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


Peloton bike and tonal gym are both excellent tools that not only provide a good home workout but also offer smart technology that makes the workouts more effective.

As a whole, the difference between tonal gym and peloton is that the tonal is a cable resistance training system powered by AI technology that works the same way as cable machines in the gym. The peloton is a spin bike that allows you to do indoor cycling classes at home.

This article will help you understand some of the differences (and similarities) between them based on your fitness goals, personal preferences, occupation, and level of experience.

Peloton vs Tonal for Building Muscle

The difference between tonal gym and peloton is the tonal collects the data during each workout via AI technology that helps to personalize your training.

It’s like having a personal trainer that helps you decide which weight should you choose, correct your form or even spot on the last couple reps.

What I like about the tonal is that you can be in the middle of the bench press and thanks to the accelerometers in the handles it will know if you can finish the repetition, and if not, it lowers the resistance for you.

This is called the “spotter” feature.

Is a peloton better than a tonal gym for muscle gain? As a whole, the tonal is better than the peloton for muscle gain because it uses strength training as the foundation of its program. Not only it allows to do all the compound moves like deadlifts, bench press, or lateral pulldowns but also has unique systems like eccentric mode.

What is the eccentric mode in tonal? As a whole, the eccentric mode is a system that allows you to set different resistance during the eccentric phase. You can do a 20 lbs biceps curl on the concentric phase and set it to 27 lbs on the eccentric. This provides a greater muscle gain, compared to conventional lifting.

As you can see above, the eccentric phase is basically lowering the weight. The concentric phase is lifting. Studies have shown that the eccentric phase has a better hypertrophy effect, compared to the concentric phase (Schoenfeld et al. 2017).

Not only that.

If your goal is to build muscle, tonal has over 50 upper-body and 30 lower-body exercises that (traditionally) you could only do in the gym using heavy barbells, and cable machines.

Studies have shown that multi-joint movements with heavy weight are more efficient for improving muscle strength and hypertrophy, comparing to light or medium weights (Schoenfeld et al. 2015).

What I like about tonal gym is that you can mimic not only the heavy compound movements but also isolated exercises. This way you can work on each muscle separately and create more time under tension, which helps with better gains.

It also comes with a number of handles and attachments just like you would see in the regular gym.

On the other hand, the peloton is more about the group fitness class that is transitioned from the fitness studio into the home-based gym.

The peloton comes with hundreds of strength classes where you use either weights or your body weight. But it doesn’t have AI technology and all the workouts are the same for everyone.

Please remember that you still can get great results from calisthenic training, but you need to spend more time and perform exercises at a much higher volume.

This means you can build strength and develop muscle with the peloton, but with tonal, you can take your training to the next level.

Peloton vs Tonal for Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss and choosing between the peloton and tonal I would go for tonal. Weight loss goes hand in hand with building muscle mass because the higher the lean weight, the higher the metabolic rate, and the more calories you burn in the long term.

However, keep in mind that having fun and enjoying the workout is also an important factor.

If you don’t like training with weights or without the community that peloton offers, you won’t gonna do it.

What I like about the peloton is the entertainment and the social interaction created around the rides (more on that later).

Is a peloton better than a tonal gym for weight loss? As a whole, the tonal gym is more effective than the peloton for weight loss in the long term because resistance training builds more lean muscle mass. Higher lean body weight is directly related to higher calorie expenditure and metabolic rate.

In the short term, both aerobic and resistance training is effective. In fact, studies have shown that in 12-week time, aerobic training is more effective than weight training because it burns more calories (Ho et al. 2012).

This means if you want to lose weight fast, the peloton bike does burn a lot of calories per class. You can see the full list of “peloton rides that burn the most calories” here.

However.

In the long term, this process is more complicated. Studies have shown that 50% of people who lost weight regain most of it within 2 to 5 years after (Blomain et al. 2013).

And one of the reasons why is that prolonged calorie deficit creates several metabolic adaptations that suppress muscle protein synthesis and accelerate muscle protein breakdown.

