Issue No. 250: Selling Strength

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Helping top health and wellness companies hire world-class marketing talent.

For operators and everyday exercisers, strength training is a must.

Use It or Lose It

Dating back to ancient Greece, humans have pursued resistance exercise to increase muscular power, endurance, and mass. But in the modern world, the weight of never lifting is too heavy to ignore.

  • 30–60 minutes of strength training per week reduces all-cause mortality by 10–17%.
  • Linking exercise to sleep, strength trainers gained an extra 40 min/night vs. 23 min/night after aerobic exercise only.
  • Resistance training (regardless of strength gains) diminishes depression and anxiety in adults while delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s.

The quintessential case of “use it or lose it,” muscle mass naturally decreases 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 — making weight training a miracle drug to combat aging.

US weakly. Despite resistance training’s effectiveness for body recomposition and disease reversal, most Americans aren’t lifting a finger, let alone a weight.

  • ~65% of American workers have occupations that rarely require lifting more than a pound.
  • 70% of US adults fail to meet the CDC’s twice-weekly recommendation for muscle strengthening exercise.
  • 57.8% fail to participate in any strength training at all.

Iron age. Putting aesthetics aside, strength has a new ethos, becoming an integral part of holistic longevity for a growing 30% of exercisers — with physical and mental health benefits as a bonus.

Trading aerobics for free weights and functional training, strength classes were the most reserved class type of 2022 and 2021, largely driven by Gen Z and millennial exercisers.

Strength Sells

Removing barriers to entry like intimidation, lack of education, and accountability, boutique studios and big-box brands are tapping demand by offering safe and effective strength training at scale.

The latest: Last week, Orangetheory Fitness unveiled Strength 50, a 50-minute session dedicated to strength and functional resistance training using dumbbells, TRX suspension trainers, and more. After amassing 10K signups while in beta, the class is rolling out at studios globally, becoming part of the brand’s “holistic fitness regimen.”

While OTF has always included elements of weight training, the dedicated class mirrors a movement taking shape across the industry.

Bridging the gap between cardio-focused or highly choreographed concepts and CrossFit-esque barbell routines or 1:1 personal training, social-oriented group strength classes are catching on.

Aussie rules. A significant export for Australia, interval-based functional weight training has taken the world by storm, with F45 Training, BFT, and Fitstop springing up in every corner of the globe, with other concepts like The Yard and S30 recently following in their footsteps.

Body by big-box. Alongside adding strength floors and hiring additional trainers, Life Time is building space for its Alpha strength class into new clubs, NYSC is exploring club-in-club kettlebell studios after acquiring Fhitting Room, and World Gym is reimagining its clubs as strength boutiques.

Strength+. “Sculpt” classes—blending resistance training with modalities like yoga or Pilates—saw bookings grow 471% YoY in 2022. Capitalizing on this trend, CorePower Yoga and Pure Barre added weight-based workouts, while Pvolve, [solidcore], and STRONG Pilates pushed expansion.

Elsewhere… Strength-centered HIIT favorite Barry’s is adding locations. Franchise strength lab MADabolic is also eyeing growth. Meanwhile, Nike is entering group fitness with new functional training studios powered by FitLab, which is scaling its own lifting-focused studio, Racked.

Punchline: For health, performance, and longevity, few bets are a sure thing. But strength training is one of them. Waking up to the benefits and business opportunity, more operators are selling strength — here’s hoping more people buy in.

🎙 On the Podcast

“The Body Coach” Joe Wicks shares his journey from personal trainer to fitness mogul.

Based out of the UK, Wicks gained international acclaim for his approachable views on fitness and nutrition. Now, The Body Coach has expanded into a global brand, including books, events, and a lifestyle app.

We also cover: building an engaged community, exercising to improve mental health, and helping kids and families get active.

Listen to today’s episode here.

🎾 On Running targets tennis

Having already signed top players like Ben Shelton and Iga Świątek to its roster, the Roger Federer-backed shoe brand is perfecting its on-court footwear, with plans to add apparel.

On the upswing. Since its 2021 IPO, On has been stealing speciality running market share, leveraging omnichannel customer engagement and sustainability as differentiators.

  • In Q2 2023, North American sales jumped ~60% to $338M.
  • DTC sales increased 54.7%, while wholesale increased 51% YoY.
  • Its Onward resale program has repurposed more than 30K products, and its recyclable sneaker subscription is a hit with Gen Z.

Reputation set, the athletic shoe maker plans to evolve its web domain (from “on-running” to “on” dot com) and reposition as a global sportswear label — starting with a swing at tennis.

