This trainer was made for more than just your upper body.
At first glance, Tonal may look like your upper body’s best friend. Those adjustable arms with built-in extendable cables? Perfect for presses, pull-downs, curls, and rows. But you can also reap huge rewards from using it to train your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
“Tonal is an incredible tool for strengthening the lower body,” says coach Liz Letchford, Ph.D. Not only does the wall-mounted system help you avoid the weight room clutter of multiple racks, bars, and plates, but it also features advanced weight modes that can take your training to the next level.
“Tonal’s Eccentric Mode—which adds resistance to the negative portion of a movement—and Chains Mode—which changes the weight to get heavier as you pull or push through the full range of motion like a resistance band—create opportunities to overload the muscles of the lower body in ways that are much harder to pull off in a traditional gym,” Letchford explains.
Plus, using heavy free weights or barbells for functional movements like squats and deadlifts can be difficult and potentially dangerous to do on your own, adds coach Allison Tibbs. “With Tonal, you can safely load heavier [digital] weight with the click of a button, which gives you better control,” she explains. “What makes it even better is that the trainer’s artificial intelligence can determine when you’re ready to go up in weight and will continue to progress you throughout your training.” That means it does all the hard work of weight selection and programming for you—all you have to do is show up.
These five exercises will help you build serious strength and power in your lower body so you can push your performance to new heights, no matter what your fitness goals are.
1. Sumo Deadlift
How to do it: Grab the bar and hold it in front of your thighs with your arms straight. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly out. Hinge at the hips and bend knees as you lower the bar between your legs keeping the core engaged. With a straight back, stand by pressing the floor away from you. Repeat.
Why it works: Any deadlift is a powerhouse lower-body move that targets the glutes and hamstrings while engaging your core and building strength in the hips, which are often weaker due to long periods of sitting, says Tibbs. “This is a safer version of the traditional barbell deadlift because the wider stance allows you to get deeper into the lift,” she adds.
2. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
How to do it: Stand facing the Tonal and grab the handles with each hand. With a microbend in your right knee, engage your core and hinge at the hips as your left leg lifts up behind you, keeping your back flat. Imagine your hips are like headlights and keep them both pointed directly at the floor. Use the right glute to power the torso back up and repeat. Complete the reps then repeat on the other leg.
Why it works: This deadlift variation will fire up your hammies, and “strong hamstrings help protect the hips and knees from injury,” explains Letchford. That challenging hip motion also requires calf and glute power, making it a triple whammy.
3. Resisted Step-Up
How to do it: Take a Smart Handle in each hand and stand to the right of a bench. Place left foot on the center of your bench in line with the end of the Tonal arms. Press through the heel like you’re squishing a bug to push the bench away from you and stand tall, keeping the right leg relaxed. Draw right knee to chest to balance, then lower down with control using your glute. Lightly tap the floor with the right foot, and repeat before switching sides.
Why it works: “Resisted step-ups are a perfect complement to bigger lifts like squats and deadlifts because they work each leg independently, which can help correct any muscular asymmetries,” says Tibbs. You’ll feel the burn in your quads and glutes with this one.
4. Split Squat
How to do it: Line your arms up with the end of the Tonal arms. Take a Smart Handle in each hand and rack the handles at your shoulders. Drop into a half-kneeling position with your left knee on the mat, left toes tucked, and right knee over the right ankle. Push the floor away from you to stand tall, keeping the feet in the same position. Think of your torso as an elevator as you power up and lower down until your knee kisses the mat.
Why it works: This is a unilateral exercise like the step-up, but it strengthens both quads as they lengthen to push the ground away, says Letchford. As you lower toward the floor and rise back up, your core has to engage to keep you stable—exactly like it would in daily movement patterns like walking up stairs.
5. Barbell Front Squat
How to do it: Rack the barbell at your shoulders until it’s just barely touching the front of the neck. Cross your arms and lift the elbows to keep the bar in place. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Send the hips back and down like you’re sitting into a chair behind you. Press the floor away from you by squeezing your glutes, and pushing your hips forward, standing tall.
Why it works: “Weighted squats are key to building more power and strength in your lower body,” says Tibbs. This version fires up your glutes and quads, plus “racking the barbell to the front adds an extra boost to strengthening the core,” Tibbs explains.