The Expert in High Intensity Training and Fitness Medicine

Hit Market Penetration: Supply Creates Demand

At latest count, the directory at has 177 listings.  This is an impressive number of facilities providing state of the art training.  This likely under-represents what is available because several of the listings have multiple locations, and there are probably almost as many HIT shops that are not listed on the directory.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my consultation business is the opportunity to provide start-up advice for those wanting to open a HIT personal training studio.  Many of my consultation clients are now owners of multiple successful facilities and are making a fantastic living doing what they love.  It is a fantastic business model with low start up costs, minimal ongoing expenses and the only complexities come from the government.  It is literally a six-figure lemonade stand.  Enough people have gone this route that we are now at a tipping point.

This stuff works, and it works astoundingly well.  Very few people know about it, so there is little demand…yet.  What anyone considering this business as an option needs to know is they don’t need to worry about demand.  As the old movie yarn goes, “build it and they will come”.  It is a law of economics that supply creates demand.  Allow me to demonstrate.

I distinctly remember the news feeds of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone.  I watched these news clips of Jobs in his blue Jeans and black turtle-neck holding up a slender rectangle as throngs of worshipers in the audience stared in awe, mouths open and hands involuntarily clapping.  I rolled my eyes so hard that it hurt.  I remember thinking “I wonder which classic rock song of my youth will be pillaged to advertise for this latest trinket from geek-land”.  I just could not see any utility to many of its options.  Why would I want my music collection on my phone?  Why would I take pictures with a phone?  My current phone had that capability, but the pictures were of terrible quality.  And what use did I have for all of the “apps” that I could buy at the iTunes store?

I also remember some of the early adopters.  One of them was a physician colleague.  He was (and still is) one of our hardest working primary care doctors, who probably gets less sleep than anyone I have ever known.  Why would this man camp out overnight at the Apple Store to get the first release of the iPhone?  I remember when he came through the ER with his new prize.  I again rolled my eyes as he demonstrated his custom ring-tone, and an app which was called “the world’s smallest violin” which you could cue up and play anytime someone was whining or telling a tale of woe (very common in the life of a primary care doctor).  I remember asking him if these features were worth camping out on the sidewalk for.  He smiled and said “probably not, but its just so cool!”.  I thought Jobs might be going off his rocker as evidence by his willingness to invest so much in a product without the appropriate research into the market and what the demands of consumers might be.

I fancy myself as somewhat of an amateur economist.  I have read the works of most of the free-market Austrian economists such as Ludwig Von Mises, George Reisman, Henry Hazlitt, Milton Friedman and others.  Despite my background and alleged understanding of Capitalist economic theory, I failed to understand something that Steve Jobs knew (either by instinct or informed study).  What Jobs understood is that consumers do not necessarily know what they want or need.  Demand doesn’t create supply.  Supply creates demand.  No consumer at that time had any idea that he wanted or needed an iPhone.  Steve Jobs had to create the product and supply for demand to develop.  The most successful products are those that address needs and desires that the consuming public does not realize it has….yet.

Flash forward a couple of months.  I am working in the ER on an unstable patient in septic shock.  The patient belongs to my iPhone wielding colleague.  He arrives at the ER as I am preparing the patient for the ICU.  I am flipping through a tattered, small notebook that I have carried since residency.  It holds the dosing formulas for critical resuscitation drugs and treatment algorhythms that I need to have at quick disposal in dire emergencies.  I am frantically trying to calculate a dobutamine drip in micrograms/kilograms/minute on a drug that is concentrated in milligrams/milliliter and is run through a pump that runs at milliliters per hour.

As I am straining to double check my decimal point placement and make certain that I divide by 60 (or is it multiply?), he pulls out his iPhone and pulls up a critical care “app” and quickly generates the appropriate drip rate.  The drip gets started and the patient gets wheeled to the ICU.  Before he runs upstairs, he runs through a string of 50 or more high quality photos that he took while on a family vacation.  Oh, he is also getting all of his CME done through podcasts that he downloads and listens to while driving, hiking or just between patients.  I started to realize that the only benefit I would experience of being a late adopter is the lower price afforded to me by my more forward-thinking colleague.

Lesson for HIT: Supply Creates Demand

HIT is just now reaching a tipping point.  The major reason is that the pioneers in the field never stopped creating a supply.  Over time there have been enough articles written, case reports done, blogs, books to keep some purchase in the market.  Now that we are at the tipping point, we need to push it over the top in the same way that Jobs has done with the iPhone.

We must continue to realize that we don’t need market research.  Our customers do not yet know what they want or need.  It is up to us to create a supply of something that they later will realize they can’t live without.  We must supply the equipment, the philosophy, protocols, the science, the popular writing, the results, and most of all the enthusiasm that creates a community experience.  When you have done all of these things, that is when you have a Starbucks, Apple, or Whole Foods on your hands.  This is what we are doing and what we must continue to do with HIT.

The Philosophy

We must articulate a philosophy that makes the customer realize that our product is essential to life, health and attractiveness.  We need to emphasize that it is so important that it would justify almost any amount of time invested, while simultaneously showing that brief and infrequent training exposures are not just possible…they are what is required.  We must show that best results require a time efficient protocol.

