There have been many different fitness trends that pop up quickly and often disappear just as quickly. However, there are a few that stick around for the long term. Orangetheory Fitness is one of those. You know who they are because their approach to fitness is unlike anything else. People who join OT, become super fans of this unique type of exercise.
How do you know when an OT gym has come to your town? In the most original way possible. A way that gets everyone talking. Typically, it begins with random stationary bicycles and rowing machines that start showing up along the roadside in your community. It’s happened this way across the US and now internationally. The machines are always spray-painted orange and placed at traffic lights, in mall parking lots. Basically, anywhere that will attract attention in the vicinity of the new gym location.
Before we get into why Orangetheory Fitness is so unique and different and how it works to get you fit in a way that is unlike any other type of gym, let’s go back to the beginning.
Orangetheory Fitness is actually a privately owned fitness franchise that is based out of Florida. The basic idea is that it offers group personal training workouts that are based on HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). These workouts combine cardio and strength training together to get the perfect combination workout. There are close to a thousand US locations and just about as many worldwide. That in itself is pretty indicative of how popular Orangetheory Fitness has become. Its popularity is due in part to the results it guarantees.
Orangetheory fitness likes to say that their workouts are backed by science. Interesting claim, but what exactly does this mean? Well, their answer is that it means -pure and simple: results. Ellen Latham is the co-founder and current partner of Orangetheory Fitness. Latham has several degrees in exercise science and ran her own Pilates studio before forming OT. While doing so, she noticed that her clients were still looking to burn fat despite their Pilates workouts. This was because Pilates, while an excellent method for improving muscle tone, was not able to help to lose weight on its own. So, with this in mind, Latham created a workout that brought together the best of both worlds: cardio and strength training. She coined it as “a way to metabolically charge the body.” Or, more simply, “The Ultimate Workout.” This was how Orangetheory Fitness was born.
What is Orangetheory Fitness exactly? How does it compare to other forms of training?
Well, this is how OT explains their unique workouts to prospective gym-goers. Orangetheory Fitness is, for the most part, a one-hour, full-body workout that zones in on strength, power, and endurance. By using heart rate-based interval training, people can burn more calories after their workouts with more traditional types of exercise.
Orangetheory Fitness also provides members with access to their exclusive OTbeat heart rate monitor. This personal heart rate monitor is connected to large screens inside the studio, where it displays your results in real-time while you are working out. Surprisingly, anyone of any fitness level is eligible and will find this workout effective because the intensity is based on each person’s individual heart rate zone. And of course, there are certified coaches that lead the workouts, which help everyone to workout at the correct level without under or overtraining.
Sound intense? Well, the workouts are but not the idea behind them. Basically, the entire concept behind a heart-rate monitored, group interval, fitness training is to stimulate the metabolism, increase energy, and offer group support and accountability.
It’s really quite simple.
Participants wear heart rate monitors either around their chest or on their forearm. The result of training with this device is to achieve more energy, long-lasting toning, and calorie burning for up to thirty-six hours post-workout. The goal of the personal trainers or coaches at Orangetheory Fitness is to lead the gym-goers in a sixty-minute workout that will push them into the EPOC zone. This infamous EPOC zone is also known as “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.” This means burning about 500-1000 calories during training and up to 900 calories in the after-burn -the period after exercise. This EPOC zone is a magic ingredient behind Orangetheory Fitness.
While wearing the exclusive heart-rate monitoring system called OTbeat, members will see in real-time, the personalized results of their workout. What is unique about this system is that because it is displayed on monitors in the studio that everyone can see, it has the effect of encouraging a healthy competitive spirit and pushing people to achieve new limits. It’s also an excellent tool for the long term as participants can either receive their results via email or track their results on the Orangetheory Fitness mobile app.
All this may sound overwhelming if you haven’t exercised before, but the reality is that Orangetheory Fitness is accessible to everyone of all fitness levels. This is because everyone is encouraged to work at their own pace. There’re also many different ways to exercise at Orangetheory Fitness. They have everything from treadmills, water rowers, free weights, medicine balls, BOSU trainers, and more. All the methods are used, encouraged, and if you are starting right from the beginning, they will even teach you how to use the machines.
