If you’re like me, you want to get the most out of your workouts.
While I love exercising, I don’t feel like spending countless hours in the gym every single week. Instead, I want to work hard, burn some calories, and then get on with the rest of my day.
Over the past few years, a fitness company called Orangetheory has taken this mindset and turned it into a highly efficient 60-minute workout that will have you gassed by the end.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you should try Orangetheory, this article will tell you what it’s all about, along with its potential benefits and downsides.
Orangetheory is a fitness franchise with more than 1,275 locations across the United States, more than 100 locations in Canada, and many more globally.
Their 60-minute classes are known for combining high intensity interval training (HIIT) with intense cardio sessions.
These classes are based on the theory of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is an increase in metabolism after high intensity exercise to support recovery for upwards of 8–24 hours afterward (
Therefore, their classes are based on five “zones,” which correlate with your maximum heart rate (MHR) (4):
- Gray Zone (50–60% MHR). This is light activity that is comfortable and not strenuous.
- Blue Zone (61–70% MHR). This is warmup activity that’s still comfortable and easy to do but is starting to get your blood flowing.
- Green Zone (71–83% MHR). This is known as your “base pace.” You should be able to perform this activity for up to 20 minutes without being completely out of breath.
- Orange Zone (84–91% MHR). Known as the “orange effect” or “afterburn,” this zone involves high intensity exercise that can elicit EPOC. Ideally, you should aim to be in this zone for at least 12 minutes during a 60-minute class.
- Red Zone (92–100% MHR). This is considered your “all out” effort. You’ll probably need to stop within a minute or so.
Orangetheory has gained a reputation for high intensity, calorie-scorching workouts that prioritize exercises that will have you in the green, orange, and red zones for most of the workout.
Orangetheory is a fitness franchise that hosts 60-minute high intensity exercise classes. Their classes are based on achieving different “zones,” or heart rates, which is thought to help burn additional calories.
You’ll need to arrive at least 30 minutes before your first Orangetheory class to fill out some standard paperwork, discuss your health and fitness goals, get set up on their heart rate monitors, and go over some general safety protocols.
One unique aspect of Orangetheory is their proprietary heart rate monitors, known as OTbeat. You use these to measure your heart rate (i.e., intensity) to ensure you’re achieving orange and red zones throughout each class.
In fact, your heart rate is posted on a screen at the front of the class to help you keep track of how long you’ve been in each zone. Ideally, you’ll want to earn 12 “splat points,” the equivalent of 12 minutes — one splat per minute — in the orange and red zones.
While classes vary, they are usually divided into three components: rowing, cardio, and strength training (5).
First, the rowing machine prioritizes muscular strength, endurance, and power. It helps get your heart rate up while targeting 85% of your muscles for a full-body workout (5).
Next, you’ll do interval cardio — usually on a treadmill — consisting of different speeds, elevations, and recovery times. If you can’t use a treadmill, you can opt for another cardio machine, such as an exercise bike (5).
Finally, there’s an open floor area for strength training. This can involve a wide range of activities, such as bodyweight exercises, weight training, or other floor exercises (5).
During the class, your trainer will take you through the five stages (zones 1–5), with the goal of achieving at least 12 minutes in the orange and red zones during a 60-minute class.
Keep in mind that no two classes are alike at Orangetheory. This means that the class you did on Monday won’t be the same one you do on Thursday. But they all follow the same general format.
While no two classes are alike, they follow the same general format, which includes a combination of rowing, treadmill (running or walking), and strength training.
Attending an Orangetheory class has many benefits.
Orangetheory classes are great for people looking for a full-body workout.
The classes include cardio and full-body strength training. This is ideal for busy people who want to get the most out of their 60-minute exercise class.
What’s more, high intensity exercise can be an excellent way to build up your cardiorespiratory fitness, which is important for performance and for reducing your risk of chronic disease (
Burns a lot of calories
A single 60-minute Orangetheory class can burn an impressive 500–1,000 calories.
During high intensity exercise, you exert a lot of energy. To do that, your body “burns” calories to support your activity. The number of calories you burn will depend on many factors, such as your body size, sex assigned at birth, fitness level, and workout intensity.
For example, a 170-pound (77-kg) person would burn roughly 269 calories in 20 minutes on a rowing machine, 257 calories in 20 minutes of running at a 6-mph pace, and 154 calories in 20 minutes of intense weight training, for a total of 680 calories (8).
On top of that, you may burn additional calories afterward if you spend at least 12 minutes in the orange and red zones during the workout.
A lot of variety
If you’re one of the many people who can’t stand doing the same exercises over and over, then you’ll probably love Orangetheory classes.
Each class is unique, and no two workouts are the same. This means that every time you step into the gym, you’ll be challenged in a new way, which can be very motivating.
Your effort is personal
What is considered “high intensity” for one person may not be for another. Your maximum heart rate is unique to you and is largely based on your fitness level, age, experience, and other factors.
The OTbeat heart rate monitor can tell you which zone you’re in and whether you need to increase or decrease the intensity.
This means that one person may be in the orange zone while speed-walking on an incline, while another person may get there by sprinting. All in all, you can tailor the workout to your needs, and the coaches can help guide you through this.
You can track your progress
In addition to your OTbeat score appearing on a screen in the class, you can hook up your heart rate monitor to the Orangetheory App.
This can help you keep track of your progress and other measurements, such as calories burned, splat points, average heart rate, average maximum heart rate, and time in each zone.
On top of that, you can join monthly challenges and sign up for classes right from your phone.
You can tailor your workout to your needs
If you have any limitations or wish to opt out of an exercise, your trainer will offer modified exercises or alternatives.
For example, if you can’t use the treadmill, you can opt for an exercise bike or striders.
