Orangetheory Fitness is one of the industry leaders in group fitness classes that has helped thousands of people to lose weight. However, most people who quit Orangetheory have one thing in common; they’ve reached a workout plateau and stopped seeing the results.
I figured it’s time to dust off my keyboard and explain everything there is to know about how to maximize Orangetheory fitness for weight loss and maintain your results in the long term.
In a nutshell, doing Orangetheory is a good way to lose weight becasue you can burn 500-1000 calories during the 60-minute workout. However, to maximize and maintain the results you need to combine it with strength training that prioritizes progressive overload, sets PRs, and builds muscle.
NOTE: In this article, I will focus on workout and training plan (the diet and nutrition part I’ve already covered in my article about the orange theory diet plan, which I recommend you read).
Focus On Getting Stronger
I did a big mistake by going to OTF without combining it with resistance training. I thought that chasing an elevated heart rate and a number of splat points will get me lean. In reality, I got better at cardio, but I wasn’t getting stronger.
My orangetheory weight loss journey started back in 2018 and my goal was to get in shape. Initially, I lost 15 lbs and was extremely happy with my results.
However, after the initial success, my weight loss plateaued, and the scale remained the same, despite going there 4 times per week.
See the graph below.
- In the first 5 weeks, I lost the most amount of weight, but I believe that was due to the water loss as I cut a lot of carbs at that time.
- After 5-6 weeks, my weight started to remain the same and I wasn’t getting better results, even after going to OTF every other day.
- I didn’t want to cut down more calories becasue I already felt like dieting is making me feel weaker, not stronger.
Apart from my initial weight loss, I noticed a huge improvement in my cardiorespiratory fitness. I was able to hike all day without getting out of breath or feeling sore the next day. I was also sleeping better and becoming more productive at work.
But I wasn’t getting stronger (so I quit). Here are all the details of why doing Orangetheory as the only form of exercise is not optimal for weight loss.
In general, you can lose weight with Orangetheory, as long as you include strength training twice a week. Using heavy resistance allows for creating muscular tension which is essential to building lean muscle mass.
According to real trainers who own their gyms, train their clients, and write their programs, the most effective way to get progressively fitter and learner is by doing strength training using optimal load volume.
Build Muscle and Don’t Worry About Splat Points
You can torch a lot of fat with OTF and high-intensity interval training becasue each workout burn tons of calories. Orangethoery is good for short-term weight loss, however, it’s not enough to maintain results over the long term becasue it doesn’t build muscle mass.
These workouts are done with multiple exercises that elevate your heart rate but don’t induce enough mechanical tension to stimulate hypertrophic response and build muscle.
One way that OTF addressed this issue was by introducing brand new classes called Lift 45. This is a 45-minute workout where you do functional training using dumbbells, medicine balls, TRX, and Bosu balls, without running or rowing.
Sure, you can create some muscle tension doing bodyweight squats or pushups, but it’s not gonna make your muscles grow like using heavy dumbbells and barbells.
According to the article published by Brad J. Schoenfeld, Ph.D., a researcher from New York, maximum gains in muscle hypertrophy are achieved by training regimens that produce significant metabolic stress while maintaining a moderate degree of muscle tension.
In other words, to get results, you need to lift weights at a given magnitude of the load.
- Using heavy loads with a low rep range between 1 to 5 per set with 80% to 100% of 1RM (1-repetition maximum is optimal for strength gains.
For example, doing a barbell squat or military press with a weight that you can only lift for 5 reps with a correct form.
- Using moderate loads with a moderate rep range between 8 to 12 per set with 60% to 80% of 1RM is optimal for building muscle.
For example, doing leg press or deadlift with a weight that you can only perform max 12 reps.
As you can see, this type of training cannot be done in the Orangethery studio. They can only be done in the gym environment where you can manipulate how much weight you add to the bar and how many reps you do.
Of course, some OTF locations use heavier weights. However, the exercises are divided into “stations” and every station is done for time (e.g. 60 seconds) or with a high rep range (e.g. 20+ reps), regardless of the exercise.
For example, doing a plank for 30 seconds or side lunges for 20 reps in total. This type of low-load and high-rep is effective to improve muscle endurance, but it’s not optimal to build strong muscles.
Get A Gym Membership
This may sound controversial but please hear me out.
One of the drawbacks of doing OTF for weight loss is that you have to follow what everyone else is doing. That’s ok to burn calories, but it’s not enough to build muscle and gain strength.
If you wanna get long-term weight loss results, you should be doing Orangetheory fitness together with the gym because in the weight room you can control what exercises you do. You can also manipulate the load volume to progressively challenge you.
You see, all of the OTF classes are done as group fitness, which makes it impossible to personalize workout plans for each individual.
On the other hand, in the gym environment, you’re the boss. You decide which exercises you want to do and for how long.
