John Sill & Using Tonal For Body Building

TSS 58 | Weightlifting Journey


  • Tom updates his House of Volume adventure.
  • Custom workout-sharing contest winners announced.
  • New content! Including:
  • Muscle Building Basics 20-In-20
  • Fire Circuits Elevate Your Endurance Compound Clinic:
  • Lunge & Row Ultimate Series

All this plus our interview with John Sills.

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


John Sill & Using Tonal For Body Building

Welcome to episode 58.

In this episode, we are interviewing John Sill.

He is quite the user of the Tonal. He has won competitions like bodybuilding by using the Tonal, which is amazing.

It’s fascinating. I know that there are a lot of people out there, probably not if you’re reading this unless you’re still deciding on making your purchase, that is still trying to get a handle on what this thing is. If you’re already in possession of a Tonal, you know that it’s the real deal. Here’s proof that there’s a guy who competes based on musclenessocity.

That is the technical term.

Musclenessocity is very important in the world of bodybuildifying. It’s a fascinating conversation about how that fits into his workout routine. You might want to stick around. I was in a particularly teasing mood with John if I recall correctly. Good thing he has a good sense of humor because it came in a little hot.

He didn’t even bat an eye. He was just like, “I am here for it. Let’s do this.”

If you are one of those people who follow us because you’re still trying to get a handle on it, we can still help you save a little money.

There’s a friends and family discount so if you know somebody who is a member, they get $125 to you and then they get a free month of membership. That’s one way. We can also give you a discount by using the promo code THECLIPOUT as you’re checking out and you will get some money off as well.

They can’t use both of them to be clear.

You can’t double up.

If you don’t know somebody who already owns a Tonal and wants to share it with friends and family, you can use the promo code THECLIPOUT. You can do it the other way or if you already have a Tonal and you have a friend that might be interested, this could also work for you. We’re putting that out there for you. I should also talk here about Joe’s House of Volume.

I want to know because you came home and had a workout that was on your schedule. You were down there next to that Tonal for a long time.

It was 1 hour and 11 minutes.

Is that the longest Tonal workout you’ve ever done?

I think it might be.

Joe’s not kidding about the volume is what you’re telling me.

I thought House of Volume was a reference to how much weight you’re lifting but apparently, it’s a reference to how you’ll be speaking to Joe through the machine.

Were you yelling at Joe at any point?

I was not but it’s a lot of weight. I’ve had weight workouts in the past where I got close to 20,000. That’s been the next benchmark that I could not hit. I’ve lifted over 20,000 pounds 3 times in House of Volume.

I was curious because it was an upper body day. I thought you said you did but no matter what, my point is that leg muscles are bigger muscles so you’re going to lift more volume.

One of them was a leg day but at least one of them for sure was an upper body day that I did over 20,000 pounds. I’m sure there are people out there reading who’ve done way more than that. For them, that’s nothing but for me, that’s a lot.

It’s all relative. That’s the interesting thing about it. That’s why it was a good benchmark for you specifically. I want to go back to the last time we recorded because you were mighty confident. It was day one of the program and you were like, “I got this.” I have to say not every day have you felt like that about the House of Volume as we have gone through this process.

They say it’s the toughest workout. I think it might be. I was wondering because I have done all the Go Big or Go Homes and those are no joke. I am not disparaging the Go Big or Go Home.

You better not because I’m a fan of the Go Big and Go Home. I will fight you.

Nor am I disparaging Coach Jackson. He was great but I do think that these are probably more intense. I’m about to say I’m lifting more weight on this but that’s unfair because I was able to lift less weight the last time. I didn’t Go Big or Go Home. I also recognize that it’s not entirely apples to apples. With that being said, I feel as if this is the most that I’ve been lifting even if it was apples to apples but I will also say not by much. Don’t be scared of it if you’ve done the other ones. If you enjoyed past workouts and you don’t necessarily want to try a new one, don’t let that stop you.

I haven’t done the program but my biggest takeaway from watching you do this program is don’t go into this particular program in a hurry to get it done. It’s the difference between doing a 5K and maybe a 10K or half marathon. If you’re doing a 5K, it’s 3 miles. If you’re in any kind of shape, whatsoever, with cardio specifically, you’re going to be able to finish that pretty easily, even if it’s slow.