Exercising in a group can be motivating
Because Orangetheory is a group fitness class, you’ll reap the benefits of group exercise: accountability, community, and motivation.
Orangetheory is a great option for people who like the idea of group exercise but don’t like dance-style aerobic classes.
Many people enjoy Orangetheory classes because they’re easy to tailor to your needs, allow you to measure your effort based on your heart rate, and can allow you to burn more than 500 calories in a single class.
Before trying an Orangetheory class, you may want to consider some of its major drawbacks.
Orangetheory classes are not for those on a tight budget.
Although prices and membership packages may vary by franchise, most franchises offer three main packages:
- Basic: 4 classes per month for $59 (average price)
- Elite: 8 classes per month for $99 (average price)
- Premier: unlimited classes for $159 (average price)
If you have a basic or elite membership, you’ll have to pay around $28 if you want to attend an additional class. But if you want to try before you buy, you can attend the first class for free.
On top of this, you’ll need to buy the heart rate monitor, which costs $69–$129, depending on the model. Alternatively, you can rent it for $5–10 per class. Renting may be a better option in the beginning if you’re not yet committed to Orangetheory long-term.
Finally, you must sign up for classes, and they fill up quickly. If you want to cancel, you’ll need to do so about 8 hours before the class starts. Otherwise, you’ll be charged $10–12, depending on the location.
Considering that you may be able to get a gym membership for as little as $10 per month elsewhere, Orangetheory classes can be costly and not accessible for everyone.
You may not achieve specific goals
If you have specific performance or fitness goals, then taking Orangetheory classes may not be right for you.
Let’s say your focus is bodybuilding and you want to build substantial muscle mass. To build muscle mass, you’ll want to prioritize strength training exercises that use enough resistance and rep ranges that make you work until you’re close to failure.
You’ll also want to practice progressive overload, which means increasing the load or rep range over time. Because every Orangetheory class is different, you won’t be able to track your progress.
Therefore, if you’re looking to achieve goals beyond weight loss or getting your heart rate up, you may benefit from other exercise programs.
It’s not one-on-one coaching
While Orangetheory classes can be a great way to meet other gym-goers and stay motivated, you’re not paying for one-on-one coaching. This can be especially problematic for people who are new to working out.
During a class, the trainer will coach you through certain exercises, but they’ll also have other attendees to monitor.
If you’re not familiar with a certain exercise, you may be more likely to perform it incorrectly and have to wait until the trainer can check in on you to let you know. Ultimately, this can increase your risk of injury, reduce the effectiveness of the workout, or simply be frustrating.
Therefore, if you’re looking for more personalized training, you’re better off investing in a personal trainer for one-on-one sessions.
Some major drawbacks to Orangetheory include its high cost, lack of individualized coaching, and inability to help you reach certain performance goals.
Orangetheory coaches are usually hired by the individual franchise. Each franchise may have different rules and hiring practices.
Still, Orangetheory’s website states that individuals are required to have an NCCA-approved certification in personal training (e.g., ACE, NASM, ACSM) or a related college degree (e.g., bachelor of science in kinesiology) to qualify to be an Orangetheory coach (9).
In addition, Orangetheory coaches are required to take a weeklong Orangetheory training course and pass the “final mic” exam, in which they teach a trial class. They must also have valid CPR and AED certifications (9).
Finally, Orangetheory coaches are required to attend monthly webinars and meetings for continued education (9).
Most Orangetheory coaches will have a certification in personal training or a related college degree, be certified in CPR and AED, and undergo continuing education. However, the hiring practices of each franchise may differ.
Considering that a single class can burn more than 500 calories, Orangetheory classes may help you achieve a calorie deficit that is needed to lose weight.
However, most research has found that high intensity exercise leads to similar weight loss results as steady-state moderate intensity exercise, such as walking or running at a moderate and consistent pace (
The major difference is that high intensity exercise is often viewed as more convenient because you can burn a higher number of calories in a much shorter time.
For example, a 170-pound (77-kg) person will burn around 84 calories in 20 minutes of walking at a moderate pace and around 269 calories in 20 minutes of high intensity rowing (8).
But steady-state exercise can be easier for many people to do consistently and regularly because it doesn’t require going “all out” and being completely exhausted by the end. Therefore, someone may prefer to go for an hourlong walk to burn a similar number of calories.
The one major difference is that Orangetheory classes are 60 minutes long, which means you’re burning significantly more calories than you would in 15–20 minutes of HIIT.
If you attend a few classes per week, you’ll probably lose some weight. But if you attend only one class per week, it probably won’t be enough to help you reach the calorie deficit needed for weight loss.
As long as you are consistent, are challenging yourself, and exercise long enough to burn enough calories to achieve a deficit, you’ll likely lose some weight. You’re even more likely to do so if you also eat a nutritious diet, get quality sleep, and manage your stress levels.
Therefore, it’s best to choose exercise that you enjoy and can do on a consistent basis.
Like most other exercise programs, Orangetheory classes may contribute to weight loss as long as you’re consistent, exercise a few times per week, and achieve a calorie deficit.
Orangetheory has soared in popularity — and for good reason. Their classes involve a mixture of high intensity cardio and strength training to help you burn more than 500 calories in just 60 minutes.
If you earn 12 splat points — 12 minutes in the orange and red heart rate zones — in a class, your metabolism can stay elevated for hours afterward. High intensity exercise can also help improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, which is important for disease prevention.
However, Orangetheory does have some drawbacks, including its high cost and lack of one-on-one coaching. Further, if you have specific performance goals in mind (such as bodybuilding or running a marathon), these classes may not be your best option.
All in all, I’d say Orangetheory is a great option for people who enjoy exercising in a group environment and like high intensity exercise. If that’s not you, then you’re probably better off choosing other forms of exercise that better suit your needs and lifestyle.