Running a gym or a martial arts school of any size is no joke. It requires skills in coaching, marketing, accounting, management – plus sporting expertise as a coach, practitioner, and personal trainer.
We're facing challenging times where the way we work out and go to the gym is constantly shifting, requiring fitness centers to be more digitally connected, more accurate, and more accessible to members.
This is where gym and martial arts management software can make or break your business. In 2021, choosing the right platform for your gym, dojo, or studio is essential. That's why we're reviewing 5 leading gym and martial arts software solutions to help you make the best decision.
Obviously, you're aware of what gym management software is – the digital tool saving you from drowning in membership forms, waivers, and admin tasks.
But it's worth recapping the why and how of gym management software – and what it does for your business. Or, at least, what it's supposed to do for your business.
When you stop to think about it, it wasn't that long ago that gyms and martial arts schools didn't have software. Gym owners once managed all operations via pen and paper systems, and then via Excel spreadsheets – a reality that sounds both impossible and outdated to us today.
Thankfully, fitness-specific digital tools are constantly developing and innovating to help gyms and martial arts schools operate.
Even the most rudimentary gym and martial arts software can do the following things:
But having an agile, digital tool taking care of those three aspects of running a gym is no longer a cutting-edge system – it's the bare minimum.
For gyms, martial arts schools, yoga studios and other membership clubs to be successful, they need a software solution that goes above and beyond automating operational tasks. As the fitness industry becomes increasingly competitive, features that help businesses improve and grow are in high-demand.
All gyms and martial arts schools – from CrossFit centers to pilates studios and karate dojos – need a software system to support members, staff and owners.
Regardless of the size of your facility and your niche in the fitness industry, you should be looking for a gym and martial arts software with features that encompass these three areas:
|Who benefits?||Why is it important?||Feature examples|
|Who benefits:Members||Enables members to have an easy, positive and fulfilling experience with your gym.||
|Who benefits:Staff||Takes care of repetitive administration tasks so staff can dedicate more time to customer service and other important activities.||
|Who benefits:Owner||Keeps track of growth, business analytics and growth opportunities so gym owners can make informed decisions.||
With a full-scale software solution catering to members, staff, and owners, gyms and martial arts schools can provide exceptional services while sustaining business growth and service improvement.
But what else should you look for in a gym and martial arts software?
Here are five key areas that you might focus on:
Software creators who have never sparred, loaded a barbell or ran a training schedule, probably aren't going to create a valuable product for gyms and martial arts schools – because they don't have a first-hand understanding of your needs, pain points, and goals.
The devil is in the details, such as:
As gym and martial arts school managers, you'll notice when your software features cater to your specific needs.
Being able to quickly and accurately onboard your staff to use a new system is essential for providing exceptional service – and minimizing stress and mistakes for your team.
Members also need to access your software system to sign-up, attend classes, and communicate with your gym, so a simple and user-friendly program will improve their overall experience and increase retention.
Find a software solution that is…
It'll save you time, money, and stress.
The global pandemic is changing the way we work out, the fitness industry is rapidly evolving, and software innovation is accelerating forwards.
Because of this, you need a future-proof software provider that is constantly working on improvements and upgrades to keep your studio or dojo one step ahead of the competition.
Look for features such as:
These will help you keep your business on the pulse of industry changes. If the software developers send regular updates, advice, and ask for feedback, you'll know they're invested in your success.
Like any business owner, you want your gym or martial arts school to grow.
This means that your software system should have features that are both scalable and help facilitate the growth of your gym, such as:
The best gym and martial arts software is going to do more than just automate day-to-day tasks, it will facilitate the success of your business.
We know that not all software solutions are equally matched in the ring – as a gym owner, you might have experienced one of the many clunky, outdated programs that are out there, or struggled with customer service that is not responsive or helpful.
If a product works well, gyms will be raving about it. Look for case studies, testimonials, and don't be afraid to ask the software company to provide proof of how they'll support your business.
