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What is the Orange “zone” Theory of Fitness?

Heart Rate Training
Heart Rate Training

Almost every week you hear of a new weight loss program that claims to deliver results that other programs do not. Recently a new chain of gyms has been opened locally called “Orange Theory Fitness” that has spent much time, energy and money advertising on local media and the web trying to get their names out.

While I have not visited these gyms yet I have done as much research as possible on the subject and decided to share the information about what it appears the gyms strategy is.

To understand the theory you have to understand the heart rate zones. The heart rate zones are based on your maximum heart rate (MHR) which is determined (loosely) by the number 220 (or 226 if you are female) and subtracting your age. Using this formula if you are a 30 year old male your maximum heart rate would be approximately 190 beats per minute.

Heart Rate Zones

The next step is understanding the actual heart rate zones which are as follows:

Blue zone- The blue zone is 55%-65% of our MHR. This level provides a very low level of intensity and can you would typically feel as if you could continue at this pace for extended periods of time.

Green zone- The Green zone is 65%-75% of your MHR. This is intensity level will be a bit higher and should produce a light sweat and slightly heavier breathing. This intensity level is what someone who might train with a long distance program might experience. For someone who has been training this way for some time they might be able to maintain this pace for an hour or more.

Orange Zone- The Orange zone is 75%-85% of your MHR. This intensity level is where your body begins to predominantly use a different energy system. This pace cannot usually be maintained for more than a few minutes at a time, it is also the point where your breathing starts becoming labored and your muscles may start burning.

Red Zone- The Red Zone is 85% or above your MHR. This intensity level is one that usually cannot be maintained for more than 30 seconds. It is all out effort for an extremely limited amount of time. This level of training is usually reserved for extremely fit and advanced people.

Heart Rate Training Workouts

Without going into specific details about the different energy systems used by the human body, the orange zone is known to produce cardiovascular benefit and muscle building benefit if trained correctly.

The kind of exercise routines that people who train using the orange zone training method usually do intense exercise for short periods followed by periods of rest or low intensity training.

Some examples of this type of training includes HIIT and Tabata training, Cross fit and several variations of boot camp style training programs. While the Orange theory classes do not go into details regarding how they are structured it looks like they use a similar model. According to their website the workouts are 60 minutes in length of which 12-20 minutes should be at or around 84% of MHR.


The benefits of heart rate training are well documented by fitness professionals who report that the fat burning effect can last up to 2 days post exercise if the intensity level of your program was high enough.

It appears that the Orange Fitness gyms use a program to help build a toned and lean physique using the science of heart rate training. This type of program can be done any number of ways, but for someone who would prefer to use a group class environment this may be an excellent choice for those looking to get in better shape.

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