As the fitness and tech world continue to collide, more and more companies are building products to accommodate for advancements being made in both. Tonal is a compact home gym that hangs on the wall, and is tailored to individuals who want an interactive, guided and tough workout on their own time.
In this review, we’re going to cover all the ins and outs of the Tonal home gym. As strength sports enthusiasts, we were most curious about this machine’s ability to provide a thorough workout using just a pulley system. We also wanted to decide if this machine is worth the investment because — to be blunt — it’s not cheap.
Like everything in the strength training world, Tonal’s best uses come down to the context of your situation. If you need a compact device for your home and have the money for Tonal, then it’s a solid option for fitness-loving individuals.
- The Tonal can accommodate a variety of athletes with its pulleys that provide weight up to 200 pounds.
- Tonal can adjust your weight based on your struggle. If you don’t seem challenged, it will automatically increase your weight, and on the other hand, if you’re struggling, it will decrease your weight.
- It’s one of the most compact home gym options on the market for those who are willing to dish out the cash.
The Tonal is an interactive home gym that delivers up to 200 lbs of total electromagnetic resistance with the use of two maneuverable pulleys. What's most impressive is that it adapts as you progresses, which means you'll always be pushing closer to your fitness goals.
Tonal is an interactive home gym that adapts to your skill set and provides guided workouts by the means of two maneuverable, electromagnetic resistance pulleys. If you’re limited on space at home and the price tag doesn’t phase you, then Tonal can be a great addition to your home gym.
For many customers, Tonal can be used for your main workout to build strength, decrease body fat, and increase your overall fitness. However, for more serious athletes — powerlifters, weightlifters, or just elite athletes who need more than 200 pounds of resistance or specific types of weights or training equipment — Tonal should just be used as tool to progress in a calculated and strategic way, while also incorporating other weight lifting or exercise methods.
Who Should Buy the Tonal
- Athletes looking for a dynamic and versatile gym with 200 pounds of weighted resistance, as well as a spotter and chains.
- Anyone who wants workout programs to follow on a weekly basis, along with single workouts. This offers a ton of variety for users, as well as an option to track steady progress over extended periods of time.
- For those limited on space, the Tonal is a good option. Tonal recommends having a floor space of just 7′ x 7′ and a ceiling height of 7′ 10″.
- Beginners who don’t know where to start. The initial strength assessment takes some of the thought out of picking weights, which can be problematic for a new fitness enthusiast. And as you progress, the Tonal can automatically progress with you by adjusting the weight when you need more of a challenge or less of a struggle.
Who Shouldn’t Buy the Tonal
- Customers who aren’t looking to spend a lot of money. The Tonal is expensive in itself, and the monthly subscription adds on to its already lofty price tag.
- If you compete in strength sports or you’re pushing a ton of weight, the 200 pounds of magnetic resistance may be a little limiting for you.
The price of Tonal is not cheap by any means — the machine itself goes for about $3,000, you have to pay extra for the necessary attachments, and it’s important to note that outside of the hardware, you have to subscribe to a Tonal subscription to get the most out of the machine. This cost comes out to $49/month with a 12-month commitment. Below, we’ve laid out all of the price specs:
- Tonal Device: $2,995.00 USD
- Accessories: $495.00 USD
- Subscription: $49/mo (12-month commitment)
- Installment and Delivery: $250.00 USD
There’s no beating around the bush here — the price is going to be a big turn off for some users. The Tonal is not cheap, but you do have the option of splitting your purchase up into 24, 36, or 48 monthly payments through Affirm. If you went for the 48 monthly payment plan, you’ll be looking at spending around $130 a month, the 36 month plan will have you spending around $150 a month, and the 24 month plan will be around $200 a month.
This is definitely expensive, but you may also be saving money in the long run compared to paying for a gym membership and personal training each month. If you were to spend $50 a month on a gym, and $40 twice a week for personal training, you’d be spending about $250 a month, or around $3,600 a year.
And if you wanted a personal trainer to visit your home, those visits may be around $60 — add two visits a week on top of your gym membership, and you’re looking at spending nearly $5,000 a year. With Tonal, you get the benefit of personal training training, and weight resistance in the comfort of your home, and may end up spending less money long term.
