Revised and updated December 18, 2020.
The market for gyms and fitness clubs has seen impressive growth over the past decade, with 27% more customers in the US than there were in 2010. Going into 2020, there were over 38,000 clubs across the country and the industry had an annual growth rate of 6.7%.
Franchises take up a significant part of that market, with 9,582 of the those 38,000 clubs. They accounted for $4 billion of gym, health, and fitness clubs’ $34 billion revenues in 2018. These franchises were doing so well that we had to expand our list from 25 to 33 of the best fitness franchises.
With 73.6 million consumers making over 6 billion trips to health clubs, studios, and gyms in a year, long-term prospects for the industry look good. However, COVID-19 has caused serious short-term disruption.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the gym and fitness industry. Gyms were among the first places forced to shut down during lockdowns and faced huge uncertainty over when they would be able to open again. Revenues vanished as classes were cancelled and memberships could not be used. When they were able to reopen, physical distancing led to reduced capacity for both exercise equipment and classes, while extra cleaning and the provision of physical barriers between machines added to expenses.
These adjustments, though costly, have proved worthwhile. Combined with a better understanding of the disease, they have allowed gyms to safely reopen. As a result, research by The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) and MXM found that gyms were not causing any significant spread of COVID-19. Customers seem keen to return, and some gyms are seeing waiting lists for popular classes and exercise slots.
As a result, the gym, health, and fitness clubs industry has survived the pandemic, though its revenues fell by an estimated 13.2% in 2020. Franchised gyms and fitness clubs saw a slightly slower decline of 11.2% in 2020. The industry hasn’t suffered as much as arts and entertainment, but it has seen tough times.
Because of the pandemic, home exercise options such as Peloton and online workouts have become more popular. This may cause a reduction in demand going forward, depending upon how attached consumers are to the rituals and social benefits of gym attendance. It also offers an opportunity for gyms, many of which have started creating online content to see their users through lockdowns. Gyms that provide this content may be able to access a larger consumer base and reduce the impact of future COVID-19 breakouts, or other social disruptions.
There is still huge demand for gyms and fitness centers, as shown by the fast return of customers to gyms once they reopened. While online exercise provides a substitute, and for some a more accessible approach to exercise, it doesn’t provide the same equipment, support, or social opportunities.
One of the appeals of gyms is the diverse range of activities, which are good for consumers who are looking for more interesting ways to sweat, such as spinning, kickboxing, barre workouts, trampoline jumping, and many more. And for those who want a no-frills, old-school kind of workout, there are now plenty of low-cost options available, some for as little as $10 per month. The industry’s appeal to a range of tastes and wallets is part of what has made it a success, and this is reflected in the franchising options.
Fitness franchises offer an array of concepts and a full range of initial investment requirements, from very little (under $10,000) all the way up to high-end options that will cost more than $5 million to launch. There is a fitness franchise available to fit nearly any budget.
The physical nature of exercise and the equipment required reduces the ability of eCommerce and online shopping to undercut business in this area. Gym memberships rose despite the creation of online options before the pandemic, and that trend is likely to continue as something approaching normal life returns. While 2021 is unlikely to be as good a year for gyms as 2019, safe and effective COVID vaccines, well-developed anti-COVID measures, the addition of online classes, and a gradual return to normality will allow gyms and fitness franchises to pull back from a very tough year.
While millions of Americans have gym memberships, only a third of them think that they get good value for money from this. This creates an opportunity for gym franchises that can provide a better balance of costs and services to draw away customers from their competitors.
The combination of new opportunities, a bounce-back from COVID, and the expected eventual return of the previous decade’s steady growth, together mean that gyms and fitness businesses offer huge potential and are among the most popular franchises.
The Top Gym and Fitness Franchises of 2021
Jazzercise is the kind of fitness franchise that has been around long enough that you might think it must be woefully out of date, but you’d be wrong. It may have just celebrated its 50th anniversary, but it has also managed to keep evolving by keeping its dance-party workouts fresh with elements of cardio, strength, Pilates, hip hop, yoga, and kickboxing to help customers burn up to 800 calories during a variety of 60-minute instructor-led classes. Those customers are also incredibly loyal, sticking with the program an average of 7 years, which is a franchisee’s dream.