There is a physiological theory behind the Orangetheory Fitness workout. As we mentioned before, it’s all about the EPOC “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.” This unique one-hour workout is designed to create twelve minutes or more of intensity at approximately 84% or higher of maximum heart rate. This will, in turn, provide an “afterburn” effect-essentially an increased metabolic rate for up to thirty-six hours after working out. In layman’s terms…you work so hard during your workout that you reach the point that you continue to burn calories after your workout! Sounds like the dream, right? Well, OTF provides it. Or at least provides all the facilities to make it happen for you. You still have to work hard a few times a week in the gym!
Want to know what to expect in a class?
Each OT class is structured as follows: everything is within five zones of heart-rate based interval training. Zones one and two are warm-up zones. The idea is to focus on completing zone three, which is a challenge but still manageable. One zone four, which should be uncomfortable and a final zone five, which reflects a flat-out effort or sprint.
Zones four and five should take approximately twelve minutes or more to complete to achieve that desired EPOC zone. Again, this is about working at your maximum capacity for at least twelve minutes, if not more. Think of it as sprinting to the finish line or giving one last knockout punch!
Another fun aspect of Orangetheory Fitness is something they call Splat Points. Although it’s a funny-sounding name, splat points are not about judging how you fall splat on the ground ;) It’s actually quite serious and worthwhile to aim for. Splat points indicate how many minutes have been spent in the orange and red zones. While the goal of meditation is to achieve nirvana, only twelve splat points per class will get you to EPOC. Quite possibly a much more achievable goal!
Primarily, Orangetheory Fitness has been designed to enable everyone regardless of fitness level to be able to achieve the goal of reaching EPOC. Despite what you may think about your own fitness goals before beginning, Orangetheory Fitness does have three levels that you can train at. Walkers, joggers, and runners are the three levels to choose from. Or beginner, intermediate, and advanced if you prefer more traditional labels. Each displays a different level of intensity, and you can tailor your exercise routine based on which one fits you best.
Not only does it have these options, but Orangetheory Fitness also capitalizes on the psychology of group workouts. Look at it this way, if no one but you ever sees your results, how motivated are you to push yourself harder? Some of us (with the exception of the overachievers among us will push to the limit), but what about the rest of us? Hire a trainer, and your results will increase, but often that’s an expensive option. Now put those two together. The benefit of a professional trainer and your results displayed on a screen for the entire gym to see? You can be sure that you will be pushing to your max in that situation! And that’s exactly what Orangetheory Fitness is counting on. They’re right too…there’s lots of science to back up it up. Group awareness will keep you motivated and on your toes! Because let’s face it, we all know how peer pressure works. And at least in this instance, Orangetheory Fitness has used peer pressure to the advantage of their members.
Are Orangetheory Fitness workouts designed to make you lose weight quickly?
When it comes to losing weight, everyone has their own theories. However, in speaking to those who have tried Orangetheory Fitness, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t experienced weight loss. The key is in their secret sauce, this ability to tailor the workouts to everyone’s needs and find the exact point of fitness (EPOC) that enables a higher metabolism and, therefore, a continued caloric burning long after the workout. Want to hear from the OT fam yourself? Check out an informative video HERE
The reality is that the OTF workouts are designed with weight loss in mind. That’s why the goal is to get into EPOC so that your body can continue burning calories long after you’ve left the gym. With this in mind, many people immediately then post the following question.
How do Orangetheory Fitness workouts compare to HIIT training?
HIIT training is another workout that has gained in popularity over the last few years. And at first glance, both exercises do have some similarities. But are they actually the same? First of all, let’s define HIIT training. HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, and it has been proven to make you lose fat, specifically around the belly area is a shorter amount of time than more traditional workouts. This is because you push all out (or as close to as possible) for short periods until you are exhausted instead of maintaining a lower heart rate for a longer time. These high-intensity sessions are then followed by short periods of rest and repeated. Have a look at our article HERE that will give you more insight into HIIT training.
See the similarities? But just wait…
OTF is definitely designed to make you sweat, but is it exactly the same as HIIT? Let’s take a deeper dive in. At first glance, sure Orangetheory Fitness definitely looks like a HIIT workout. The cardio portion of OTF is comprised of intervals on a treadmill and rower and alternated between the three paces. Base, push, and all-out. As explained above, the base is challenging but manageable. Push is a more significant challenge and one that you can maintain for five to ten minutes. Then All-Out is when you push even further to just under your maximum level, like a sprint, and maintain that for a minute or two before a recovery period. This cardio portion can definitely be considered HIIT according to the standard definition. However, OTF doesn’t stop there.
