Gone are the days where you felt the need to be part of a religion, soccer team or music group. It’s the 21st century and fitness cults are all the rage now. The fitness industry has gone through a renaissance over the past few years, where there’s more of an emphasis on strength training, functional fitness and community.

While there’s no doubt you’ve come across the blue and red stripes of F45 (or have a friend who can’t stop raving on about it), newcomers like Orangetheory and Barry’s Bootcamp have entered the ring and raised the bar higher to claim the number one spot.

But with so much choice, which of the three is right for you? We’ve asked two fitness experts – Nina Sabey, PT and yoga Instructor of Sabey Yoga, and exercise physiologist, nutritionist and co-founder of Chief Bar, Veronika Larisova – to weigh up the pros and cons of each so you can make the right decision before diving in. We’ve also used our personal experience for an amateur take on the three.


Founder Rob Deutsch co-founded the F45 brand back in 2011. Fast-forward to 2018 and there are 1,300 studio franchises around the world – and Deutsch has plans to take the brand further in the near future, launching in Canada, Europe and Asia.

The 45-minute, team-based HIIT workout has a cult celeb following (hello Hugh Jackman and Nicole Richie), and currently offers 31 different workouts, with each having a different focus. They claim that no two workouts are the same, but ensure the F45 signature combo of HIIT, circuit training, and functional movements is a part of each one.


Sabey: “Every session is different. For those that get bored easily and love to work up a sweat, this is a perfect class for you! There’s pumping music and lots of high fives! You feel part of a community, which is highly attractive to many.”

Larisova: For the “’average Joe’ who is trying to get fit and lose some unwanted fat”, Larisova explains the combination of cardio and strength training makes the workouts “highly metabolically demanding.”

Juna: I was a dedicated devotee of F45 for a solid year and a half – so dedicated that I never missed a day working out. Yep, I’d wake up at 5am every morning motivated to start my day off with a power sesh. I enjoyed going for the convenience and at only $50 a week, it was quite affordable compared to other gym memberships in my area.


Sabey: “You need to know the basics, don’t expect a lot of personal attention. The F45 experience also really depends on the studio itself – the owners, the way it’s managed, the quality of the trainers and importance they place on community. The trainers can be a big impact – during a workout once I saw a trainer checking out their Instagram whilst teaching the class. Not a good look!”

Larisova: “The 45s intervals can be sometimes counterproductive for individuals who can’t maintain a very high intensity for that amount of time. Furthermore, their choice of exercises sometimes means that there are, let’s say, two core exercises back-to-back, which aren’t very fast, causing the heart rate to go down too low… and that’s not what you want to happen in a HIIT session.”

Juna: After 17 months doing F45 straight, I lost interest and found I wasn’t benefitting from it anymore – something I guess happens regardless of what exercise you do. I also found it wasn’t the cleanest of gyms, and there was little care in keeping the space in tip-top shape, however this will definitely vary from studio to studio. Price also varies depending on what studio you go to. Like Sabey, I also found only certain trainers would correct my form, while others would simply walk around the room, head down, looking at an iPad screen – and no matter how affordable it was, I couldn’t justify paying for that.


Founded in Florida, Orangetheory Fitness now has 728 studios in 16 countries. They currently have 14 studios in Australia and are rapidly expanding.

The ‘theory’ is all about post-exercise oxygen consumption. The classes are designed to get you maintaining a minimum heart rate of 84 per cent for 12 to 20 minutes during an hour workout. To make sure you’re reaching this, each participant is fitted with a heart rate monitor, which correlates to screens fitted around the studio, and shows the colour coded zone you’re in: grey for the lowest, working up to orange, and red signifies the highest. If you finish the workout with 12 to 20 ‘splat’ points, the theory is you’ll burn nine times the calories you burn in a normal day.


Sabey: “The motivation levels are high. You feel pumped and pushed to go that extra mile, especially with a trainer each side of you to push you harder and go faster. The emphasis on community is even greater than F45 with social and happy hour drinks organised monthly. If you are a data junkie this is your heaven! Tracking your heart rate in all their five zones along with the calories you’re burning is measurable and targeted training.”

Larisova: “Although Orangetheory and Barry’s are kind of similar (at least from my experience in USA), Orangetheory is more measurable as you have to wear a HR monitor in the session and you can clearly see how hard you are working. This makes you push harder and compete against yourself or the others in the class, which makes Orangetheory most likely more effective for most.”

