Is the Theory Behind Orangetheory Fitness Flawed?

Photo of a dark and stylish weight room

There is a brand new-ish chain of gyms popping up round the sector referred to as Orangetheory Fitness, and after hearing the various athletes I coach rave about it, I figured I have to supply it a strive. Happily, they offer a loose trial session, so I certainly had not anything to lose. Except for possibly my fitness dignity. So, I placed on my fake nostril and moustache and headed to the Davie street location to enjoy it for myself.

The first magnificence I attended changed into on a Thursday at 7:30 am. The workforce knowledgeable me that state-of-the-art exercise is known as Orange Endurance and curiously, everybody who happens to be in any Orangetheory Fitness area around the world could be doing this identical group persistence exercise all day these days. From Vancouver to Melbourne, Tampa to Seoul, Winchester to L?Beck, absolutely everyone is getting sweaty with the Orange Endurance exercising.

This is how the exercising went. After a 3 minute warm-up on the rowing machine:

Dumbbell Set

This set changed into a mixture of:

  • Step-ups (with dumbbells)
  • Mountain climbers
  • Lateral Raises
  • Weighted bicycle crunch
  • And a 600m effort on the Rowing Machine between each set.


This changed into a combo of:

  • Chest Press
  • Bicep Curl
  • Lateral Pulldown
  • Squat jumps
  • With a 600m row between.

After that turned into carried out (approximately 26 mins later) we moved over to the other part of the fitness center wherein the treadmills and rowing machines are.

Treadmill Set

The treadmill set become a descending duration of different paces. We did some clean tempo (or baseline), some push tempo, and a few all-out efforts, beginning with 3-minute intervals and operating our manner down to 30 seconds intervals.

We completed the elegance with a three-minute cool-down with some greater mins of stretching at the cease.

My Second class changed into on a Tuesday at 7:30 am again (yes, I am a glutton for early morning punishment). They referred to as this one the ?Orange Everest? Exercise and they declare it is one in every of their most popular exercises.

This is how it is going. After a 3-5 minute heat-up on the treadmill:

We all started the 23 minute ?Everest climb? At an incline of 1 percent after which we clearly increased the incline by one percent each minute until we reached a tough climb of 15 percentage. During this, we were allowed to alter our pace but we needed to preserve up with the incline that changed into being dictated and monitored via the educate.

After we spent one minute at the most of 15 percent incline, we began coming down the opposite aspect. When we reached the bottom we did one minute at the ?Push pace? And the final minute ?All out.? Being a person who likes to kick at the cease of a race, that is where I honestly shone. And after I say that I shone, I suggest that I flung sweat in all directions.

Photo of Brock Armstrong after an Orangetheory class.Then we hustled (nicely, a number of us hustled) over to the weight area of the fitness center and commenced the next phase of the exercise which consisted of:

  • Narrow Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Hammer Curls
  • Seated overhead press to standing
  • With a 250m Row between each set.

We did this four instances through, with 12, 10, eight and 6 reps.

Then we moved on to:

  • Plank Dumbell Rows (on each side)
  • Tricep Overhead Extension
  • Supine Leg Lifts

This set we delivered reps as opposed to dropping them. We commenced at 6 reps, ended on 12 reps, and then collapsed. After a quick stretch and chat, we had been despatched on our way. Foolishly, I rode my motorbike to the fitness center, so my exercising wasn?T executed but. Needless to mention, it become a greater leisurely trip domestic than traditional.

Ok, sufficient reminiscing. Why did I determine to give Orangetheory Fitness a try now?

Well, after referencing a study done at the University of California that evaluated the effects of concurrent strength and aerobic endurance training on muscle strength and endurance, body composition, and flexibility in female college athletes, listener Erika wrote to me on Facebook and said, “I work out exclusively at Orange Theory and looooove it. Would you equate that workout to the one in the study that saw the crazy improvement in the various health metrics?”

I replied to Erika, saying ?Sure… With some caveats:"

  1. The lifting must be done at a high enough weight to reach muscle failure.
  2. The bursts of cardio must be short and very intense.
  3. The study only lasted 11 weeks. If the study had continued longer there definitely would have been diminished returns. Those kinds of results will not go on forever.
  4. The subjects in the study only did that workout 3 times per week so they allowed for adequate recovery.
  5. I also added that I had not been to Orangetheory but I promised that I would give it a try and let her know what I thought.

To find out more about that particular study’s outcome and how to combine (or not combine) cardio and resistance training, make sure you check out my article on whether to keepweights vs. cardio separate or combined.

As I stated before, every day Orangetheory gyms around the world (from New York to Kuwait) all do the identical exercising. Sometimes it’s miles the Endurance Workout (just like the one I did), or a strength exercising, or straight up HIIT (excessive-intensity c program languageperiod schooling). I must admit that when I asked greater specially approximately the workout routines that they had deliberate for the the rest of the week, they seemed quite cloak and dagger about it, so I didn?T push it. But that did make my coachie-senses tingle. If contributors don?T know what sort of exercise they’re in for, how can they plan successfully to reap a selected fitness intention beyond ?Get in shape?? More on that later.

According to their website, “Orangetheory is a 1 hour, full body workout, focused on training Endurance, Strength and/or Power. We use Heart Rate Based Interval Training, which burns more calories post-workout than a traditional exercise. When wearing our Heart Rate monitors, your real-time results are displayed on large screens throughout the studio.”

They go on to talk about how intensity is based on your individual Heart Rate zones (which they calculate for you based on the extremely rough equation of 220 minus your age), which they claim makes the workout effective for all levels of fitness. This is something I only partially buy at this point, but having had my butt handed to me today, I can’t really complain.