Founded in 1969 by Judi Sheppard Missett and franchising since 1982, the number of locations has declined the past three years from a high of 8,679 in 2017 to the current total of 8,458, of which only two are company-owned and 2,013 are located outside the US.
2. Anytime Fitness
Anytime Fitness is a subsidiary of Self Esteem Brands, its parent company which owns a variety of related franchises such as Basecamp Fitness, Pumpone, Waxing the City, and Healthy Contributions. Anytime’s claim to fame is how members get 24/7 access to any of its 4,000+ locations around the world. Prospective customers can search the company website for the nearest location and receive a 7-day pass to try it out for free. New customers get a free personalized Get Started Plan with their membership, along with the Anytime Fitness app for goal-setting and more than 1,100 workout plans. Locations also offer yoga, spinning, and cardio workouts all for a surprisingly low monthly membership fee.
Founded in 2001 and franchising since 2002, the number of locations has continued expanding in recent years to the current total of 4,743 (up from the previous total of 4,081), of which only four are company-owned and 2,327 are located outside the US.
3. Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness is on a mission to dominate the fitness franchise industry. It already has a fantastic reputation as a low-cost “judgement-free” gym for regular people, with monthly membership fees among the lowest in the industry and perks like Pizza Mondays and Bagel Tuesdays. It has now launched the next phase of its plan, which is all about data-driven strategic partnerships. The chain knows a lot about its more than 12 million members, and wants to leverage that data into giving them even more value. Its first partner is Reebok, and it also recently tested a member-discount program with Audible.
Founded in 1992 and franchising since 2003, the number of locations has continued to expand steadily to the current total of 1,959 (up from the previous total of 1,859), of which 68 are company-owned and 56 are located outside the US.
4. Orangetheory Fitness
Orangetheory Fitness continues to make waves in the fitness franchise industry with its one-hour HIIT workout that claims to keep your heart in “afterburn” mode to not only immediately burn 500-1,000 calories during the workout, but even more in the 36 hours afterwards. One outspoken fitness and anti-obesity advocate, former First Lady Michelle Obama, swears by it. Workouts are offered at fixed times led by trainers on a no-contract monthly membership fee that includes either unlimited or a set number of classes.
Founded in 2010 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has risen rapidly to the current total of 1,385 (up from the previous total of 1,225), of which 16 are company-owned and 191 are located outside the US.
5. F45 Training
F45 Training was started in Australia as the brainchild of CEO Rob Deutsch, who wanted to create the ultimate fitness program that offers a personalized approach without the personal training price tag. And the name of the company explains the concept: The “F” stands for “functional” (the types of exercises) and the “45” is how long each and every class lasts in minutes. The chain has created 27 different workouts based on a high-intensity circuit training model and database of more than 3,000 exercises. New workouts and new exercises are constantly being developed.
Founded in 2011 and franchising since 2013, the number of locations has exploded rapidly to the current total of 1,296 (up from the previous total of 1,045), none of which are company-owned and 896 are located outside the US.
6. Snap Fitness
Snap Fitness is a no-frills gym with 24/7 keycard access to its locations for a low-cost monthly membership fee that includes the MYZONE fitness belt for real-time tracking of heart rate and calories burned during workouts. The chain’s signature workout offering that gets rave reviews is MYFIT, an 18-minute daily HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout led by an on-screen instructor and based on foundational functional movements and planes of motion. The class is offered for free to members, although even non-members can buy a group fitness pass.
Founded in 2003 by professional racquetball player Peter Taunton and franchising since 2004, the number of locations has declined slightly in recent years to the current total of 1,267 (down from the previous total of 1,395), of which 19 are company-owned and 519 are located outside the US.
9Round avoids set-time classes because its signature 30-minute circuit training workout starts a new round every three minutes. Customers learn all the basic kickboxing moves and enjoy kicking and punching the bags for a full-body workout under the guidance of trainers. Those who want additional healthy-living tips can get nutritional advice and online meal planning. The chain also touts its effectiveness for weight loss, helping its customers literally kick obesity to the curb.