For example, if you wanna get bigger pecs, you can throw in some isolation work like pec dec, cable flies, or banded pushups.
Or, if you wanna grow your glutes, you can do assisted exercises like banded lateral walks, glute bridges, or frog pumps.
TIP: To ensure you won’t break the bank, find a local budget gym like Planet Fitness. You can also downgrade OTF membership down to 2 sessions/week (more on that next).
Do Orangetheory Fitness Twice A Week
One of the things you can do to improve recovery and simultaneously save some cash is to reduce the number of OTF classes you do within a week (that’s what I did).
After signing up for the gym, I downgraded my OTF membership to 8 sessions per month, which cost me $69/month. That was enough to do 2 sessions per week.
Can you lose weight doing orangetheory twice a week? In general, doing Orangetheory twice a week is enough to lose weight, as long as you do 30 to 45-minute classes in conjunction with regular gym workouts. Alternating strength training and OTF wokrouts help to burn fat while maintaining lean muscle mass.
Please remember that Orangetheory fitness is high-intensity interval training. The workout alternates between running, rowing, and functional strength training, while maintaining the minimum amount of rest.
Is orange theory a good workout for weight loss?
Orangetheory workout can be very effective in burning calories in a short time, but it is also very strenuous on the body.
On the other hand, resistance training doesn’t burn as many calories, but it builds muscle that helps to maintain your weight loss results.
My advice is to do a combination of both so you get the best from both worlds. You get to burn more calories from OTF and you can build muscle and strength in the gym.
Orangetheory twice a week weight loss plan
Here is the sample Orangetheory weight loss program that incorporates OTF class and resistance training done in the gym.
|Day of the week
|Orangetheory Lift 45
As you can see, you can do Orangetheory twice a week. This is where you burn calories and sweat to feel energized for the day.
For the remaining two days you focus sticky on strength training with a progressive overload that prioritizes setting PRs (more on that next).
NOTE: My general advice is to do OTF twice a week. However, the number of days per week that is optimal for you should depend on your individual fitness level and daily commitments like work, family, and relationships.
Use Progressive Overload In Every Workout
Progressive overload means lifting more weight, doing more sets, or doing more reps of a given exercise, consistently.
Lifting more weight is important in an Orangetheory weight loss plan because it systematically elicits gains in strength. It also allows to continue seeing training adaptations and prevent workout plateau.
Here is an example of how to implement progressive overload in OTF.
|Doing more OTF workouts within one week
Doing more OTF workouts within one day
Doing the same OTF workouts with better form and less effort
Using heavier weights or bands for OTF workouts
Doing longer duration OTF workouts
Doing the same duration workouts with higher intensity
Reducing amount of rest days
As you can see, progressive overload basically means doing more work over time and challenging the body consistently.
Here is the problem.
As much as you can control how often you do the OTF, you cannot control other variables such as the number of sets, reps, load, or recovery time. You also cannot control workout duration or intensity level.
The good news is that you can use progressive overload in the gym and combine it with your Orangetheory classes.
Below you can see how to use progressive overload in the gym.
|Lifting the same load for more reps
Lifting the same load with better form and less effort
Lifting the heavier load for the same reps
Lifting the same load with less rest time in between sets
Lifting the same load for a longer distance
Lifting a load with more speed
Doing more exercises in the same amount of time
Doing the same exercises in less time
As you can see, the gym gives you a much better environment to design, perform and control your training program.
Keep in mind that there is not one best way to make your workouts more difficult. My favorite way to apply progressive overload in almost every workout is by setting up PRs.
Setting PRs (personal records) every day for every lift ensures you’re getting progressively stronger. I normally do it for the number of reps. I always carry with me a notepad with a pen where I track my previous workouts.
I deliberately write down each exercise, how much weight you lifted, and how many reps you did. Based on this data and my overall energy levels, I choose which exercise I go for PR.
Here is an example:
|# of sets
|135 lbs for 15 reps
|185 as many reps as possible
|185 as many reps as possible
|185 as many reps as possible
The first set I usually treat like a warm-up set (here I decide about the load on my next sets, based on how I feel). For the second, third, and fourth sets I go for PR (as many reps as possible). I also ensure I write down the number of reps I did (so I can beat that record next time).
- If I feel weak, I go for PR with a lower weight for as many reps as possible (e.g. doing 135 bench instead of 185).
- If I feel rested and strong, I go for PR with a heavier load, also for as many reps as possible.
So whenever I feel like I’m ready or not, either way, I go for PR. This applies to every workout and every exercise (as long as it’s compound).
Focus On Heavy Compound Exercises
The best way to maximize your weight loss results with Orangetheory is to focus on doing multi-joint compound movements. Exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, hip thrust, shoulder press, and chin up not only targets all muscle groups but also mediate the acute release of anabolic hormones.
