Younger generations are exercising more than their parents do, and strength training is the workout of choice. Taking notice, gyms and studios are tailoring their offerings for the present and future.
We caught up with Lou DeFrancisco, president of Body Fit Training (BFT), a franchise strength training studio operated by Xponential Fitness. Lou discusses BFT’s growing foothold in North America through its scientific, personalized approach to group fitness.
Can you introduce yourself and BFT?
Lou DeFrancisco: BFT is a boutique fitness brand offering 50-minute group strength training classes led by highly accredited coaches in an engaging community environment. We have more than 200 studios open worldwide and are popular in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK. We’ve signed more than 500 licenses globally and are now focused on expanding our presence in the US and Canada.
Personally, I’m thrilled to bring my experience to a company like BFT. After graduating with a physics degree from Fairfield University, I landed my first job in IT Consulting in Boston, MA, where I found a passion for small business operations.
Then, years later, I left that industry for health and fitness, managing a boutique health club in Wellesley, MA for five years. I did this until I was presented with an opportunity in the world of franchising through a women’s fitness training brand.
There, I spent nine years helping the franchise grow to over 100 locations nationwide before joining Xponential Fitness, acting as president of StretchLab for four years, where I helped scale the assisted stretching franchise concept to over 200 studios.
With all of this behind me, I’m fully committed to BFT in a time of tremendous growth for the concept.
What sets BFT apart from other studio concepts?
LD: We are tapping into the popularity of functional and strength training in a truly individualized setting by combining elements of personal training with group exercise instruction.
We are also able to deliver results at every fitness level, with progressive programming that’s periodized over eight to 10 weeks. This allows our members to recover properly while still being able to attend classes an average of four to five times per week.
Additionally, BFT classes incorporate scientifically proven training techniques (aimed at reducing fat and creating lean muscle mass) as well as state-of-the-art, proprietary heart rate monitoring technology. This combination of cardio and resistance programs—spread across 13 workouts—helps members train different energy systems and muscle groups every week while diversifying movement patterns.
Unique to BFT, every class is led by multiple, highly accredited coaches, who help our members achieve their health goals in a safe and inclusive environment.
What was XPOF’s motivation for buying BFT?
LD: As Xponential Fitness’s 10th brand, BFT is our first simple strength training concept that doesn’t require any additional explanation. And since strength training is already many people’s preferred method of working out, BFT just acts to enhance that model.
Plus, with BFT’s success in the Asia-Pacific region, we felt it would be a strong addition to the boutique fitness scene in the US. Already, BFT has proved to be the missing piece for Xponential.
What’s your plan for expanding in the US and beyond?
LD: We are currently focused on our North American expansion through franchising. Currently, BFT has two open locations in the US — Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Santa Monica, California. Plus, we recently opened our first Canadian location in Toronto.
Beyond these active sites, we have agreements in place to bring studios to Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, and Tampa.
How did the pandemic impact BFT?
LD: Given that Xponential acquired BFT in late 2021, we can’t speak to the impact the brand felt during the height of the pandemic.
However, as the world has started to reemerge, entrepreneurs and consumers are once again placing an emphasis on fitness. We believe this has helped BFT thrive in the initial stages of franchising.
With more competition from digital platforms, how do studios keep members engaged?
LD: BFT studios have strong communities that keep people coming back for personalized programming and periodized workouts developed by our talented education team. In particular, exercisers seek out the precise monitoring and individual coaching they can’t get anywhere else. Of note, we use Evolt 360 body composition scanners in each studio to help members track fat loss and lean muscle gain.
A big strength, we’re able to tailor each class to the member, even in a communal environment. After each session, members are rewarded with a gold, silver, or bronze ranking based on their PxI score (performance x intensity) calculated through their heart rate monitors. We find this gives everyone a sense of pride and accomplishment after their workout and keeps them coming back to BFT again and again.