Founded in 2007 and franchising since 2009, the number of locations climbed quickly for the first 8 years to a high of 797 in 2019 but has declined slightly to the current total of 748, of which 7 are company-owned and 202 are located outside the US.
8. Gold’s Gym
Gold’s Gym is one of the few “legacy” gyms on this list. It dates all the way back to the 1960s and got a major bump into the spotlight when it was featured in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1975 movie, Pumping Iron. Gold’s is a full-service gym with all kinds of training equipment, group fitness, personal training, locker room services, a kids’ club, and a pro shop with clothing, accessories, drinks, bars, supplements, nutritional products, and other items. Classes cover every type of workout anyone could want along with lots of fitness tools and apps.
Founded in 1965 and franchising since 1980, the number of locations has held relatively steady in recent years and currently stands at 721, of which 140 are company-owned and 399 are located outside the US.
9. Club Pilates
Club Pilates offers workouts led by certified instructors who have gone through hundreds of hours of training to meet rigorous teacher standards squarely grounded in Joseph Pilates’ original Reformer-based Contrology Method, but with some modern updates. Equipment used includes TRX, Barre, Exo-Chair, Bosu ball, mats, rollers, and more. There are four different membership options based on the number of classes (4-pack, 8-pack, monthly unlimited, and annual).
Founded in 2007 and franchising since 2012, the number of locations has expanded rapidly to the current total of 597 (up from the previous total of 554), three of which are company-owned and 10 of which are located outside the US.
10. Pure Barre
Pure Barre offers instructor-led classes for total body workouts using a ballet barre to perform small, isometric movements that burn fat and sculpt muscles into long, lean physiques. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a franchise that has more carefully crafted every detail of the customer experience from start to finish, which is why customers become more than just loyal, they form a supportive lifestyle community of women empowering each to become their very best selves.
Founded in 2001 and franchising since 2009, the number of locations has expanded steadily to the current total of 563 (up from the previous total of 524), of which only one is company-owned and three are located outside the US.
11. Fit Body Boot Camp
Fit Body Boot Camp positions itself as a 30-minute workout that’s fun and affordable, and gets fat-loss results people will love. As the company website explains, the method uses “…a combination of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Active Rest Training to get your body to burn up to twice the fat and calories that traditional workouts burn in only half the time.” CEO Bedros Keuilian attributes a big part of the chain’s success to effective social media storytelling that shows the impact on real customers.
Founded in 2009 and franchising since 2011, the number of locations had been steadily climbing to a high of 491 in 2018 but has dropped sharply to the current total of 355, only one of which is company-owned and 37 of which are located outside the US.
12. Crunch Fitness
Crunch Fitness is the place to go for people who want edgy, off-the-wall offerings that include Electro Stretch, Twerkout, Badass Bootcamp, Hip-Hop Aerobics, Co-Ed Action Wrestling, and Cyked Yoga Cycling. Their workouts fuse fitness and entertainment in order to make serious exercise fun. Keeping up a constant flow of new “wow” workouts isn’t easy, but Crunch manages to keep it going. And it was recently sold to TPG Growth, the middle market and growth platform of alternative asset firm TPG.
Founded in 2010 and franchising since then, the number of locations has steadily climbed to the current total of 300 (up from the previous total of 280), of which 26 are company-owned and 45 are located outside the US.
iLoveKickboxing.com is a fitness chain that prides itself on forming a supportive community with accountability for reaching fitness goals with adrenaline-flowing workouts anyone of any age or fitness level can do. You punch and kick your way through a great workout using bags instead of fighting other people. While the chain continues to grow its number of locations, there are a surprising number of news reports about locations that suddenly close with little if any notice and no refunds.
Founded in 2009 by Michael Parrella and franchising since 2012, the number of locations last reported was 264 in 2018, of which five were company-owned and 16 were located outside the US.
14. Burn Boot Camp
Burn Boot Camp was started by husband-and-wife team Devan and Morgan Kline. Devan had dreams of pitching in Major League Baseball, but was cut from the minor leagues. He began work as a Certified Personal Trainer and within a couple years came up with the idea of a women-only weight-loss fitness concept that became Burn Boot Camp. Mom-oriented perks include free childcare, healthy food recipes, and personal fitness consultations. It also makes use of Facebook Live, Instagram, and YouTube to stay in touch with customers and let them know about special promotions and fitness challenges.
