I’ve been using Tonal for the last 12 months (mainly strength and HIIT workouts). Today I will share with you my results and help you to clarify if the Tonal HIIT workouts are worth it.
As a whole, the Tonal has over 200 HIIT workouts that range from 15 to 63-minute sessions. The workouts are designed not only to build muscle but also to increase and maintain elevated heart rate by increasing the time under tension, reducing the rest periods, or doing multiple exercises, back to back.
Plus, I will also touch on why it’s important to do Tonal HIIT, and how this training protocol should fit into the hierarchy of your weekly training plan.
Tonal HIIT Workouts
Tonal has hundreds of HIIT workouts that can be divided into full-body sessions (covers all large muscle groups), as well as split training (only upper or the lower body). The most popular are the Power HIIT workouts which range from 20 to 50 minutes, and the Quick-Fit HIIT which are usually under 20 minutes.
One thing that I love about the Tonal HIIT workouts is you can save a lot of time because the classes are blended in one.
This means instead of doing cardio and strength separately, Tonal HIIT uses regular strength training exercises like squats and deadlifts but keeps the rest time lower, which allows maintaining a higher heart rate.
Plus, good evidence shows that lack of time is a major barrier to exercise so if you are prefer something short, yet effective, keep reading.
How Do Tonal HIIT Workouts Work?
In general, the Tonal HIIT workouts work in two ways. One is by doing multiple exercises (one after another) that cover the whole muscle groups with minimum recovery time in between the sets.
The goal of this type of workout is not only to build both muscular strength and endurance but also to improve body composition. And because you use your biggest muscle groups, the body increases the heart rate, which increases the intensity.
This is a similar method that is used in high-intensity functional circuit training, where you hop from one training station to another (e.g. doing barbell squats immediately after push-ups) as you see in popular gym franchises like OrangeTheory Fitness or 9Round.
The only difference is that Tonal HIIT does not focus on “cardio” exercises like burpees or jumping jacks, but rather on compound strength training movements like bench press, lat pulls down, or lunges.
Is Tonal HIIT a full-body workout? In general, most of the Tonal HIIT are full-body workouts because they use multiple muscle groups in one training session. However, some shorter classes like Quick Fit HIIT can focus on either upper or lower body groups only.
Another way is by doing exercises for the same muscle group with a lower resistance but increasing the number of reps, which significantly increases the blood lactate concentration and overall intensity.
Here’s how it works.
Doing more reps of the same exercise followed by another exercise that targets the same muscle group significantly increases blood lactate concentration (this is the “feel the burn” effect in the muscle).
As you can see, with longer time-under-tension (more reps you do) the body increases the breathing rate to enhance lactate removal, which also increases the heart rate and the overall training intensity.
This means you get the benefits of HIIT (training adaptations), without doing high-impact exercises like jumps that put a lot of pressure on the joints.
Why Are Tonal HIIT Workouts Important?
In short, Tonal HIIT workouts are important because high-intensity interval training induces numerous physiological adaptations that improve exercise capacity like maximal oxygen uptake and aerobic endurance.
Other training adaptations include:
- Increased VO2max
- Increased stroke volume
- Increased maximal cardiac output
- Increased neuromuscular power
- Hypertrophy of fast twitch fibers
Plus, Tonal HIIT workouts can elicit greater enjoyment due to their time efficiency and constantly changing stimulus (large variety of exercises), despite being physically demanding.
That’s one of the reasons why HIIT workouts are so popular. In fact, thanks to its time-saving nature and significant physiological adaptations, HIIT has been ranked as the most popular fitness class in 2018 in Worldwide Fitness Trends (source).
Of course, the Tonal HIIT workout has also its limitations because working out at higher intensity comes with the cost of a longer recovery period due to elevated lactate levels. This means you cannot do this type of training every day for a longer duration because the body won’t have enough time to recover.
Are Tonal HIIT Workouts Effective?
As a whole, the Tonal HIIT workouts are effective because high-intensity interval training improves aerobic and metabolic capacity, as long as it’s performed with an optimal dose, frequency, and intensity. A good rule of thumb is to do a Tonal HIIT workout in addition to regular progressive strength training once or twice per week.
In fact, studies have shown that “High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been recognized as an alternative and more efficient protocol than moderate-intensity continuous training (MCT), which is the gold standard recommended in several guidelines” (Garber et al. 2011).
I personally like to do HIIT workouts at the intensity where my heart rate reaches heart rate zone 5 once a week because my training goals are not focused on performance, but rather on optimal health and longevity.
My fitness goal is to have more energy, better sleep, and enhanced recovery, rather than jump higher or run faster.
