Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault (Which home-based fitness is better?)


I spend hours online trying to figure out which smart device should I get before I got my home gym setup. Today I will explain why I choose Tonal gym rather than Nordicktrack Vault and help to clarify which one is better.

As a whole, Tonal gym is better than NordicTrack Vault because it has more advanced technology that collects data after each workout. It then uses this information to further personalize your training plan, suggests the resistance, and provides feedback on your form. On the other hand, Nordicktrack Vault doesn’t keep track of your metrics and doesn’t offer online classes.

Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault For Building Muscle

The difference between Tonal gym and NordicTrack Vault is that the NordicTrack Vault is a workout station with free weights and a touchscreen that allows you to do online classes.

The classes are streamed via the iFit app, which gives you access to thousands of different workouts that range from strength, mobility, yoga, and more.

It’s like doing a virtual group training session.

I’ve tried the NordicTrack Vault and one thing that stand out was the massive 400 square inches touchscreen. The frame looked beautiful, it was made from carbon steel and the weights were nicely organized.

However, my biggest concern was that the NordicTrack Vault comes with a max of 30lbs dumbbells, which is not enough if your goal is to build muscle (at least in the long term).

For the best results, you should be using heavier weights to induce mechanical tension in the muscle, if your goal is hypertrophy and strength.

What is mechanical tension? In short, mechanical tension refers to the tension that is been generated by the force of the resistance. It is considered a key component of muscle hypertrophy because it disturbs the integrity of skeletal muscle.

In other words, lifting heavier weights leads to a more mechanical tension. More mechanical tension on the muscle leads to better results.

A systematic review and network meta-analysis have shown that “muscle hypertrophy improvements are superior with high-load and moderate-load compared with low-load” (Lopez et al. 2021).

Here is an example of how I plan my Tonal workouts for muscle building:

  • Strength training workout 3 times per week (ideally full body or upper/lower split).
  • Resistance of 70-90% of 1RM
  • 4 to 5 sets per exercise with a 5-6 rep range (this gives you enough training volume to stimulate hypertrophy).
  • Rest of the days you can either recover or work on aerobic fitness (heart rate zone 2, ideally).

Keep in mind that recovery time is also important. For optimal hypertrophy, you want enough training volume that induces mechanical tension and you also want to incorporate a sufficient recovery period that enhances training adaptations.

The problem with NordicTrack Vault is that you can only use lighter weights (up to 30 lbs in each hand). Of course, you can build tons of muscle with dumbbells and resistance bands.

Dr. Schoenfeld and Dr. Bret Contreras from the Department of Health Sciences concluded in their research that “both heavy weights and light weights training to failure can elicit significant increases in muscle hypertrophy among well-trained young men; heavy load training is superior for maximizing strength adaptations” (Schoenfeld, Brad J et al. 2015).

However, to get similar effects from higher resistance Tonal you need to increase the number of reps, sets, and total training days, which significantly reduces your recovery time.

Is Tonal better than a Nordictrack Vault for Building Muscle? As a whole, the Tonal is better than the NordicTrack Vault for building muscle because it has resistance up to 200 lbs, which is more effective for hypertrophy and strength gains.

Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault For Weight Loss

Weight loss goes hand in hand with building muscle mass because the more lean weight you have, the resting metabolic rate goes up, which means you burn more calories at rest.

What is resting metabolic rate? In short, resting metabolic rate accounts for the largest portion of total energy needs. It refers to the number of calories your body burns for basic functions like breathing, blood circulation, cognitive functions, and more.

See the graph below.

As you can see, the RMR (resting metabolic rate) is the largest component of the daily energy budget (around 70% of total daily energy expenditure).

This means by adding more muscle mass you can burn more calories at rest. However, that’s not the only reason why I think Tonal is better.

Tonal or NordicTrack Vault For Weight Loss?

Here are 4 reasons why Tonal is better than NordicTrack Vault for weight loss.