Founded in 2012 and franchising since 2015, the number of locations has quickly vaulted to the current total of 261 (up from the previous total of 216), of which four are company-owned and all are located in the US.
CycleBar is an indoor cycling fitness chain that hit the ground running as a newcomer to franchising, but the concept existed for many years before that as an independent spinning studio, which allowed the founders (Bill Pryor and his sister, Alex Klemmer) to really hone their offering. There are three primary elements that make up the CycleBar experience: Great instructors called CycleStars, killer music playlists called CycleBeats that can be downloaded online, and CycleStats to track six key performance metrics in an intense environment that includes energy-enhancing video graphics and light shows. Prices per class seem reasonable, but can add up quickly.
Founded in 2014 and franchising since 2015, the number of locations currently stands at 208, none of which are company-owned and two of which are located outside the US.
GymGuyz is a chain that brings the workout to you, along with a wide range of other healthy-living services. A personal trainer shows up at your home with a van full of equipment to deliver just about any kind of fitness training a person could want, along with nutritional counseling and massage therapy. The chain’s rapid growth shows there is definitely a demand for this unique concept of an in-home mobile fitness training service.
Founded in 2008 and franchising since 2013, the number of locations grew rapidly to a peak of 240 in 2019 but has since dropped to the current total of 185, of which four are company-owned and 45 are located outside the US.
17. TITLE Boxing Club
TITLE Boxing Club gets people working out like they’re getting ready for a prize fight. The chain’s signature Power Hour workout uses boxing basics to achieve both fitness and confidence. With slogans like “Find Your Fierce” and “Fight Your Battles,” there’s a lot of empowerment going on that extends well beyond the gym. Trainers lead customers through multiple HIIT rounds of delivering jab, cross, hook, and uppercut combinations to 100-pound heavy bags with four different class lengths of 30, 45, 60, and 75 minutes.
Founded in 2008 and franchising since 2009, the number of locations has increased to the current total of 183 (down from the previous total of 187), of which two are company-owned and eight are located outside the US.
18. Workout Anytime 24/7
Workout Anytime 24/7 is growing fast, and CEO Jim Strickland says it’s because their model is working well for the chain’s franchisees, more than 70% of whom own multiple locations, which Strickland says is the best validation of all. The concept is similar to the other low-cost workout chains that give 24/7 access to their locations for customers who may want to get sweaty at odd times of the day. And it claims people can get visible, substantial results with just 20 minutes of daily exercise – at least as long as it’s an intense workout using their full range of state-of-the-art equipment supplied by Matrix Fitness. This high-end equipment at a low-end membership price defines this chain’s growing competitive advantage.
Founded in 1999 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations has climbed steadily to the current total of 169 (down from the previous total of 174), only one of which is company-owned and all are located in the US.
19. UFC Gym
UFC Gym is all about the fighting-style workout, and those who are interested can actually train towards real fighting competitions. But the chain also has a strong focus on kids, youth, and families rarely found at other gyms. Workouts can be modeled on a wide range of fighting styles, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Judo, boxing, kickboxing, and other mixed disciplines. But you don’t have to fight to get a good workout in because each location also has standard fitness equipment like treadmills, elliptical trainers, and bikes.
Founded in 1992 and franchising since 2004, the number of locations has increased only slightly to the current total of 141 (up from the previous total of 133), of which 14 are company-owned and 42 are located outside the US.
20. Retro Fitness
Retro Fitness just hired Andrew Alfano to be its new CEO, although founder Eric Casaburi maintains a major stake in the company and a seat on its board. Alfano was previously president and COO of early education franchise The Learning Experience, doubling that chain’s number of locations and hitting record revenue. Before that, Alfano was a senior vice president at Starbucks where he was accountable for more than $3.5 billion in revenue. Retro Fitness is another “high-value, low-cost” 24/7 fitness franchise featuring cardio equipment with LCD television screens, 3 kinds of circuit training equipment, and free weights along with movie theaters that play retro movies and music.
