Tonal Review: Tried and Tested For 2 Years

After stumbling across Tonal a few years ago, it was clear that I needed to get my hands on one and thoroughly test it out.

Tonal is a state-of-the-art smart home gym system that combines a sleek wall-mounted touchscreen design with an electromagnetic cable pulley system to deliver an interactive but compact strength-based workout that can produce a maximum resistance of 200 lbs.

It comes with a premium price tag so I was curious to see if it was worth the investment.

After spending countless hours using the machine, I have thoroughly enjoyed using the machine and as a result, incorporated it into my daily workout routine.

But that’s not to say the machine is perfect so make sure to see my complete Tonal review to make sure it is the right machine for you.

 

How I Tested Tonal

Tonal Workout Summary

For almost two years now, I've been using Tonal and completed more than 200 workouts and lifted over 2,000,000 pounds in total. And that's not including the workouts since I let the monthly subscription expire so that I could test Tonal using only the free features.

This experience has let me see how Tonal performs over time and what it is like to use it day in, and day out. It also gave me a chance to try out a range of different personal trainers and workout programs to see how difficult they were.

Since starting Home Gym Supply, I've had the chance to help create hundreds of home gyms. This has given me the chance to see the type of equipment needed to reach a variety of training goals. So, I have been able to get a good feel for who Tonal is suitable for and who might need something different.

 

Tonal Features

  • 24” Touchscreen
  • Maximum Resistance: 200lbs (100lbs per arm)
  • Product Weight: 150lbs
  • Dimensions: 50.9” H x 21.5” W x 5.25” D
  • Requires 7 ft x 7ft floor space and 7ft of unobstructed wall space and ceiling height of 7 ft 10.
  • 30-day trial
  • 2-year limited warranty
  • Wifi required

 

What is Tonal and What’s it Like to Use?

Tonal with handles attached

Tonal is a wall-mounted Smart Home Gym that uses electromagnets to deliver a maximum resistance of 200 lbs, 100 lbs on each of the two adjustable cable arms.

You simply pick the weight you want on the touchscreen, adjust the arms to the right angle and height along with the correct attachment and start lifting.

You can also let the smart performance tracking system choose the weight for the selected exercise and it will automatically adjust the resistance as you get stronger over time.

When you first get started, Tonal will put you through a strength test to work out your current strength level and then pick the right weight for you.

Its smart tracking system monitors a wide range of information about each rep such as your form, range of motion and the speed of every rep. It will then make live suggestions on how to improve your form and how to maximise each rep. So, If you try to perform an exercise too quickly it will tell you to slow down or possibly to keep your elbows still for example.

It also gives you alerts when you have set a personal best in a few different aspects such as strength, power and volume. The personal best alert gives you a hit of encouragement that has you pushing to beat your previous workouts.

 

Workout Programs

With the Tonal subscription, you get access to a ton of different workouts with a variety of coaches, each with their own training style.

I’d recommend trying out a few different coaches to find your favorites. Whether you’re into strength training, cardio, high-intensity workouts, kickboxing, meditation, yoga, or looking for some recovery sessions, Tonal has you covered.

Tonal Workout options

They also offer workout series led by specific trainers, which is a great way to keep on track. These series tell you when to work out and when to rest.

Plus, there are live classes throughout the day where the trainer can see how you're doing, adding a level of competition to your workouts which can be fun.

In total, there are about 24 coaches, plus they also have guest coaches come along from time to time for a limited series. So there are always new workouts being added to keep your workouts interesting.

When I first created my account, I chose to "build muscle" and was surprised by how challenging the workouts were which had me sore for days. The trainers do a great job of making me perform exercises that I haven’t done before or hadn’t thought of doing on my own.

And if you’re often on the move like me, you can install the Tonal app on your phone or tablet so you can follow along to a bodyweight workout even when away from your Tonal.

 

Resistance

The best thing about Tonal, in my opinion, isn't just the software; but is the resistance system.