For one, OTF also ensures that everyone is working at their own fitness level. It’s not the same HIIT level for everyone. If you are just starting out or even if you are an elite athlete, you can get a great workout within the HIIT portion. Then there is the fact that Orangetheory Fitness also combines strength training into its workouts.
Cardio is essential to build to reach that high intensity, but strength training will build lean muscles and help to change the shape of your body. This strength training portion is definitely not HIIT. It’s a floor section that focuses on reps and correct form. All members can work at their own pace, and there are no set rest or push times. This is why OTF can be considered a HIIT workout for the first thirty minutes, but because of the second strength training portion, it actually goes beyond HIIT. And it’s the going beyond that makes it unique and often even more effective for weight loss and better body sculpting.
Nutrition and Orangetheory Fitness
As we all know, nutrition plays a crucial role in the success of any workout routine. Because no matter how much you are exercising, without a healthy whole foods-based diet, your success is only going to reach a certain level, then it will plateau. Not to mention that no one can reach their maximum level of physical ability on a diet that is riddled with processed junk foods. It has been proven that when fueling your body with healthy foods, it can achieve previously unmatched levels of physical fitness. With this in mind, let’s discuss what a healthy diet would like for an Orangetheory Fitness goer.
Just like how the OTF workouts are structured, there is also a similar nutrition plan within the Orangetheory Fitness world. They focus on the base, push, and all-out system.
Base Nutrition Plan
The idea in the base nutrition plan is to build a foundation of simple, whole foods. Foods without labels and with minimal ingredient lists. Minimal being less than ten ingredients and comprised of ingredients that one can actually understand and pronounce.
At this base level, it’s about creating balance at each meal. A good rule of thumb is to eat half your plate in veggies, a quarter in protein, and a quarter in carbs-but good quality carbs like starchy vegetables such a sweet potato instead of unhealthy carbs like bread. Healthy fats such as avocadoes, nuts, and seeds are also essential.
Then it’s learning to listen to your body. Just like in yoga, where you learn to reconnect to your physical body and listen to what it is telling you-OTF gives you that same opportunity. It does it within the workouts as you learn to connect to your heart rate and within the eating plan as you learn to listen to your body tell you when it is hungry and when it needs more fuel.
Aim to eat before you feel hungry. This aids in helping you to make good choices and balance your meals properly. It also ensures that you don’t reach the point that you are so hungry that you simply grab anything and everything without thinking about what you are putting in your body. Another great tool is to eat slowly. Chewing mindfully helps to slow you down and aids in better digestion and gets you to the point of being full faster and with less food. Basically, the idea is to remove the feeling of hunger but without making yourself feel full.
Got this level under control? Then maybe you are ready to take it a step further and see more weight loss. This will require you to level up.
Push Nutrition Plan
This phase is exactly as it sounds, a little extra push. Exactly as it’s done in the cardio portion of the OTF workout. In this section, you will maintain the base nutrition plan but now add in calculating your metabolic needs. This means understanding what your caloric intake needs to be. There are specific calculations for this that will help you reach your targets. It all depends on your current weight, height, and age. As well as the goal you are aiming to achieve. OTF trainers, as well as nutritionists, can help you figure out precisely the right level for you, depending on your starting point.
Once you know your calorie targets, you can begin to set a rhythm for your meals and snacks. This is how you will hit your daily goals yet still keep your fuel intake spread out over the day. Spreading out your protein intake will help immensely and avoid you feeling hungry late in the day. It will also support your metabolism and help with lean muscle gains.
Again, just like in the workouts, this is the highest level. All-out nutrition is best suited to those who are training for a competition, event or simply want to hit a particular target. The idea here is to fuel up, workout then recover quickly. Recovery means re-fuelling with protein and carbs after a workout. Remember, this is not necessary if you are hitting the OTF studio before work and living a traditional life. However, if you are an athlete-professional or recreational, training for an upcoming race or competition, then this is where the all-out nutrition plan is important.
Recovery with a specific goal in mind will help you build more muscle, rebuild your glucose levels, rehydrate, and help to make your next workout even stronger.
So, there you have it. Your complete guide to Orangetheory Fitness and everything it has to offer. If you are looking for a new way to workout, accountability within a community that will help you to be the best version of yourself-then OTF is a great choice. The combination of cardio and strength training, the zones, EPOC goals, and splat points will all help you to reach your goal no matter what it is. OTF is an open, encouraging environment that has helped countless people around the globe to live healthier lives. Top it off by combining a healthy nutrition plan with OTF, and you will have the full experience. Take your health to new heights and see how far you can push yourself!