Tonal

Do you feel intimidated to use weights at the gym? Starting at $2,995, the Tonal system certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s like having a weight room’s worth of equipment—and a virtual personal trainer—all in one sleek, streamlined machine that’s mounted to your wall. It offers up to 200 pounds of resistance and supports hundreds of moves to work your upper body, lower body, and core. Its artificial intelligence sets the weights for you, tracks your reps and progress in real time, and adapts as you get stronger, so you’re always challenged. Perhaps best of all, it offers a variety of fun and effective workouts, including partner sessions, yoga, and HIIT, with good music and encouraging, knowledgeable trainers. The Tonal easily earns our Editors’ Choice for connected fitness devices, and if you have the money for one, you won’t be disappointed.

Price and Installation Process

The Tonal system is designed to be used by adults 18 and up. Teenagers over the age of 15 can use it with adult supervision, if approved by a physician, the company says. 

The machine itself costs $2,995, and you have to pay an extra $495 for the accessories, including smart handles, a smart bar, and a rope, all of which use a special T-lock system to connect to the machine. The accessory kit also includes a bench, a mat, and a roller. You need the accessories for most of the workouts, so it’s basically pointless to buy a Tonal without them, though the company offers T-lock adapters if you already own accessories you want to use with the machine. 

How Tonal Works

Tonal uses a combination of electricity and magnets to digitize weights. It features a 24-inch touch screen, on which you can browse and play workouts, and it has adjustable arms on each side, onto which you can connect smart handles, a smart bar, and a rope. It offers up to 200 pounds of resistance, or 100 points on each arm, and supports more than 170 upper and lower body moves, like barbell glute bridge, goblet squat, inline chop, and standing incline press, just to name some. The 1,920-by-1,080 touch screen is sharp, bright, and responsive. 

Peloton, but it offers a wide selection of on-demand, expert-created beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts and programs. Workouts range from 15 minutes or less to more than 40 minutes. You can browse workouts and programs by duration, coach, category, level, and goal. 

lifting with chains, and Eccentric, which adds weight to the negative portion of your lift to increase your time under tension and help you get stronger, faster. 

Tonal records your activity on the device itself, and syncs this information to its companion app. You can click on your profile to view stats such as your strength score, which goes up as you lift and get stronger. Your profile also shows how much you’ve improved since starting, the total volume of weight you’ve lifted, and how many workouts, movements, and programs you’ve completed.

My Experience With Tonal

When setting up my Tonal account, my primary goal was to gain strength, and my secondary goal was to get lean. I have weight room experience, but haven’t strength trained in about six months, so I selected the intermediate level. Tonal suggested I join Strong Is Beautiful, an intermediate three-times weekly program designed to build strength, so I did. 

All of the Strong Is Beautiful workouts I’ve done have been around 40 minutes. You start with a five-minute warm-up, then do one or two strength blocks with two to four exercises in each block, then a five-minute cool down. Between big lifts on the Tonal, you do body weight exercises like push-ups, mountain climbers, or planks, and active recovery moves like lying hamstring stretch or runners lunge. I like that most Tonal classes include a warm-up and cool down, because it’s easy to skip these steps when you’re working out alone at the gym. 

Tempo Studio, a new smart home gym that features sophisticated form-tracking software. 

Tempo uses a 3D motion capture system and artificial intelligence technology to track your joints, comparing where they are in relation with each other to determine whether you’re doing an exercise correctly. Tempo can, for instance, tell you if you’re leaning back to help complete a rep. If on the next rep you correct the mistake, it will let you know. 

Tonal’s basic form feedback doesn’t yet come close to Tempo’s, but it’s encouraging that Tonal is continuing to up its game.

Partner Workouts, Yoga, and HIIT

One of my favorite Tonal features is the ability to work out with someone else, and any workout on Tonal can be a partner workout. You simply find a workout you want to do together, tap the buddy icon next to the start button, and have your partner sign in. If they don’t already have a Tonal account, they’ll be prompted to create one. 

During the workout, Tonal automatically adjusts the weight for you and your partner. So if you can lift 25 pounds for a certain exercise, and your partner can lift 50, Tonal will adjust the weight based on who’s up. It’s nice to do the workouts with someone else because you get a break between each set, your partner can help adjust the machine when needed, and can give you feedback on your form. 

chaturanga, and longer power yoga sessions. 

I have very much enjoyed both the recovery and power yoga classes. The yoga teacher, coach Frances, does a good job of offering modifications for beginners while making her sequences challenging enough for an avid practitioner like myself. 

Conclusions

Since receiving the review unit, I have used my Tonal nearly every day, and some days I’ve done two workouts on it. It has challenged me, and I’ve absolutely gotten stronger using it. 

If you’re looking to start lifting, or want to level up your existing routine, the Tonal system is a solid addition to any home gym, provided you have the space and money for it. It supports more than 170 moves ranging from dead lifts to chest presses, and offers a nice variety of effective, fun classes and programs for everyone from beginners to advanced lifters. 

Priced at $2,995 plus tax, delivery, accessories, and a $49 monthly membership, Tonal is one of the more expensive connected fitness machines on the market, surpassing the $1,995 Tempo Studio, which combines traditional weights with AI technology. But it’s the only product we know of that combines sophisticated weight training equipment with genuinely smart software, making it worth the high price, as well as our Editors’ Choice.

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Further Reading

July 20, 2020
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