If you’re going into a half marathon, hopefully, you’ve done some training. Don’t go into that at your top speed. You go into it at a nice low speed and try to even out your speed throughout that entire half marathon. Watching you, you typically go into a workout and you skip over rest periods. You go but not on these. On these, you’re like, “No. I’m taking the rest.” It’s not like you’re super slow.

One said it was supposed to be 65 minutes and I ended up doing it in 1 hour and 11 minutes. I skipped the cool-down because we had to do this episode.

You never do cool down.

I didn’t want to encourage people to skip the cool-down.

They should not do what you do. They should do what they are supposed to do.

I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who are going to be like, “If Tom doesn’t do the cool-down, so am I.” I don’t want to send that message to the youth of America who were hanging on my every word. I recognize that I am a role model. I do skip the cool-down because I want to be done. I do the workout. I don’t skip the warm-ups. I do them. Maybe I cut them a little short. Maybe it’s 3.5 minutes but 3 minutes feels like plenty. I do that.

That’s a good takeaway. Go into it with the mindset that if you’re going to try this, don’t be in a hurry. Embrace that it’s going to take a while because it’s a lot of volume. You don’t want to rush it. You want to go with the proper cadence. That’s the whole point of it. If people are reading this show for the very first time, they may not know what House of Volume is. It’s Tonal’s toughest program. That’s what they’re labeling it as. It’s advanced level.

If you are brand new to weightlifting or you might be brand new to Tonal but not brand new to weightlifting, this is probably not the first thing you want to try. They’re thinking it’s the hardest program ever built on Tonal due to the sheer number of reps and the short rest periods. It’s four weeks long. It is specifically designed to help you bust through your training plateaus and enhance strength and muscular endurance. You are going to get a lot out of that, Tom. It’s also about volume accumulation so it’s putting you in the 12 to 20 rep range with a short rest.

It’s out there so if you try it, let us know what you think. We love to hear about it.

We’re curious to hear what other people are doing.

Go to and let us know. We would love to hear. Tonal had their Custom Workout-Sharing Contest.

How did it go?

It went well. The winners have been announced. This is from the Tonal community, the OTC. They have them all posted there.

Hopefully, people know they won.

I saw people posting like, “Mine got picked.” You got a free month or something. Honestly, I don’t think anybody was all that excited about the free month. Not to rip on it but they were more excited that theirs made the cut. It was more a matter of pride and less a matter of prize.

It’s because they built something that other people saw as beneficial. That was what they were most excited about.

The real victory was inside our hearts the whole time. It’s the friends we made along the way. They have some of the names of them like Backside Unilateral Party, which is based on name. PSOAS. What is that?

It’s where your hip muscle connects to your butt. It moves all the things in your lower body. It’s an important thing, especially for runners.

That’s why I don’t know what it is. Legs and Plyo. That was one. Barbell Boot Camp. Chest and Back 3 Ways. Who doesn’t like a good three-way? This one goes to 11, which is even more than a 3-way. What is going on? Core Tempo Tabata. That was one.

That sounds hard.

Lumberjack Lifts Shoulders. I feel like the workouts I’ve been picking have been highly focused on shoulders. I feel like I’ve been doing lots of shoulders. I don’t know why.

It’s because men like to build their shoulders. In all seriousness, a lot of men are looking for a certain aesthetic. It’s like that wide at the top and skinnier as you go down like a triangle. Shoulders are a big part of that.

I’m like, “More shoulder stuff.” You know me, I don’t ask questions. I just do it. Around the World Pump, going back to some of the other workouts. Quick Legs.

I probably need some quick legs or maybe it’s quick because it’s a quick workout.

Perhaps or maybe, they’re trying to get you to run faster. I don’t know. They did not post the names of the people in this post. Congratulations to everyone who had their things picked. You can find that over in the OTC. It was posted by Dia Woodbury.

Do you know what’s cool about these? Anybody can share these. That’s cool because we can all go grab them. If you want to try out the PSOAS or the 3-Way, no judgment here. You can go in, click the link, and add it to your app. It’s super easy to do.

In this post, if you’re looking for it, it was on September 15th, 2023. They have all the links so you can go through them. If any of this sounds good to you, you can click the button and do the sharing. If you make your own, you can share those as well. How do you do that? You open your workout under the Custom tab in your app, click the Share button in the top right corner, and then get a personalized link that you can text, email, AirDrop, or any of the social media apps. If you’ve got the link, you’re good to go.

