What’s the Theory Behind Orangetheory Fitness?

Orangetheory Fitness studios seem to be everywhere these days. The eye-catching logo, bright colors, and sleek studio formats seem to beckon you in. The fitness franchise world is blowing up, and it may be hard to determine what one studio offers from another. So here’s the skinny on OTF, as the insiders call it, and why it might be your next fitness obsession.

by Brandi Kupchella

What Is OTF’s Theory on Fitness?

OTF bases its entire workout regimen on two concepts: heart-rate monitoring and Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). OTF calls EPOC “afterburn” — the concept that when you work at a sufficiently high level of energy, your body creates an oxygen deficit that must be restored after the energy requirements level off (e.g. you finish your workout). While your body is working to repay its oxygen debt, calories continue to “burn” long after the workout stops. OTF claims afterburn can last up to 36 hours with some participants. And as a byproduct, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calories can be credited per workout.

Sounds like a great premise. How do they get you to the afterburn stage? Through working in a five-level heart-rate zone.

Before anyone begins at OTF, they fill out a health survey where they state their fitness goals and their maximum heart rate (MHR) is calculated through age, weight, and height. The workout is based on achieving color-coded levels of MHR over a 60-minute class, associated with different levels of effort. Zones 1 and 2 are for warmup and recovery. OTF recommends spending 25-30 minutes of the workout in Zone 3, with 12-20 minutes in Zones 4 and 5 to maximize afterburn.


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