The fitness center area itself is absolutely one of the most high-tech workout areas I?Ve ever been in! There is a TV display screen above the treadmills that presentations your name, heart charge, percentage of your max heart price, energy burned, and ?Splat points? Which we?Ll communicate about subsequent. There are also TVs in the weight room that display the physical games and reps so that you can reference them at some point of your exercise if you forget about what the teacher tested.

The ?Splat factors? Are presented to you while you are inside the Orange and Red coronary heart fee zones and are especially popular via Orangetheory goers not best because all of us like to gamify our workout routines (and feature a manner to quantify our difficult paintings) but additionally due to a factor referred to as ?Afterburn.? The OTF oldsters talk to the ones zones as the afterburn zones based totally on the perception that when your heart price is as much as or over 85 percent of your maximum, you still burn energy for 24 to 36 hours after the elegance is over.

Getting in the "orange zone" produces what workout physiologists name the ?EPOC? Impact (excess put up-workout oxygen intake) AKA the afterburn.

Getting "splat points" for being within the orange area produces what exercise physiologists name the ?EPOC? Impact (excess put up-exercising oxygen consumption), AKA the afterburn.

The suggested biological reason for EPOC is “to restore the body to its resting state and allow for physiological adaptations” which will help the body handle the exercise (or stress) more easily in the future.

EPOC is at its most powerful immediately after the exercise session but some studies have found that EPOC can last up to 24 hours. (I didn’t find any that indicated 36 hours like OTF claimed.) It should also be noted that other studies have found that it lasts much shorter than 24 hours. In fact, some found that EPOC lasts less than an hour in some cases. There are many reasons for this discrepancy (gender, genetics, body composition, fitness level, etc.) but the important part is that the jury is still out on how much benefit you actually get from EPOC, or the afterburn.

Other research indicates that now not simplest the length but the actual calorie-burning impact of EPOC is a whole lot smaller than marketed and probable makes most effective a minor dent in weight reduction compared to the power value of the actual workout itself. Unless the exercising is undertaken frequently that is whilst the EPOC might have a cumulative impact.

In one study they found that the amount of extra energy burned during EPOC is only about 6-15% as much as is used during the exercise itself. So, 20 rounds of 1-minute running intervals performed at 105% of VO2max (which is an effort that we refer to as very, very uncomfortable), separated by 2 minutes of rest, burned an average of 537 calories during exercise, but only an extra 64 calories in the 9 hours after the session. Insert sad trombone sound.

Now back to why my coachie-sense was tingling when I found out that the workouts are kept secret (unless you discover the Subreddit group that is devoted to sharing the workouts as they happen across the timezones). I generally coach people for specific events like 10k Road Races, Marathons, Triathlons, or Fitness Model Competitions. All of these require that we do at least 90% sport specific, periodized, and specifically targeted workouts.

For example, I am presently education myself for a triathlon. Had I known that we were doing the Orange Everest exercising on Tuesday, I might not have beaten a motorcycle-swim-motorbike exercise the day earlier than. And I might have deliberate a recuperation day for Wednesday. As it became, I am a little extra worn out than I desired to be at this factor inside the week. And my internal instruct is not satisfied with my inner athlete.

I have to upload that when I brought this clandestine factor up with the first-class fellow running at the the front counter of my neighborhood Orangetheory, he did guarantee me that if I turned into to call them the day before and provide an explanation for my dilemma, they might indeed screen what the workout was going to be the next day. Call me lazy however that appears a bit bulky. Based on that, I will dissuade my clients from using Orangetheory on a everyday foundation particularly at key moments at some point of our education blocks.

The other issue I had with the theory behind Orangetheory was this idea of using heart rate as a measure of your success at the workout. As I pointed out earlier, the equation of 220 minus your age does give a rough estimate of your maximum heart rate from which you can calculate your Heart Rate Zones, but this only goes so far for us fit folks. Many of us have resting heart rates that are considerably lower than the general public. According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. But mine can get down into the forties when I am sitting comfortably reading a book and this has an effect on my maximum heart rate.

If you are working toward a totally specific fitness intention, there are a few monkey wrenches inside the Orangethery experience.

I actually have additionally been a runner lengthy enough that I knew instinctively to shorten my stride and boom my cadence while we set our treadmills above a 10 percentage incline during the Orange Everest exercising. This technique results in greater green hill climbing and for that reason a decrease coronary heart fee. So I changed into offered a measly 12 ?Splat factors? After what I considered to be a killer workout. Not because I wasn?T pushing myself but because I am efficient and a life-lengthy mover.

Again, I should add that the fine fellow at the front desk did assure me that if I came to them with the results of Lactate Threshold or VO2 Max test, they would adjust my zones to match what the tests indicated. That is cool and gracious of them but similar to having to call them the day before a workout to see how I should plan around it, I think I would rather just workout on my own.

In the end, anyone who is interested in a killer, fun, full-body workout, in a high-tech setting, that does a good job at gamifying the gym experience, this would be a great fit for you. I actually walked away describing Orangetheory as Crossfit, minus the “Bro.” For someone like Erika, who sparked this entire adventure, that is likely perfect and will help her reach her general fitness and fat loss goals. Especially when I consider how hard it is to get anyone to say, and I quote, “I looooove” a workout.

On the other hand, in case you are operating closer to a very unique fitness aim, race, or occasion, there are just enough monkey wrenches inside the Orangethery experience to make Orangetheory no longer well worth the (now not small) cost in step with workout. So for now, I will see you inside the pool, bike direction, running song, and health club.

For more gym trend info, the latest workout tips, and to join the theoretical conversation, head over to or Also don’t forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Spotify, Google Play or via RSS.

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