During their senior year of high school, Ahmad, Kahlil and Malik Jones posted their first workout video on YouTube.
Seven years later, the identical triplets own a successful personal training company, Triyo Fitness, and are prominent members of the boutique fitness community in Philadelphia.
While studying at the University of Pennsylvania, they went from creating workout videos to training students on campus. “We really started to grow the business doing bootcamps, training clients and making a name for ourselves as the fitness guys on campus,” Ahmad told TODAY.
After graduation, the triplets decided to take a risk and focus on Triyo Fitness full-time. “It wasn’t a group decision, but it was a decision that would not have worked if all three of us had not come to the same conclusion individually,” said Ahmad.
For Khalil, it was a conversation with his father that convinced him to take a risk. “I said I was going to get a marketing job and do Triyo Fitness on the side and (my dad) said, ‘Why would you do that if your goal is to do Triyo Fitness full-time? ... You all should go all in if you want to do it.’ That was one of the most reassuring things my dad ever said to me. That was a really important experience: This is where you choose to take the risk.”
Malik came to the decision after experiencing corporate life firsthand. “I came to realize that I was more exhausted after being in the office from 8:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. than I ever was teaching classes or interacting with clients. That energizes me and gives me the fulfillment I need, knowing that I’m helping someone and doing it on my own terms,” he said.
Once they were all on board, they hustled to build a network in Philadelphia. “Beginning of 2020 is really when people started to take note,” said Ahmad.
‘Lit and Fit’: The trio's approach to fitness
An active lifestyle was ingrained in the brothers from an early age, playing almost every sport among the three of them. “It was always very much an active household we lived in, whether it was riding bikes with our parents or going on hikes,” said Malik. “In high school we got serious with track and field. That’s really where we started to understand training principles.”
“In the beginning it was more about enjoying fitness and having fun. Our parents always wanted us to find something that we could do together that we really enjoyed,” said Ahmad. “It wasn’t necessarily about having a business, but about having something that was ours; that was a good representation of who we were.”
And fun is an important component of their training style, as well as the content they post on social media.
“From the beginning, our motto has been ‘lit and fit.’ We want people to enjoy themselves, to be social, to have a good time, and associate positive experiences with fitness,” said Ahmad. “That’s how we try and curate our content and the behavior we exhibit when we teach classes and interact with clients. We want people to feel good when they’re around us.”
Divide and conquer: Calling on their individual strengths
The identical triplets may have used their “sameness” to build a brand, but keeping it running successfully requires calling on their individual strengths.
Ahmad handles all tech, production and content creation. Malik handles the finances and business tasks, like taxes and pricing. Khalil handles marketing and overall brand direction.
And the same divide-and-conquer mentality applies to their training.
“In our in-person events Khalil does boxing, I do strength training, and Malik ends it with HIIT cardio,” said Ahmad, who also teaches at Barry’s Bootcamp. You can find Khalil on the schedule at Rumble boxing, and Malik teaches classes at Unite Fitness.
Their diverse skill sets — and the fact that there are three of them — allows them to create inclusive fitness programs that have “something for everybody,” said Ahmad.
“We have the ability to make sure each one of us is showing something that most, if not everybody, in the class can relate to,” he added. “We recently did a private event; there were around 2,000 people on the stream, between 12 and 80 years old. The goal was to make sure everybody had something they could do. So we had modifications, chair exercises and progressions to ensure that everybody felt comfortable and we met them where they were.”
Rolling with the punches
While gyms were especially hard hit by the pandemic, Triyo Fitness used it as motivation to launch new programs and expand their business. They all transitioned to virtual one-on-one training and group fitness classes on Zoom, which allowed them to reach a new audience outside of Philadelphia.
“I have a client that lives in California, but now we train together because of Zoom, which is super cool. I never would’ve met her if it wasn’t for the pandemic,” said Khalil.
This led to a shift in priorities. “We really embraced remote training; we can connect with anybody anywhere, and that’s what we want to continue to do,” said Malik. So they pressed pause on their goal to open up brick and mortar locations, and instead focused their efforts on developing an app.
“A lot of people want to be able to connect more online because of the pandemic, so it’s opened up a new avenue for us,” said Malik. “That’s the next thing: growing the community, being able to connect with people everywhere — creating a space where fitness is social, fitness is fun; that makes it more enjoyable to work out.”
‘We’re not just trainers’
“Anyone can show you how to do a bicep curl, but we also want to show you how to have fun and maybe we turn that bicep curl into a cool dance video and then in the next post we tell you how you can be anti-racist with your friends who are experiencing Asian hate,” said Khalil. “These things set us apart because we’re not just trainers. I think that’s part of the reason people are drawn to us because they are getting a look into what we are beyond working out.”
A big piece of who they are is advocates for social change. When social unrest peaked this summer, the brothers used their platform to educate and to support causes they felt passionate about, like the Black Lives Matter movement.
They hosted Zoom workouts as fundraisers for different causes. "We were able to make a serious impact,” said Khalil. “That was huge in terms of talking action. Education is good, but we were able to then take people who we just educated and wanted to do something about it and help them do something about it by doing this sweat for a good cause.”
These personal values also informed their business decisions. “We decided to start really picking and choosing what brands we were going to work with and making sure every single collaboration had some sort of positive social impact,” said Ahmad. “By defining those goals, it gave us the confidence to say ‘these are our standards, if these aren’t the values you’re aligned with, this isn’t a collaboration that’s for us.’ It helped us really define our image and how we want to be seen, and also helped us make that positive impact.”
A 12-minute cardio workout
Want a little taste of what Triyo Fitness has to offer? Get your heart rate up with this sample workout from their new bodyweight program, “Be Anywhere, Be Greater” — no equipment necessary.
- Heisman shuffle
- Squat & twist
- Steam engine toe touch
This circuit is meant to improve your balance and agility. Complete 45 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest for each exercise. Run through all four exercises in a circuit format and complete a total of three rounds. Modify exercises to your skill level and have fun with it!