Why Orangetheory Is Bad For Long Term Results (Explained)


A lot of things have changed in my life since starting OTF. Apart from losing over 15 lbs, I got into tip-top shape and made lots of new friends.

I appreciate how Orangetheory helped to transform my body, but there are a few reasons why I believe that this is not the best way to get lean and maintain your results in the long term. 

The reason why orangetheory is bad for the long-term results is becasue there is too much cardio and not enough strength training. Most of the OTF classes are high-intensity, focusing on getting splat points and elevating your heart rate. This is effective for burning calories, but it’s not optimal to build lean muscle mass.

DISCLAIMER: Keep in mind that I’m not bashing on the Orangetheory franchise. Personally, I’ve been doing OTF workouts religiously and all the information below is based on my personal experience.

You Will Reach Workout Plateau

One of the reasons why doing OTF is not effective in the long term is becasue it leads to a workout plateau. A workout plateau is when the body doesn’t make any more progress, despite working out hard with the same level of intensity.

My first few weeks with OTF were great. I train hard three times per week and burn as many calories as possible. Initially, I lost a lot of weight but after a couple of months, my progress stopped. The trainer advised me to go hard four times per week.

I’ve upgraded my membership to unlimited and started to go there more often.

However, the scale didn’t move.

After all of this grinding, not only did I haven’t seen any more progress, but also my body started to feel tired. Somewhere along the line, I started to eat more calories to combat the lethargy, and (no surprise here) the weight went back up.

Can orangetheory cause weight gain? In general, it is possible to gain weight from doing orangetheory workouts. High-intensity workouts can put a lot of pressure and stress on the body. And when combined with daily challenges it can lead to overtraining, energy compensation, and overeating.

The Workouts Have Too Much Cardio

One of the reasons why I believe OTF is not the best way to get in shape is because most of the workouts are focused on cardio and getting your heart rate up, and fail to address the importance of building lean muscle mass.

On the surface, all of the OTF classes are different becasue they use a mix of exercises. However, if you look at this session closely, each session is all about cardio and splat points. And the more splat points you score, the more encouragement you get.

What does an OTF workout look like?

The Orangethery workout looks like a bootcamp fitness class where people are divided into 2-3 stations. The stations include rowing, running, and resistance training exercises. Each class takes between 45 to 60 minutes and helps to burn a lot of calories and give you heaps of energy.

Now, let me be clear. I’m grateful for all the benefits I got from OTF. I’ve noticed that my cardiorespiratory fitness got significantly better. For example, I was able to hike all day long in the Italian mountains, without getting out of breath or sore the next day. I was able to run my first half marathon in just over 2 hours.

Plus, I like the idea of using splat points as a way to track your progress.

However, if Orangetheory bootcamp-style high-intensity workouts are the only way you train, you’re missing out on the benefits of strength training. They use less than optimal training load to stimulate hypertrophy and strength gains, according to experts.

It Does Not Help To Build Muscle

In a nutshell, orangetheory fitness is not good to gain muscle becasue it doesn’t use the optimal load for hypertrophy gains. OTF workouts include resistance training exercises like burpees, squats, and pushups, but the training volume and load are not sufficient to stimulate muscle growth in the long term.

Of course, for people who just getting started, any form of exercise will be beneficial and can build some muscle mass (even doing pushups at home can build muscle).

However, if you want to build optimal strength and gain muscle size, doing burpees is not the best method.

One of the reasons why I stopped doing OTF and started to lift weights is because I had an eye-opening moment after listening to Peter Attia’s podcast about the importance of strength and muscle mass, especially as we age.

Peter explained that one of the most obvious effects of aging is sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass, strength, and physical function.

You can see details in the YouTube video below.

Once we reach the age of 30, the muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade and then declines even faster after the age of 50 (source).

This means that if you wanna be strong and healthy in your 50s and 60s, you have to do regular strength training at the optimal load in your 30s and 40s.

On the other hand, if you have the aspiration to kick ass in your 80s, you cannot afford to be average in your 50s.

It Doesn’t Implement Progressive Overload

Another reason why Orangetheory is bad for the long-term results is becasue they don’t apply the progressive overload principle. The workouts are done with the same intensity and training volume all year round.

Let me explain.

  • Progressive overload means you gradually increase the weight, time under tension, number of reps, number of sets, or reduce rest time in your workouts.
  • This allows continuing stimulating metabolic and hormonal responses, without reaching a plateau.

You can do it in the traditional gym environment, but not in the group fitness class.

