GymMaster Logo

GymMaster Blog

Gym Competition Ideas for Engagement & Retention

Dru Hill
Dru Hill
Published on Wed, Jul 1, 2020
retain more gym members with competitions to keep them engaged

Member engagement is a core antecedent towards improving the rates of retention for gym members, which is highly important to maintaining a profitable gym business given the current climate of the fitness industry being battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s associated lock-downs and economic consequences.

For the sake of simplicity, this post will divide the most popular forms of gym competitions into three key categories. This is by no means an exhaustive list, merely just a few ideas to get you going–we recommend putting some thought in yourself to try to design the best competition to suit your way of doing things and the needs of your gym members.

The Top 3 Gym Competition Types

Event Competitions

This first form of gym competition type is what we will refer to as an event competition. In essence, these are concerned with setting a challenge for members to compete against one another at a specific date and time. Event competitions typically involve a group of gym members who have signed up to a challenge at your club on a specific date or time to try to compete against each other for a prize.

Examples of event competitions include weight lifting competitions, club marathons, or other challenges of a specific exercise, such as pull-ups, bench press etc. These challenges typically occur over a shorter timeframe than the other competition types, with them usually completed within a few hours, or over a weekend. These events usually involve staff who are there to make sure the challenge is completed safely through ensuring the proper form is followed, while also judging the participants to identify the winner.


This form of competition takes place over a much longer period of time than the previously mentioned event-type challenges. Bootcamps are challenges which usually resemble a short-term fitness class, where participants opt-in, and typically pay for the advice of a personal trainer or other experts who can assist them in achieving a goal within a given time period. Participants compete against one another to see if they can achieve the best results in the class, typically for a form of extrinsic rewards such as club merch or a cash prize. These results are usually centered around something like improving levels of fitness, performance on a particular exercise, or overall physique improvements.

Bootcamps could be arguably the most likely form of competition to result in an improvement in gym member retention. Not only is there a much higher degree of involvement from participants, resulting in more touchpoints with your club, equipment, staff, and other members due to these often requiring multiple sessions per week. But since they can often extend out to other areas of their lifestyle such as nutrition and daily routines, they tend to see noticeable results that provide positive reinforcement in continuing the new workout behavior longer-term and remaining members at your club.

Depending on the type of Bootcamp, key performance indicators which these members compete against one-another could be the amount of weight lost, strength gained or visual difference between their before and after photos.

Attendance based competitions

The final form of competition we will cover are one of the least intensive competitions a club could run, or rather one which requires the lowest level of involvement from your members. Attendance based competitions are a form of passive competition, which members are not usually required to enroll in to compete yet they can still be quite beneficial for those who choose to actively participate. Essentially, these are measuring attendance-related metrics such as total gym visits or classes attended within a given period by a specific member.

This could be as simple as providing a leaderboard on your gym website, social media, or simply a whiteboard in your club displaying the top 10 visiting members within a given time period. While these forms of competitions can be good at building a bit of a community around your club by giving a talking point for discussion and encouraging positive engagement behaviors (like actually visiting the club), the potential individual benefit of these competitions is much lower than that of the other two options. They provide a much lower opportunity for improving a member’s attitudes or knowledge of the club and how to use it effectively. They do, however, require very little involvement or investment from your club, and if you have a gym management software you can simply run a report every week or month and present the results.

The addition of gym competitions don’t only act as a means for improving engagement, retention rates, and customer relationships, but they can also be leveraged to improve awareness of your club, it’s culture, features and the benefits of attending. Using the power of social media, you can use competitions as a tool to spread the word about your club by sharing photos of the participants, their results and the prize received. Participants can opt to be tagged in these photos which can have a powerful effect, it can greatly increase the reach of these posts to other potential gym-goers through the friends of these participants seeing and reacting to the photos. This can help increase membership at your gym as well as participation in future competitions.

If your club utilizes gym management software in the daily operations of your business, running a gym competition is super simple. You can create a new class for members to opt-in with, this is a great way to track participants, limit the number of spots available if needed, and require payments. Advertising this to members is easy, all you need to do is share a link to the relevant page on your member portal via an email or SMS message to your members. This will allow members to register their interests and even pay directly from your [gym member app]/gymmaster-club-app-for-members/) or website portal without any involvement on your end.