Tonal Review: The Future of Fitness?

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Remember when you were a kid and working out equated to playing capture the flag with your friends or aggressively racing each other down a hill? At the risk of sounding jaded, those days are more or less behind us.

With innovative fitness offerings like the ever-popular Peloton Bike, the Lululemon Mirror, Tonal and Tempo, it’s no wonder the population's eyes are fixed toward a technology-based workout experience. The ACTIVE Reviews Team was curious to see if the Tonal Smart Home Gym was worth all the hype (and money), so we decided to put it to the test. And as you’ll see in our Tonal review––it passes with flying colors.

Pros:

  • Gives you weight suggestions to use for different movements
  • Takes you through a strength assessment to set baseline weights for several movements
  • Has a variety of interactive programming (yoga, strength training, cardio and more)
  • Is fairly compact, only requiring 7 feet of floor space

Cons:

  • Price tag (Almost $3,000 for the machine plus a monthly subscription fee of $49)
  • 200-pound limit isn’t heavy enough for everyone
  • The machine creaks and groans when using the pulleys
  • Can be annoying to constantly adjust arms up and down for different exercises

BUY: Tonal, $2,995

Experience With Tonal

The Tonal has a lot to like––if you can get past the price tag. Once it's been professionally installed, you'll be first asked to complete a baseline strength assessment so the machine can get to know your fitness levels better. It's worth noting that the maximum weight you can lift on this machine is 200 pounds of resistance (100 pounds in each hand). For the vast majority of people who work out at home, this isn’t going to be a problem. However, if you’re someone who is used to doing heavy barbell complexes, it might not scratch the workout itch for you.

We will add, however, that somehow digital weight feels heavier than "analog" weight. One person on our team who can usually bench press 105 pounds for five reps was only able to crank out two reps at what Tonal stated was 105.

While using the machine with the smart accessories, we found the Tonal made some creaking and groaning noises. It wasn’t obnoxiously loud or overly concerning, but it is worth noting. Our team did like the automatically adjusted weights as we worked out. It made the experience slightly less stressful because you didn’t need to worry about how much weight you were using. Basically, the machine acts as your virtual personal trainer, setting you up for success with weights you can likely handle. However, if you don’t like the idea of a strength training machine telling you how much to lift, you can manually adjust the weight for any set.

A feature we loved was the spotter mode. As you start lifting heavier weights, the Tonal machine acts as your own personal spotter to make sure you can finish your lift, even when it gets challenging. We also loved the eccentric mode, during which Tonal increases the resistance on the eccentric portion of the lift—the phase where your working muscles lengthen; during a squat, for example, the eccentric phase is the descent. Studies have shown that more tension during the eccentric portion of a movement leads to greater gains.

If you’re someone who thrives with interactive programming and it really motivates you to work out more and harder, you’ll love Tonal. If programming isn’t that important to you or you’d rather make your own home workouts, you may be better off with something less expensive since you won’t be maximizing the full potential of the machine.

BUY: Tonal, $2,995

Tonal-and-Accessories

Interactive Programming

As you might imagine, some of the types of classes utilize the weight machine (like strength and high intensity) while others like yoga or meditation do not. When taking part in a class that uses the Tonal, it’s nice when the machine automatically adjusts the weights for you. This takes away having to figure out what weight you should be using and can instead put the focus on proper form.

We also liked seeing extended training programs to choose from versus only singular classes. If you have a specific goal in mind (like building muscle or losing fat), you can pick a specialized program to keep up with. There are also motivating new workouts each week to keep things interesting.

A fairly recent addition to Tonal are the live classes. Although no one can see you while you work out (so don’t sweat that part!), there is a setup like Peloton’s live classes where you can see how others are doing in the class and offer high fives in real time. If you like a community aspect while working out, you may enjoy taking part in the live classes for a sense of comradery.