As I mentioned earlier, Tonal uses an electromagnetic system that can generate up to 200 lbs of resistance (100 lbs on each cable). You pick the weight you want, then either tap the screen or press a button on the attachment once you are in position and ready to go.

Tonal Resistance

I am a big fan of this system as you're less likely to pick up injuries while getting set up for an exercise since you turn the weight on when you're ready.

If you look at the dumbbell shoulder press, for example. You have to lift the dumbbells into position before you even start, which can be tough. But with Tonal, you get into position first, then click a button to load the weight and then click it again once you have finished and it instantly removes the resistance.

Initially, I was worried 200lbs wouldn't be enough resistance. But the resistance on Tonal feels different, slightly heavier than regular weight training, especially with moves like the bench press. Even though I can comfortably bench press 200 lbs at the gym, I haven’t been able to max out the Tonal yet.

With that being said, if your goal is to be a powerlifter then chances are Tonal won't have quite enough resistance for you. However the resistance will be more than enough for most users.

Tonal also offers dynamic resistance settings for added variety such as chains mode, Smart Flex, Spotter, Burnout, and Eccentric mode, which change the resistance as you do your reps.

Chains Mode: Mimics chains on a barbell and the weight gets heavier at the top of your rep and lightens off at the bottom.

Smart Flex: takes into account the movement you are performing and adjusts the weight for the strongest and weakest parts of the rep.

Spotter Mode: This is a great training partner and will lighten the weight if you appear to be struggling so you can complete your rep.

Eccentric Mode: adds extra weight on the negative part of your rep and then takes it off again once you go the other way.

Burnout Mode: will lower the weight slightly on each rep once you start to struggle so you can squeeze out a few extra reps.

 

Adjustability

To maximise the versatility of the machine, Tonal has made the cable arms as adjustable as they possibly can. The arms have 5 rotation angles, 5 arm angles (decline to incline) and 9 arm heights to choose from.

Tonal Adjustability

Changing the arm position is fast and easy with a slider to change the height, a button to change the rotation angle and a lever to change the incline of the arm.

So whether you want to do deadlifts or lat pull-downs, Tonal can be adjusted to the perfect height and angle to suit you.

 

Smart Accessories

To get the most out of Tonal you will need their Smart Accessory bundle which comes with two handles, a rope, a bar, a bench, a yoga mat, and a roller.

The handles have buttons on both ends, so you can easily turn the weight on or off while you're holding them.

Tonal Smart Accessories

The bar comes with a Bluetooth button that clips in place anywhere along the bar so you can easily turn the resistance on and off. This clip can also be used with the rope which is similar to a rope attachment you will find at your local gym.

The bench is simple but looks good with the Tonal logo embroidered on top. I would have preferred if it was a flat, incline, decline bench to allow extra exercise options but it does the job.

The yoga mat and roller are good quality and the mat comes in useful for floor exercises if you don’t have rubber matting in your gym area.

Attaching Handle

Changing the attached accessory takes just a few seconds as the handles, bar and rope all have a T joint that slots into the cables and rotates to lock it in place. So if you want to do super sets and quickly change exercises, you can do so without any issues.

One area for improvement is the button on the bar. It’s quite tricky to press the button when you are doing heavy lifts, like bench press because you have to adjust your grip to press it.

But, I found a workaround with a foot pedal adapter made by a third party on Amazon, which takes the bar clip and makes it much easier to press.

It’s a game-changer for some exercises but I hope Tonal picks up on this idea and adds their own version because the third-party options quality isn’t up to the standard from Tonal.

Tonal Pedal accessory

 

Quality and Durability

With a premium price tag, I was expecting a high-quality machine and wasn't disappointed. The quality of Tonal is second to none. Even after two years of regular use, the machine still looks good as new.

The touchscreen is responsive and smooth, as long as your Wi-Fi connection is strong. I did have a weak signal strength where the Tonal was first set up but, have no issues now I've boosted the signal strength.