Founded in 2002 by and franchising since 2006, the number of locations currently stands at 140 (down from the previous total of 147), none of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
21. The Exercise Coach
The Exercise Coach was started by Brian Cygan when he realized that people could achieve their goals with brief, focused exercise for fitness and fat loss. Customers do 20-minute workouts just twice a week and can choose one-on-one, partner, or small-group training sessions. Looking at the website, it’s clear that the chain’s target market is middle-aged and older. The middle-aged crowd is too busy to be working out all the time, so twice a week sounds ideal. And for the older crowd, the more private setting is way preferable to any kind of loud, crowded, intimidating gym scene. Prospective customers can get a free one-on-one consultation to see if this might be the right workout option for them.
Founded in 2000 and franchising since 2010, the number of locations has risen rapidly to 121 (up from the previous total of 69), of which two are company-owned and 30 are located outside the US.
22. Blink Fitness
Blink Fitness focuses on how customers feel rather than how they look with workout experiences that make people feel great. The company recently announced its breakthrough technology called a Personalized Mobile Companion available within the Blink app. It gives members a daily, personalized content feed tailored to their specific goals across a range of healthy-living topics to help them to exercise better, eat better, recharge better, and live better without having to sort through the impossible amounts of information search engines deliver on every simple query.
Founded in 2011 and franchising since 2015, the number of locations currently stands at 107 (up from the previous total of 87), 96 of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
23. The Camp Transformation Center
The Camp Transformation Center is a weight-loss fitness chain with a strong motivational component based on a positive, you-can-do-it message but with a dose of no-excuses tough love thrown in for good measure. The goal is nothing short of total body transformation through dramatic weight loss combined with emotional overhaul – and the chain has gotten results for enough people that the franchise is now in a solid rapid-growth phase.
Founded in 2010 and franchising since 2016, the number of locations currently stands at 104 (down from the previous total of 108), of which five are company-owned and one is located outside the US.
StretchLab is a unique concept that delivers highly-customized stretching routines to customers with the assistance of certified “Flexologists” who have been through 60-70 hours of theory and hands-on training. Customers can choose one-on-one 25-minute or 50-minute stretch sessions, or participate in group stretches. Each customer works with a flexologist to achieve the level of flexibility that’s right for them. And if you really want to know, the methodology used in one-on-one stretch sessions is called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF. Sessions also make use of both static and dynamic stretching.
Founded in 2015 and franchising since 2017, the number of locations stands at 82 (up from the previous total of 36), of which none are company-owned and all are in the US.
25. CKO Kickboxing
CKO Kickboxing is another of the fight-based fitness franchises in which customers get a full-body workout by punching and kicking heavy bags. A one-hour workout can burn as many as 1,200 calories. Many find the workout to be a major stress reliever as well. The cardio-kickboxing workouts are like having a personal trainer but in a group setting. The company website describes the approach simply as “REAL PEOPLE use REAL HEAVY BAGS to get REAL RESULTS.”
Founded in 1997 by Joseph Andreula and franchising since 2007, the number of locations is currently 78 (down from the previous total of 87), none of which are company-owned and one of which is located outside the US.
26. Row House
Row House set out to redefine rowing as a fitness activity anyone can do, and by all accounts they are succeeding. Each location offers an array of immersive, energetic indoor rowing classes that combine low-impact cardio, resistance training, stretching, and rhythm-based rowing.
There are six different 45-minute classes, each with a different focus that keeps customers progressing throughout each week without plateaus. The House class breaks up the rowing with intervals of floor-based exercises; the Body class sculpts and tones with dumbbell exercises between rowing intervals; Full Row is intense endurance-based interval rowing; the Power class pushes aerobic limits with HIIT training; Restore improves mobility with dynamic stretching between rowing intervals; and Stroke focuses on proper rowing technique.
Founded in 2014 and franchising since 2017, there are currently 73 locations (up from the previous total of 18), of which seven are company-owned and all are located in the US.
