Around 2020 I was contacted by a student in New York City who had seen an ad for a new AI home workout device that looked like a huge mirror. The idea was that the owner would exercise in front of the screen and the device would ‘spot’ the client on exercise technique etc. The platform was equipped with cameras and the client would also wear sensors so it could track form and provide simple feedback.

That was probably the start of the AI trend in the home fitness market, and AI has only improved since then.

Right now, every free AI out there (like ChatGPT and Bard) can design an exercise program, and with the right prompts, tailor the program to a client’s specific requirements.

So, here’s the question on every personal trainer and gym owner’s mind right now:

Is AI a threat or just a FAD?

I’ve been in the fitness industry for 20 years and a business owner for longer than that. What I can tell you is that Silicon Valley and the Big Tech are very good at finding outdated markets just waiting for a big disruption.

Think about how Elon Musk and Tesla disrupted the stale, uninspired electric car industry.

Think of the home security industry. NEST and RING have made it possible for most people to own a high-end security system where they were once limited to the wealthy.

The iPhone is arguably one of the biggest disruptors of all time. That one little phone disrupted the music industry, the mobile phone industry, and the personal computer industry all at once!

Tech innovators see low hanging fruit.

They see an outdated industry, and they will build and develop until FitTech becomes the norm and replaces the antiquated fitness industry.

I love the fitness industry, but it was apparent to me 20 years ago when I first started as a personal trainer that the it was broken.

I’ve attended countless fitness conferences over the last 20 years only to see the same themes and the same ‘innovations’ repackaged!

And most of the education that takes places at those conferences is aimed directly at personal trainers, not their clients. The training technique a PT learns might be great for a fit trainer but rarely has any carry over for a typical client – think overweight, mid 40’s, struggling to manage a stressful life, eating a poor diet, and experiencing disc herniations.

Those are the facts about our industry.

So yes, AI based FitTech can have a significant impact on the health of the fitness industry, unless we address the brutal truths.

The Brutal Truths about the Fitness Industry

  • Most personal trainer education lacks depth and isn’t applicable to the average client.
  • Industry exercise programs are generic and based on a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • On average, personal trainers charge the same hourly rate now as they did 20 years ago.
  • 85-90% of newly certified Personal trainers quit the industry in less than 14 months.
  • The fitness industry is highly competitive, which drives lower prices, lower trainer rates and lower margins.
  • Most gyms operate on the assumption that most of their members will never show up, even though they continue to pay.
  • Gyms have high fixed costs and (recently) even higher fuel bills.
  • Innovation is based mostly on repackaging previous FADS (Forth-coming Anatomical Dysfunction)
  • The fitness industry is notorious for false claims and misleading information.

So yes, low hanging fruit and prime for a major disruption by tech.

What Can be Done to Save the Fitness Industry?

FitTech is moving fast and it is aggressively using AI to move towards hyper-personalization.

To my business partners Paul Chek and Penny Crozier, personalization is old news.

Paul and Penny built the CHEK Institute precisely to teach trainers the importance of personalization – and how to do it right for every client, regardless of their goals.

For example, before CHEK Practitioners even get to exercise, we’re asking:

  • How much stress is this client under?
  • Is their spine/pelvis in a condition to exercise at all?
  • How mobile is their spine?
  • Have they got symmetry in the body or are there imbalances?
  • Have they got a digestive issue? If so, do they have it when exercising?
  • Is there any visceral inflammation?
  • Have they got a dysbiosis or parasites?
  • Do they drink water? How much?
  • How much sleep do they get? Is it quality sleep?
  • Are they wired but tired and living off of caffeine and sugar?
  • What exercises are functional for their life?
  • Do they have any intolerances that could limit a functional breathing pattern?
  • Should the client be training in Phase 1,2 or 3 of the CHEK System?

The above is our standard. It’s what we teach our first-year academy students, but compared to the fitness industry it looks ultra-personalized.

The lesson is that personalization isn’t strictly the domain of AI – trainers can achieve it at a level that no AI can touch.

So, here’s where we start.

Peter Drucker, a pioneer in modern management, once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

We need to create the future of the fitness industry, and the focus must be on:

  • Member satisfaction and wellness results, not on just the bottom line.
  • Raising educational standards. Every personal trainer should have the knowledge and skill of a CHEK Practitioner Level 1 as a minimum. That means every personal trainer will be a disciplined professional, capable of working with 95% of clients.
  • A strong foundation in science. We need to inspire our clients, but we’re not the entertainment industry. Too often the industry comes across as shallow and cheesy. It lacks any connection to the science of how fitness gains are made.
  • The reality of our client base. Most of our clients aren’t fit enough for standard exercise programs, and fixed axis machine training isn’t effective for people with no functional movement patterns. Our actual clients should guide our research and practices.
  • Thorough lifestyle consultations and mini-musculoskeletal assessments for every client. Without those, you cannot provide a truly personalized (or effective) program.
  • Reducing the use of fixed axis and cardiovascular machines. With proper education, trainers can show their clients safe ways to exercise with free weights, body weight, Swiss Balls and cable systems. That lowers gym costs and gets better client results.
  • Making personal training into a career to be proud of. Trainers can have a huge impact on their clients’ lives. Let’s honor the profession according to its potential impact.
  • Building a professional career culture in every gym and club. Personal training can be a serious, respected profession. Gyms and clubs need to support that by building their culture mindfully.
  • Making wise use of technology to best serve trainers and members.


The truth is we need the fitness industry.

FitTech doesn’t give a welcoming smile at reception, or the smiles from other gym members in a gym. There’s no enthusiasm from the staff, nor does it offer a sauna or pool.

AI simply can’t reach the level of personal care and attention that a well-educated trainer can provide, and it won’t be able to for a long time.

But our industry just plain misses out on why most people join a gym or health club. The average age of an adult in most western countries is 40 years old, and they usually have at least one chronic health issue. We’re simply not offering the services that average client needs to build and maintain a great (or even above average) level of fitness while handling all their life’s stresses.

If the fitness industry doesn’t change, more and more people will opt for AI since it will fit so very nicely into their already digital lives.

We can build a better future – a personalized, human future – for the fitness industry.

We’re doing it here at the CHEK Institute every day.

Gavin Jennings