Company history

The year 1967 brought the world colour TV, Disney’s The Jungle Book, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Rolling Stones performed in Switzerland for the first time. And a pioneer – Werner Kieser – founded Kieser Training AG. His idea was to strengthen the world. For over 50 years, people have been undergoing high-intensity training using the Kieser method.

1957 – The first spark

When 17-year-old Werner Kieser bruised his ribs during sparring, his trainer and doctor recommended that he rest. But Kieser preferred to listen to the advice of a Spanish professional boxer, who recommended that he engage in strength training to speed up his recovery. It turned out that the boxer was right – Kieser got back on his feet faster than the experts predicted. Soon after, in his parents’ laundry room, he set up his first training room. Losing interest in boxing, Kieser instead focused on strength training from then on. He began to study relevant medical literature – as scant as it was – mostly American books and studies. Europe wasn’t quite that far yet, and the word “Krafttraining” – strength training – was not yet known in German.

1961 – The human body grows in the face of resistance

Fascinated by the idea of having discovered something valuable, Kieser researches instructions and studies for training with weights. Kieser tells the Swiss national weightlifting trainer of the time – Werner Hersberger – that he wants to strengthen the world, because he believes that a lot of problems could be solved in this way. Hersberger gives Kieser a stack of American journals and a piece of advice: if you want to drive the spread of strength training, set the tone yourself. Don’t ever let yourself be dissuaded from what you have seen to be right.

1966 – The first studio

In 1963, Kieser visits the first two fitness studios in Germany: Poldi Merc’s studio in Berlin and Peter Gottlob’s studio in Stuttgart. He gains an impression of how the future will look. He doesn’t have any money. Money? To train you need iron, he thinks. And iron you can get from the scrapyard, for a mere 40 Rappen per kilogram. Plenty of nice, round discs that can be used to weld together dumbbells and barbells. In Zurich he finds space in a condemned building, equipped with a rough wooden floor, a laundry room converted into a shower room, and drinking water from the tap, as well as several tons of dumbbells, barbells, benches and primitive stretching equipment. In 1966, he opens his first studio in Zurich's Nordstrasse.

1967 – Kieser Training AG founded

A year later, Werner Kieser lends his “pile of scrap, hopes and dreams” a more legally tangible form as he founds Kieser Training AG. He actually wants to give his brainchild a magnificent-sounding name that is reminiscent of space – something like “Galaxy Studio” or “Orion”. Kieser asks the first customer who bought a year's membership (who, accordingly, believes that he could hold out for at least a year) for an idea for a name. “If you really believe in what you’re doing, you’ll use your own name.” Werner Kieser is convinced – he believes in what he was doing, so he can do just that. And so his company is named Kieser Training. As the demolition crew approaches, he relocates to new premises in Zurich’s city centre.

1970 – Minimising to the fundamentals

At the start of the 1970s, the fitness boom brings “better equipped” competitors to Europe, with music, saunas, sunbeds, jacuzzis, massage services, juice bars and more. Kieser thinks he has to compete, and so he adds a sauna, tanning salon, a bar and drinks to his studio. “The more I offered in my studio, the less my customers trained,” he now recalls. “People were just laying around, finding everything great, but they weren’t training.” As a fan of Bauhaus design, Kieser begins a process of minimalisation – rejecting all of the passive services and painting the walls white. In future, nothing should break the focus on the most essential things: training and muscle development. Kieser establishes his method of two 30-minute training sessions a week.

1972 – Breakthrough of a new training technology

Werner Kieser reads an article from Arthur Jones in the American magazine “Iron Man”. The American strength training pioneer, who has been working on improving strength training equipment since 1939 and built his first prototype series in 1948, founded the company Nautilus in 1970, with which he aimed to revolutionise the fitness scene and become the uncontested market leader. In 1972, Jones brings the first variable-resistance machine onto the market, which enables isolated training of the latissimus dorsi for the first time. In the article, Jones describes the technological flaws of dumbbell and barbell training and the benefits of his “pull-over” machine. Kieser is certain – he needs to have that machine. But because he can’t afford the machines, he designs his own for the time being.

1973 – First specialist article in the NZZ

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung publishes Werner Kieser’s article on “the problems of strength training” in its science section. Kieser explains the problem of the “strength curve” and the “negative training method”. This attracts a significantly higher number of performance athletes to his studio.

1978 – Introduction of a new training technology

To see the quality of the then-revolutionary Nautilus machines for himself, Werner Kieser travels to the USA, where he meets Arthur Jones, who remains Kieser’s most important mentor until his death. “I’m going to establish a chain of studios solely for high-intensity training on Nautilus machines,” explains Kieser to Dr Ellington Darden, Nautilus’ Head of Research. “No sauna, no juice bar, no nothing. Just training, hard training.” Back in Zurich, no bank is prepared to finance Kieser’s machine acquisition project, so he gets the funds from his parents, friends and also his customers. His business graduate friends foretell his bankruptcy. The machines come, but the bankruptcy never does. In 1978, he becomes the first in Europe to use the machines.

1979 – Increased performance thanks to strength training

Falken-Verlag publishes Werner Kieser’s strength training self-help book “Leistungsfähiger durch Krafttraining”, the first German-language pop science book on the topic.

1980 – Exclusive import rights

Werner Kieser obtains the sole import rights for Nautilus in Europe.

1981 – Time to expand – but how to go about it?