Generally, the telltale signs of wear and tear on units like this are the cables and pulleys but I haven't had any issues and the cables themselves are still in excellent condition.

Tonal Wear and Tear

This is especially impressive considering I have done almost no maintenance to the machine. I've only needed to change the batteries in the handle receivers once.

There was a slight clunking noise from the cables at one point, but extending the cables fully without any resistance applied and then letting them retract fixed it easily. It rarely happens, but when it does, it's a quick fix.

 

Installation and Space Required

Tonal suggests having a 7 ft x 7 ft area of floor space and unobstructed wall space that’s 7 ft wide, plus a ceiling that’s at least 7 ft 10 inches high. When we first got the Tonal we had it set up in a loft conversion that didn’t have a ceiling height of 7 ft 10 inches and had no issues using it. I also have a tv mounted next to the Tonal and doesn't interfere with the machine at all.

Tonal also require the machine to be professionally installed, which cost me $295. This fee covers two people coming to your house to set it up, which seems fair given the work involved.

Tonal Wall Mount

Considering Tonal weighs 150 lbs and is wall mounted, having professionals install it is a good choice. You wouldn’t want it falling off the wall and damaging your house or injuring you.

If you ever move house, Tonal offers a relocation service for $500 to take down and reinstall the unit at your new place.

Although, I have quite a lot of experience installing gym equipment so chose to move the Tonal myself when moving home and it’s quite straightforward.

It's a bit like mounting a very heavy TV. You first secure the bracket to the wall and then hook Tonal onto the mount and secure it with some extra bolts.

 

How Much Does Tonal Cost?

Tonal's price tag isn't small, starting at $3,995 for the base unit. And you will also need the smart accessory bundle which costs an additional $495.

This bundle includes two Bluetooth handles, a smart bar, a rope, a flat bench, a foam roller, and a yoga mat. But considering the quality of the accessories which we looked at earlier, the cost of the bundle is good value for money.

As we just saw, Tonal requires that the machine be professionally set up which cost me $295, which generally speaking isn’t a bad price for a 2 man installation. At Home Gym Supply we work with several engineers and quite often get quotes of $500+ for similar difficulty installs.

Tonal also requires that you commit to 12 months of their membership when purchasing the machine which currently costs $59.95 plus taxes each month. But after the first 12 months, you can cancel the subscription if you want to and use the tonal in a free lift mode.

When it comes to the warranty, Tonal has a 2-year limited warranty which covers the base machine and one year for the accessories.

The costs quickly add up, but to help spread the cost, Tonal currently offers 0% finance options through Affirm, making it easier to stomach. Plus, they have included a 30-day trial period, so you can return the machine if you decide it's not for you, which takes some of the pressure off the decision.

Tonal In use

 

Rounding Up

While Tonal costs a considerable amount of money, it is undoubtedly a brilliant piece of equipment. It can produce an impressive range of resistance which can be used to target any muscle group with the versatility of the cable arms for various heights, widths and angles. Plus, it is compact and doesn’t take up a whole room so can be set up in the back of your office like I had it.

The wide range of interactive workouts make it a great training tool no matter your fitness goals and makes it good for multiple users. And the live classes are a nice bonus that you don’t often get with strength-based equipment.

Also, if you are new to training, Tonal do a great job of guiding you through the workouts with the trainers showing you how to set up the machine for each exercise.

 

FAQs

Is it worth it?

In my personal opinion, I feel Tonal is well worth the investment. It is possibly the most compact complete strength training equipment on the market.

Plus, if you compare the cost of Tonal to other all in one strength trainers such as the ones from Force USA, Tonal costs considerably less and takes up a fraction of the space.

Can Tonal be used without a subscription?

Yes, Tonal can be used without a active subscription. However, you only get access to the free lift mode where you can select a weight and the attachment you are using. But if you have your own workout program then this is possibly all you need.