Juna: I tried one class and D-I-E-D… and I’m not the most unfit person out there. Having the heart rate monitor definitely pushed me to my limits and made me work ten times harder than if I did a workout without one. The trainers were motivating and were continuously engaged with everyone in the room.


Sabey: “Not a lot of one-on-one feedback. I also found that there’s so much going on – data/lights/music/high energy trainers that I felt a bit overwhelmed at times and it was hard to keep track of what I was doing.”

Juna: From what I experienced from one class, I can only imagine the results you’d get after a few months of training at Orangetheory. The only thing that stopped me from going back was the inconvenience, however I’m guessing this will change once more studios start opening up around Australia. Also, membership is a bit more expensive compared to F45 (but vary depending on where you live). The basic package will get you four classes a month for $59, eight classes for $99, and unlimited classes for $159.

Barry’s Bootcamp

It seems as though it’s the only thing us Aussies can talk about at the moment.

Barry’s Bootcamp is the “original high-intensity workout” that opened its first studio back in 1998 in West Hollywood, and has since had the very top A-list celebs walk through its doors. Just this year they expanded into Australia, opening their first Surry Hills studio, and soon-to-open Martin Place studio.

According to their website, “the workout itself is designed for efficiency. The intervals and strength training combinations are proven to lean and tone your body. This isn’t a fitness trend. It’s science. And it works.”

They claim that one 55-minute class can burn 1,000 calories or more, and because weights are included, you continue to burn calories long after the class is over.


Sabey: “It’s a great fat burn, it’s seriously hard work where you feel pushed to your limits! The facilities are stunning with the dark room and red lights making you look good even when sweaty and red in the face!”

Larisova: “Orangetheory and Barry’s are very similar when it comes to the programming and the equipment they use. Their sessions are essentially a high intensity metabolic conditioning that combines cardio and strength training. Just the fact that they are incorporating lots of high intensity treadmill sets (aka sprints) makes the workouts highly metabolically demanding and, if you really give it your all, you will definitely increase your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance and burn some fat; given you have adjusted your diet accordingly.”

Juna: To say I’m obsessed with it would be the understatement of the century. From the moment you walk through the doors, you feel as though you’ve been transported into the world’s finest gym. The workout itself is tough AF, but the loud music, fast-paced tempo and variety of exercises makes all the pain go away… until the next morning when you try and roll out of bed. Plus, it’s 100 per cent worth getting Barry’d just to get your delicious post-workout protein smoothie from the ‘Fuel Bar’. And don’t even get me started on their bathrooms – Dyson Supersonic hair dryers, Oribe shampoo and conditioner, and an endless supply of hair ties and bobby pins? Sold.


Sabey: “You again need to know the basics. They claim you don’t, but you need to have a certain amount of knowledge on technique in order to do abdominal and treadmill work safely and correctly. Don’t expect a lot of cues or one-on-one attention on how to improve form. It’s also expensive!”

Larisova: She points out the only con compared to Orangetheory would be the missing heart rate monitor.

Juna: The only thing stopping me from reaching my health goals and getting Barry’d every single day is my sad looking bank account. At $36 a class, living the high-life really does come at an exxy cost. However, maybe it’s working in my favour because it’s definitely a nice weekly treat that keeps me motivated to stay active all week long.

Bottom line

Sabey: “Like anything, it all comes down to personal preference and enjoyment. The more you enjoy the experience, the more motivated you will be and therefore go often and get better results! For me, I find Barry’s the most effective workout. It may be expensive, but the intensity and variety of Barry’s is slightly better than its competitors. I also like that fact that classes are programmed by the individual instructor whereas F45 and Orangetheory aren’t. It’s refreshing, it’s fun and it’s bang on trend!”

Larisova: “At the end of the day it depends on a personal preference, and as long as you push yourself and keep your heart rate up, you will get results from any of the three. I love Barry’s for the entertainment factor and Orangetheory for the measurability.”

Juna: It goes without saying that my relationship with Barry is unbreakable. I just need to find a way to get my bank account to stop third-wheeling us…

This is the Barry’s Bootcamp workout that will blast fat in 20-minutes flat. Plus, this is everything you need to know about Orangetheory.

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