Race to rally. Fueled by the game’s resurgence and parallel explosion of racket sports like pickleball and padel, tennis apparel sales have surged 38% since 2020, attracting renewed interest from activewear retailers.

Eyeing expansion, lululemon tapped 19-year-old pro Leylah Fernandez as a global ambassador in 2019, coinciding with the launch of its tennis-specific line.

Elsewhere… fashion-forward collabs, like Kith x Wilson’s co-branded designs and Lacoste x Sporty & Rich’s capsule, prove tennis club style is as cool as ever.

Blending performance and lifestyle, tennis is an ideal target for companies looking to expand into athleisure. And, with racket-sport venues ramping up, the opportunity to serve sporty-chic clientele is set to skyrocket.

Punchline: Running was its route to the mainstream, but On’s ambitions have outgrown its single-sport focus. Serving up tennis gear, the company hopes to ride the racket wave on its way to becoming a sport-agnostic lifestyle brand.

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💸 Bold adds $17M to scale digital fitness for seniors

The Series A round was led by Rethink Impact, with participation from Samsung Next, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Primetime Partners, and others.

Movement is medicine. Bold’s digital platform delivers science-backed exercise routines for older adults with the goal of boosting longevity while reducing healthcare costs.

  • Bold’s programming was shown to reduce falls 46% and increase weekly physical activity 182%.
  • Its service is available at no cost to 10M+ older adults through partnerships with Medicare plans and providers.

By increasing access to personalized routines dedicated to fall prevention, pain reduction, and overall well-being, the company has gained traction among government and private insurers.

Aging well. The US population is growing grayer by the day, with adults 65+ set to outnumber those under 18 by 2034. At the same time, healthcare spending is skyrocketing as life expectancy declines.

Signaling a paradigm shift in aging well, Bold joins companies like Mighty Health, NourishedRx, and Hank in prioritizing physical activity, nutrition, and community for seniors.

Punchline. It’s no secret that exercisefood, and close relationships can do wonders for our health. But, waiting until we’re too old or sick to establish good habits is harmful to individuals and society alike. Taking action now, aligning incentives to promote prevention is the only sustainable path forward.

📰 News & Notes

  • Chris Hemsworth’s Centr enters fitness equipment.
  • Fitt Jobs: Simplify the search; find the careers you want.
  • Tracksmith reimagines NIL with a new student-athlete initiative.
  • Headspace launches mindfulness content for kids and families.
  • Xponential Fitness targets $2B in sales by 2026, teams with Gympass.
  • Life Time breaks ground on 25K-sq-ft dedicated pickleball facility in Minnesota.
  • NBA tech incubator opens submissions for third class, advances women’s sports.
  • See why WHOOP, Athletic Greens, and Hyperice trust Jack Taylor for PR, storytelling, brand building, and more.*

💰 Money Moves

  • Bold, a Medicare-backed digital fitness platform for older adults, raised $17M in Series A funding.
  • Kinderfarms, a clean kids medicine company started by actress Jessica Biel, raised $20M in new funding.
  • Better-for-you boxed mac and cheese brand Goodles raised $13M in a Series A round led by L Catterton.
  • ZOA, an energy drink brand founded by Dwayne Johnson, received a “step-up investment” from multinational beverage company Molson Coors.
    More from Fitt Insider: Inside the Energy Drink Boom
  • Maternal mental health platform Mavida Health secured $1.5M in pre-seed funding.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Maternal Health Crisis 
  • Customized beauty company Proven secured $12M in a Series A round.
  • Gym developer Aktiv Solutions acquired fitness design consulting firm Fitspace.
  • Voiijer, a social platform connecting nature-lovers, raised $1M from undisclosed investors.
  • Swiss longevity-focused biotech startup Rejuveron Life Sciences AG raised $75M in a Series B round.
  • WM Partners acquired DTC supplement brand Primal Harvest.
  • Powder Mountain, a Utah ski resort, secured a $100M investment from Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, making him a majority owner.
    More from Fitt Insider: Adventure Lodging Scales Up
  • Meati, a mushroom-based meat alternative, raised $50M in a Series C extension.
  • NeuroFlow, a behavioral health support platform, received an undisclosed investment from healthcare-focused firm Concord Health.
  • Virtual care clinic GEM Health raised seed funding led by HealthTrend Capital to scale sleep support services.
  • Aging care patient management platform Blooming Health closed an oversubscribed $4.2M seed round.

Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony Vennare, Joe Vennare, Ryan Deer, and Jasmina Breen. 

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