Following on from a past article, The Simplicity Project, I would like to take this opportunity to explore the use of niche marketing in the complex world of gym ownership. The success of the CrossFit box concept had me thinking of how this idea could be utilized in other areas of strength and conditioning.

Einstein has been quoted as saying “knowledge comes with experience.” I disagree and propose that wisdom comes from experience. You can get all the knowledge you need from articles, books, seminars, podcasts, and conferences, but it is applying this knowledge and experience where wisdom is gained.

“He wasn’t book-learned; he was life educated,” is an excerpt from All Blacks Don’t Cry. This quote can be applied to many of the great coaches and minds of today. Often your education commences when your formal training to gain whatever qualifications you possess ends. There are so many graduates coming out into the workforce each year with an array of sports science, strength and conditioning degrees, that in the immortal words of B. A. Barracus from the A-Team, “I pity the poor fools.” They have just been released into the huge pool of talent. The majority of them have the same knowledge base, but what is their point of difference that will get them a start?

The idea of an owner-operator trainer is not new, but like many startups, I think you have to ask firstly, “Why do I want to do this?” Then ask, “What is my point of difference." Finally, ask, “How am I going to achieve this?”


The first question is the most important because it will define your sense of purpose. It will be the reason you get out of bed each morning, what you live for, and what you stand for every day. So I will start the ball rolling with my mission statement.

I am not a sports scientist. I am a strength and conditioning coach. My why is to make people better. I want to assist them in reaching the potential they have as people and as rugby players. I am an educator, and I value communication and organization as my most important skills in assisting players and coaches to realize their potential. I believe that perfection is unattainable, but I drive myself and those working with me to achieve EXCELLENCE every day. I endeavor to live every day by the Six Pillars of Excellence: work ethic, enjoyment, loyalty, team first, integrity, and respect.

Every why will be slightly different, but once you have worked through the reasons why then the other questions posed in the opening paragraphs will be much easier to answer.


My what or point of difference is that simplicity drives performance. Treat each person as an individual and design programs where you individualize each program. It is a process-driven format that takes into consideration the following key elements:

  • Individualise to Prioritise to Optimise
  • Training age dictates programming degrees of freedom/self determination
  • Exercise selection chart
  • Loading methods and cycles
  • Training Split

The questions that need to be asked and answered first are:

  • What is the goal of your training program?
  • What is your training age?
  • What is your training time allocation?

If you are training for a specific sport, then these questions are also extremely important;

  • Player’s age and recovery ability
  • Player’s injury history and current physical status (monitoring and wellness)
  • Positional analysis and requirements
  • Individual player’s needs and wants
  • Coach’s observations and ideas from relevant fitness monitoring

I also believe that the simplicity of the three, four, or five exercises, plus the core routine performed on three non-sequential days a week, will be a point of difference. It'll be a very effective method for the person training and for you as the owner/operator.


Now to the how. For me, the how is the easiest part of the equation. It will come down to budget, but don't let it be the limiting factor, as quality lasts and attracts members. I believe you have to go back and look at your exercise selection chart that you have broken down into the most productive exercises for each category that you are confident and able to coach effectively.

I think the initial setup of your training facility should be between 50–100 square metres (roughly 500–1000 square feet). A property such as this one recently became available in the city where I currently live—it's perfect. It has a garage area with full roller door access with amenities, space for strongman, and a yard area for parking cars off the street.

Within this space, you will need to install the following as a priority:

This list will undoubtedly cater to many of your exercises on the exercise selection chart. It will have enough options to train five people at a time as a starting point. The equipment here is based on the push, pull, squat, and loaded carry philosophy discussed previously.

I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to be part of something bigger than just me.

Ashley Jones has worked in three professional sports across 30 years and four continents. He was awarded the NSCA's Professional Coach of the Year in 2016. Ashley holds his CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) since 1988.