If you’re fitness-minded, chances are good you’ve heard of Orangetheory Fitness. After all, locations continue popping up everywhere — the company has expanded from one studio in 2010 to 1,000 studios all over the world as of July 2018!
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Orangetheory is known for providing high-intensity group fitness classes that utilize heart rate-based training to maximize calorie burn — both during and after the hourlong workout.
Ever been tempted to try the class for yourself? Consider this your cheat sheet for getting the most out of your 60 minutes.
What Is Orangetheory Fitness?
The cornerstone of Orangetheory Fitness is heart rate-based training. In 60 minutes, you’ll nail both high-intensity cardio and strength training under the guidance of a personal trainer.
At the beginning of class, each participant is outfitted with a proprietary heart-rate monitor that syncs with a screen to display your heart-rate response. In doing so, your instructor is able to monitor progress in real time — and they can offer individualized guidance, letting you know when to speed up or dial back in order to reach the appropriate heart-rate zone.
The heart-rate monitor will detect and track your heart rate throughout class, placing you into any one of five different color-coded zones. The green, orange and red zones in particular correspond to terms you’ll hear coaches use during class to nudge you toward a different intensity level.
Zone 1 (Grey)
This is a warm-up pace, or roughly 50 to 60 percent of maximum heart rate.
Zone 2 (Blue)
Here, you’re still at a warm-up pace, but working at 61 to 70 percent of max heart rate.
Zone 3 (Green)
When you hear the coach say “base pace,” they’re referring to this zone, where you’ll bump up the intensity to 71 to 83 percent of your max heart rate. This is still a comfortable pace.
Zone 4 (Orange)
The orange zone is where you hit “push pace,” or 84 to 91 percent of max heart rate.
Zone 5 (Red)
This is the most intense zone. Here you’ll work at an “all-out sprint” pace, which is equivalent to 92 to 100 percent of max heart rate.
In every class you’ll aim to spend a total of 12 minutes in the orange and red zones. If you manage to score 12 minutes (about a quarter of the workout) in these zones, you’ll achieve what Orangetheory calls the “Orange Effect,” (also known as the “afterburn effect”), during which you continue burning calories for up to 36 hours after your workout.
This is thanks to a physiological effect known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), where your body has to utilize energy (i.e., burn calories) in order to cool itself down after an intense workout session.
By using heart rate to gauge intensity, every participant can complete the workout according to his or her current abilities and fitness level instead of trying to fit into some group standard. You may find yourself working next to an 18-year old, a 78-year old or even a professional athlete. (Or all three.)
What to Expect in an Orangetheory Fitness Class
Every workout is carefully designed to incorporate multiple planes of movement (front to back, side to side and all around) and engage multiple muscle groups without overtaxing them.
After completing a brief, 5-minute warm-up either walking or on the rowing machine, class participants are divided into two groups. Each group then tackles one of the two main training blocks of the workout (each block lasts roughly 26 to 28 minutes):
- Cardio intervals on the treadmill, bike or strider, with maximum intensity intervals lasting anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds each
- Alternating strength exercises with intervals on the indoor rowing machine (known as the WaterRower)
Once your group finishes the first training block, you’ll switch places with the other group to complete the second training block. Your coach will guide you through each block, letting you know when to push the intensity or back off and when to move from strength exercise to indoor rowing machine. You just have to put in the effort!
The strength exercises vary from class to class and employ a variety of modalities, including resistance bands, dumbbells, suspension trainers, BOSU trainers and body-weight exercises like squats, lunges and push-ups. Your coach will offer form adjustments to ensure you’re performing each exercise safely and effectively.
Because the treadmills were custom-designed for Orangetheory to have softer decks than other treadmills, they’re much easier on the joints. However, if you have any nagging lower-body injuries or movement restrictions that make walking or running uncomfortable, you can use a bike or strider instead.
How to Maximize Calorie Burn During (and After) Your Orangetheory Class
In order to maximize each and every Orangetheory workout, Michael Piermarini, director of fitness for Orangetheory, has four keys to success:
- Stay consistent
- Focus on each component of the workout
- Listen as the coach guides you (and do what they say)
- Bring your A-game every time
And while it’s important to work hard during class, you also need to be careful not to overdo it — especially when you’re first starting out. After all, it’s hard to stay consistent with any workout when you’re overly sore or injured.
“We always encourage people to start a little more conservative than what they would normally do, just to understand the full experience,” Piermarini says. This might mean you begin with power walking instead of jogging, jogging instead of running or even starting out on the bike or strider before transitioning to the treadmill.
You’ll also want to make sure you stay hydrated before, during and after class and that you’re giving your body adequate rest before you jump into another class. “That’s the number-one thing,” Piermarini says. In general, three to five classes per week is a good frequency if weight loss is your goal, but make sure you’re paying attention to how well your body is recovering.
Calories Burned During Orangetheory Fitness
You can expect to burn anywhere between 500 and 1,000 calories in one class. However, your exact total will depend on several factors, including age, weight, sex, fitness level and given effort.
To determine the exact number of calories you burned, you’ll need to consult your heart rate monitor after class, or you can get an estimate beforehand by using a calorie-tracking app like LIVESTRONG.COM’s MyPlate.
Find an Orangetheory Fitness Location Near You
Ready to try out the workout for yourself? Visit the Orangetheory website to find a location near you. Because classes are limited to 24 to 34 people (depending on the location), you’re encouraged to call to get on the schedule.
Then, make sure you arrive 30 minutes early for your first class so you have time to fill out paperwork and try out your heart-rate monitor. (Orangetheory will provide you with their proprietary heart-rate monitor for your first class, but after that you need to purchase your own.)
The instructor will also give you an overview of what you can expect during the workout so you’re not trying to figure it all out on your own as you go.