Tonal Review: The Future of Fitness?

tonal system

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, or the BowFlex Blaze, it's no wonder the population's eyes are fixed on a technology-based workout experience. Another common fitness trend is an increasing preference for at-home gym equipment, which allows you to work out from the convenience of your home, whether you're an advanced or novice exerciser. Tonal combines both innovation and at-home workouts for a unique, personalized fitness experience. Plus, its footprint is relatively small, making it great for small spaces.

But does it live up to the hype? And is it really the future of fitness? The ACTIVE Reviews Team broke all this down and more. Keep reading to find out if the Tonal is right for you.

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Why Trust Us?

The ACTIVE Reviews Team is made up of fitness experts that include athletes, coaches, and certified trainers who bring their years of knowledge and experience to each review. More importantly, each member of our team is a fitness enthusiast. Fitness may be our job, but it is also our passion. Therefore, we strive to bring you products that we trust and would personally use.

A Quick Look at Tonal

Tonal is a digital workout equipment system that offers personalized workout programs to you in the comfort of your living room. Unconventional in its design, it doesn't use dumbbells, barbells, bands, or plates. Instead, this state-of-the-art workout system uses two adjustable arms to deliver up to 200 pounds of resistance for upper-body, lower-body, or full-body workouts. Its high-tech touchscreen allows users to follow along with a virtual fitness coach or listen to their favorite playlists via Apple Music or Amazon Music.

Pre-programmed with thousands of workout classes from HIIT and cardio to strength training, dance, yoga, stretching, meditation, and more, Tonal also ensures you'll never be bored. The system is also fully equipped with smart accessories including smart handles and a smart bar that can adjust weight digitally via Bluetooth technology. When purchasing Tonal, customers have the option to add on a workout bench, mat, rope, and foam roller for an additional cost to optimize their fitness experience.

As far as personalization goes, Tonal has mastered it. From individualized strength training and assessment, to form guidance and a digital lifting spotter, Tonal enables a customizable workout experience that matches your needs and goals. The system also stores and saves all of your program summaries, strength scores, and personal records and syncs them to a mobile app so that you can track your fitness progress on the go.

Below, we break down the device in more detail:

tonal system


  • Dimensions: 21.5"W x 50.9”H
  • Digital weights: 100 lbs. per arm (200 lbs. total)
  • Display: 24" touchscreen
  • Warranty: 3-year limited warranty
  • Features: Personalized workout programs that target all muscle groups, live classes, up to 200 lbs. resistance, Bluetooth compatible, digital weight adjustments, weightlifting spotter
  • Accessories: Handles, bar, rope, bench, roller, mat


Experience with Tonal

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 most 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 5 reps was only able to crank out 2 reps at what Tonal stated was 105.

While using the machine with the smart accessories, we found 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 more affordable fitness equipment since you won't be maximizing the full potential of the machine.

What We Like

  • 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' of floor space

What We Don't Like

  • Price tag (Almost $3,000 for the machine plus a monthly subscription fee of $49)
  • 200-lb. max weight 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

Interactive Programming

Tonal offers some of the most diverse options in interactive programming that our experts have seen. Thousands of full-body virtual workouts exist on Tonal, and each class is taught by a professional trainer or coach and varies in length, type of exercise, etc.

person using tonal system

Below are some of the fitness categories that Tonal offers:

  • Strength
  • Yoga
  • Bootcamp
  • Stretching and recovery
  • Kickboxing
  • High intensity
  • Dance cardio
  • Barre
  • Mobility
  • Pilates
  • Meditation
  • Triathlon training
  • Pre- and post-natal
  • Family fun
  • Quick fit

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 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 so you 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 is 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.

Accessories and Add-ons

When purchasing 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 do 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.

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 programming.

It's also worth noting that you can't install 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, 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.

Tonal Construction and Durability

At 135 pounds, Tonal is not going anywhere after it's installed and is sturdy enough to handle the movement of each repetition during your workout. The software technology is advanced and careful attention was paid to the cable system. Even though you can hear feedback from the pulleys, they feel and move smoothly so you don't need to stop at any point and readjust. The cables feel like they're high quality and it is worth noting that in the Maintenance section of the Tonal Guide, they don't mention replacing them as part of the upkeep.

