Tonal Home Gym Review: Is It Really Worth the High Cost?

By Lydia Noyes
HighYa Staff Published on: Feb 20, 2019

Branding itself as the world’s most intelligent fitness system, Tonal is a strength exercise system that combines industry-defining equipment with expert-led videos and personalized instructions to help you get a full-body workout.

Some people consider Tonal the “Peloton of weight lifting” because it promises to give you a high tech, studio-quality workout experience right from home.

Tonal Founder Aly Orady discovered the merits of strength training for losing weight but found it challenging to schedule gym sessions into his day. That challenge became the inspiration for Tonal.

Will this flatscreen weight lifting system really work to give you a good workout? We looked at the facts to help you determine whether Tonal is the right investment for getting in shape.

How Does Tonal Work?

Tonal is an unobtrusive weightlifting system that resembles a flat screen TV with arms. The system is powered by electromagnetics that create resistance (up to 200 pounds) to work your muscles as if you were lifting physical weights.

This means that you aren’t using gravity or momentum to get you through each movement, and instead rely only on your strength.

According to the company website, the Tonal comes programmed for hundreds of exercises that target your legs, arms, back, chest, and core.

The system relies on video-based expert coaching and provides step-by-step instructions for every move. As you exercise, it measures your reps, sets, range-of-motion, volume, power, and time under tension in real time.

When you first set up an account on Tonal, the device will determine your baseline strength with a 10-minute test that consists of you completing four movements (seated lat pulldown, seated overhead press, bench press, and neutral grip deadlift) as quickly and powerfully as you can.

At the finish, Tonal gives you a baseline score for your core, upper and lower body strength and plans out workouts based on these stats.

The Tonal system will give you recommendations for the amount of weight you should lift and adjusts them as you build strength. As you perform each move, Tonal measures your progress and modifies the weight levels, meaning that it will automatically reduce your weight load if it senses you are struggling to finish a set.

Will digital weights feel different than physical ones? According to a study from Tonal, weightlifters in a blindfolded test rated Tonal as the highest-quality weight machine they used.

Tonal reports that this is because their unique digital weight system offers more control and safety than standard methods, and it gives you the chance to make micro-weight adjustments to push your progress forward.

The company tells us that a big part of the Tonal experience is your access to their coaches and videos. Each of the seven coaches they featured at the time of writing has a different specialty and in-depth knowledge of the fitness industry, meaning that they bring their own flair to each workout.

What Does Tonal Cost?

At the time of writing, the Tonal system is available for purchase both online and in their San Francisco showroom. The device has a base cost of $2,995, and the company offers an option to finance it for $199 per month.

You’ll then need to pay $49 per month for the subscription service, and all new devices are locked into a 12-month minimum commitment. If you choose not to renew the subscription after that point, you will still have access to the digital weight functionality on Tonal.

The company also suggests investing in Tonal’s “Smart Accessories,” which retail for $495. These include smart handles, a smart bar, rope, bench, roller, and mat. These tools allow you to complete dozens more moves and they keep you safer and more in control as you work out.

At the time of writing, Tonal delivered throughout the contiguous United States, though you should expect at least 2-6 weeks wait time for concierge delivery. Once it arrives, their team will professionally mount it to your wall and connect it to your Wifi and Bluetooth. In most cases, they state the installation process takes less than an hour.

What Is the Tonal Return Policy?

Tonal makes it clear on their website that they want you to be satisfied with your order, so they offer a 30-day, full refund return policy. Each device comes with a 3-year limited warranty, and you can take up any individual concerns about the service by contacting the Tonal team directly at support@tonal.com.

What Do Customer Reviews of Tonal Say?

Has this high-tech strength training system found its niche? Let’s look closer at customer comments to see how Tonal is fairing in the real world.

According to a review on TechCrunch, Tonal is a surprisingly brutal workout that will put you through your paces as well as traditional equipment.

GearDiary has a less positive perspective about the system though, as their review states that the system costs for more than necessary for quality home fitness equipment, and even more than hiring a physical trainer. They report that the Tonal system overcomplicates strength-training exercises, and that workout enthusiasts will get a better deal with a regular gym membership.

According to a Reddit post about Tonal, users reported it was a well-built piece of technology but that the nature of strength training exercises means that they needed to make constant adjustments to recalibrate the machine as they set up for each exercise, which caused them to occasionally lose the flow of the workout.

What Other Fitness Options Are Similar to Tonal?

How does Tonal stack up in the home fitness industry? The chart below compares this system to two significant competitors, Peloton Cycle, Peloton Tread, and FightCamp, to help you decide:

Tonal Peloton Cycle Peloton Tread FightCamp
Base Equipment Cost $2,995, plus $495 for accessories $1,995, plus $159 for accessories $3,995 plus $229 for accessories All equipment is optional (home gym package costs $995)
Monthly Subscription Cost $49/month $39/month $39/month $39/month
Workout Type Strength-training exercises Cycling Cardio and strength-training workouts focused around a treadmill Boxing
Live Stream or On-Demand Classes? On-demand Both Both On-demand
Possible to Perform Exercises Without a Subscription? Yes, but a subscription is required for the first twelve months. Yes Yes No

As this chart shows, there are luxury home fitness options available for a variety of workout styles. Each of these premium programs will cost you $1,000 or more for the equipment and you’ll need to pay a subscription on top of that to access the content.

At $2,995, Tonal is priced between the Peloton Cycle and Tread, and it offers a similar versatility of workout options as these two programs.

One key difference between them is that Peloton lets users live stream content and join virtual “classes” where you can see how you compare to the competition and instructors can call you out by name, while all Tonal classes are pre-recorded. As many people find the biggest appeal of Peloton is becoming part of a studio class in real time, some users might see this as a drawback to Tonal.

Regarding workouts, FightCamp and both Peloton Cycle and incorporate strength training elements into their programming, though Tonal offers the broadest range of strength-based exercises and guidance for completing them. However, this program doesn’t have as many options for getting a cardio workout, so users might find it to be less versatile as a complete body workout option.

Overall, we think users who are already fans of working out from home while streaming videos will find that Tonal offers them something unique, but this program might not stand on its own as well as the other exercise programs we’ve looked at.

Our View: Is Tonal Worthwhile?

After this analysis, do we recommend Tonal as a home strength training system? There’s no denying the device uses impressive technology. Also, the customer reviews we looked at show that many users find that it offers a workout experience that’s similar to or even better than what they can get with traditional weights.

However, this experience comes at a high cost, as you need to pay about $3,500 for the system and accessories, and $468 for a year’s subscription. That amounts to more than $300 per month for the first year, which is far more than the price of most gym memberships.

We think Tonal makes a lot of sense for people who live in small spaces who want to work out at home. The system wins major points for its attractive design and for how well it blends into the background when not in use.

That being said, Tonal is somewhat limited in function because of the nature of strength-training exercises and the lack of live streamed content. So, while the system provides an impressive workout opportunity, we don’t think it’s the best option for most people.

If you’re looking to save money on a Tonal system and still gain strength at home, it’s worth considering alternatives like online boot camp programs, fitness apps, or even investing in a few in-person personal training sessions at your local gym. These programs can give you the guidance you need without the price tag for luxury equipment, and working with a trainer will help you get your form right.

But, if you want the convenience, personalized feedback, and constant workout optimization that this system offers for strength training, we don’t think there are any better options available than Tonal.

» Recommended Reading: The Beginner’s Guide to At-Home Workout Programs: Important Things to Consider

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