Gymdesk made its debut in 2016 and has been consistently improving to the point where it's one of our top contenders. Its slick and effortless user interface, responsive communication, and growth-stimulating functionality are the main reasons users love their product.
Founded by a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, their focus is on providing the best user experience for gym owners, rather than a laundry list of features. It has everything most gyms and martial arts schools would need to manage and grow their business.
Gymdesk originally focused on Martial Arts schools as their name would imply, however they now serve many gym types from yoga studios to gymnastics gyms and fitness studios.
Let's dive into our favorite features:
It's almost an industry standard in the fitness software market that you need to book a live demo with a sales person in order to get a glimpse of a gym software product. Then on a sales call, the sales person shows you the best version of their software and walks you through a battle tested sales script in order to get you on board.
Not so with Gymdesk - you can start testing their product right away with their 30-day free trial, and the set up process is built around that approach, requiring little to no training.
All gym owners know that an online presence is essential for business survival and growth. Unlike some of the other entries in this guide, Gymdesk provides users with a platform to build their own website, manage their online presence, and improve visibility to prospects. An online shop was recently added as well.
At the same time, they also provide most of their functionality as embeddable widgets that you can put on your existing website to immediately upgrade it's functionality and connect it to their platform.
All of the products we reviewed offer some level of attendance and progress tracking for members. However, Gymdesk' offering is by far the most complete and customizable of the bunch.
You can create multiple programs with customized ranks / levels for each. You can set up promotion tracking based on any combination of time attended, time in rank, number of sessions and skill progression (which integrates with their skill library feature - another favorite of ours).
The end result is a beautiful member attendance screen and an easy to read promotion report that keeps members motivated and staff up-to-date on everyone's progress.
This is a software platform that was built by martial artists, for martial artists and other fitness professionals. The modern UI and effort they put into making it responsive and intuitive really shines through. Once you've tried it you'll understand why Gymdesk is our heavyweight champion of gym and martial arts software.
Price: $60 – $200 per month
Free trial: Yes
Mindbody is an established market leader in business software. It's a full-scale platform with separate programs for fitness, spa, salon, and integrative health. Unless your MMA instructors double as nail technicians, we'll assume you're interested in the fitness platform.
Mindbody's all-in-one gym software provides the widest set of features of any of the products we reviewed. Unfortunately, the core product seems to have been designed at some point in the early 2000s, and does not appear up to par with 2020 software expectations with regards to user experience.
There's a lot on offer with Mindbody, but these are the stand-out features:
With the current pandemic situation restricting many gyms from operating, Mindbody provides gyms with the ability to live stream and provide on-demand videos to instruct members remotely. For many gyms, this feature is a game-changer that allows businesses to continue despite lockdowns and physical distancing restrictions.
The downside is that the streaming feature is a paid add-on in addition to the base cost. It's debatable whether the built-in streaming feature is superior to other dedicated streaming solutions such as Zoom, however it's nice to have everything in one place.
Mindbody provides gyms with a branded version of their member app, complete with colors, logos, and images. This provides businesses with a platform that members can use to book sessions, read reminders and cancellations, and manage their membership.
Similarly to the virtual streaming feature above, the branded mobile app comes at an additional cost.
Mindbody provides the most functionality of any product in our lineup, however that comes at a price with an outdated interface and costs that quickly add up. Customer feedback has reported clunkiness, slow response times, and increasing costs.
Pricing: $179 – $829 per month
Free trial: No
Another leading force in the fitness software community, perhaps Zen Planner is so-called because of its targeted approach to supporting yoga studios and other boutique fitness facilities. However, it does also have features that make it suitable for martial arts schools.
This full-scale software product seems to have all the bells and whistles, with impressive features and case studies proving its positive impact on business growth. This focus on business goals and specific customer pain points is what makes Zen Planner a top contender.
Notable features include:
Martial arts schools can keep track of all students' progress effortlessly. Instructors are alerted when students are ready to test, allowing businesses to sustain a personalized touch without delaying growth.
Zen Planner provides many automation options for communication that allow managers to automatically address concerns and help guide members, which can greatly help with retention.