Overall Build and Quality
The Tonal is one of the more compact home gym options on the market. It takes up just 7’ by 7’ of floor space, and needs a 7’ 10” ceiling height. You can perform 200 moves with up to 200 pounds of weighted resistance on this one machine. An interactive coach can take you through workouts on the 24” touchscreen display, and Tonal will even adjust your weight automatically as you progress.
Tonal’s biggest pro is its technology. It offers up to 200 pounds of weighted resistance via pulleys that you can use for 200 different moves. While 200 pounds may not seem like enough for elite level lifters, the pulleys operate on a 1:1 ratio, meaning if you have 200 pounds loaded, you will need 200 pounds of force to move the weight.
It adjusts your weight up and down as you progress or struggle, and you can even opt to use the chains and eccentric modes to increase the difficulty of your workout even further. Plus, before you start, you can take a strength assessment, so your machine knows exactly how much weight to use in your first workout.
The major piece of the Tonal package lies within the 24” interactive touchscreen that allows their coaches to guide you through workouts. Tonal’s coaches will instruct you on how to set up the machine, provide tips for movements, and lead you through warm-ups and cool-downs. The interactive touch screen allows you to customize nearly every detail when it comes to executing a workout.
Pulleys and Smart Handles
The pulleys on each side of the machine can be maneuvered up and down, and have the ability to widen and narrow. This provides users with an easy way to accommodate for a variety of uses, and the way you adjust the handles is pretty intuitive. Within workouts, the coaches will also help instruct you as to where the handles should be set. Plus you will notice indicators that show you where the arms are currently positioned, and where they need to be.
The Smart Handles have buttons on each side of them, which activates and deactivates the resistance. In our opinion, this is extremely useful because getting into some positions with resistance would be nearly impossible for most users. Since you have the ability to activate the resistance with a simple click on the handle, then you can truly set up before starting the rep scheme. The Tonal bar also has a Smart button attached to it for seamless activation and deactivation.
The tech side of Tonal is pretty remarkable, and we think it’s unparalleled when it comes adapting to someone’s overall strength levels on a real-time basis. Compared to other tech-based home gyms, there are four things we really liked about Tonal’s real-time technology.
- Spotter Mode: The spotter feature lightens the load as it begins to feel you struggle, so as you work through a set and begin to slow down due to fatigue, Tonal will begin to decrease the load in an intuitive way that allows you to finish the set, but also get the work in.
- Chains/Eccentric: The chains and eccentric mode are, in our opinion, a serious enthusiast’s best friend. They’re easy to turn on mid-workout and provide extra resistance on both the lowering (eccentric) and lifting (chains/concentric) portions of the movement.
- Strength Assessment: Before beginning your journey with Tonal, you’ll be asked to perform a strength assessment. This entails moving through an assessment exercise protocol for various reps that Tonal will then use to adjust weights accordingly for workouts. If you’re brand new to strength training, then this is an awesome feature to get you started.
- Continual Tracking: This feature is great for the fitness enthusiast who loves data and tracking their progress. For every workout, Tonal tracks multiple variables including: Time under tension, reps, sets, load, volume, and range of motion. It’s great for a beginner because it provides a broader understanding of their current training level, and it’s great for advanced enthusiasts because it can provide intrinsic goals to chase.
Outside of these four tech features, there’s a lot more that goes into the Tonal home gym. However, we think if you’re interested in investing in this device, then these are the four tech features that make Tonal unique.
For us, if we’re using a tech-heavy piece of workout gear, then we want to know how easy it is to use. The last thing you want in a workout is to be dealing with finicky technology — so what is Tonal’s user experience really like?
The homepage on the interactive screen is easy to navigate and understand, which makes it super intuitive to use, even for the true beginner. Workouts are labeled by body parts and goals, so you can sift through options to perform that fit inside your current goals and program. The programs will flow in a format that relates to your initial setup/goals.
What’s nice about Tonal is that they have programs that work on a progressive basis outside of one-off workouts. For example, instead of simply performing a workout and then randomly selecting another one the next time you use Tonal, you can follow a consistent program to track progress.
This is huge for user experience because it provides enthusiasts with a strategic means to progress. Additionally, the tech features mentioned above are easy to turn on mid-workout, so there’s no delay in your workout time trying to configure the chains, spotter, and eccentric modes. From a user experience point of view, Tonal is calculated, easy to understand, and intuitive.
