Anytime I hear the words, “at-home fitness equipment”, I immediately think one of two things: a gimmick and/or a dust collector. The same goes when I hear about a “revolutionary” new supplement. But with advances in technology only getting faster and faster by the day, that might be too close-minded. Is it possible that a piece of fitness equipment could be as standard as a refrigerator one day? Maybe. And if so, what would it look like?
Chances are you’ve heard of Peloton. It’s a bike you keep in your living room, but it’s also considered somewhat of a fitness phenomenon. In fact, they’ve been so successful that there’s probably going to be an IPO in 2019. But companies have been making bikes, ellipticals, and rowers for decades. What made Peloton pop? The technology.
They built an engaging experience and connected community around their bikes, their coaches, their measurement tools, and leaderboards. If you’re into riding, or cardio and endurance, they seem to be doing everything right both for the user and the company investors. But what are the options for the strength crowd? That’s where Tonal comes in with their wall-mounted at-home fitness system. But what could separate Tonal from all the other at-home strength building systems? The same as Peloton—the technology. It’s helpful they have a good design too.
According to the company, Tonal is “the world’s most intelligent fitness system.” Now that’s a strong statement.
On the outside it looks like a vertical TV, but combined with adjustable arms you’d see at a cable station in most gyms. You can adjust the handles just like you would with any other cable system, essentially making it possible to replicate most, if not all, strength training exercises. You can squat, deadlift, row, press, chop, you name it. OK, that’s smart, but not something that hasn’t been done before.
The inside of Tonal is where it starts to get more interesting. It’s a super-computer for fitness.
Traditional gym equipment uses weights or gravity for resistance. Tonal uses electromagnetic forces or “digital weights.” Here’s the deal though: It’s not that Tonal’s “digital weights” are more effective than old-fashioned iron, it’s the data and intelligence it gathers from them. “We’ve never been able to measure strength before,” says Tonal founder and CEO, Aly Orady. “We can determine quality at a mathematical level that wasn’t possible before,” he adds. And what this means is: Instead of simply counting your reps as you would with free weights, Tonal will measure the quality of your reps, primarily based on power and tempo, and with the help of algorithms, prescribe you with the perfect amount of resistance to use during your workouts. It will then track your progress over time.
Related: How to build something big with Aly Orady, CEO of Tonal (coming soon)
Tonal’s digital weights even had some fun variations. If you’ve ever seen chains on a barbell, you know that it gets harder as you lift it. Tonal can create that. It can also create something called a “heavy negative” where you’d need to fight a heavier load on the exercises descent. There’s even a built-in function that senses when you’re struggling and will act as a spotter for you.
Aside from the bells and whistles of the digital weights, there’s a unique promise with the on-demand coaching. While finding the right amount of resistance to use is difficult, so is finding the right plan to follow. More specifically, if you want bigger biceps, or a stronger deadlift, or to get faster for running, those are three different goals that require different plans. That’s why Tonal has a team of personal coaches along with a collection of goal-based complete workout plans for step-by-step guidance.
Of course all of this comes at a cost. The Tonal wall unit is $2,995, there’s an accessories kit for $495, and a monthly subscription of $49 for a minimum of 12 months. That’s by no means cheap, but if the results are solid, then costs can always been justified.
Tonal: the quick HIIT thoughts
- Measuring strength is a big deal, not only for beginners but for the advanced athletes as well. There could be something here with the “digital weights”. Instead of guessing and testing, and carrying around a log of your lifts, Tonal can do all the precision work.
- Having a variety of different plans based on goals is good. That eliminates the possibility of wasting time on the wrong program.
- On-demand coaching seems cool, but will be curious to see how they keep it fresh and interesting. (I haven’t used it enough to say for sure.)
- I could actually see a Tonal in a living room. It’s not an eyesore like other piece of at-home fitness equipment.
- The more conversation there is about how important strength training is, the more chances there are for Tonal to end up in homes.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I think there’s potential for this to be popular. As for it’s effectiveness, we’ll have to wait and see what the results show.
The design is nice, and the technology and coaching sound very helpful. Do we really need this much tech for strength training? It’s probably not essential, but a nice to have. I’m not quite sure if I could ever see myself giving up weights or the gym completely, but if Tonal can remove all of the thinking that goes behind following a plan and keep me excited to come back then it’s possible to find some wall space. As for the price, it’s expensive, but if you compare it to high-end club memberships and private personal training, maybe not so much.
What it’s like to start with Tonal
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This was a demo with @tonal, the first-ever digital weight system, to gather strength benchmarks on four exercises. Those benchmarks would then determine exactly how much resistance to use during a workout with their equipment. If you’re interested in new tech for fitness, there’s a link in our bio on what they’re trying to do. 🧠💡💪
After creating an account, Tonal will walk you through a series of exercises to find your fitness benchmarks. This includes a lat pull down, an overhead press, a bench press, and a deadlift. Based on the “score” you get for those exercises, the system will provide you with the right amount of resistance to use for those and related exercises in a program.
For more information on Tonal, visit their website at Tonal.com or follow them on social @tonal.