Fitness R&D: Where New Classes are Born
Featured in: Fitness & Weight Management  |  October 19, 2018

Fitness R&D: Where New Classes are Born

By Natures Plus

It seems like there’s always a buzzy new exercise class, but the fitness world has little patience for classes that don’t deliver a great workout. How do gyms and boutique studios find the next big thing?

The answer: Pop-up incubator studios. Think of them like live focus groups: Instructors get to beta-test new concepts and teaching methods, and get feedback on what does and doesn’t work, before rolling it out to a larger audience. The incubator studios provide the infrastructure—space, equipment and resources—that allows instructors to experiment without a huge upfront investment.

It’s a win for the studios, too: They don’t have the luxury to experiment, so popups give them an ongoing R&D lab. Concepts that show promise can be slotted into the schedule.

For example, PROJECT by Equinox ( is an incubator program launched

by club giant Equinox in 2017. Located in the NoLIta (north of Little Italy) section of New York City, PROJECT invites promising fitness stars to develop and launch their workout ideas while leveraging Equinox’s resources. The results are a slate of classes ranging from HIIT to dance to sculpting and a mash-up of everything in between. Bonus: You don’t have to be an Equinox member—classes are open to all.

This year, PROJECT’s first program is being brought to scale at Equinox locations. The Sculpt Society, created by Megan Roup (, blends dance cardio, sliders and light weights into a full-body workout and has consistently sold-out classes. In August, Equinox announced that The Sculpt Society will be available at eight clubs in New York City, with additional locations later on.

“PROJECT was designed for talent just like Megan who want to share their concepts across the Equinox ecosystem, whether that be through launching their classes across our 90+ clubs, going on national tours, or launching digital programs,” says Keith Irace, Equinox’s vice president of group fitness.

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