The Tonal companion app is where each workout is tracked, and where you’re able to see your results and progress over time with the progress tracker. Tonal will take your strength score from your assessment, and set a benchmark for your fitness journey. This is going to show your growing strength by muscle group and body region, and it will update in real time.
While you can’t stream classes from the app like you can with some other smart gyms, you can scroll through the workouts and see the description of the exercises, as well as the benefits of each. From here you can also see your rank among the Tonal community, and even create your own custom workout programs.
With Tonal, you can connect a heart rate monitor or fitness tracker, as well as your phone via Bluetooth. This is also how you pair the handles and barbell to the device, as well. Simply pull down from the top of the screen for easy connectivity.
Tonal provides music that is preloaded onto the device for you to stream during your workouts. But, the beauty here is that you can also connect your Apple Music or Spotify subscription if you would rather listen to your own music. Once you have the app downloaded and your phone and paired to the Tonal, you can connect your music app, and your entire library will immediately be uploaded.
Tonal provides users with digital resistance that uses electromagnetic force compared to traditional weights’ gravitational force. This keeps the resistance constant and smooth throughout full movements. Over time, Tonal can increase the weight resistance to ensure that you are progressively overloading your muscles.
The max resistance Tonal provides is 200 pounds (100 pounds for each side), which is more than likely plenty for most folks, but is slightly limiting for serious strength athletes like powerlifters.
In our experience, the resistance was enough for unilateral work and most movements, but for compound movements we could max the machine out. If you max out the machine and want to up the intensity, then we’d recommend using the chains and eccentric feature.
You can try workouts that range from strength training to HIIT, dance cardio, yoga, mobility, pilates, barre, and meditation, all with a virtual instructor. Tonal offers these workouts in both a live and on-demand format.
Motion Sensing Technology
While working out, Tonal uses a set of sensors that will provide corrections in real-time that are focused on your form, range of motion, and pace. If you are doing something the wrong way, Tonal will provide suggestions on the monitor to correct you. Same goes for if you are too close to the arms — you will see a prompt on the screen telling you to take a step or two away.
We found this to be helpful in our time with the Tonal as it corrected us when we didn’t realize our form was off. The only downside is that if you’re doing a movement that requires your back to be to the screen, you will have to listen for the chime that occurs when Tonal provides an update, then turn around to see what you need to correct. Overall, this is an awesome feature that ensures you learn the proper technique for your workouts.
Unlike some smart home gyms on the market, Tonal does not offer a daily leaderboard function for their live classes. However, they do offer a leaderboard that spans over 30 days, and is based around your dedication to working out over that time. Your “rank” will change depending on the total number of workouts you complete, as well as how much time you have spent working out. This is a nice feature for those who thrive off competition, and want to see an overview of their progress.
A massive plus for Tonal is its size. You only need 7’ by 7’ of floor space and 7’ 10” of ceiling height to make use of this machine. It’s attached to the wall, and it doesn’t require extra space to store bulky weights as you only need the smart gym’s pulleys to complete your workout. While it’s recommended you purchase Tonal’s Smart Accessories to get full use of the machine, you can also use your own accessories if you buy a separate T-Lock through Tonal to attach them to the pulleys.
One of Tonal’s perks is that it doesn’t require you to have separate barbells, weight plates, dumbbells, or any other type of bulky equipment you typically need to complete a strength workout. The two pulleys are located on either side of Tonal’s touchscreen display. Simply pull them out to use them, and slide them back up against the wall when you are done with your workout to save space.
Tonal sells its accessories in a Smart Accessories package you can opt in or out of. If you opt in, you can use the Tonal pulleys with the handles, or the additional bar or rope. You’ll also get a bench, foam roller, and yoga mat to use throughout your Tonal workouts. Purchasing all of these is recommended, but it does cost around $500.
The handles are some of the most futuristic accessories in the game — they have a button that turns the weight on or off. The barbell is sturdy and the clamp that attaches to it also allows you to turn the weight on or off, but the knurling is a little bit underwhelming, and isn’t as “grippy” as a traditional barbell. The yoga mat and foam roller are pretty standard in practice, so it would be nice if there was a package without these two accessories in case you already have your own. While the weight bench is both comfortable and sturdy, we wouldn’t mind if it was adjustable.
