Learn how your Strength Score is calculated and how to improve it.
Whether your goal is to build muscle, get lean, or improve fitness, strength is the foundation for it all. Getting stronger has been correlated with a longer life and a higher quality of life. One meta-analysis of over two million adults has shown that higher levels of strength can be linked to a 14-percent lower risk of all causes of death. Additionally, another review of studies showed that strength training improves your ability to perform everyday tasks as you age—helping you enjoy those extra years.
To measure your progress over time, you’re going to need a way to track your strength.
Strength Score—a feature exclusive to Tonal — is a comprehensive system that measures total body strength for more than 150 moves. Armed with these unique insights, you’ll have the opportunity to create personal goals that help you get stronger.
What is Strength Score?
In the gym, people typically measure strength by tracking their one-rep max for a deadlift, squat, or bench press over time. But these one-rep max tests can be very challenging, require a spotter, and only take into account your strength on a handful of lifts.
On Tonal, you don’t need to push yourself to the max to discover your one-rep max for any particular lift. Whenever you do an exercise on Tonal, an algorithm estimates your one-rep max for that move based on your history with that movement. Strength Score is a composite of all your individual lifts.
“Essentially, Strength Score estimates those one-rep maxes, tallying them up, and compiling them into a single metric,” explains Troy Taylor, Director of the Tonal Strength Institute. “It’s really one of the only holistic metrics looking at your entire body strength.”
While you’ll have lots of opportunities to lift heavy and hit Strength PRs on Tonal—in fact, Tonal members on average increase their strength by more than 25 percent in the first 90 days—that’s not the goal of every workout or every set. Tonal takes that into account when calculating Strength Score. For example, if your suggested weight is reduced for a warm-up set or high-rep set during a high-intensity session or you opt to use Recovery Weight during a recovery workout (if, for example, you’re still sore from yesterday’s workout and need a deload) these weights won’t negatively impact your Strength Score.
Sets with Spotter and Burnout modes enabled, in which the weight drops down if you’re struggling, count toward your Strength Score but can’t negatively affect it.
In addition to your overall Strength Score, Tonal calculates individual scores for your upper body, lower body, and core, as well as a comparison between muscle groups within these three categories. You can view these breakdowns on the Tonal mobile app. By learning which muscle groups are stronger than others, you can map out fitness goals to address any weaknesses and build overall strength for your entire body.
Strength Score is highly individualized based on your experience and abilities, and therefore it’s best to only compare yourself to your own progress over time. However, it can be motivating to see how your score stacks up against your friends and the rest of the Tonal community. On the mobile app, you can view a detailed benchmarking measure on the app to see how you compare to all members or those of each gender.
How Strength Score is Calculated
Strength Score isn’t a random number. It’s based on a sophisticated algorithm that uses Tonal’s digital weight technology to accurately measure your overall strength.
- Tonal’s algorithm estimates how much you can effectively lift for each move by looking at your performance history, and by giving more importance to your most recent sets.
- Next, Tonal compares your personal performance to the baseline for each move you have performed. Where you fall in relation to the baseline creates your score for each move.
- Tonal aggregates the score for every move into a muscle group score, depending on what muscles are involved. For example, with a bench press, the muscle group being scored would be the chest.
- Tonal then aggregates all of these muscle groups into three body regions — upper body, lower body, and core — and gives you a score for each region.
- Tonal will then give you an overall score based on an average of all three regions.
Important things to keep in mind with Strength Score:
- To score each move that you do, Tonal uses a weighted average of your estimated one-rep max for that move, giving extra importance to all your recent workouts. This way, a single lighter workout is unlikely to decrease your score. Likewise, your score won’t significantly increase until you repeatedly lift a heavier weight in multiple workouts. Use this as an incentive to motivate and challenge yourself to push through plateaus.
- The moves you do more frequently have a larger impact on your Strength Score than those you do less often. For example, if you completed 100 sets of bench presses, but only one set of alternating bench presses, the former will have more of an impact on your Strength Score.
- Moves that involve more muscles or larger muscle groups are weighted more heavily than exercises that use small muscles. For example, in your upper-body score, Taylor explains that a bench press carries more weight than a biceps curl because it’s a compound movement and a better measure of overall strength.
- Strength Score will increase as you prove that you can perform moves at higher weights. That means Strength PRs will have an impact on your score, but not Volume or Power PRs.
- If you achieve a Strength PR on a new move, though, it’s not unusual for your score to go down because your strength in this new exercise may be lower than your overall baseline. If you increase the weight you lift the next time you do this move, you’ll likely see your score go up.
- Strength Score plateaus are normal. During your first 90 days, and even your first year on Tonal, you’re developing specific skills and training your nervous system to recruit muscle fibers in new ways—especially if you’re new to strength training. This can lead to big jumps in Strength Score, but it’s likely that your score will increase more slowly as time goes on. After your first year on Tonal, Taylor recommends aiming for around a 10 percent increase annually. This may be higher if you’ve done less strength training in the past (so you’re further away from your full potential) or if you’re specifically training for max strength (think: very heavy weights and low reps).
- Workouts done with Recovery Weight are not included in your Strength Score calculation.
How to Use Strength Score
Rather than focusing on how your Strength Score fluctuates from day to day, pay attention to long-term trends and do your best in each workout. Your score will naturally go up over time.
In addition to your overall Strength Score, Tonal calculates a score for individual muscle groups so you can compare the relative strength of your own body and focus on areas that may be weaker. If your quads have a lower score than the rest of your body, try a program that focuses on lower-body lifts. If your biceps score is lower than you expected, keep working on your biceps curls until you can comfortably lift more.
Taylor suggests keeping your upper, lower, and core strength scores within roughly 10 percent of each other to ensure your training is balanced. If you’re an athlete with a sport that prioritizes one muscle group over another (for example, runners might be more concerned with lower body strength), he says it’s fine if you see a larger difference.
How to Improve Your Strength Score
While the best way to increase your Strength Score is to follow Tonal’s workouts and suggested weights, there are a few ways to improve your Strength Score quickly:
- Find muscle groups with lower scores and achieve new Strength PRs for moves that utilize that muscle group. Keep in mind that Volume PRs and Power PRs will not increase your Strength Score.
- If you try a new move, and you feel strong enough and confident in your form to increase the weight, feel free to manually turn it up or do extra reps in your set.
- Achieve a new Strength PR for moves that you have done frequently, and continue to do those moves at or near your PR weights.
- In general, Taylor explains you’re more likely to hit more Strength PRs and higher one-rep maxes if you’re doing fewer reps at higher weights. “Someone doing four, five, or six reps is likely going to make more relative strength improvements than someone doing 12, 15, or 20 reps, because there’s an intensity relationship,” he says. There’s room in your training for both types of lifting, but if Strength Score is your main concern, look for workouts and programs with low-rep sets.
- If you want to get stronger, Tonal’s dynamic weight modes— such as Eccentric, Chains, Burnout, and Smart Flex—will help you push yourself to lift heavier and level up. For example, studies have shown that eccentric training—in which you increase resistance in the lowering phase of an exercise—leads to stronger muscles, which will translate to higher one-rep maxes and a higher Strength Score.