Traditionally, group exercise has catered to the cardiovascular crowd. But asfitness patrons become more savvy about the advantages of performing other types of activities, their new knowledge has sparked a demand for new types of classes.”There’s a growing awareness about the health benefits of weight-bearing exercise for women and men,” says Cleland.

Bagshaw identifies media coverage of the advantages of lifting weights as a major force behind the growing interest in group strength programs: “It’s hard to pick up a health or fitness magazine without finding something related to the importance of resistance training.” Donna Meyer, the corporate director of group exercise for 24 Hour Fitness and the IDEA 2000 Program Director of the Year, also acknowledges the media’s role in cultivating a more educated client base. “People are taking more control of their health and fitness by learning what programs are of benefit to them and why they are important,” she says.

Minimizes intimidation

“It can be very intimidating trying to fend for yourself on the weight room floor,” notes Bagshaw. Not knowing what resistance exercises to do or how to perform them often prevents patrons from spending adequate time building muscle. But the user-friendly format of muscle conditioning classes changes that.

“Many people are intimidated [to]do exercises alone in the weight room, because they feel very exposed, like they might do an exercise incorrectly and look silly,” observes Cleland. “In a group situation, it’s a lot easier to blend into the crowd. Everyone’s too busy working on their own technique to bother watching others.”

Promotes safe and effective exercise

Training under the guidance of a fitness instructor promotes safety because members are more likely to perform exercises correctly — both in classes and on their own. “In muscle conditioning classes, participants get accurate information and ideas for exercises they can perform later when working out alone,” points out Prolo. Learning how to perform the exercises properly reduces the risk of accidents and/or injury, an obvious plus for both fitness clientele and facilities.