Tonal vs. Zeno Gym's Zeno Workout Bench (both products pictured)
Cover Image © Johnnie Weathersby III

Why I’m a ‘No’ on Tonal & What I Want Instead

I am a bit of a gym rat in non-COVID times. seriously, I’ve loved working out since middle school and have ALWAYS invested in a home gym set-up. Lately, I’ve wanted to condense my equipment and Tonal seemed perfect – until it wasn’t. Now Zeno Gym has my eye. Both are neat, but one is more “for me” than the other.

Again – this isn’t sponsored. No payment was received for any of these opinions. I just want to put you all onto something I think is cool if you’re in the market for a home gym.

Context: My Current Set-up

I keep promising to give you all a tour of my current set-up, and maybe I’ll go ahead and drop that video this week on YouTube – but here’s a picture to hold the curiosity over…

A picture of my current home gym.

All of this is actually in a different room now because it was disturbing my neighbor, but everything is there (not pictured – a pull-up bar that hangs on my door, a 40-pound weight vest, a Bosu, medicine balls, and my MonkeyFeet leg exerciser).

As I said, I’ll go over the things I have in detail in a video and post it here once it’s up (<< It’s up – click that link if you want a tour). But the whole point of that picture is to show you that I’ve put effort into having fitness equipment at home. And this was all before COVID hit the world.

Now, I want to condense a lot of that down because I just feel a little too beholden to my things. As a person who rents and lives on his own, always trying to find a place with the spare footage just to fit my workout equipment is getting annoying.

Even if I didn’t live on my own or rent, why take up tons of space for workout equipment if I don’t have to?

Enter Workout Luxury: Tonal

So, I started kind of looking around online and it didn’t take me long to come across the Tonal home workout solution.

Look at that small footprint that Tonal takes up?!

It looks amazing, and – in the spirit of the Peloton/Tempo/Mirror digital fitness-craze – there’s video personal training that you have access to.

It also offers a few other features that I really like. I dig that it tracks my progress and automatically selects resistance for me (yeah – you read that right – it’s smart enough to know how much resistance to give you and then adjust as you get stronger). Those few things alone are HUGE for me, but it’s not perfect for my situation. Let me explain why.

The Negatives

First – there’s the cost of Tonal. It’s a little convoluted, so I could screw something up (so if any reps from Tonal see this and wants to correct me, please do):

  • $2,995 for the base system
  • + $495 for Smart Accessories that digitally control your weight settings (this includes smart handles, a smart bar, a rope, a bench, a foam roller, and a workout mat)
  • + $249 you may or may not want to drop for the Accessories Shelf so that you have convenient nearby storage for all of your new smart attachments
  • + $49/month for a Tonal membership with a REQUIRED minimum 12-month commitment (that’s $588 for the year)

So, let’s just say that you’re dropping $4K+ out of the gate, and I’m a little fuzzy honestly on if that is inclusive of the required professional installation or not (which is an additional $300 if you live in certain states).


The price isn’t what gets me. I don’t mind spending money on things that I really want (helps the economy and whatnot), and I genuinely view purchasing workout equipment as worthwhile investments in yourself. What bothers me the most about Tonal is that after spending all of that cash for the things I want, there’s what essentially amounts to a required subscription to continue using many of the features that make the product attractive.

They don’t say it’s required, but… yeah… to use the Tonal the way that you probably want to: It is required. The benefits of the subscription seem great, but this fuckery (I honestly don’t know what else to call this)…

Tonal Membership Description

And it goes on to state, “Tonal maintains your historical workout analytics during the time that you had an active membership. However, you will not have access to Tonal’s progress tracking features when you cancel your membership and no new workout data will be recorded.

THAT ^^ is what miffed me with Tonal.

Based on that description, the only way to continue using the really worthwhile features that seem like they’d be built into the machine’s core functionality – not a subscription (like the workout log tracking & history, weight suggestions, heart rate tracking, etc.) – you have to keep paying for a monthly membership.

Here is the thing, I personally wouldn’t ever use the on-demand workout components of the membership, the custom workout builder, the music stations, etc. THOSE are all things that I just kind of consider fluff, and not really in line with my core reasons for wanting the device: Saving space + the innovative lifting features.

To have to keep giving a company ~$600 a year to use core components of a piece of workout equipment I originally gave them $4K for doesn’t feel like I own a machine in my home, it feels like I’m renting it. And that is where Tonal loses my interest. I didn’t mind the upfront $4K – I didn’t mind the fact that the resistance tops out at 2oo lbs. even though I need heavier weight for certain lifts – it’s the ongoing payment that really grinds me.

So, I explored other options and came across what I see as a great contender for what I’m looking for.

The Zeno Workout Bench Alternative

This tells you everything you need to know in 15-seconds…

and this is a more aggressive version of that w/ pretty models.

Here’s a rundown on some key things about Zeno Gym‘s Zeno Workout Bench:

  • They have options. You can get a basic bench for $345 (it doesn’t incline) up to one that has a speaker in it for $949. They also have a squat board product (for doing squats) and I plan to get this combo option right here for $945.
  • Up to 260 lbs. of resistance included
  • 100+ Exercises
  • No additional fees or required subscriptions, but you have the option to add on things. I’ll personally be adding the tricep rope and glute bands (I won’t need to buy the bar – that’ll come with my combo). Hell, I may buy more resistance bands just so that I have the additional resistance.

So… I’ll probably drop about $1.2K on this pre-taxes.

They have an app membership that you can do if you want workout ideas, etc. – and that’s either $12.99 a month or $99.99 for a year – but it’s NOT required.

The fact that, by design, this:

  • Includes a place for storage
  • Still takes up a small footprint in your home
  • Offers more resistance
  • Has the ability to act as an incline bench to work different muscle groups
  • Still allows for tons of exercises

Costs aside, for a person who is experienced working out and doesn’t really want or require a forced guided membership or mechanized recommendations – Zeno Gym‘s bench system wins.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Full-disclosure: I haven’t personally tested either piece of equipment. This entire post is written based on online research that I’ve done into these two fitness solutions, but that has landed me in a space of concluding which one I’d rather spend money on.

I encourage you to consider what things you’re looking for in a home gym if either of these interests you because there are definitely merits to both. Both are cable-based solutions, only one is digital and the other is analog. And you should read reviews on BOTH before making your final call on either for your lifting.

Young caucasian fitness couple isolated points sideways, is trying to choose between two options.

Tonal isn’t a piece of crap by any means. It is a solid-looking piece of workout engineering that just didn’t sit well with me because of its requirements. But if you like the idea of quality machinery, fully-guided and structured workouts, and don’t mind paying a little coin (I imagine you’ll get what you’re paying for) – it’s great.

I love the fact that Zeno Gym’s bench looks compact and could probably be masked as a piece of functional furniture when it’s not in use. The cost isn’t SUPER cheap, but it is cheaper by comparison (which I don’t mind at all). And I just don’t NEED all of the things that Tonal is pushing (even if some of the features sound really cool — they aren’t necessities). At the end of the day, I just want to reduce a full room’s worth of equipment down to a smaller footprint, and this does that for me.

Based on things above, which one do you prefer? Do you already own either of the options I posted above? If so, mind sharing a bit about it? Let me know any of these things in the comment section below. Until next time…

Peace, and thanks for reading.


The soundtrack for this post provided by…

Image Credits:
– Cover Image © Johnnie Weathersby III (using elements owned by Tonal/Zeno Gym)
– Body Image 1 © Johnnie Weathersby III
– Body Image 2 © Tonal
– Body Image 3 © Asier Romero (Shutterstock)

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