In the regular gym, you have access to the compound movements like squat, deadlift, or bench press where you can manipulate how much weight you put on the bar. When I train with a trainer, she writes down how much weight I use and how many reps I do for every exercise.

Based on these notes, we can slowly increase the total training volume. We can also monitor which exercises I’m good at and which are my weak spots. You cannot do it in the group fitness class.

As much as OTF is challenging, it doesn’t allow for trainers to monitor every person individually and recommend the resistance based on their fitness level.

You cannot choose which muscle you train

One of the biggest problems I have with OTF is that you cannot choose your own workouts. Yes, each class is semi-different, but they all are full-body workouts.

This means you have to do what everyone else is doing and you cannot focus on your areas of concern. For example, you cannot spend more doing chest exercises if you wanna have bigger pecs.

Or, you cannot do more hip and posterior chain moves if you wanna grow your glutes.

It’s Not Suitable For Seniors

In general, Orangetheory is not the best place for seniors. Each class is focused on getting as many splat points as possible, which is exercising at the intensity of 80-100% of your maximum heart rate. This is a cookie-cutter approach and doesn’t take into consideration people’s abilities and disabilities.

According to Catherine F. S. Marriott, Ph.D., “as much as high-intensity interval training is proven to be effective in improving cardiorespiratory fitness in younger demographics, it has not been well-studied in older adults”.

Dr. Marriott said that “HIIT workouts are generally more enjoyable by older participants, however, a lot of studies have shown a higher dropped out rate due to exercise-related injuries” (source).

Of course, believe that it’s never too late to start working out. However, I also believe that people should train based on their individual physical level and their life stages, not a one-size-fits-all exercise formula.

You Don’t Get Personal Attention

One of the biggest drawbacks of doing group fitness classes like OTF is that you don’t get personalized attention from the coaches. Trainers encourage people to go harder, lift safety, and keep a smile on their faces, but they cannot spot and correct all the mistakes that people make in regard to their technique.

(Btw, this is a universal problem with most of the group fitness classes, not only Orangetheory).

Let me clarify. When I say personal attention, I don’t mean friendliness or care. I have no doubts that everyone will feel welcome at any OTF location.

I mean, being able to ensure everyone is exercising with the correct technique.

I saw a number of people who weren’t able to perform correct squats or pushups, yet they were encouraged to keep up with the group.

It is impossible for the trainer to spot any mistakes in the form and technique of the e that people do in the room, especially in the high pace environment.

Kudos to trainers working at the OTF, but the reality is that one person cannot ensure that almost 30 people will perform every rep of the exercise with the correct form.

It’s Too Hard For Beginners

Overall, orangetheory is not good for beginners because the workouts are high intensity, which can be too strenuous for people who just starting out. Plus, each workout displays real-time metrics, which can be discouraging, especially if you’re at the bottom of the list.

That being said, I’ve seen many beginners in the OTF classes.

One of the reasons why OTF attracts many beginners is becasue the franchise offers a group fitness workout where people don’t have to think about what exercises to do next.

Newbies don’t have the skill and experience to create their own workout plan, so going to OTF is like getting all the routines handed on a silver platter.

On the one hand, this is convenient. People can get started right away. They don’t need to know anything about periodization. Everything is done for them.

On the other hand, this approach does not teach people the importance of programming to maximize training adaptations. It does not teach how to design and manipulate training variables to elicit specific fitness goals.

Big mistake.

I think that exercise is a lifetime journey and if you want to be in the best possible shape and continue making progress, you need to know how to adjust your own workout program.

Orangetheory Is Too Intense

One of the reasons why Orangetheory is too intense is becasue they encourage people to focus on intensity, heart rate zones, and splat points. The goal of each class is to get at least 12 splat points, which is the equivalent of training hard above 80% of your maximum heart rate.

This can create the misleading illusion that the effectiveness of the workout is purely dependent on the number of splat points you get.

For example, if you get 12 splat points this means you worked hard, but if you have 5 splat points it means you haven’t tried hard enough.

Big mistake.

Elevated heart rate is not the best way to determine how effective was your workout. For example, you can have zero splat points yet still train for 60 minutes and reap the benefits from that training.

Let me be clear. I’m not bashing on orangetheory splat points here. In fact, I have already written an extensive article where I describe “how to use splat points” for health and weight loss, which I recommend you read.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many reasons why OTF is not the best way to get in shape and achieve long-term results.

For me, the biggest disadvantage is that after some time the classes get tedious and you’re not in control of what you train.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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