Werner Kieser is facing the choice of founding a second studio, but instead he begins to expand using a franchise system – initially in Switzerland.

1987 – Solving the back problem

At the start of the 1970s, the largest research project for the treatment of chronic back pain is launched at the Centre for Exercise Science at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Even at this time, researchers attribute pain to a weakness of the spinal muscles. Arthur Jones invests a total of over 100 million dollars in the development of the testing and therapy machines for the back, neck and knees. He is also the one to launch the Lumbar Extension Machine onto the market in 1986, which is the first to establish the technical foundations for meaningful functional diagnosis and a strengthening of the spinal erectors. One night, Werner Kieser gets a call at 2am. It’s Jones. “Werner, we’ve solved the back problem. Come over,” he says. “That’s great, Arthur. But I don’t have a back problem,” Kieser answers. “You don’t, but it’s practically killing millions of people.” Kieser then flies at short notice to Florida and tests the machine. Impressed by the devices and the results of the scientists’ research, five machines are ordered the following morning.

1987 – Establishment of the training centre

In the same year Kieser establishes the training and record-keeping office to train studio employees.

1990 – A strong back knows no pain

Kieser’s wife, Dr. med. Gabriela Kieser, opens Europe’s first practice for strengthening therapy in Zurich together with physiotherapist Christiane Fritz, making her one of the first users of the Lumbar Extension Machine (LE). No pills, no injections. The team doesn’t use anything that is recognised in conventional therapy on the patients, who have already undergone a multitude of treatments. Only the LE is used – to spectacular success. The two Kiesers experience a strong synergistic boost as a result of the geographical proximity of the practice and Kieser Studio. Patients find pain relief and are then able to train independently. Reports appear in newspapers and television due to the successes. The Kiesers integrate the strengthening therapy into the concept. In the same year, they venture the jump to Germany with an initial pilot project in Frankfurt’s Bahnhofviertel area.

1994 – Expansion to Germany

Werner Kieser opens two more studios in Hamburg, but only a few customers come. “Is this an art exhibition?” asks an elderly lady, scrutinising the supposed exhibits. But Kieser isn’t to be discouraged. He remains faithful to his minimalist concept. Unrelenting, he explains that while training isn’t much fun, it is worthwhile, and that neither a bar nor music can contribute to developing muscles and reducing back pain. Kieser is on the verge of bankruptcy. But the leases in Cologne and Munich are already signed. In the same year, Walter Verlag publishes Kieser’s manuscript “The soul of the muscles – strength training outside of sporting and exhibition”. Slowly, almost unnoticeably, the shift comes – initial scepticism transforms into enthusiastic acceptance.

1998 – In-house development of machinery

Kieser Training AG acquires a licence to produce MedX machines in Europe. This is Jones’ successor company to Nautilus. Kieser launches machine production in the German town of Dieburg.

1999 – Kieser in Luxembourg

On 6 January, the first studio in Luxembourg is opened.

2000 – Kieser in Austria

The first Austrian studio opens in 2000 in Vienna. In the same year, Werner Kieser founds an in-house research department – FAKT – to investigate unanswered questions.

2006 – Kieser in Australia

In 2006, a pilot studio is opened in Sydenham, Australia.

2007 – First Kieser LE

Based on Arthur Jones’ Lumbar Extension Machine, the department for machine development enhances the machine and establishes it in the studios.

2009 – New CEO

Werner Kieser retires from the operating business and appoints Michael Antonopoulos as the new CEO. As the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Kieser continues to shape the company’s strategy and focuses more on developing the training machines.

2012 – Three new machines, the first of their kind in the world, appear on the market

Kieser introduces two new developments in the form of three machines, the B3 and B4 and the A5, which were the first of their kind in the world. Using the B3 and B4, it becomes possible for the first time to selectively and intensively train the ankle muscles. The A5 is the first machine that can be used to train the pelvic floor in a public training area while also enabling the measurement of muscle activity and its display it on a screen.

2014 – New developments: F1.1, F2.1, F3.1, C2

Kieser starts 2014 with no less than four new machines: the F1.1, F2.1, F3.1 and C2. The machines make training even more efficient.

2017 – The next generation at Kieser

Werner and Dr. med. Gabriela Kieser hand their life’s work down to Michael Antonopoulos, who has served as CEO for many years, and to Board member Nils Planzer. “50 years are enough. I’ve said what needs to be said and done what needs to be done. With this passing of the torch, we now mark the start of the next 50 years.” The company continues to benefit from Werner Kieser’s ongoing presence as a mentor and source of ideas. He relinquishes his function as president of the Board of Directors to his wife, who continues to serve in the company as the Head of Medical Affairs.

2017 – Acquisition of exersuisse Studios

With the acquisition of exersuisse Studios, Kieser increases its presence in its home market of Switzerland, boosting the number of Kieser studios in Switzerland to over 20.

At present, Kieser is present in Australia, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland with over 150 training studios, employing a workforce of around 1,600.

2018 – Introduction of the i-B6 infimetric leg press

The i-B6 was a new machine that brought a new method of exercise to Kieser studios. The machine has no weight block, so you generate the resistance yourself.

2020 – Introduction of bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA)

Thanks to our partnership with seca, Germany’s world leader in medical measurement and weighing, Kieser studios have had bioelectrical impedance analysis equipment since summer 2020. The BIA measurements determine the distribution of muscle and fat mass in the body.