Normally, this is where I ask you what’s on the show but we’ve already done so much talking so we’re going to run through all the new content because there’s so much. Before we get to that, shameless plugs. Don’t forget that you can find us at While you’re there, like the page and join the group. Wherever you’re getting your podcast from, be sure and follow us so you never miss an episode.

Leave us a review. If you would be so kind, that would be super helpful. You can also watch these episodes over at, the name of our other show but everything lives on one YouTube channel because it was too much work to create another YouTube channel. Transparency and laziness, I’m a big proponent of it. There’s all that. Let’s dig in, shall we?

We shall.

As always, there is lots of new content. The first one is Muscle-Building Basics for Beginners. If you’re thinking about House of Volume but you’re not quite there yet, this is probably a good place for you.

This is a good place for people, especially new to weightlifting in general. This helps you get acquainted with the fundamentals of resistance training and it’s a full-body workout. You’re going to prep your shoulders, chest, biceps, glutes, and quads with bodyweight exercises. You move into those compound lifts and you’re going to round out the session with accessory work to support the main lifts. It’s a good way to walk away feeling like you took on a new challenge.

Who is the coach on that one?

That is Coach T, Tanysha.

A little spoiler for you, she’s going to be on our next episode. The next item up for bid is 20-In-20 Fire Circuits.

I love the name of this one because it sounds like you’re going to get an ass-kicking. This is going to help you get a burn in your legs, back, and shoulders. It’s another full-body workout with long sets of lunges, rows, and presses. They’re going to light up the muscles as you move through 5 exercise circuits 2 times finishing with a reverse drop set and additional time under tension, which is going to drive strength and endurance gain. This is with Coach Ash.

You’re not going to get an ass-kicking. You’re going to get an ash-kicking. Elevate Your Endurance.

This one is all about pushing the limits of upper body stamina. It’s a workout that combines endurance-boosting bodyweight moves with on Tonal lifts to improve your technique. You’re going to go hard right from the beginning with a bodyweight burnout block that’s going to challenge mental strength as much as muscles. You better worry when they say that. It progressed to core and accessory work with an emphasis on movement quality. This is Coach Kristina.

I’m glad they let you know upfront that there are going to be on Tonal moves. Sometimes if I see a bunch of bodyweight stuff, I’m like, “What do I get a machine for?” There is some bodyweight stuff that’s only bodyweight that I do but I know going in that it’s bodyweight. If I go in thinking I’m going to use the machine and I get a bunch of bodyweight stuff upfront, I spend the first ten minutes cranky like, “What are we doing?”

A lot of people do. You are not alone in that. A lot of people are like, “Why?” They want to lift. If you’re a person who enjoys the lifting acts aspect of lifting weights, then you feel like you’re “wasting your time” when you’re not lifting but there are a lot of benefits and warmup benefits of doing the bodyweight moves as well.

Logically, I know that to be true but I’m still a crap about it.

You’re not the only one. You’re not alone in that. You’re a little bit of a snob when it comes to that.

I don’t think that. Compound Clinic Lunge & Row.

This is going to be all rows and lunges because they are very important to any strength training routine.

I would like to retract what I said about bodyweight movements if lunges or Bulgarian split squats are involved. It’s perfectly fine to give me a bodyweight Bulgarian split squat. No complaints. Not one.

I agree with that. The thing is that this is a clinic that’s going to get the proper technique for both of these. That is important because you do not want to go into lifting heavy on a Bulgarian split squat if you never got the technique right. You’re going to hurt yourself. You got to break it down. That’s what’s going to get you to the next level with your gains.

I finally feel like I can do a Bulgarian split squat without feeling like I’m about to fall on my face.

That’s great. It took me a long time too. An aspect of it is that you can position your legs in so many different ways and it feels different every time. Repeating and paying attention to what the coaches are saying about the optimal form is what you want to do.

I always feel though when I’m on the downward motion in a Bulgarian split squat that I’m bending forward too much. Maybe you are. I feel like the instructor stays more straight up but then when I’m focusing on it, I don’t know another way to get my body to do it to be as straight as they are. I’ve never set up the thing where it watches you. It’s a lot of work. Feeling like a lot of work is a lot of work.