27. 30 Minute Hit
30 Minute Hit is a 30-minute boxing and kickboxing circuit workout studio that caters to women. Visit the company website and you’ll see women punching the heck out of a punching bag that is in the form of…a man! And they’re clearly enjoying it, too. The circuit consists of 13 different stations, and customers spend two minutes at each station to utilize boxing, kickboxing, general self-defense, and core stability training exercises to get their hearts pumping and calories burning.
Founded in 2004 and franchising since 2006, the number of locations currently stands at 68 (up from the previous total of 62), none of which are company-owned and 59 of which are located outside the US (mostly in Canada, where the company was started).
YogaSix, as the name implies, offers six core fitness-oriented yoga classes: Y6 101 is for beginners; Y6 Stretch emphasizes floor postures to stretch/open/release the body’s major muscle groups; Y6 Slow Flow is at a slower pace for newbies to build confidence or for more advanced students to refine their fundamentals; Y6 Hot gets students sweating their way to feeling detoxed and invigorated; Y6 Power is a heated full-body yoga workout; and Y6 Sculpt & Flow starts with a yoga warm-up before a cross-training workout with dumbbells, bands, and body weight exercises, followed by a yoga cooldown. Yoga lovers who want more of a fitness workout than they’ll ever get at most yoga centers are sure to love the Y6 approach.
Founded in 2012 and franchising since 2018, there are now 58 locations (up from the previous total of 21), five of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
SPENGA is a combination fitness approach that combines spinning, strength, and yoga exercises into what it thinks is the best workout ever. Each type of exercise has its own dedicated area in the studio and customers spend 20 minutes in each area during a standard 60-minute workout based on HIIT principles. Throw in invigorating aromatherapy and energizing DJ-inspired beats and you’ve got a winning combination that keeps people moving to avoid plateaus for greater calorie burn.
Founded in 2015 and franchising since then, there are currently 49 locations in the US listed on the company website, with at least another dozen “coming soon.”
30. The Barre Code
The Barre Code emphasizes positive motivation to deliver what it calls “the most efficient and results-driven fitness program.” Group classes fall into three major categories, including Cardio (HIIT training, often through kickboxing), Strength (barre-assisted full-body movements targeting upper body, core, and lower body), and Restoration (a full-body workout followed by mindfulness activities to achieve better connection between mind, body, and spirit).
Founded in 2010 and franchising since 2013, the number of locations currently stands at 45 (up from the previous total of 40), of which four are company-owned and all are located in the US.
31. Get In Shape for Women
Get In Shape for Women takes a unique approach to helping women lose weight and achieve a healthier lifestyle by limiting its workout groups to just four people, since their method depends on individual attention from a personal trainer but with the accountability that comes from a group model. Elements include weight training, cardio, and nutrition counseling. Each group attends one-hour training sessions three times per week. Members are expected to show a high level of commitment to the process.
Founded in 2006 and franchising since 2007, the number of locations has been declining since its peak of 102 in 2012 to the last reported total of 43 in 2018, four of which were company-owned and all of which were located in the US.
32. Iron Tribe Fitness
Iron Tribe Fitness offers a distinctive blend of group fitness and one-on-one coaching to help people achieve a higher level of health and fitness. The chain’s 45-minute group classes are capped at 20 participants and use HIIT-style training with two highly-trained coaches in every session. Its PUSH program uses simple cardio equipment to achieve elevated metabolism that will keep burning calories for hours after the workout. The POWER program uses weights to build next-level strength. The PERFORM program is geared towards higher-level athletes who need more focused, intense training.
Founded in 2010 and franchising since 2012, the number of locations declined to the last total reported in 2017 of 38, of which 8 were company-owned and all of which were located in the US.
Fitwall is a new chain that offers customers a way to “train smarter” using its unique piece of equipment called the Fitwall. It was invented by Doug Brendle, who originally intended to sell it to individual consumers, but then sold the rights to a group of partners who wanted to form a fitness franchise of studios where people can use the apparatus under the guidance of trained instructors. The focus is on bodyweight exercises performed vertically that combine strength, cardio, and flexibility training in 40-minute group sessions, along with floor exercises and resistance bands.
Founded in 2013 and franchising since 2014, the number of locations currently stands at just two (down from the previous total of seven), both in Denver, Colorado.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.