Doing heavy multijoint exercises targets all body parts, which means you don’t have to spend extra time doing single-joint “isolation” movements. Of course, you still can do specific exercises for the muscle that you want to grow.
Here is an example of how to design a workout plan to lose weight and build specific muscle (e.g. bigger pecs).
Here you have two separate workouts that both target muscle in the full body, as well as implement some isolation exercises that help to focus more on chest muscles.
Another reason why doing compound lifts is so important during your Orangetheory weight loss program is becasue it allows reaching muscle failure, which leads to an acute spike in the levels of anabolic hormones.
(Training to muscle failure is the point during a set when muscles can no longer lift a given load).
Let me explain.
- Heavy compound moves allow you to lift more weight and reach muscle failure (you’re more likely to reach muscle failure doing 225 squats for reps rather than air squats).
- This helps to activate a greater number of motor units in the muscle and is necessary to maximize hypertrophy, according to experts.
- It also leads to a temporary acute testosterone response that stimulates muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy, which helps to build more muscle mass (which affects the whole body, not just the muscle that you work on).
Orangetheory does not do classes where people perform exercises to reach muscle failure. You cannot reach muscle failure with bear crawls, planks, renegade rows, or other functional exercises. They do wokrouts on time or for a given number of reps.
Training to failure can be done only with specific exercises like leg press, chest press, shoulder press, and deadlift, under optimal load.
Use Body Recomposition To Lose Fat
In general, Orangetheory can get you in shape, as long as you focus on body recomposition, not on weight loss.
The difference between weight loss and body recomposition is that weight loss focuses on a calorie deficit and lowering body weight. Body recomposition refers to maintaining body weight while reducing fat and building muscle.
In other words, body recomposition is a weight-loss strategy that helps to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, without changing your calorie intake.
Here is how body recomposition works in a nutshell:
- Focus on getting stronger and building muscle mass (strength training)
- Stay at your usual calorie intake (no dieting)
- Eat enough proteins every day (1 gram of protein per 1 lb)
- Apply progressive overload
Just keep in mind this approach won’t make you lose weight fast.
Plus, you won’t see a huge difference on the scale, but it will significantly improve body composition by burning fat and building muscle. This means the number on the scale will likely stay the same, but you will see huge physique improvements in the mirror.
I heard about this approach a while ago from one of the industry expert, Bret Contreras, Ph.D., also known as the “glute guy”.
In July 2021, Bret published a video on YouTube where he explains how he uses body recomposition to train his female clients (professional bikini competitors) to achieve phenomenal physique, get in shape, and win IFBB shows, without lowering calories.
You can listen to how body recomposition works straight from the horse’s mouth in the video below.
Track Your Results
One of the most important ways to stay motivated and committed during your orange theory weight loss transformation is to track your results. Measuring your results also gives you information based on which you can make intelligent decisions.
- Tracking your progress also gives you a clear indicator if what you’re doing works or not.
- Tracking your results helps to identify “weak spots” and improve them.
- Tracking your results helps to adjust your workout intensity and volume.
- Tracking your results provides intrinsic motivation (as long as you see a positive effects).
Here are some of the ways you can track your progress.
BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis)
As you can see, there are many ways to skin the cat. Some methods are more effective than others, but they all have pros and cons.
For example, biopsy in the muscle helps to look at acute muscle protein synthesis, but its very expensive and can be done only in a laboratory setting.
The most effective way is to combine these modalities together (e.g. skinfold caliper and BIA) which will give you cross-sectional results for even more accurate information.
How Much Weight Can You Lose In A Month at Orangetheory?
On average, you can lose 1-3 pounds per week at Orangetheory fitness, which would be about 4-12 pounds lost in the first month. However, most of this is water weight so it’s important to not get caught up focusing on the number on the scale, but on how you feel and how your clothes fit.
My advice is to don’t worry about the scale and focus on performance.
Body weight can fluctuate throughout the day depending on many factors like carbohydrate intake, sodium intake, alcohol intake, medication, activity levels, and sleep.
Plus, studies have shown that weight fluctuation can happen on a weekly and even yearly basis based on weekends, seasons, and holidays.
So don’t worry about the scale and chase the performance (hitting PRs, getting more reps, adding more weight, etc.)
How quickly do you see results from Orangetheory? Some people see results from Orangetheory in as quickly as in the first four weeks, while others may take up to twelve weeks. How fast you see the results will depend on many factors like your current fitness level and calorie intake.
Regardless of how long it takes, every person experiences different changes in body composition.
In conclusion, Orangetheory is an effective way to lose weight, but it has to be combined with strength training to build muscle mass. OTF workouts have too much cardio and not enough resistance training, so to maximize the results, you should combine the best of two worlds.