Here’s my review of Tonal, a smart weight-training gym that works for small spaces


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Along with many other changes, the pandemic has put an emphasis on home exercise equipment, some of which is quite expensive. Yes, Peloton was founded in 2012 and the shimmer launched in 2018, but you never heard much about it until the spring of 2020, when gym closures and closings meant most people were exercising at home or not at all.

More recently, a strength-focused machine called Tonal has garnered attention, thanks in part to the company’s remarkable lineup of celebrity spokespersons, including Serena Williams, LeBron James, Steph Curry and Maria Sharapova.

Tonal is basically a digital display that attaches to your wall (professional installation is required) that has an attached pulley system for strength training. You can use the screen to access workout videos, connect with other users, and track your progress.

Another reason (outside of COVID) that Tonal may be in the spotlight is that muscle-strengthening workouts are sweeping the fitness space right now.

“Whether it’s body composition, athletic performance, or even endurance athletes, I always tell people that strength is kind of like the foundation or the foundation of almost everything,” said Tony Gentilcore, co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance, which is a high performance company. athletic training center in Boston. For endurance athletes, like its clients who want to run the Boston Marathon, Gentilcore advises strength training to help them put more strength into the ground and propel themselves forward.

Strength training can be daunting for a beginner, especially in the gym or without a personal trainer offering guidance. While the Tonal sounds like a good idea – who wouldn’t want to try the machine that Serena Williams supposedly uses for training? – is it really worth $3,000 or more to do it? I decided to review one to find out.

Test Tonal

Tonal addresses these deterrents in what I sincerely believe is one of the most compact home workout formats I’ve seen, which could be really useful for people who have small spaces or live in smaller houses.

I visited their Fifth Avenue showroom in New York for a demo, which anyone can do for free if there’s a place nearby. (Tonal is now available on 40 Nordstrom retail stores in 24 states nationwide.) You can also check it out via a live video demo if there isn’t a physical location near you (or if you just prefer to do it at home). I would recommend the in-person experience if possible, as adjusting the arms and attaching the smart props for strength assessment can be difficult to figure out on your own.

Aside from the price, my biggest concern about Tonal is the potential difficulty in navigating the equipment and the interface. It is not impossible. But as with any technology, there will likely be a learning curve.

How much does Tonal cost?

The standard machine consists of a mirror-mounted touchscreen with an adjustable arm on either side (for $2,995). The arms stay flush with the screen when not in use, so it really looks like a fancy mirror you might see on any wall in your home.

That being said, the screen alone is relatively useless unless you buy the smart accessory pack, which costs an extra $495. The set includes two smart handles, a smart bar and a rope, all of which can be attached to either or both arms and allow the machine to adjust the weight to suit your personal strength. It also includes a bench, a foam roller and a training mat. Without these accessories, I don’t see how you could get a bespoke experience; it would just be a screen that projects workout videos.

The bench is quite slim and can sit under the machine without taking up too much extra space, while the rest of the accessories can be hung from a sleek black bracket that protrudes about the same distance from the wall as the screen. On top of that, delivery with professional installation (which is required for warranty) is $250, and the Tonal subscription which gives you unlimited access to the full library of workouts is $49 per month and it’s compulsory for the first 12 months.

Although the device is relatively compact, you still need 7 feet of vertical and horizontal space to install it and a ceiling height of 7 feet 10 inches. A grounded three-prong outlet and walls that can support the unit up to 150 pounds are also required. (Tonal is capable of generating up to 200 pounds of resistance using an electric motor.)

There is no doubt that equipment and membership are a lot of money.

Here’s why you might want a Tonal

Thing is, my brother just turned his suburban basement into a home gym, which takes up about 10x the space with 20x the equipment. (He bought a bench press with different weights, Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells, a stationary bikeand a mini treadmillto name a few.) A complete home gym probably costs as much, if not more, than a Tonal.

Not everyone has the space to fill an entire room with workout gear, the time to hit a gym four to five days a week, or the ability to hire a trainer to learn how to use equipment and help you stay motivated.

In my opinion, one of the best things about using Tonal is that it not only adapts to you as you get stronger, but also tracks your progress from the privacy of your own House. Each household member can create their own profile and complete a personalized strengths assessment to establish their starting point. This allows the machine to set an optimal weight for each of the 200 moves you can perform on this machine alone (as long as you have the smart accessories, that is), ensuring that you maximize each exercise without push yourself too much. far. Each smart accessory also has a button you press to turn the weight on and off – so if you’re struggling you can just press it and all the weight will be released.

While a maximum resistance of 200 pounds may not be enough for weightlifting pros, it should be enough for beginners to intermediates. With membership, you can also access videos from anywhere in the app, which include everything from strength training to yoga to guided tours. Theragun sessions that do not require Tonal equipment.

Scrolling through the library of workouts with the touchscreen interface was generally easy and intuitive, although even with the video guidance it took me a few tries to adjust the arms to the correct positions. Spotter technology monitors for signs of stress or fatigue and automatically drops the weight if you struggle, while 17 sensors provide feedback on form and technique.

After my guided strength assessment and completing a full 15 minute workout video, I was confident that I would be able to do it all on my own and eventually master the mechanics of the machine. My workout only used the smart bar and bodyweight to perform exercises like Romanian deadlifts, bent rows, weighted squats, and burpees. Because my lower body is significantly stronger than my upper body, the smart bar was much heavier during my deadlifts and lighter for the bend over rows. By the end, I felt sufficiently engaged, challenged, and excited to see my strength score increase slightly.

If you’re more experienced and prefer choosing your own moves, you can design your own workout and even connect your music service of choice to listen to your favorite soundtrack while you do it. To motivate you even more, you can connect your Tonal account with those of friends or family members to compare progress or even see where you stand among all Tonal users across the country.

Is Tonal worth it?

Full disclosure, at this time and place in my life, I am unwilling to make the monetary investment that a Tonal requires. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in it, especially if you can’t find another way to exercise. If I lived further away from the training facilities, or had a family or work lifestyle that didn’t allow me time to practice strength training in another setting, I would definitely consider Tonal over others. home workout devices at this price.

Another factor: I live in an apartment and permanently attaching a heavy device to a wall might make it difficult to move at some point in the future. (Tonal will help you move it for a fee.)

That said, it’s really all you need in a relatively compact, incredibly high-tech, and customizable machine.

You can buy the full Tonal system starting at $2,995.


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