Orange Theory vs. Crossfit

Note: this post was originally written by Joe Mills, Co-Owner at Summit Strength & CrossFit ( in Indianapolis. We liked it a lot, so we asked him if we could adapt it for our blog. If you’re debating Orange Theory vs. CrossFit , Joe’s words below are a good place to start. 


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 the Summit YouTube video on the topic.)


This post is an overview of what makes CrossFit and OrangeTheory so different from each other, plus some questions you can ask to help determine the best fit for your goals.

Orange Theory vs. Crossfit: Which Workout Option Is The Best?

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. The theory behind this is that working out at the right intensity, rather than just a high or low intensity, will bring you the most bang for your buck. 

OrangeTheory is based on the concept of EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This theory states after exercising 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 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 fitness improvements you can expect from OrangeTheory?

OrangeTheory Fitness focuses on endurance building by incorporating a lot of running and rowing into their workouts. 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 better at cardio-heavy activities.

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 everyday life – like carrying grocery bags or your child) performed at a relatively high intensity (intensity varies from person to person and is individualized for your specific needs). 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, and this is how CrossFit at Summit Strength begins.

At Summit’s CrossFit classes, each day begins at the whiteboard. 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 led through a warmup 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 everyday tasks (taking in groceries, chasing your dog, playing with your kids) easier and more fun for you.


Orange Theory vs. CrossFit: Which is better?

Impossible to say without knowing what your goals are. CrossFit is a program designed to make you better at everything but not completely world-class at anything. For example, the best CrossFit athlete is not going to win the Olympic Gold in the 5000km run. Their goal is to be top five in the 5000km run, 100m dash, and medal in weightlifting and gymnastics competitions, as well. 

OrangeTheory, on the other hand, is going to make you better at cardio quicker than CrossFit alone will because it is the focus of each day. You can decide which is more in line with your wants and needs.  

As with all things fitness, the debate between Orange Theory vs. CrossFit is totally up to you and your unique goals.