Planet Fitness

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Trading namePlanet Fitness
IndustryExercising, Health Clubs
Number of locations800
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Trading namePlanet Fitness
IndustryExercising, Health Clubs
Number of locations800

Planet Fitness is an American franchise of fitness centers based in Newington, New Hampshire.[1] Each gym features exercise equipment and fitness instructors to assist its members. It markets itself as a "Judgement Free Zone" that caters to novice and casual gym users, with rules in place that can be viewed as discouraging or discriminatory against serious ('hard-core') bodybuilders, power-lifters and "grunters". These rules have been the subject of controversy, after patrons have been ejected from Planet Fitness facilities or had their memberships terminated for alleged policy violations.[2] Planet Fitness opened its 500th location on December 27, 2012.[3]


A Planet Fitness location in Revere, Massachusetts in November 2012.

The fitness club was founded in 1992, when Michael Grondahl acquired a financially struggling gym and dramatically reduced prices to compete against better-known brands. This low-cost business model focuses on the needs of occasional or first-time health club members, rather than more experienced members.

There are 53 corporate-owned gyms, with the rest being independently owned and operated.[4] The franchise is concentrated mostly in the Northeast, but has expanded into a nationwide franchise.[5] The Franchise has been added to the Inc. 500 list.[6]

In 2011, the co-founding Grondahl brothers were still leading the company, along with Chris Rondeau, who started out as the CFO (chief financial officer). More specifically, as the company continued to grow, the roles underwent some changes. Currently, Michael Grondahl serves as a board member, Chris Rondeau serves as CEO, and Mark Grondahl serves as CFO.[7]

In the Fall of 2013, the Planet Fitness franchise gained a new partnership with TSG Consumer Partners LLC. This partnership was negotiated and completed in just 30 days with the help of Richard Moore, who is currently the general counsel and chief administration officer for Planet Fitness.[8]


Planet Fitness currently has 818 locations with an estimated 5.7 million members across 48 states in the U.S.[8]


As of January 2012, it is the national gym sponsor of NBC's reality show, The Biggest Loser. The contestants on the show will work out on Planet Fitness equipment while at The Biggest Loser Ranch in Calabasas, California, and then at Planet Fitness gyms near their homes, working with Planet Fitness fitness instructors.[9]

In March of 2013, Planet Fitness partnered with 50 Cent to sell his energy drink "Street King" [10]


In 2011, during an interview with The Daily Show, Regional Manager Elizabeth Cunningham joked about Planet Fitness's philosophy of keeping out certain kinds of people, stating: "We are the Judgement Free Zone... and kind of not have that hassle of all the different lunks in the gym... meatheads, you know, bodybuilders, we call them lunkheads, jerks... they're just not welcome."

"There's a lot of places for lunks to go... all the animals can be in one cage and then we have Planet Fitness where all the people can go."

The interviewer Jason Jones asked, "Do you know who else said that?" Cunningham answered, "Hitler?"

Planet Fitness has generated controversy for its unorthodox practices designed to discourage hardcore bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, which it feels may intimidate or make uncomfortable less physically fit patrons. Planet Fitness does not generally offer health club features associated with higher operating costs, such as high-intensity bodybuilding equipment, pools, fitness classes, or child care. Planet Fitness is known for regularly offering members complimentary food items, e.g., free pizza on the first Monday of every month.[11]

The chain was the subject of controversy in 2006 because of a New York Times article[2] describing the public cancellation of a patron's membership (for "grunting") at their Wappingers Falls, New York location.

