Tonal Review: Building Your Home Gym

Tonal Review: Building Your Home Gym

Home gyms have become a thing lately, have you noticed? 

Something about a virus going around or something….

The train-from-home bug even caught OPEX CEO Carl Hardwick, who started shopping around for some kind of cable system to add to his home gym. And after doing a ton of research, as Carl does, he decided to purchase the Tonal Home Gym, a “revolutionary” way of resistance training that uses electromagnetic tension to create resistance.

So, what’s the verdict?

After adding Tonal Home Gym to his training program for a number of months, Carl’s experience has been overall positive (minus two main hesitations).

Because you’re probably wondering about his hesitations, we’ll start with those: 

  1. Price: While Carl isn’t suggesting it’s not worth the price for what you get, the system costs $3,500, which is out of many people’s price range. Second, it requires you to pay for a subscription that costs $49 a month for features that, while useful for many, Carl hasn’t used. 
  • That being, it’s also considerably less expensive than many other, clunkier cable systems. Finally, Carl also pointed out the broad range of movements you’re able to do—along with the fact that you also get a stable bench, a foam roller and a yoga mat—means that it’s actually very good bang for your buck. 
  1. Durability? This one is still in question, Carl explained. So far, so good on the durability front; however, there is quite a bit of both plastic and aluminum, so time will tell how well this machine holds up. Ultimately, if it does hold up, Carl said would definitely recommend this system to small gym owners needing to save space. 

On to the positives:

Space saving

The Tonal system takes up literally almost no space, and basically looks like a screen on your wall, where you can hook up various attachments—a rope attachment, smart handles, a barbell attachment—all of which can all be stored super easily. 

Bottom line: You could even have this system in your studio apartment without it looking like an eye sore, Carl said, so it truly creates a way for the general population to perform resistance training at home in a safe and effective way, Carl said. 

Smart Software

The software built into the system has the ability to provide the user a ton of valuable feedback.

  • For example, it can give your rep count and can track things like time under tension and power output. It can also do things like increase the tension at the top of a rep, which is a useful way of building strength in the end motion of a rep that can’t be done with a barbell or dumbbell alone. 

Carl gave this example of how the power output function might be useful: As a coach, you could prescribe a client do as many goblet squats as possible at 50 pounds resistance until their power output drops below 80 percent of where it was on their first rep. This helps you ensure your client is getting the right dose for each movement, he explained. Further, let’s say you’re doing a set of goblet squats, the software can make recommendations based on things like power output, tempo, tension and range of motion, which is particularly useful for those without a coach.


From squats, to bench press, to deadlifts, lunges, bicep curls and all kinds of other auxiliary accessory work, you can pretty much do any movement with this machine. 

  • And, as Carl said, it’s a very smooth experience. It’s “less clunky” than most cable systems, Carl said, adding that it feels more like using a Kaiser machine. It’s a “clean piece of equipment,” he added. 

Great for newbies

Not only is the Tonal great for novice athletes from a safety standpoint—if you don’t know what to do with dumbbells and rings, then this machine is probably a way more effective tool for you, Carl said—but it’s also useful for being able to search for various exercises and strength programs (there are also programs like yoga programs and minute programs). And then, of course, the training recommendations the system provides, as we talked about above, also go a long way in helping a novice athlete train safely and effectively.

Useful for Strength training

Unless you have a 500 pound back squat, Carl said the Tonal can be used for true strength training. 

  • While the machine says the max it can go to is 100 pounds per arm, he explained that the way the electromagnetic resistance works means it reacts and feels different with the Tonal versus a barbell, for example. This means, when he cranks it to 100 percent, it feels more like a 350 to 400 pound deadlift, which is more load than most people will ever need. 

Final thought: The Tonal is a new company—the version they’re selling right now is still the 1.0 version—and Carl is excited about potential product and technology updates and where this could go in terms of helping people be able to get strong at home. “It’s really exciting to me,” he said. 


The best home gym is only as good as the way you use it.

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