When I run on my own, I tend to stick to just a steady-state run, rarely changing up inclines or speed. This is why I love Orangetheory Fitness, especially the treadmill portion, because it pushes me outside of my comfort zone. With intervals of varying speeds, including all-out sprints, mixed with walking breaks, Orangetheory is considered HIIT by its most basic definition. But it's more than that: we tapped Orangetheory coach and NASM-certified personal trainer Giana Cambria, Orangetheory Fitness regional manager in Orlando, FL, to explain.
What Is High-Intensity Interval Training?
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, has gotten a lot of buzz the past couple years, and for good reason. HIIT can help you lose belly fat in a shorter amount of time than traditional low-intensity sustained state (or LISS) cardio. In HIIT, you alternate short periods of activity, ideally going at 90 percent of your all-out max, with even shorter periods of rest. One popular form of HIIT is Tabata, where you work at a high intensity for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. You can also do HIIT in a cardio session, such as with sprints on a treadmill, or with weights, alternating intervals.
Since Orangetheory consists of a 30-minute cardio section with intervals on a treadmill and a rower, along with a 30-minute strength-training session on the floor with weights and other strength-training equipment, are these intervals considered HIIT?
Is Orangetheory High-Intensity Interval Training?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: it's complicated. The cardio portion of Orangetheory involves intervals on the treadmill and rower, alternating between three paces: your "base pace," or a pace that is challenging yet doable and can be maintained for about 20-30 minutes; your "push pace," or a faster pace that challenges you, something you can maintain for about five to 10 minutes; and your "all out" pace, which is at about 90 percent of your max and a very challenging pace, something you can only maintain for a couple minutes. After "all out" intervals, which are at a sprinting pace and are usually only about a minute or two, you get a walking recovery break of about three miles per hour on the treadmill.
"You could consider the treadmill/cardio portion HIIT by standard definition," Giana said. "Notice that intensity is going to be different for everyone, so the term 'high intensity' is subjective. That's why we have heart rate monitors and coaches to help you achieve your proper level of intensity for the most effective results."
As a whole, Orangetheory is a mix of cardio and strength training. "We don't focus on one specific area of fitness," Giana added. "Cardio is part of our workouts, about half, but so is strength training and power training. You're going to get a good dose of both on any given day at Orangetheory." She said cardio is important to achieve that higher intensity, but strength training is also important to help build lean muscle and change your body composition.
The strength intervals on the floor aren't HIIT. Instead, you move through sets focusing on reps and form. For the strength-training/floor portion, each block of exercises finishes in a certain amount of time. There are no designated "work" and "rest" times, and everyone is encouraged to go at their own pace.
So, yes, the cardio portion of Orangetheory is considered HIIT, but the remaining 30 minutes of the workout aren't. That's what makes Orangetheory a fun class: you get a varied workout in the 60 minutes you're there.