If only you knew a personal trainer who could watch and help you with your form. That’s something to think about.

We’ll have to put out some fillers. I am leaning forward too much. When I’ve tried to focus on being straighter, I still feel like there is no straighter.

You might want to let somebody help you with that. For people at home who are experiencing the same thing, another option is to get a mirror or even film what you’re doing.

To be clear, it’s an actual mirror, not the machine.

Why would you bother getting that?

I want to make that very clear to people.

There’s no disrespect but if you have a Tonal, you don’t need one. Get an actual mirror and then check your form because it also might be that it feels like you’re bent over but maybe you’re not. You could see and that might change your perspective.

If we get a mirror, should we get rid of the tread or the bike? Which should we get rid of so we can make room for that?

That’s not going to be a thing.

You were so adamant. I was trying to do the things you wanted me to do.

If you wanted to get a mirror, you could get a full-body mirror and put it on the back of the door where all of your thousands of unread comics are. We moved all of those.

Ultimate Series. This is the last item up for bid.

This is a new Custom By Tonal workout. It’s a series. It’s designed by the experts at Tonal. It’s going to combine the efficiency of custom workouts with the ease and expertise of coach-led pre-programmed content. You’re going to be able to go at your pace because you are in the driver’s seat. You like those Custom By Tonals.

I do. I like them because there’s no messing around. You just get to it.

That’s the point. You get in and get out.

As much as Tonal has been super beneficial for me, I still don’t like working out.

I don’t think you’re ever going to like working out but you miss working out when you don’t do it, which I find interesting.

It’s because I feel like I have a death grip on looking better.

You don’t want to lose that momentum.

I feel like I could easily let 2 days off turn into 5 days off and then turn into I haven’t done it in a month. I don’t want to do that. I’m very focused on not letting that occur. That’s what you’re picking up on. It’s not so much of like, “I love this.” I have been doing it long enough to where I’m reaping the benefits and I don’t want to backslide. With Compound Clinic Lunge & Row, I don’t think we said that that was Coach Tim. We don’t want Coach Tim to be like, “How come they didn’t say my name?”

We are so happy that you are teaching the Lunge & Row Clinic, Coach Tim. Thank you.

Joining us is John Sill. John, how’s it going?

I’m good. Thanks for having me on.

We appreciate your time. What originally got you into workouts? You are not an average weekend warrior. You’re into working out. How did that start for you?

It all started back when I was in high school. I was doing sports but I got into weightlifting because I was small. I was 100 pounds. I didn’t like being the little guy. Sometimes, you get picked on physically because of that thing and I didn’t appreciate it. I started working out to put on some mass and hope to build some muscle. That’s why I started when I was around fifteen. That’s what originally kicked it off.

That’s a healthy approach.

You’re like, “I don’t like this. I want to be able to kill people.”

I didn’t like being the little guy. If you’re a little bit strong, people won’t mess with you.

I’m curious. Let me ask what might be a personal question. How tall are you? Are you also on the shorter end of things?

I’m about average height now. I’m under 5’10” or 5’9 1/2”. When I started lifting, I was around 5’3” or 5’5” somewhere around there. With that 100 pounds, you’re a small dude.

I say that because I’m 5’6” to 5’7” in heels. I relate to that. I got picked on a lot because of my height when I was a kid. As a child, I was even shorter. I was too lazy to work out. That wasn’t going to be my plan of attack. I have gone down that road. I was curious where you were on the height spectrum. That’s a weird age because I remember when my youngest son was that age, I was looking at his class around 7th and 8th grade. Some kids could pass for third grade and some kids could vote. It was crazy by the disparity. If you’re on the left-hand side of that bell curve, it’s intimidating.

Even within the same family and same gene pool, my brother is around 6’2”. I was 16 or 17 years old. He’s four years younger and had already passed me in height. Everybody grows at different rates. I found it unfortunate that I was growing at a slower rate.

That was a healthy way to deal with it. You were like, “I’m going to get stronger.” You took the power into your hands. That’s where your fitness journey started. Has it always been weightlifting for you? Has that always been your passion when it comes to fitness?

The sports I did in high school were cross-country and track. It was a lot of cardio. That doesn’t pair well with muscle gains. I didn’t know that. I was running and lifting weights at the same time. Overall, I was loving it. Any physical activity I could get, I enjoyed it a lot. Personality-wise, I set goals and go for them. I had goals in the weight room, cross-country, and track. I pursued those wherever I could to get better. There was a lot of work there in that phase of life. It was hard to put on weight.

