Orangetheory Fitness has become one of the most popular high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts in recent years. Part of what makes Orangetheory so enjoyable for many members is the interactive, game-like aspect to the workouts. A key component of this gamification is the Orangetheory splat point system. But what exactly are splat points and how are they calculated during your workout? This article will explore the science and methodology behind splat points to help you understand the system better.
What are Splat Points?
Splat points are a proprietary metric used by Orangetheory to quantify the afterburn effect of their HIIT workouts. The name “splat points” refers to the pattern produced on data graphs when your heart rate spikes and then recovers quickly. This looks like a “splat” on the heart rate graphs that coaches monitor during classes.
Specifically, a splat point is earned any time your heart rate reaches 84% or more of your estimated maximum heart rate during a workout. Your max heart rate is calculated by the common equation of 220 minus your age. So for example, a 40-year old’s max heart rate would be estimated at 180 beats per minute (bpm). 84% of 180 is 151 bpm, so this person would earn a splat point any time their heart rate exceeded 151 bpm during the class.
The Orangetheory system awards you one splat point for each minute you spend in that 84% heart rate zone or above. So if your heart rate reaches 85% max for five minutes during the class, you would earn five splat points. These splat points serve as a way to track and encourage the most efficient path to burning calories and boosting your metabolism.
Why 84% Max Heart Rate for Splat Points?
You may be wondering why Orangetheory chose 84% as the key threshold for splat points rather than 80% or 90%. This number is significant because 84% max heart rate is considered the start of the orange “afterburn zone” in Orangetheory’s five zone color-coded system:
- Grey Zone = 50-60% max heart rate
- Blue Zone = 60-70% max heart rate
- Green Zone = 70-80% max heart rate
- Orange Zone = 84-91% max heart rate
- Red Zone = 92%+ max heart rate
The orange zone and red zones represent the level of workout intensity required to boost your metabolism and earn what fitness scientists call “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC for short. EPOC refers to the body’s need for extra oxygen after intense exercise in order to fully recover. Your metabolism can remain elevated for up to 36 hours post-workout as your respiratory and circulatory systems work overtime to replenish oxygen stores and rebuild damaged muscle fibers.
So in short, 84% max heart rate represents the efficient starting point to trigger the EPOC effect for maximum calorie burn during and after your workout. Splat points are therefore directly correlated with calories burned and metabolism increase.
How Many Splat Points Should You Target?
Orangetheory recommends trying to earn at least 12 splat points per 60-minute workout to fully maximize EPOC benefits. However, the exact number of points needed will vary based on your personal fitness level and workout intensity. Less fit individuals may find 12 splat points challenging to achieve at first, while very athletic members may consistently surpass 25+ splat points in a single class.
Here are general splat point targets based on fitness level:
- Beginner: 8+ splat points
- Intermediate: 12+ splat points
- Advanced: 15+ splat points
- Athlete: 20+ splat points
These targets account for natural improvements in cardiovascular conditioning over time. As your endurance increases, your heart rate takes longer to reach higher intensity thresholds. Adjusting intensity to continue hitting 12+ splat points ensures you are progressively challenging your cardio fitness.
It’s also important to note that more splat points does not always equal a better workout. Consistently earning 30-40+ points may indicate you are overtraining and not allowing proper recovery between HIIT sessions. Listen to your body, take rest days when needed and don’t get too obsessed with splat points alone as a marker of workout efficacy.
Tips for Earning More Splat Points
Here are some key tips to help you maximize your splat points without overdoing it:
Push pace on power intervals: The rower and tread blocks during Orangetheory offer prime opportunities to spike your heart rate. Don’t leave anything on the table during “push pace” and “all-out” intervals.
Use heavy weights: Choosing heavier weights that limit you to 8-12 rep range will boost heart rate faster than high-rep sets. Just maintain safe form.
Walk base pace inclines: Keeping inclines 2% or higher during walking recovery intervals sustains an elevated heart rate.
Focus on form: Proper exercise form creates more muscle fatigue, driving respiration and heart rate response.
Hydrate before class: Being even mildly dehydrated blunts heart rate increases. Drink 16-24 oz of water in the 2-3 hours pre-workout.
Tracking splat points over time provides great motivation and lets you monitor cardiorespiratory improvement. But remember that heart rate response varies widely person-to-person based on age, genetics, medications, sleep quality, stress levels, etc. Don’t judge your own workout solely against someone else’s splat points. Optimize your paces first and foremost by how your body feels responding.
The Science Behind Splat Points
Now that you understand the basics of the splat point system, let’s break down the real-world science behind why these points correlate so closely with workout benefits. Here are three key scientific principles at play:
1. Interval Training Effect
Study after study has demonstrated that interval training, consisting of short bursts of high-intensity exercise alternated with active rest periods, is a remarkably time-efficient and effective form of exercise. Researchers from McMaster University in Canada found that even just 6 sessions of sprint interval training spanning only two weeks produced similar metabolic and performance gains to several months of traditional endurance training.