  • Heavy compound movements – The difference between Tonal and NordicTrack Vault is that Tonal allows training with heavy compound movements like barbell squats, bench press, and deadlifts, which significantly stimulate muscle protein synthesis and lead to muscle growth.
  • Digital weight system – Tonal uses a patented digital weight system that can control how much weight you gonna train with. It also has several smart features that help to increase time-under-tension, without the need for a training partner or personal trainer.
  • Customized workouts – Tonal is better for weight loss than Nordictrack Vault because it not only has the on-demand and live classes but also gives the option of a customized workout plan. You can choose the type of exercises you want to focus on, as well as the number of reps and sets.
  • Performance metrics – The difference between Tonal and Nordictrack Vault is that Tonal can track your performance and display your progress from single exercises, as well as weekly training volume. Tracking your performance can not only help to increase intrinsic motivation (which is important for long-term weight loss results) but also give you guidance on how to plan your weekly workout plan.

On the other hand, the NordicTrack Vault and iFit have hundreds of challenges, workouts, and series that are designed to elevate your heart rate and burn more calories (more on that later).

Plus, I also like that the iFit on-demand offers nutrition lectures and seminars about stress eating, mindfulness, and cooking classes. Research shows stress can trigger binge eating as well as a preference for sweet treats and hyper-palatable “junk” foods.

Learning to manage stress can reduce food cravings and lower appetite, which (of course) leads to better weight loss results.

Is Tonal better than a Nordictrack Vault for weight loss? In general, Tonal gym is better than Nordictrack Vault for weight loss because it allows you to create your customized workout plan and changes the resistance automatically based on your power output. On the other hand, Nordictrack Vault has some high-intensity interval training classes that help to burn more calories in a shorter time.

Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault For Cardio

Overall, the Nordictrack Vault is better than Tonal for cardio because most of the classes are designed in a circuit training style where you move from one exercise to another, with minimum rest in between (similar to OrangeTheory or F45).

According to Young-Gyun Seo from University Sacred Heart Hospital in South Korea “circuit training effectively reduces body weight and body mass index in adults with overweight and obesity” (Seo, Young-Gyun et al. 2019).

The goal of Nordictrack Vault cardio workouts is to challenge the muscles, elevate your heart rate and burn as many calories as possible in a short time.

My favorite iFit cardio workout is the 20-minute Build and Burn Series with trainer John Peel. This workout has the combination of muscle isolation, core strength, AMRAP, and upper/lower body split.

Plus, the iFit platform includes over 50 different outdoor challenges (audio only) for running and hiking.

I personally love to use iFit audio-only classes when I go out for the run because they have many different types of workouts:

  • Intervals
  • Tabata
  • HIIT
  • Long-distance runs

Not only that.

They also include many outdoor workouts that combine cardio and strength. It’s kind of like running for many miles while doing pushups, sit-ups, and planks in between.

On the other hand, Tonal also has several HIIT and cardio workouts that you can do either with or without the Tonal machine. It also has a Tonal App, which you can use to stream the classes when you’re away.

However, I’m not the biggest fan of Tonal on-the-go classes because the workout library is still limited with content.

You can learn more about “tonal for cardio” in my article here.

Tonal Classes vs NordicTrack Vault Classes

Both Tonal and NordicTrack Vault have several classes, workouts, and programs in many fitness genres.

However, the difference between them is that Tonal offers live, encore, and on-demand strength training classes, whereas the iFit live workouts are only for the treadmill, bike, and elliptical users.

You can learn more about “tonal live classes” in my article here.

One thing that I love about the NordicTrack Vault is it includes workout series that is combined with different workout routines (e.g. strength, yoga, and cardio). Some iFit series last for up to 12 weeks.

On the other hand, the longest Tonal programs last for 4 weeks and usually include only the strength training sessions.

One thing that I don’t like about the NordicTrack Vault is the lack of variety in their workouts. iFit offers many classes but they are all about strength and conditioning. You don’t have dance, pilates, or golf-specific workouts.

On the other hand, Tonal has over 18 different fitness genres like Kickboxing, Boxing, and Barre fitness.

Here is the comparison table between Tonal and NordicTrack Vault classes.

Tonal classesNordicTrack Vault classes
Barre
Bootcamp
Boxing
Cardio
Dance cardio
Family Fitness
Golf
High Intensity
Kickboxing
Meditation
Mobility
Pilates
Pre & Postnatal
Quick Workouts
Recovery
Strength
Theragun
Yoga
Short workouts (under 20 minutes)
HIIT workouts
Yoga workouts
Abs and core workouts
Bodyweight workouts
Dumbbell workouts
Upper body workouts
Lower body workouts
Percussion gun tutorials
Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault classes

As you can see, Tonal programs may not be as long as on iFit, but they have more different classes to choose from.