BUY: Tonal, $2,995

Accessories and Add-ons

When purchasing the Tonal, the accessories are sold separately. Totaling about $500, you get a bench, rope handles, smart bar, roller, mat and smart handles. This isn’t objectively bad for everything you’re getting, but we wish these items were included in the purchase price upfront. We think it’s in your best interest to purchase the accessories, otherwise you can’t perform all the exercises shown in various programming. The quality of the accessories isn’t the best, but it also isn’t the worst. The bottom line is they're nothing to write home about.

Tonal Specs

Warranty 3-year limited warranty 
Dimensions 21.5" W x 50.9' H 
Digital Weights 100 pounds each arm (200 pounds total)
Display 24" touchscreen 
Adjustable Arms Yes 
Bluetooth 4.2 Bluetooth technology 


BUY: Tonal, $2,995

Tonal-Lifestyle

Bringing Tonal Home

Currently on the Tonal website you can purchase this smart home gym for just under $3,000. However, we suggest also picking up the smart accessories (an additional $500) because you’ll need them to take full advantage of the machine and its programing.

It's also worth noting that you can't install the Tonal yourself, and you’re required to pay close to $300 (or more, depending on a variety of factors) for professional installation. Yikes. To tack on yet another fee, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you of the monthly membership cost of about $50, which is required to access the programming.

All these things can really add up, which is why it is important to calculate if this is doable ahead of time. If you want to purchase the Tonal but hate to foot the bill all at once, there is an option to finance the machine for $63 per month with 0% APR for 48 months.

Once you’ve decided to take the leap and buy the machine, the Tonal will generally ship within three weeks. The team will send you further communication via email and phone about the installation process. Tonal professionals will ask you questions about the studs in your walls and WiFi information to know what to expect when they come for installation.

Our Final Thoughts About Tonal

Bottom line: If you’re not concerned about the Tonal’s price tag and you like technology or interactive programming, you’ll probably really enjoy this machine. However, if you’re someone who cringes at the thought of spending this much cash or would rather program your own workouts, you might not be the right candidate.

  • At almost $3,000, plus the cost of the smart accessories ($500), installation (give or take $300) and monthly membership fee ($49), this isn’t a budget-friendly option.
  • The Tonal can pick your weight for you on various movements, but you’re also able to manually adjust the weight yourself if you prefer.
  • Interactive programming is a huge draw for this machine; you can try a variety of awesome exercise classes, like strength, yoga or even triathlon training.

BUY: Tonal, $2,995

FAQs About Tonal

Does Tonal help you lose weight?

We always recommend that you talk to your doctor or a medical professional about the best way for you to lose weight (because everyone is different!). However, coupled with other factors like improved nutrition, the Tonal can be an avenue for someone to get healthier and stronger.

Can you get strong with Tonal?

Getting ripped is pretty subjective, don’t you think? If we’re talking about you being the next strongman or being able to fling a car over your shoulder, probably not. If you’re referring to getting stronger and maybe seeing some visible muscle tone, yes, the Tonal can likely help you with that.

Can I install Tonal myself?

No, it’s not a good idea to try to install the Tonal yourself. When you purchase one, professionals who specialize in installing this machine will come and set it up for you. The website also mentions they’ll also help you if you move and want to reinstall it elsewhere.

Can I do my own custom workouts on the Tonal?

Yes, if you want to design your own home workout with custom reps and movements, you can. Tonal offers an option to even save the workout you created for future use.

Can Tonal do full-body workouts?

Yes, Tonal provides all types of workouts–lower body, upper body and even bodyweight options. Some of the exercises you can expect to see are traditional strength training movements, like deadlifts, squats, bench press and bicep curls. Think of things you may traditionally do in a weight room with dumbbells or free weights; this weight machine provides a similar experience.

Can you do cardio on Tonal?

In a sense, yes. Tonal does have cardio workouts, but you won’t see any traditional cardio, such as running or cycling. The cardio workouts in Tonal's programming involve bodyweight resistance, HIIT exercises or higher-rep, lower-weight strength training exercises using the Tonal arms.

BUY: Tonal, $2,995

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