This means you lose lean muscle mass faster than you build. That is the effect of metabolic changes due to lower energy intake where the body is doing everything it can to save energy.

So together with fat loss you also lose muscle and burn fewer calories.

Now watch this.

With high muscle breakdown and low muscle protein synthesis, the metabolic rate also goes down (even 15 to 40% below baseline) (Pasiakos 2013).

To put that into the perspective, take a look at the graph below.

On the top, you see a person who weighs 200lbs with BMR 2200 calories. On the bottom, you see a person who weighs 150 lbs with BMR 1800 calories.

The guy on the top wants to lose weight so he maintains a calorie deficit to the point where he losses 50 lbs. Now, both men weigh the same.

But because calorie deficit accelerates muscle protein breakdown, the guy on the top has a 15-40% lower metabolic rate, comparing to the person who was 150lbs all the time.

This is called metabolic slowdown.

I won’t cover here all the details in regards to this process. I’ve already covered that in my article “metabolic slowdown and how to avoid it“, which I recommend you read.

One of the things that help to increase muscle protein synthesis during calorie deficit is resistance training and a high protein diet.

You can use peloton classes to work on your strength, but using a tonal gym allows you to add more resistance, lift heavier weights, and better stimulate muscle protein synthesis. This leads to a higher metabolic rate and prevents weight rebound.

The only downside with the tonal gym is that you need to know how to use it correctly. The tonal gym does offer induction and personal training sessions but I wouldn’t recommend getting this machine if you’ve never used a gym or cable machine before.

On the other hand, with the peloton, you don’t need any extra help beyond what is available in the app. Even if you never did spin class before or group fitness class, the exercises are easy. Plus, you have several step-by-step tutorials that explain everything you need to know.

Peloton vs Tonal for Cardio

If your goal is to train for long-distance cardio events like triathlon, I would recommend getting a peloton. It also has several programs that help you train for 5K or marathon.

By the way, you can learn more about “peloton marathon training” here in my article.

Is a peloton better than a tonal gym for cardio? As a whole, the peloton is better than a tonal gym for cardio because it mainly focuses on aerobic training with almost 10.000 cycling classes available. It also has HIIT and cardio workouts off the bike that works on both strength and conditioning.

Studies have shown that the most effective way to train for endurance sports is by adding more training volume. This means if you want to run or cycle faster or longer, you need more long-distance cardio (Fokkema et al. 2020).

However, adding more training volume should depend on your total energy expenditure and the amount of NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) you do during the day.

What is NEAT? Overall, the Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is unplanned, low-intensity physical activity that takes place every day. This includes walking with grocery bags, going to market, mowing the lawn, carrying children, or gardening.

In other words, NEAT is everything that you do during the day that keeps you moving and it can contribute to as much as 15% of total daily energy expenditure (Levine 2004).

Occupations like construction workers, firefighters, waiters, dancers, or nurses require high physical activity, and adding more cardio may be not the most optimal way to train.

If your occupation is already physically demanding, I wouldn’t choose peloton. I would choose the tonal gym because adding more resistance training will complement your physically active lifestyle.

Also, keep in mind that resistance training provides significant cardiovascular benefits, as long as you train regularly at the intensity of >60% of your 1 rep max (Gelecek et al. 2012).

On the other hand, people who have a sedentary lifestyle like taxi drivers, IT specialists, or office workers should include more cardio in their training plan.

According to WHO recommendations for physical activity, you “should do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity” (source).

So if your occupation is sedentary, I would recommend getting peloton because doing 30-60 minutes rides, 5 days a week get you covered. Later you can add more strength and conditioning components.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about “does peloton make a mirror“.

Peloton vs Tonal for Community

As a whole, the peloton is a better option than tonal when it comes to social interactions and community support because it comes with live classes and a leaderboard with all participants. You can also engage with each person by giving them hi-fives.

What I like about the peloton community is there is a strong personal connection, not only between the participants but also between the instructors.

Peloton uses the same instructors that bring along personality and charisma with them. This makes it more real and authentic, comparing to working out with an AI system.

