Remember those huge, cumbersome machines that claimed to be an “entire gym” at the same time? Those things that ran through 50+ cables, required multiple different weight sets, and had you read through a small novel of instructions to get them to do anything? All in all, they weren’t that bad, and did a decent job at compartmentalizing the modern gym. But those devices haven’t been hot for a while, giving those who’d rather stay away from the expensive (and sometimes intimidating) seen of a paid monthly gym very limited options.

It’s past time we gave the home gym a digital upgrade.

Introducing Tonal: A digital weight machine for a digital age. It doesn’t look like anything more than a vertically mounted TV screen, but there’s a lot packed under its unassuming surface. On either side, there’s a handle attached to a pully, which can be adjusted to offer anywhere from 30 to 200 pounds of resistance.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: 200 POUNDS??? This unit is one TV screen… If it’s offering up to 200 pounds of resistance PER HANDLE…why…this thing must weigh upwards of 450 pounds! How the heck am I supposed to mount this on my wall?

If that’s not what you’re thinking, then congrats – you had a much calmer reaction than I did. But as I kept reading up on the machine, I was surprised to find out that these weights aren’t real. They’re electromagnetic. Tonal uses an “electromagnetic resistance engine” – basically a series of magnets – to generate the required opposing force without needing to actually have the weights for it. This also means there’s no need to change the weights yourself – just the resistance number on the slider. And no more relying on 5 or 15 pound increments.  This slider lets you get as particular as you want.

There’s also a digital coach through the TV’s touchscreen system. They might not be as interactive as a real personal trainer, but they’re also a whole lot cheaper, and if you’re one for the home gym, getting some attempt at a personal trainer will be much more than the non-trainer you’ve grown accustomed to.

But before you get started, Tonal does quite possibly the most important thing when getting started at the gym. It does the one thing that my home gym refused to do without charging me an absurd $30 extra on top of my basic monthly fee. It assesses your fitness level and helps you determine what kind of workouts are right for you.

Anyone who’s ever done any kind of personal training will agree that this is the most important part of gaining strength. If you’re not aware of how much you should be lifting, you might fail to push yourself hard enough, not see improvements, and give up. Or, you might push yourself too hard, damage your muscles, not see improvements, and give up. The real path to real progress only comes through discovering what level of workout is right for you – and without help, that can be a really difficult process. Tonal’s assessment program does all that work for you, which is pretty huge.

But in addition to giving you the knowledge to get started, Tonal also gives you real-time feedback on what I believe is another of the top 5 most important things to track during a workout: Rep Quality.

If you’re going too fast, Tonal tells you to slow down. If your motions are unsteady, Tonal will actively lessen the weights to help you out. It also shows a display model of what you should be doing, as demonstrated by your selected virtual trainer  – and by the way, all eight of the included trainers are real-life trainers that have dedicated their time to Tonal’s program.

So where do you sign up? Well…about that. Tonal may represent a new generation of workout gear, but you might want to hold off on getting one for a while – being the first-gen tech that it is, it’s pretty expensive: Purchase costs $2,999 not including the $250 installation fee, or the optional $500 accessories kit… suffice to say you’ll want to save up to this one for a while. But while it doesn’t provide an option within the price range of most people who’d rather avoid a monthly-payment gym, it does provide a cool new look at what may very well be the future of exercise technology.

Featured Image via Tonal Official Site

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I’m a nerd with a wild sense of humor. I’m very good at running tabletop games (Like Dungeons & Dragons), or at least that’s what my players would tell you. I spend about as much time writing new content for those games as I do working on jobs or internships, and love every second of it. I'm a lover of dogs and mint chocolate chip, and my favorite dinosaur is the ankylosaurus. I also play racquetball with friends at least four times a week, go to the gym six times a week, and go for jogs around the neighborhood when I have time, because health is important and stuff. Eat them greens, yo.
  • Alyssa

    This looks pretty cool, but you could just use a regular work out machine

  • Maya Asregadoo

    This is certainly expensive, but I’m sure that would be worth it to those who are serious about getting in shape.