potentially harmful addition to the community. Before I go, however, calling it something other than “advanced” might be the first, most important step.

Good luck!