Peloton vs Tonal Price Comparison

Now let’s look at the price difference between the peloton and tonal gym.

Here is the breakdown of the basic prices for both.

Peloton BikePeloton Bike+Tonal
Basic Price$1,495$2,495$2,995
Peloton vs tonal basic price

Of course, the devil is in the detail. You cannot just get a bike on its own because you need cycling shoes and a protection mat that goes under the bike.

As well as with tonal, the basic price doesn’t include smart attachments like handles, bar, rope, bench, foam roller, and workout mat.

Here is the updated price for the peloton bike including accessories.

Peloton BikeBasicsEssentialsWorksFamily
Basic Price$1,495$1,645$1,745$1,945
AccessoriesShoes
Weights (1-3 lbs)
Headphones
Shoes
Weights (1-3 lbs)
Headphones
Heart Rate Monitor
Bike Mat
Shoes (2 pairs)
Weights (1-3 lbs)
Headphones (2 pairs)
Heart Rate Monitor (2 pairs)
Bike Mat
Water bottle (2)
Peloton bike price range

Below, you can see the same comparison for peloton bike+. If you choose to get a Peloton bike plus, the accessories will change.

Peloton Bike+BasicsEssentialsWorksFamily
Basic Price$2,495$2,695$2,795$2,945
AccessoriesShoes
Weights (1-3 lbs)
Workout mat
Shoes
Weights (1-3 lbs)
Workout mat
Bike Mat
Resistance Bands
Shoes (2 pairs)
Weights (1-3 lbs)
Workout mat
Bike Mat
Resistance Bands
Yoga blocks
Yoga straps
Water bottle (2)
Peloton bike+ price range

Now lets look at the tonal gym.

Here is the updated price for tonal including accessories.

TonalBasicsEssentials
Basic Price$2,995$3,490
Smart AccessoriesHandles
Rope
Barbell
Bench
Roller
Workout mat
Tonal price range

Peloton vs Tonal Membership

When it comes to membership, the peloton comes with two options for subscription, where Tonal has only one option.

MembershipPeloton All-AccessPeloton DigitalTonal App
Price$39$12.99$49
Whats included?Access to on-demand classes
Access to live classes
Leaderboard and metrics
Access to on-demand classesAccess to on-demand classes
Tonal vs peloton membership

I think that both peloton all-access membership and tonal gym membership are realistic.

Below you can see how peloton and tonal prices compare to other popular fitness services per month and per session based on 5 workouts per week.

Fitness product/servicePrice per monthPrice per workout
Peloton all-access$39 $2.45
Tonal membership$49 $1.95
Personal Training$1,200 $60
OrangeTheory$159 (unlimited)$7.95
F45$200 $10
SoulCycle$600 $30
CrossFit Gym$186 (on average)$9.30
Yoga Studio$400$20
Yoga Private$1,400$70
Private Pilates$2,000$100
Bootcamp Class$400$20
Fitness Class on Cruise Ship$400$20

As you can see, depending on how often you plan to train, the price per session is relatively low, comparing to other fitness services available in the market.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about “peloton vs gym“.

Peloton vs Tonal Setup

Whenever you’re ordering peloton or tonal, both of the machines will get delivered directly to you. The only difference is that the peloton bike is more adjustable and it can be moved across your home. It doesn’t have to be fixed to one place, which makes it easy to make any changes.

On the other hand, the tonal offers white-glove service. This means together with delivery, you will get professionals to mount it for you. The downside is that once the tonal is on your wall, it has to stay there for good.

You can obviously detach it yourself. But because of the hardware, the machine is extremely heavy, which may not be easy to do it yourself.

Conclusion

As you can notice, choosing between the peloton and tonal is like choosing between a tablet or laptop. There are lots of things to consider.

Keep in mind that ultimately, the most effective piece of equipment will be the one that you are ready, able, and willing to use.

For beginners, I would recommend joining a cycle class and go to the gym to hire a trainer for 1-2 hours before investing over $3,000 in the home gym. This way you know exactly which equipment is better for you.

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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