In October of 2011, an Albuquerque Planet Fitness refused to let a New Mexico Muslim woman wear her religious head covering while she tried to work out. After signing a two-year contract with the gym, she was turned away and was told the head covering didn't meet the company’s dress code. The woman’s lawsuit, filed under the New Mexico Human Rights Act and the Unfair Practices Act, alleged that Planet Fitness illegally based the decision to deny her access upon her religion, or alternatively upon her race, as she is black, and that the gym had no legitimate or non-pretextual reason to deny her entry. Planet Fitness denied all violations stating that the Muslim woman failed to participate in good faith and that the company has legitimate business reasons for its practice as well as measures to prevent discrimination.[12]

Starting January 1, 2014, members of Planet Fitness are required to a pay a tax on their memberships as mandated by the implementation of provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act. The membership fee is not increasing but rather it is a tax required by the federal government. The reasoning behind the tax is due to the option for members to tan at Planet Fitness. The increase is a "five-cent-per-month tax related to the ability to tan under the membership." It does not matter if the member uses the tanning facilities or not.[13][14][15]

In March of 2014 at a Planet Fitness club in Richmond, California, a woman was wearing a spaghetti strap tank top and capri pants with her midriff exposed. Reportedly she was told that the gym dress code prohibited wearing string tank tops. The Planet Fitness customer agreed to wear one of the shirts the gym provides patrons for free, but while she waited for the tee, another employee approached her with objections to her clothing. Feeling harassed and intimidated herself, she decided to get her money back and cancel her membership at the gym advertised as the “Judgement Free Zone” whose policy bans “gymtimidation.” Planet Fitness spokesperson McCall Gosselin said that criticizing Austin for being toned, “…is not in line with the Planet Fitness policy whatsoever.”[16] [17]

In April of 2014 a pregnant woman claimed she was told to cover up or leave a South Carolina Planet Fitness. According to the woman she was working out at the gym in a tank top she'd worn on the day she joined. She was approached by a staff member who said she was in violation of the gym's dress code - her belly was hanging out due to her being about 19 weeks pregnant. She was contacted by the franchise owner soon after the incident; the first phone call was "apologetic," but the one that followed he said, "You were in violation, we gave you a t-shirt, there's nothing left to talk about."[18]


  1. ^ "Business Entity". Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  2. ^ a b The New York Times: "No Grunting, They Said, and He Was at the Gym" New York Times
  3. ^ "Planet Fitness opens 600th gym". Foster's Daily Democrat/ Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  4. ^ Jeremiah Turner (2009-11-08). "Fit for franchising: From first gym in Dover, Planet Fitness building big brand". Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  5. ^ Planet Fitness
  6. ^ "Planet Fitness - Health". Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  7. ^ "Q&A with Michael Grondahl, Co-founder of Planet Fitness". New Hampshire Business Review. 2011-06-03. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  8. ^ a b Lawrence, Kelli (2013-08-15). "A World Of Their Own". Profile Magazine. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  9. ^ "Marc Grondahl of Planet Fitness: How a Lean Business Model Became a Franchise Heavyweight | OPEN Forum". Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  10. ^ "50 Cent and Joan Rivers Kick It At The Gym [PHOTOS". The Urban Daily. 2012-03-28. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  11. ^ Judith Ohikuare (2013-02-03). "The Secret of Planet Fitness's Success". Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  12. ^ "Planet Fitness faces suit over Muslim head covering". Fox News. 2014-03-20. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  13. ^ Funk, Luke (10 February 2014). "Gym memberships add Obamacare tax". My Fox New York. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  14. ^ Pratte, Ashley (10 February 2014). "PLANET FITNESS CITES OBAMACARE FOR TAX ON GYM MEMBERSHIPS". Breitbart. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Pratte, Ashley (10 February 2014). "PRATTE: Obamacare taxing a healthy lifestyle at the gym". Washington Times. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Claudine Wong (2014-03-19). "Gym tells woman she's intimidating guests with 'toned body'". Ktvu. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  17. ^ Sakoda, Charlene (March 19, 2014). "Gym tells woman to cover up because her toned body 'intimidated' others". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  18. ^ Brown, Genevieve Shaw (April 30, 2014). "Pregnant Mom Booted From Planet Fitness Feels 'Broken Down to Pieces'". ABC news. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 

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