Cable machines challenge your muscles differently than free weights, and Tonal offers even more advantages.
No home gym is complete without strength training equipment. If you’re looking for a space-saving solution that lets you get in a full-body muscle-building workout, a wall-mounted cable machine is a smart choice. Compared to free weights, cable machines allow you to do a wider variety of exercises and work more muscles with a single piece of equipment.
Tonal incorporates all the benefits of a cable machine into an all-in-one smart home gym with advanced technology that’ll make your workouts even more effective, engaging, and personalized. Here’s what you should know about how Tonal differentiates itself from a typical wall-mounted cable machine.
What Is a Wall-Mounted Cable Machine?
Compared to the cable machines you’ve seen at the gym that take up a ton of floor space, wall-mounted cable machines are relatively compact. A typical home gym model consists of a vertical frame with cables connected to a weight stack on one end and handles on the other. The handle height and position can be adjusted depending on the exercise you’re performing, allowing you to do a variety of movements, such as lat pulldowns and biceps curls, on the same machine.
Even though a wall-mounted cable machine takes up less space than a squat rack or dozens of dumbbells, Tonal is even more compact with no steel frames or stacks of heavy weight plates. And while some cable machines require the purchase of additional weights, Tonal includes 200 pounds of digital resistance, more than enough to challenge your strength in hundreds of exercises.
The weight stack on a cable machine may come preloaded or require plates that are sold separately. To select your resistance, most machines have a pin that can be slotted into the weight stack at set increments (the exact increments depend on your specific equipment, but 5- and 10-pound plates are common). The machine attaches to the wall, usually at the top and bottom, for stability.
Tonal breaks its resistance down into one-pound increments, allowing you to slowly progress at your own pace. On a traditional cable machine, you’re responsible for determining how much weight you can lift for any number of reps and sets. Tonal eliminates that guesswork and offers personalized weight recommendations for every lift based on your initial strength assessment and past performance—and changing the weight is as easy as tapping the screen. Plus, Tonal keeps track of all that progress for you so there’s nothing to remember or jot down after a workout.
What Are the Advantages of a Wall-Mounted Cable Machine Over Free Weights?
A wall-mounted cable machine is a bigger upfront investment than a few sets of dumbbells, but its versatility and functionality make it worth the cost in the long term.
According to Rachel MacPherson, a certified personal trainer and member of the Garage Gym Reviews Expert Panel, these machines provide “a wide variety of movement patterns not possible with free weights and a wide range of resistance levels so you can challenge yourself without needing several sets of weights.”
With cable machines, you can change the angle of resistance to challenge your muscles in different ways with moves such as face pulls, cable crunches, and seated rows that won’t work with dumbbells.
“There are several more functional movement patterns you can do with cable machines that mimic everyday motions that free weights often cannot allow without a loss of tension,” says MacPherson. For example, a combination move such as a squat with row is easy to position on a cable machine.
With Tonal’s adjustable arms, it’s possible to perform exercises that’ll work your muscles from multiple angles, just like a cable machine. Tonal allows you to load your muscles in any direction and in all planes of motion, something that’s not possible on a cable machine because the weight stacks can only move up and down. With electromagnetic resistance on Tonal, the weight can also move in and out, opening up the possibilities for more exercises.
MacPherson explains that cables provide consistent tension throughout a movement. As you lift on a cable machine you’ll feel the resistance in both the concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lowering) phases of the movement.
While the tension on a cable machine will be more consistent than free weights, it’s still subject to the laws of gravity and will feel easier in the lowering phase of the exercise. Tonal takes gravity out of the equation and, with Eccentric Mode, even lets you add weight in the eccentric portion of the lift, a proven strategy for muscle growth.
Exercising on a cable machine is also safer than free weights as there are no heavy dumbbells or barbells you can potentially drop on yourself. Tonal adds another layer of protection with Spotter Mode, which automatically reduces the weight if you’re struggling.
Can You Build Muscle with a Wall-Mounted Cable Machine?
As with any type of resistance training where you’re lifting heavy enough to challenge yourself, exercising with a wall-mounted cable machine will absolutely help with muscle growth. The consistent tension created by the cables contributes even more to gaining strength.
“My clients who’ve worked with cable machines have gained a better understanding of the mind-muscle connection,” says MacPherson. “The tension in the cables allows them to slowly move the weight while focusing on the correct muscles they should utilize. The mind-muscle connection is proven to help boost results from training including muscle growth and strength gains.”
On a cable machine, you’re also not locked into a set movement path like you would be on a piece of single-station equipment made for a single muscle group, such as a lat-pulldown machine at the gym. This freedom of movement forces you to engage your body’s smaller, stabilizing muscles that are essential for balance and injury prevention. For example, if you’re lying on a bench doing a chest fly, you won’t have to activate your core muscles to stay upright as much as you would if you’re doing the same move standing up with a cable machine.
Tonal takes all these muscle-building benefits and elevates the experience with dynamic weight modes that switch up the resistance between reps in a set and even within a single rep.
Try Chains Mode to add weight in the concentric phase of a lift. Tonal also simplifies the process of doing drop sets, in which you reduce the weight with each set as you struggle but still push through to failure, with Burnout Mode, intuitively reducing weight between reps. Altering resistance in this way isn’t doable with a traditional wall-mounted cable machine.
How Does Tonal Stack Up Against a Wall-Mounted Cable Machine?
A wall-mounted cable machine is a solid option for strength training, but Tonal will take your fitness to the next level with its intelligent weight recommendations, dynamic weight modes, and electromagnetic resistance.
Tonal also offers other modalities like cardio, mobility, Pilates, and yoga for a well-rounded fitness routine. All of Tonal’s workouts and programs are led by expert coaches who will motivate you through each set and give you form cues that’ll ensure you’re lifting safely and efficiently. That’s in addition to Tonal’s automatic Form Feedback that senses the pace, range of motion, balance, and smoothness of each rep.
For a space-saving, all-in-one home gym, Tonal has the edge over your standard wall-mounted cable machine. Between hundreds of expert-led workouts and programs, automatic progress tracking, dynamic weight modes, and a supportive community of members, Tonal has everything you need to reach your fitness goals.