Tonal App vs iFit App

Both iFit and Tonal offer now a mobile app where you can stream on-demand classes. The only difference is that Tonal also allows you to track your progress and transfer all metrics from the mobile app into the workout history.

If we gonna go one step further, Tonal gym also has:

  • Heart rate tracking
  • Progress tracking
  • Strength score metrics
  • Milestones
  • Leaderboard ranking
  • Workouts streak
  • Workout history

NOTE: Click here to learn all the benefits and how to use the “tonal strength score” to burn fat and build muscle.

Some data suggest that the use of metrics and tracking your progress in healthy adults may be associated with modest short-term increases in physical activity (Tang et al. 2020).

Seeing your results increases motivation and self-awareness, which translates into better adherence to exercise.

On the other hand, the NordicTrack Vault does not have any metrics and does not track your performance.

One thing that I don’t like about the Tonal app is that you can only workouts with bodyweight exercises whereas on iFit you have all the classes.

Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault Price Comparison

Now let’s look at the price difference between the Tonal gym and NordicTrack Vault.

Here is the breakdown of the basic prices for both.

NordicTrack VaultTonal
Basic Price$1,499$2,995
Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault basic price

Of course, you cannot just get the NordicTrack Vault without any equipment because you need weights, resistance bands, kettlebells, and foam rollers for the classes. The same goes for the Tonal. Getting a Tonal gym without smart accessories is not ideal.

The complete price for the NordicTrack Vault is $1,999, which includes all the accessories. The full price for Tonal (including smart attachments like handles, bar, rope, bench, foam roller, and workout mat) is $3,490.

However, this price does not include the membership for the Tonal, shipping, and installation costs.

Here is the updated price table for the NordicTrack Vault and Tonal including accessories.

NordicTrack VaultTonal
AccessoriesExercise Mat
2 Yoga Blocks
3 Loop Bands
3 Super Resistance Bands
5-30 lbs Dumbbells
20 Lb & 30 lbs Kettlebells
Cleaning Towel
Handles
Rope
Barbell
Bench
Roller
Workout mat
Total$1,999$3,490
Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault full price

Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault Membership

The difference between Tonal and NordicTrack Vault membership is that Tonal changes for the first 12 months upfront immediately once you activate the hardware and sign up. The NordicTrack Vault comes with iFit membership and you can cancel anytime.

See below.

MembershipTonalTonal App
Price per month$49.00$15.00
Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault membership

As you can see, there is a huge difference in the price. However, please remember that Tonal uses AI technology and smart features like Spotter, Burnout Mode, Eccentric Mode, and Smart Flex, which are advanced training methods designed to make your workouts more intense.

It’s like hiring a personal trainer.

With that being said,

below you can see how Tonal and iFit membership prices compare to other popular fitness services per month and per session based on 4 workouts per week.

Fitness service/membershipPrice per monthPrice per workout
NordicTrack Vault membership$15$0.90
Tonal membership$49 $3.00
Personal Training$1,200 $75
OrangeTheory$159 (unlimited)$9.90
F45$200 $12.50
SoulCycle$600 $37.50
CrossFit Gym$186 (on average)$11.60
Yoga Studio$400$25.00
Yoga Private$1,400$87.50
Private Pilates$2,000$125.00
Bootcamp Class$400$25
Fitness Class on NCL Cruise$400$25
Tonal vs NordicTrack Vault vs other fitness services

As you can see, the price per session on both Tonal and NordicTrack Vault is relatively affordable, especially if you choose to train more often. Plus, if you want to train together with your spouse, friends, and family, it’s even more affordable.

Conclusion

As you can see, Tonal is better than NordicTrack Vault because it offers more variety of workouts, it personalizes the workouts for you and it offers metrics to help you stay motivated.

On the other hand, what I like about the NordicTrack Vault is it can store up to 15 dumbbells vertically in one place, together with kettlebells and resistance bands. This makes the workout experience better because you can change your weights anytime you need.

When it comes to price, Tonal is twice more expensive than NordicTrack Vault, which is something to also keep in mind.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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