Orangetheory Fitness: How to Maximize These Fat-Burning Workouts

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If you love a good workout class, have you tried Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) yet? Since locations continue popping up everywhere — the company has expanded from one studio in 2010 to now more than 1,000 studios all over the world — there's probably one pretty close to you.

OTF is known for providing high-intensity group fitness classes that rely on 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 body's response. In doing so, your instructor is able to track your 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.

Be prepared to break a sweat with Orangetheory Fitness.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness

Who Should Try Orangetheory Fitness?

OTF is fun, fast-paced and competitive (but only with yourself) and perfect for cardio enthusiasts who want to switch things up. If you love a good HIIT session or simply want an efficient workout to help you stay fit or lose weight, check out a nearby class.



Because the workout relies on 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.)

But if you're rehabbing an injury, are pregnant or otherwise not at your peak of performance, check with a doctor first. It's not an easy workout, and you want to keep yourself safe. Once you've been given the all-clear from your doc, make sure you also talk to the instructors so they can help you modify as needed.

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, five-minute warm-up either walking or rowing, 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):


  1. One group does cardio intervals on the treadmill, bike or strider, with maximum intensity intervals lasting anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds each.
  2. The other group alternates 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 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 moves and equipment, 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, they have softer decks than other machines, which makes them easier on your 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.


Read more:9 Fitness Trends to Make Your Workout More Fun

What to Wear to Orangetheory Fitness Classes

Just like any good workout class, you should be prepared to sweat during every OTF class. Part of that prep is knowing what to wear and what to pack in your gym bag.


While specifics will vary based on your personal preference, the bottom line is: Wear what you're comfortable sweating in. That likely means fitted (but not too tight) tank tops and workout leggings or shorts. And ladies, make sure you invest in a medium- to high-impact sports bra as well.

In addition, the Orangetheory website recommends bringing a towel and water bottle. But leave the headphones at home — you'll need to make sure you can hear the instructor throughout the class.

Tips for Maximizing Calories Burned During (and After) the Workout

In order to maximize each Orangetheory session, 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.

Read more:11 Unusual Workouts You Probably Haven't Tried

How many calories you burn during an Orangetheory Fitness workout class depends on how hard you push yourself.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness

Calories Burned During Orangetheory Workouts

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 your age, weight, sex, fitness level and 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'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, 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. As for memberships, you have three levels to choose from: Basic (4 classes for $59/month), Elite (8 classes for $99/month) and Premier (unlimited classes for $159/month). Now go get sweating!



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