By using different interval timing templates during classes, Orangetheory perfectly taps into these scientifically-proven benefits. Intervals allow members to safely push into higher heart rate zones, generating splat points, while avoiding overtraining risks.
2. EPOC Effect
As touched on earlier, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC refers to the body’s need to consume extra oxygen even after your workout ends. How does this happen exactly? Intense exercise causes lactate buildup, microscopic muscle tears and other physiological reactions that your body then needs to address through tissue repair and upgraded adaptations.
The oxygen cost of all this recuperation translates directly into extra calories burned as your body recovers from each metabolic disturbance. Multiple research studies have shown that intensity, rather than just workout duration, is the key driver of EPOC magnitude. More splat points during an Orangetheory workout signal greater lactate generation and thus higher EPOC potency.
3. Mitochondrial Biogenesis
Pushing into higher heart rate zones stimulates not just immediate EPOC but also long-term metabolic changes via mitochondrial biogenesis. This term refers to the actual growth of additional mitochondria within muscle cells after intense exercise. Similar to how having more engines in a car produces more horsepower, accumulating extra mitochondria powerhouses allows your body to utilize energy and oxygen more efficiently.
A landmark 2012 study found that just three sessions of sprint interval cycling in a single week triggered muscle cell production of PGC-1α, a key regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis. More mitochondria help explain the sustained impacts on fitness and fat-burning capacity stimulated by intense interval training. So earning frequent splat points indirectly boosts mitochondrial density over time, upgrading your metabolism through actual structural changes within muscle tissue.
So next time you are on the treadmill or rower chasing down splat points during intervals, remember the incredible amount of hidden health and fitness benefits happening underneath the surface each time your heart rate surges up into those elevated zones!
Pros and Cons
|Encourages pushing into higher heart rate zones to maximize calorie burn
|Can lead some members to overtrain by chasing high splat points every workout
|Tangible metric to track workout intensity over time
|Fluctuations in splat points can be demotivating week-to-week
|Motivates members to progressively increase pace/inclines
|Splat points alone don’t quantify muscle conditioning gains
|Helps coaches guide workout intensity recommendations
|Genetic differences affect max heart rate so splats may misrepresent effort
|Visual representation of workout efficacy on screens
|Issues with heart rate monitor placement can underestimate splats
|Boosts afterburn (EPOC) to sustain calorie burn after class
|Deconditioned members may struggle reaching 12+ splat target at first
|Evidence of cardiovascular improvements long-term
|Conditioned members more likely to overreach daily splat targets
Generally yes, more splat points translate directly to extra calorie burn because intensity drives both metrics. However, each person’s exact calories per splat point will differ based on factors like weight and conditioning level. Splat points serve better as a heart rate guide.
Sleep quality, hydration status, medication timing, menstrual cycle phase for women, stress and many other factors can all alter heart rate response day-to-day. Don’t obsess over one oddball workout. Evaluate long-term averages instead to gauge fitness improvements.
It’s very common to see a gradual decrease in splat points over months and years of training as cardiovascular conditioning improves. You grow more efficient, so heart rate no longer spikes as sharply with the same paces. This decline means your engine (heart) is growing stronger!
Yes! The arm band monitor must be worn snugly right above the elbow. Signal interference from poor monitor placement reduces data accuracy. If you feel your wrist monitor is underestimating splat points significantly, try switching arms or ask a coach to reposition the band higher on the same arm.
The orange zone threshold maximizes EPOC efficiency to avoid overtraining risk. Very high intensities in the red zone beyond 92% max HR cannot be sustained for long without excess fatigue and increased injury likelihood. A balanced yet challenging workout is the key.
Splat Point Data Trends
One final benefit of tracking splat points regularly is the ability to analyze data trends over weeks and months. Just like monitoring changes in total calories enables you to quantify metabolism improvements, evaluating how your splat points rise and fall over your first 25, 50 or 100+ Orangetheory workouts can showcase your cardiovascular progression.
As you push yourself during intense intervals each workout to spike into higher heart rate zones, improved endurance gradually allows you to sustain more time at elevated intensities. This shows as heightened average splat points for extended durations before eventual stabilization occurs closer to your genetic cardiovascular capacity.
Orangetheory’s proprietary splat point system offers members a unique, gamified way to quantify the effectiveness of their high-intensity interval training workouts. By awarding one splat point for every minute spent in the “orange zone” at 84% of max heart rate or above, splats motivate pushing into intensity levels scientifically shown to boost calorie burn, metabolic rate and cardiovascular conditioning over time.
The magic occurs when these spike intervals are blended strategically with active recovery periods to elicit both the immediate “afterburn effect” (EPOC) as well as long-term mitochondrial biogenesis. More splat points directly correlate with greater EPOC potency and muscle cell adaptations. Tracking trends over many workouts illuminates improving endurance as heart rate takes longer to reach higher zones.
However, members must be careful not to overemphasize splat points alone at the expense of proper recovery and balancing workout demands with life’s other physical and mental stresses. Allowing the competitive nature of splat points to compromise form or exceed personal overtraining thresholds can increase injury risks.