The Protocols

Through the work of HIT pioneers such as Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer, we have been given grist for the mill.  Over the years this has been refined by numerous HIT practitioners such that we now have the ability to prescribe an effective starting point for anyone wanting to get started in HIT.  One of my main goals in writing Body by Science was to create a template that could be used to get anyone started in HIT.  Once someone begins, they will then seek out further refinements, but a starting protocol is key.

The Equipment

One of the biggest strides HIT made was due to its attachment with Arthur Jones and his Nautilus equipment.  Equipment is a product that generates excitement.  It offers the ability to generate results quickly and safely, but most of all it looks cool.  The design element of equipment must never be underestimated.  It must not only be functional, it must look elegant.  It also must be dedicated to an ideal.

Currently, there are fewer and fewer manufacturers that produce functional equipment, with amazing design appeal, that (most importantly) are rooted in HIT philosophy. As few as 5 years ago, there were more viable hit manufacturers.  A brief list of the top of my head includes: MedX (hard to acquire in the U.S. but more available in Europe under the Delphex name), Nautilus (the more recent models being less ideal), Hammer Strength (now sold to Life Fitness), Rogers Athletic, David (available in Europe), Renaissance Exercise (currently dormant), and ARX (currently active).

The existence of this equipment gives a face to HIT and a sense of what is possible while simultaneously demonstrating that HIT can generate results with conventional equipment or even no equipment at all.  The interesting thing is that without HIT-based equipment, almost no-one ever considered that it could be accomplished with barbells, dumbbells or with free-hand exercise.

The Popular Writing

We commonly think that the science precedes invention and commercial application or popular writing.  The truth is, the opposite is true.  First the tinkering and experimentation comes.  Fellow geeks communicate to each other through articles and books directed at each other.  As tinkering leads to protocols, equipment and results, then (and only then) do the academics become aware and start to formally state and test the hypothesis of the tinkerers.

Suddenly, there appears “breaking news from the world of science” that then reflects back to popular writing, but this time in the public media.  This is a dangerous process as the original thinkers and experimenters may feel cheated as any Johnny-come-lately with a University affiliation can jump on the bandwagon.  This is a mistake.  As academics test and prove the efficacy of the protocols of the tinkerers, this is the opportunity to take the confirmation and regenerate and refresh the original writing and protocols.

Right now, academia is experiencing the failures of endorsing aerobics philosophy over the past 3-4 decades and the new blood in academia is piling on to the HIT/time efficient exercise band-wagon.  The early-adopters must not resent having paid the early costs, so that others can get on board easily.  THIS is what we worked for, and we must continue to push it further.

The Science

We have established that the popular writing and tinkering precedes the science.  Science is catching on and providing resounding evidence that HIT works.  We must continue to feed them grist for that mill.  There is a virtual treasure-trove of material to study with regards to HIT. There is not a single body system, biochemical pathway or disease state that cannot be benefitted by HIT.  We need to keep writing popular articles that help to direct these areas of investigation.  We must cite and publicize the work done by scientists in the HIT field.  The more popular press these breakthroughs receive, the more funding will flow into further investigating the myriad benefits of HIT.

The Results

HIT produces results in a reliable and predictable fashion.  This is one thing we have been reluctant to push largely because of the heavy emphasis on before-and-after transformations in the exercise industry.  These “transformations” have largely been cherry-picked from extreme responders in order to sell the product.  After 3 decades of this sort of marketing, the public is becoming weary of being duped.

Actually demonstrating the more realistic, but completely reliable and reproducible, results that HIT generates is an important component to expanding the HIT market.  To some extent this can be done through our own websites, blogs and publications.  However, the best results will be obtained by the word-of-mouth that occurs as our clients go out in the world and answer the question “what have you been doing?”.

The Community Experience

The most critical element as we proceed is to develop a sense of community in the HIT world.  A sense of community is what is felt every time you walk into a starbucks.  A sense of community is what you feel when you and another iPhone user smile and nod. HIT offers an opportunity for shared experience.

When you do HIT, you become one of the smart people who realize that you can get in great shape with minimal time investment.  You know that the time-efficiency is not laziness or a short-cut, it is a requirement to produce the results you enjoy.  You also know that time efficiency is purchased with extreme effort and intensity.  You are a member of a rarified group that is able to generate that kind of effort and intensity…you are special; you feel it on the inside and it is visible as well.

With regard to the HIT community, we on the provider side need to realize that we are in this together.  There are many differing factions and sub-philosophies.  There are numerous equipment manufacturers vying for what is currently a small market.  What we all need to remember is supply creates demand.

There is a reason that Burger King is always located at the same intersection as McDonald’s…and McDonald’s is happy when Burger King shows up.  They understand that supply creates demand. This is why food courts exist.  Put your product, philosophy or protocol out there and compete like hell.  But be happy as more and more enter our field.  Supply creates demand. Lets get busy providing that supply.

Supply. Creates. Demand.

Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Doug McGuff. All rights reserved.