If you want to use your own accessories with the Tonal, you can buy a T-Lock adapter from Tonal that will allow the T-lock system on the pulleys to work with your handles.
The Tonal requires just 7’ by 7’ feet of floor space, and a ceiling height of 7’ by 10”. This is one of the more compact home gyms on the market since you don’t need room to store or use larger weights or weight plates.
On the Tonal website, you have the option of adding on a storage shelf to your purchase, which is an additional $250. The shelf has three hooks that allow you to hang your smart handles, rope, and barbell, and it allows enough room to place your yoga mat and foam roller on top. But as of now, Tonal does not have a solution to store the weight bench, so you will need to get creative to find a spot to tuck it out of sight. Since this is already an expensive purchase, and the storage shelf is just going to tack onto that price tag, you may be better off coming up with a cheaper alternative since this is not entirely necessary.
The setup for Tonal is pretty straightforward and seamless. Once you’ve connected the Tonal to WiFi, you’ll follow a few steps to help the machine learn and adapt to you.
These steps for setting up a new Tonal account include:
- Sign-Up: Create Account
- Enter Height/Weight/Age
- Personalize Your Goals
- Select Your Level of Fitness
In our opinion, the setup on this machine is one of the easiest to work through for interactive home gyms. The best part about the setup is that the machine then recommends workouts based on your specific goals and needs. Plus, with the additional strength assessment, the machine will know exactly what weight you should be using.
One potential issue we could see enthusiasts having with Tonal is the install scheduling. As opposed to buying a Tonal and setting it up on your own, you have to schedule an installment time. This can be problematic for some folks on a tight schedule, or who want to install the device on their own. However, since you’re having Tonal’s team install the product, you can rest assured that it will be mounted correctly.
When making your order, you have to provide pictures of the room it will be mounted, as well as the wall material and stud spacings. Be sure to find the exact spacings, because Tonal requires them to be either 16, or 24 inches apart. Anything wider or closer together will not work. And since their team is who installs the product, you need to be certain that you are choosing the right location, or else they will have to come back out and move it for you.
Tonal provides users with a three-year limited warranty that covers product defects when the machine is purchased from an authorized United States retailer.
There’s a 30-day no questions asked return policy if you’re not happy with the Tonal.
Places to Buy
You can purchase Tonal through the Tonal website directly.
After struggling with his weight since he was a child, Tonal founder Aly Orady strength-trained consistently for months and was able to lose 70 pounds. The only issue he found in training was convenience — he created Tonal to solve that problem. Its electromagnetic resistance saves space, and its size is great for home use, so you can have your own gym space at home and don’t have to work your schedule around gym time. With Tonal, Orady wanted to ensure you wouldn’t have to sacrifice other parts of your life to stay fit.
Tonal is an intuitive tech-based home gym that delivers guided workouts with the use of two electromagnetic force pulleys. The smart handles, and clamp that attaches directly to the barbell act as a spotter, which is a great safety feature since they allow you to turn the weight on, or off with the click of a button. Because of the companion app, you can easily access your records and track your progress over time.
Overall, the Tonal device does a solid job at providing instruction and guidance throughout workouts, and we think it will work for a majority of users who can afford the lofty price tag. There’s no denying that this device is expensive and not accessible for everyone, but if you’re looking for a compact and interactive smart gym, Tonal is one of the best.
Is Tonal worth the money?
As with any equipment, it depends on your personal goals and your amount of usage. If you use Tonal everyday and 200 pounds of weight is the most you’ll ever use, Tonal can be worth its price tag. However, if you’re a powerlifter who may need more than that 200 pounds or who may be doing other workouts outside of Tonal, it may not be worth the thousands of dollars that this machine costs.
Can you lift heavy with Tonal?
Yes and no. Tonal maxes out at 200 pounds of weighted resistance, which is a lot of weight for most recreational athletes. However, if you’re a powerlifter or an elite athlete, Tonal may not provide enough weight for you.
What does Tonal do?
Tonal is an interactive smart home gym that provides up to 200 pounds of weighted electromagnetic resistance. With its two pulleys, you can perform 200 different exercises, and follow along to virtual workouts. Tonal can also adjust your weight based on your progress to further challenge you.