Most of the surface area in the front where you'll find the display is glass aside from plastic covers on the top and bottom. There are a few metal components including the arms and the track used to adjust the height of the arms.

Tonal vs. MIRROR

Much like Tonal, the lululemon MIRROR takes up a minimal amount of space and has a large workout library that includes live classes and plenty of program options. While the MIRROR does have world-class instructors, it's more for bodyweight fitness unless you want to purchase the weights and other accessories separately. This reflects in the price, though, since the MIRROR is at a way lower price point than Tonal, including the monthly subscription you'll need to have to access lululemon STUDIO.

Your instructor can see you during the live classes but there is no form guidance or spotting technology like Tonal outside of the live classes since the accessories they offer are free weights. The display is more reflective than Tonal but it's not a touchscreen which means you control everything using the app on your phone. The MIRROR is great if you want intense, high-energy workouts and Tonal is better for those who like more advanced strength and resistance training and form feedback.

Tonal vs. NordicTrack Vault

The NordicTrack Vault is freestanding and it doubles as a storage locker for all the accessories you'll use during your workout. Unlike Tonal, this set includes all the accessories you'll need from dumbbells and kettlebells to resistance bands. You'll need an iFit subscription to get access to their on-demand workouts and a variety of classes, which is similar to Tonal, but the overall price point is lower.

The reflective mirror is 61.5 inches long and the touchscreen is 32 inches which are slightly bigger than the 24-inch Tonal display. One downside is that the weights only go up to 30 pounds and the bands only have resistance up to 50 pounds, which can be problematic if you're a more advanced lifter. This may be a better option if Tonal's setup is outside of your budget and you want a home gym that comes with everything you need, but it may place limitations on how much you lift.

Tonal vs. Tempo Studio

The Tempo Studio is geared toward those who want to focus on strength training and comes with a combined 70 pounds of weight. While this still doesn't match up to the level of resistance Tonal offers, there is the option to upgrade to a more advanced package that includes a barbell. There is built-in storage for the included weights, so if you opt for the advanced package (at an additional cost), you'll need to find a place to store it.

Tonal uses 17 sensors to assess your form and Tempo Studio uses a 3D sensor to offer instant feedback. With a Tempo Studio subscription, you'll have access to live and on-demand classes that focus on strength and other areas that complement your routine such as mobility training and low-impact cardio. If you're bogged down by the overall cost of Tonal or just the installation cost, you may want to consider Tempo since it's a standalone home gym that comes with weights and built-in storage.

Is the Tonal Smart Home Gym Worth It?

If you're looking for a high-tech home gym and Tonal fits your budget, it's a great option that can help you reach your fitness goals. It has plenty of options for classes outside of strength, but the amount of space it takes up paired with the weight you can lift is appealing. If you're a beginner, you might find 200 pounds of resistance unnecessary and some people may prefer a less advanced home gym to use. Overall, what's worth it to you depends on your budget, preferences, and personal fitness goals.

Our Final Thoughts About Tonal

Bottom line: If you're not concerned about 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. 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.

Interested in the Tonal smart home gym? For a limited time only, try Tonal for 90 days!

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, Tonal can be an avenue for someone to get healthier, stronger, and potentially lose weight if paired with the right nutrition.

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, Tonal can likely help with that.

Can I install Tonal myself?

No, it's not a good idea to try to install 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 presses, and biceps 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 Tonal's arms.

About the Author

Rachael Gonzalez

Rachael Gonzalez is a Staff Writer for ACTIVE. She spent five years in education before she joined the ACTIVE team in 2022. In this role, she is still able to make a positive impact on others by writing about something she loves: health and wellness.

See More from Rachael

Rachael Gonzalez is a Staff Writer for ACTIVE. She spent five years in education before she joined the ACTIVE team in 2022. In this role, she is still able to make a positive impact on others by writing about something she loves: health and wellness.

See More from Rachael

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