Do Group Fitness Classes Work to Achieve Fitness Goals

exercise Jun 27, 2020

Hey there, Coach Kasey here with you today, and I want to talk about setting up your workouts to help you most efficiently and effectively achieve your fitness goals.

If you've been reading my blog or following my Instagram for a while, you know that I often talk about how strength training is the best thing ever. The health benefits of strength training include far more than just physical benefits.

Strength training is also amazing for your mental health, and it'll give you that bangin' bod you've been after throughout your fitness journey.⁣⁣

During a recent conversation about how incredible strength training is, I mentioned that I have an "argument" against Orangetheory Fitness, a high-intensity group fitness class. 

To be clear, I'm not solely against Orangetheory Fitness, but it works as our scapegoat here. What I discuss in this post pertains to all group fitness classes, including F45 or that boot camp class your friend group has been dying to try.

I'll explain why these group workouts aren't the way to achieve your fitness goals and what you can do to set up the best workout routine possible for yourself.



Why You Should Do a Group Fitness Class


I swear I'm not trying to confuse you! As in all matters of health and fitness, there is a time and place for just about everything.

That being said, if Orangetheory Fitness, F45, or a similar group exercise class helps you find motivation and keeps you active, ensuring you get regular exercise when nothing else seems to fit your fancy, or if you're attending group classes a few times a month for the sake of some fun cardio while being cognizant of how it fits into your training and recovery efforts, then, by all means, keep it up. ⁣⁣

But if you're looking for a long-term program to help you build muscle (get toned) and/or optimize your fitness routine without killing yourself, then Orangetheory Fitness or similar fitness classes are not the best options.

Have fun with your fitness journey, but take it seriously enough to make your efforts worthwhile.


Why Group Exercise Classes Don't Work


Group exercise classes can be a fun way to mix things up, but they won't get you to your long-term goals (unless that goal is to do a lot of group fitness classes).


       1. The Style of Group Fitness Programs

With Orangetheory Fitness and other group fitness classes, there is only one training style, one energy system used by your body, and zero periodization. Periodization is the planned manipulation of training variables such as loads, sets, and reps. It's used to maximize adaptations (build muscle and keep improving) and prevent overtraining. 

Orangetheory and other group fitness classes mainly focus on metabolic training. While that's not inherently bad, if it's the only type of training you do, you're missing out on other training and energy systems, such as hypertrophy training, which is essential for building muscle.

Any program can include metabolic training, but it should be periodized or blended appropriately with other training styles to get more health benefits and improve your overall fitness levels.

Many of these group classes end up being another form of cardio with upbeat music. They aren't going to get you stronger.



       2. Group Fitness Classes Don't Have Quality Control

There is no personal trainer present, and it's simply not possible for the group class instructors to spend a decent amount of time with you to ensure you have proper form and your strength increases over time when you're in this type of group training environment.

We all spend most of our time sitting and have subpar posture (I'll bet you even sat up straighter as you read this!), pair that with these high-intensity group exercise classes, and you'll be solidifying crappy movement patterns — especially as you get increasingly exhausted during the fitness class.

It's hard to focus on your form when you were never taught differently, and you're primarily focused on getting to the next station and/or not dying during your workout. In this kind of group setting, where you're focusing more on effort than form, and there's nobody around to notice and help you make corrections, you're increasing the chances of injury.


       3. Group Fitness Classes Don't Have Progressive Overload

Different exercises, rest periods, and circuits keep these group fitness classes fun and engaging. But, any sense of building strength or muscular foundation to improve over time is pretty impossible to achieve when things are constantly changing, and there's no structure to the programming. 

You need to induce progressive overload to keep building muscle and getting stronger. Progressive overload is a concept where you work to continually increase the demands on your musculoskeletal system to gain muscle size, strength, and endurance. You do this when you slowly increase your weights, reps, or time under tension while exercising. 

This is also what will prevent you from plateauing, which you're pretty likely to do in a class setting.


       4. Your Group Fitness Class Isn't Plateau Proof

Speaking of plateauing. . . your body is smart!

Even if your goal is just general weight loss and you couldn't care less about building muscle (although you really should), you'll eventually adapt to the cardio and metabolic demands of the workout class and plateau. The health benefits won't be as good because you won't challenge yourself as much.

However, with a structured strength training program, you can adjust the intensity of your exercises or increase the volume (either by adding reps or weight) to continue progressing and working with adaptations. In other words, you'll make more gains. Yay!

But, with Orangetheory Fitness and other group fitness classes, you're confined to the class plan. Boo!



       5. The Stress of a Group Exercise Class

High-intensity classes like the ones at Orangetheroy Fitness are very stressful on your body, so the benefits of group training will be overshadowed by the stress it causes your body. 

If you're already a stressed-out individual (from work, relationships, a restrictive diet, etc.), adding several classes a week into the mix is a recipe for disaster.

By disaster, I mean:

  • Down-regulated thyroid and metabolism 
  • The inability to recover
  • Higher risk of injury 
  • Poor sleep
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Increased irritability

This will do nothing but thwart your fat loss and muscle-building efforts. You'll end up feeling more frustrated and likely more stressed out too.


How to Stay Committed to Your Exercise Plan and Achieve Goals


If you're frustrated by the lack of progress you're seeing from running yourself into the ground with high-intensity circuit classes, know that's to be expected.

After years of coaching over 1,000 people on their health and fitness journeys, one of the most important lessons I continue to teach is to do more structured strength training.

And the runner-up: Just because a workout leaves you feeling dead doesn't mean it was effective.

Of course, your body will feel tired when you finish a quality workout, but you shouldn't feel dead. There's a big difference between working hard and working yourself into the ground. In fact, you should have more energy as you're leaving the gym than you did when you walked in!

Looking for more education around nutrition and fitness without the B.S.?

Check out our programs and 1:1 coaching options to finally end the diet restriction, second-guessing, and running yourself into the ground with your workouts.

You can also snag our FREE strength training guide here to ensure you're getting the most out of your workouts. 


Check out the original post HERE.


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IG: @coachkaseyjo @kjocoaching

Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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