However, if you train for performance, you can incorporate Tonal HIIT three to four times per week assuming there are no other strenuous activities within your weekly workout plan.
Are Tonal HIIT Workouts Good For Weight Loss?
Overall, the Tonal HIIT workouts are good for weight loss because they increase calorie expenditure, which leads to a higher metabolic rate. Plus, high-intensity interval training can regulate spontaneous food choices, which means you can get less hungry.
(This part is really interesting).
Now, watch this.
Dr. France Bellisle from the Université Laval in Québec, Canada has documented that “The appetite and hunger are suppressed following HIIT exercise, in particular in the immediate post-exercise state. This effect, known as “exercise-induced anorexia”, is linked to the suppression of orexigenic hormones, such as ghrelin, and the increase of satiety hormones, such as peptide YY” (Bellisle, 1999).
This basically means that you not only burn more calories after Tonal HIIT (compared to regular workouts) but you also feel less appetite and cravings for food.
This is very useful for people who want to reduce excess body weight because they can strategically schedule the workout sessions (for me, ideally before lunchtime) that help them postpone meals, without feeling hungry.
NOTE: Here you can learn more in detail about how to use “tonal for weight loss“.
How long does should you do a Tonal HIIT workout? Overall, for health and weight loss, you can do Tonal HIIT workouts not longer than 15-20 minutes because you can do them on the daily basis as a tool to extend the time in between your meals.
To rephrase it, you use can use the Tonal HIIT sessions not as a way to burn as many calories as possible, but rather as a tool to eat less food and stay fuller for longer.
Tonal HIIT Programs
As a whole, Tonal HIIT programs are a combination of different high-intensity workouts that are part of the multiple-week training plan. The programs last for 2 to 4 weeks and use the progressive overload principle where each week is getting more challenging than the previous.
That’s one of the things that I like about the Tonal HIIT programs because they give you a ready plan for the whole week, instead of just single classes.
One of my favorite Tonal HIIT programs is HIIT The Beach with coach Gabby (and very different from any other program I’ve done on Tonal) not only because it uses Tabata-style protocol, but also it combines compound movements like squats and deadlifts (which I really like) with abs and glute exercises.
Plus, she’s fun and my workout doesn’t feel like a chore.
You can learn more about which is the best “tonal leg workout” in my article here.
How Do Tonal HIIT Programs Work?
Overall, Tonal HIIT programs work by continually overloading the neuromuscular system, just like mesocycle and microcycle is a periodization training where you spend 2 to 4 weeks with one goal in mind (e.g strength) followed by a hypertrophy phase and then a taper period.
I like this approach because you can build your own macrocycle based on your fitness goals.
See the example below.
In the example above you see the 16-week periodization divided into 4 cycles. The first cycle focuses on building strength, second on neuromuscular power, third on hypertrophy and last is the taper period (recovery).
At the end of week 16, you start the cycle again, however, this time you increase the overall training volume.
Here you can see the example of which Tonal programs can fit into this 16-week periodization training plan.
|Number of weeks||Tonal programs||Goal|
|1-4||Stronger For Sport (2 weeks)|
Sweaty And Lean (2 weeks)
|5-8||HIIT The Beach (2 weeks)|
30 Minute Muscle (2 weeks)
|9-12||Dead On Deadlift (4 weeks)||Hypertrophy|
As you can see, you can create your training plan using many different Tonal programs, without having to invest in personal training.
Is periodization with Tonal effective? As a whole, the periodization training using the Tonal program is effective because it creates structured variability into training to combat the negative effects that can occur through the stress of linear training (e.g. training plateau).
“Multiple meta-analyses have shown periodized resistance training to be superior to non-periodized resistance training for enhancing muscular strength. These findings are consistent irrespective of training status or training volume” (Evans, 2019).
Tonal HIIT On-The-Go Classes
Another option for people on the go who don’t want to miss out on their workout while traveling is the Tonal on-the-go option. However, there are currently only a handful of HIIT classes that can be done without a Tonal machine.
- Intense Lower Body HIIT
- Cardio Challenge
Both of these classes use only bodyweight exercises and can be used as an addition to your regular strength training routine.
To be honest, I’m not a fan of them because if you want to get the real benefit of HIIT without any equipment you can find something more challenging like Beachbody On-Demand that offers Insanity, T25, or even Peloton HIIT.
You can learn more about “best peloton HIIT classes” in my article here.
As you can see, the Tonal HIIT workouts are a great option not only for athletes who are looking to improve their performance but also for regular people who want to improve their health and body composition.
I recommend using Tonal HIIT once or twice per week to complement your main resistance training, especially if your goal is weight loss.