“The pain of paying the high price of the Tonal Smart Weight Trainer is quickly forgotten the first time you work your growing muscles.”
Personalized and effective training
Detailed instructions by trainers
The interface allows you to move at your own pace
Requires professional installation
Limited cardio, pilates, and yoga workouts
When you think of a weight machine, you imagine a bulky contraption with heavy weights, massive arms, and a tangled array of pulleys and cables – something like those Bowflex home gyms. Tonal flips that idea with a wall mounted weight machine the size of your medium full-length mirror. Does the Tonal live up to the hype and provide a workout for the body? Or does it crash and burn? I tested it in my home gym and let my family come off the machine to find out.
Professional installation is required
Installation is Tonal’s sticking point. This is a wall mounted device and should be installed by professionals. The company does not support self-installation.
The installation requirements are strict – you need two studs about 16-24 inches apart and they should be oriented so the 2 inch side is facing out. I had it installed in a room renovated by the previous owner and was concerned that the studs he installed were not at the standard distance.
The installation took about 60 to 90 minutes, most of that time being spent trying to find the studs. The bracket is attached to the wall with eight bolts and the Tonal attaches to the bracket. You can remove Tonal from support for warranty repairs or replacement. The installation is secure and I don’t feel the unit is going to tear from the wall. If you move to a new location, Tonal will send another team to install the unit at your new location for a fee.
The winning feature of Tonal is its compact size and sleek design. The unit has a soft pull cable system and easy to replace accessories. The unit comes with two smart handles, and you can purchase an accessory pack for $ 495 with a rope for two-handed exercises, a bench, and a barbell. These accessories are needed for many exercises, making them a must buy.
You need space, about seven feet wide, seven feet long, and seven feet high, to extend your arms and perform the exercises. When you’re done, the arms fold flat and the unit sticks out just a few inches. Its compact and modern look is an eye-catcher and adds to any room.
No time wasted adjusting weights
The Tonal adapts to your training goals, giving you a training that is perfectly tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. Your first workout is an assessment that assesses your strength and assigns you a strength score. Tonal then automatically adjusts the weights for each subsequent exercise based on your score. You can change these weights manually if you like, but I hardly ever had to adjust it because the machine did a great job predicting my strength.
Not only does this predictive weight help you train at the optimal level, it’s incredibly convenient. You don’t have to remember how much weight you used for each exercise. You also don’t have to track when you need to increase the weight, as Tonal does that for you as well. I found the workouts and weight selection to be focused and effective. I could feel the burn during exercise and was generally sore the next day.
Mainly on-demand training
Tonal has a growing library of workouts to choose from. You can select a multi-day workout program that gives you a new workout each day. You can also choose an individual training if you have created your own training plan. Tonal even lets you choose one exercise at a time, like a bicep curl, for those who want a quick, focused workout.
I could feel the burn during exercise and was generally sore the next day.
Almost all workouts are pre-recorded and led by a single instructor in a small studio gym with just the Tonal and no other distractions. The service offers group classes that allow you to train with other Tonal owners. There are no live classes like Mirror or Tempo, both of which host multiple live classes per day. Tonal also supports multiple users and provides a personalized experience for each person.
An emphasis on strength building
Tonal is a weight trainer and focuses on building strength. This includes the yoga, pilates and cardio workouts that are found on competitors like the Mirror or the Tempo, but these exercises are not the emphasis. Tonal is ideal for upper body workouts. Rows, flies and loops – you can make different versions of each. Lower body workouts are also effective, but not as varied as upper body and core workouts. Most lower body workouts involve squats or quadruple lunges, but you can’t tie the cable system to your ankle to do side leg raises or adductor exercises, for example.
I especially liked the detailed visual instructions from the trainers. You can see how to set up the arms and watch the instructor perform the exercise before you begin. The camera would often show movement from different angles, allowing you to understand exactly how you are supposed to move. Once you practice you can go at your own pace and the trainer will not progress until you signal that you are done. Tonal also has sensors to detect your shape while exercising. If you are not doing an exercise correctly, Tonal will tell you what you are doing wrong.
Tonal surprised me with its effectiveness in strength training. I didn’t expect the workouts to be so stimulating and comprehensive. After 20 training sessions with the Tonal over a few weeks, I started to see improvements. My body was more toned and the muscles in my arms and legs were more visible. The progress was more than superficial. I have found it easier to lift household items.
Most people who see the tone weight machine on my wall want to try it out. Everyone came back impressed. Despite its small size, the Tonal provided a muscular workout for my upper body, core and legs. Its biggest drawback is its price.
Tonal is not cheap. The trainer costs nearly $ 3,000 plus $ 500 for smart accessories, which include a smart bar, rope, bench, roller, and workout mat. You also need to pay $ 250 for shipping and professional installation. Finally, there is a monthly membership fee of $ 49 per month with a minimum commitment of 12 months. The subscription is not included with the purchase and there is no free trial.
How long will it last?
The Tonal has a solid construction – the unit is very solidly mounted, the arms are sturdy and all the accessories are sturdy. Our only concern is the articulated arms, which mix metal and plastic in the hinges. Can they handle repeated stress as the weight I lift increases?
I spoke to Tonal and the company assured me that they had no issues with the hinges and offered a three year warranty if anything went wrong. Tonal has a limited warranty that covers parts and labor for one year and parts for three years. Accessories are covered for one year.
Is there a better alternative?
With its relatively compact size and large screen, Tonal is in a class of its own. Its closest competitor is the NordicTrack Fusion CST, which is equipped with a 10-inch display, electromagnetic resistance and interactive iFit training. Although cheaper, the machine is significantly larger and heavier than the Tonal. The Bowflex Revolution is a comparably priced resistance-based home gym, but it lacks the Tonal’s virtual workout. Another similar connected home gym is Tempo Studio, which operates traditional dumbbells and a barbell with its exercises.
Should you buy it?
Yes, especially if you want a strength trainer that will fit into a small space.