Is Orange Theory a Pyramid Scheme?

We all heard about Orange Theory one way or another, whether it’s from a friend, a relative, or while training in a normal gym. It seems that everyone wants you to join their so-called revolutionary training routine. I’ve even had one of my close friends come up to me multiple times asking me if I was keen on joining him in one of his Orange Theory training sessions to see whether or not I would enjoy it. I often just brush it off and tell him that I prefer just your typical basic weightlifting routine. With that being said, this got me thinking, surely there is a reason why so many people are trying to recruit new members to join them. In other words, I was questioning if Orange Theory is a pyramid scheme.

Although Orange Theory as a franchise shares some minor similarities to a pyramid scheme such as its recruiting system, it can’t be considered one since they sell a legitimate service that works for so many people.

In this article, we’ll talk about the characteristics of a pyramid scheme and compare it with Orange Theory to see if there are any similarities between the two. 

What is Considered a Pyramid Scheme?

In order to figure out whether or not Orange Theory is a pyramid scheme, we first need to understand the basic characteristics of one.

The general idea behind a pyramid scheme, commonly known as an MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) is that people need to pay to become distributors of a certain product or service.

The company is structured so that the people above get a percentage of whatever the distributor sells. The new distributor is encouraged not only to sell the product but to sign up other people below them so that they can make even more money.

Here are some of the basic characteristics of a pyramid scheme:

  • Heavy emphasis on recruiting new members
  • There isn’t really a genuine product or service actually sold
  • There are usually promises of a high return in a short period of time
  • There is a complex commission structure

What is Orange Theory?

According to their website, Orangetheory is usually a 1 hour, full-body workout that focuses primarily on training endurance, strength, and power. They claim that they implement science into their workouts and use something that’s called Heart Rate Based Interval Training, which is just a fancy way of saying burning more calories post-workout as compared to a traditional exercise.

During the workout, you wear Heart Rate monitors which display real-time body metrics on the big screens scattered around the studios. 

The intensity of the workout is based on your individual Heart Rate zones, which makes it perfect for all fitness levels. Additionally, they have fitness coaches that lead the workout to prevent you from over or under-training.

Is Orange Theory a Pyramid Scheme?

is orange theory a pyramid scheme?

Now that we have a general idea of the main characteristics of a pyramid scheme, as well as what Orange Theory is all about, we can easily pinpoint the similarities and differences to figure out whether or not this fitness group is truly an MLM.

Let’s compare each of the previous characteristics:

Emphasis on recruitment: As I mentioned in the beginning, all pyramid schemes have a heavy emphasis on recruiting new people in order to make more money. Well, as it turns out, Orange Theory does offer some kinds of benefits as a member if you recruit additional people. For example, they have special rewards for their members that successfully recruit new people like receiving money to use on their apparel and gear, bonus coupons, and so on.

While this may seem like a thing that an MLM would do, it’s certainly not the case for Orange Theory since they’re considered a business. And like any other business in a capitalist economy, they need to make money in order to pay the bills.

No genuine product or service sold: This is one of the most common characteristics of a pyramid scheme, and definitely not something found in Orange Theory since they actually sell a legitimate service which is fitness. And as it turns out, this service seems to work for a lot of people, hence the popularity of their community, so it’s not really a scam.

Promises of a high return over a short period of time: This can’t be applied to Orange Theory since fitness is not something that you can give false promises for and there are plenty of real results from people. Additionally, they make more money if you stay as a member for a long period of time.

Complex commission structure: When it comes to Orange Theory, there isn’t really any complex commission structure. Trainers get paid a base salary per class regardless of attendance. However, they do get additional pay or commission per se the more people attend. This may be why you see trainers praising the company to get more people to attend their classes.

But this can be applied to the fitness industry in general. If you think about it, as a gym owner, you won’t pay personal trainers if they don’t make any profits for you. This means that they need to book clients to come in.

With that being said, fitness instructors may get their work hours reduced if their attendance is too low. That’s why they often feel the need to build their own following and encourage people to the gym so that their employer rewards them in different ways. Orange Theory’s compensation structure is pretty much just a variation on this.

So as a final verdict, although Orange Theory as a franchise shares some minor similarities to a pyramid scheme such as its recruiting system, it can’t be considered one since they sell a legitimate service that works for so many people. Its members and personal trainers are all enthusiastic about it which is why they want to bring in as many people as they can.


If you really think about it, whether or not Orange Theory is a pyramid scheme doesn’t really matter as long as it provides a legitimate service that seems to work for so many people, and as it turns out, it does just that. As a business in a capitalist economy, they have to scale and recruit more people in order to make more money even if that requires the use of some marketing strategies that may look like an MLM. 

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