CrossFit vs OrangeTheory: Comparing and Contrasting Two Popular Fitness Options

A few members enjoying Murph

On the surface, CrossFit and OrangeTheory may appear to be slightly similar. Both claim to get you into the best shape of your life. Both are boutique, group classes lead by an instructor. Both combine cardio, weights, and body weight movement into a workout program.

In reality, CrossFit and OrangeTheory are extremely different workout options - and neither is perfect for everyone. (If you want to hear some more pro's and con's to each, along with a big box gym like LA Fitness, check out our YouTube video on the topic.)

In this post I'll give you an overview of what makes CrossFit and OrangeTheory so different from each other, plus some questions you can ask yourself to help you know which option is best for your situation.

What is OrangeTheory Fitness?

OrangeTheory Fitness is a program designed to get you into the "orange zone" or what is often referred to as the fat burning zone. You're breathing hard, but not redlining.

OrangeTheory is based on the concept of EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This theory states after exercise your body continues to burn more calories as it seeks to recover the oxygen you were unable to consume during exercise. The effect? Your metabolism is in high-gear and you stay burning fat all day long.

What is a typical class like?

A typical OrangeTheory Fitness class entails two components: cardio and what they call the floor. During the cardio component, you will be on a treadmill or a rowing machine doing interval style cardio training.

After the cardio comes the floor which usually combines light weights being lifted, along with body weight exercises like TRX rows and air squats. This is done interval style, as well.

What are the benefits from OrangeTheory?

People who attend OrangeTheory Fitness often become better at endurance events, because of the focus on the cardio workout each class. Also, because the goal is to get your heart rate into the Orange Zone and stay there, you learn how to pace and manage your heart rate which can make you a more efficient runner/rower/biker.

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a workout program consisting of constantly varied (meaning not repeating the same workout twice) functional movements (which means things that are applicable to every day life) performed at relatively high intensity (what is high intensity for a 22 year old is not high intensity for your grandma). The purpose of CrossFit is to make you better at life - everything from helping a friend move a couch to chasing your kid as they learn to ride a bike.

What is a typical class like?

Every CrossFit gym is different, so I'll just speak to how Summit Strength operates.

At our CrossFit classes, each day begins at the white board. Your coach will introduce any new faces to class, and then will go over the workout, scaling options, and give the group a goal for the day. From there, you will be lead through a warm up to get the blood flowing, specific stretching/activation exercises to prepare for the workout, and then coached through either a skill session or a weightlifting movement, such as a squat or deadlift.

After the skill/strength, your coach will restate the workout of the day (WOD, as we call it) and go over all scales. Then you'll complete the workout, clean up, and finish with a mobility drill to promote recovery from the workout.

What are the benefits of CrossFit?

CrossFit is a general physical preparation program - which means CrossFit seeks to help you improve endurance and strength in equal portions. To put it simply, CrossFit will make you run/swim/bike/ski/etc. faster and longer while also helping you lift more weights. All in all, this program is meant to make your every day tasks (taking in groceries, chasing your dog, playing with your kids) easier and more fun for you.

Is CrossFit or OrangeTheory better?

This question is so hard to answer in a blog post - so I'll just leave it with this. If you're considering CrossFit or OrangeTheory I highly recommend trying both of them out. Fitness is a thing you need to experience to know what you enjoy. At Summit Strength we give a free week trial, and I believe most OrangeTheory locations have at least a free class. The difference in time has to do with variety. Every day at CrossFit is a different workout meant to give you a different challenge, while OrangeTheory tends to be more of the same workouts repeated.

So give it a try - you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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