For example, you can create segments based on rank, and create automated messages to help members through their journey to the next level.
Dashboard reports and tracking tools keep gym owners informed of business performance, areas that need attention, and opportunities for growth.
Zen Planner states that their martial arts-specific system was designed with the help of a martial arts instructor. They've clearly cottoned on to the importance of first-hand knowledge and full-scale business support, but what do their customers say?
On the whole, Zen Planner reviews are quite positive. However, it's worth noting that the elaborate features, complex functions, and long set-up experience can turn growing gyms away. For martial arts schools needing a plug-and-play software with dedicated support, Zen Planner might overpromise and underdeliver.
Pricing: $117 – 227 per month
Free trial: Yes
Unless the name didn't give it away, Kitcksite is a dedicated software platform for martial arts schools. With over 1500 schools in over 22 countries using their software, this family-owned company has an impressive reputation for innovative and supportive solutions.
Kicksite is popular for its user-friendly interface and its focus on giving students the best possible educational experience. The platform also supports owners with the tools they need to grow – without overcomplicating the process.
Popular features include:
Kicksite allows gym owners to automate messages and alerts to members – from reminders to alerts and cancellation notifications. Users can adjust how, when, and to whom messages are sent via the effortless interface. The software offers free SMS texts, which is a huge bonus when communicating with hundreds of members.
Users can track belt rank progression, classes attended, and skill level to keep track of students. Martial arts schools can adapt these tools based on their own curriculum and approach, so the software is flexible to the style of your dojo.
Kicksite takes care of complex management tasks like tracking attendance and creating reports automatically. The company assures owners that they no longer need to stress over spreadsheets and dig out old paperwork to keep track. However, reviews have explained that the reporting tool isn't very helpful because it only tracks attendance for the entire day – not individual classes.
While these features are impressive when compared to not using software at all, it's important to remember that, except for some martial arts-specific tools, most software products have these functions.
Kicksite markets itself as a powerful tool when compared to not using software at all, but fails to demonstrate why it's better than other software products on the market.
Pricing: $70 – $299
Free trial: Yes
PerfectMind has been around for over 20 years, providing a full-scale software product for gyms and martial arts schools.
PerfectMind's website is very impressive, showcasing a vast range of product features that help business owners with everything from bookings, marketing, payments, and facility management.
A few features stand out:
PerfectMind is able to integrate with your existing website and is fully responsive for students and visitors on any mobile device. PerfectMind also offers web development services for businesses needing an upgraded website and digital marketing support.
PerfectMind doesn't just give you the software and leave you to run your business. The company provides gyms with insights, webinars, guides, and further tools to enhance and grow their business.
It can be hard to find an accessible software provider. PerfectMind offers 24/7 support via phone, email, and live chat which is highly valuable for your staff. If something goes wrong at the front desk, it needs to be fixed immediately.
By reading through its website, PerfectMind looks like an excellent software platform for gyms and martial arts schools. However, when delving deeper into product demos and reviews from customers, the program seems outdated, clunky, and overcomplicated.
Pricing: $125 – $325 per month
Free Trial: No
If you run a martial arts school, a yoga studio or a gymnastics gym, you need a tool that takes your business further. Better still, you need a software platform that was designed with your specific needs, goals, daily struggles, and passions in mind.
Choose a modern, easy-to-use software product that will make your life easier and help your business grow in the 21st century - and let your gym be a step ahead of the rest.
Which is why we think Gymdesk takes the belt in the title fight for software in 2021, for it's best-in-class user experience and innovative features that are a cut above the field.
There are other considerations that might make you choose a different product: If you run a complicated fitness business, where you subcontract different parts of your gym and need to manage those accordingly, perhaps Mindbody would be a better fit as they support any gym configuration possible.
And if 24/7 phone support is critical for you, PerfectMind might be the best choice despite having an average product.
Choosing a tool to manage your business is always a tough decision. If you are still on the fence, try out all of the competitors we listed above - we're sure you'll find your match within this bunch.