First off, it’s hard to put on weight. I want to say, “Go to hell.” When did you pivot to more of a strength training focus as opposed to cardio?

It was my senior year of cross-country. Out of high school, I decided I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought. I’m not interested in taking it to the next level. I was being recruited by small colleges, like the NAI level. I had got some interest from them but I was not interested in running anymore. I still finished out my high school running career but I’d made the decision that it was going to be it.

Once I got to college as an undergrad, I tried to run from time to time and didn’t enjoy it anymore. It was strictly weightlifting at that point. When you go into a college weight room as an undergrad student, you’re eighteen years old, and a small guy like me, and there are grown men lifting around 20 to 21-year-olds is what it looked like. They’re huge. In my mind, I say, “This is where I got to start getting after it and start putting on weight.” I still struggle with that but that was the goal back then.

That’s fascinating because I know many people in a setting like that. We hear this story all the time. We’ve both lived this story. You walk into a gym and you see those people who are much further in their weightlifting journey than you are. That’s scary and intimidating. For me, I would feel like such an imposter going over there. I’m going to lift this little weight that might have been painted pink and put a vagina on.

Women can lift heavy weights.

Many of them can lift heavier weights than I do. I feel like it’s intimidating for men and women but for different reasons. Even though I use Tonal and lift weights, when I walk into that part of the gym, I’m like, “Hard pass. I’m out.” Was that not even a factor for you? How did you contend with that?

There is some level of intimidation but for the most part, my perspective on life is if I know somebody is better at something than me, I drop the ego and try to follow what they’re doing or learn from them. I’ve always had that mindset that I’m never going to be the absolute best person in the world and at anything in life. There’s always going to be somebody better that can teach you something.

That is the same thing with weightlifting. You have to be careful because there are genetic factors here where some people are naturally big and fit. It’s not always because of their training. Their training may not work the same for you. Collectively, if you take a lot of information from a lot of people who seem to be doing it right, from trial and experience, you’re going to eventually get to what you need to do.

That’s the way I took it. I’ve had friends who go to the gym for the first time, even when they’re older, and they’re intimidated because they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re embarrassed. If you stay in your lane and focus on yourself, even with competition, it’s you against you. If you focus on that, you’re going to improve. It can be intimidating but it’s best to look past that and focus on your gains.

If you stay in your lane and focus on yourself, even with competition, it's you against you. If you focus on that, you're going to improve. Click To Tweet

Speaking of competition, how did you go from, “I’m a weightlifter doing weightlifting and I like to be fit,” to competitive bodybuilding? That’s a whole different thing. That’s a different beast.

I started weightlifting back when I was fifteen. From 15 to 30, I was lifting to lift. There was no rhyme or reason for what I was doing as far as training goes. I want these muscles to look better. I’m going to lift these areas a lot. I’ll be honest. I skipped plenty of leg days. I’m not the purist there. That was my earlier years of weightlifting. There was no strategy behind that. I’m doing it to do it.

I took this long break for about five years or so where I wasn’t working out lifting regularly at all. I would be inconsistent. I would do it for a month and stop again for six months. That was because of having kids. After that five-year gap, my oldest told me, “Dad, you’re looking flabby, chubby guy.” She was only about 4 or 5 years old at the time. That got me back into it and training again.

TSS 58 | Weightlifting Journey


I was seeing quick gains again. I went to this public event where Jay Cutler was. He was a former 4 or 5 times Mr. Olympia. That was back when I was in high school. He was one of my idols. I knew I’d never be as big as him but he’s a goal to chase after. I went and met him in person at this public event at a local supplement store here. I’m sure he says this to everybody but he’s like, “Have you ever thought about competing?” I was like, “Me? I’m too small.” He says, “No, you should give it a shot. You can compete naturally within your lane. Find what works for you.”

I discounted that. I was walking out. On the way out, he calls to me. He’s like, “John.” I turned and looked at him. He says, “I’ll see you on stage soon.” I’m like, “This is real. He knows me.” I went home, called my wife all giddy, and said, “Jay Cutler said I should compete.” She’s like, “Do you want to?” I was like, “I don’t know.” She’s like, “You do want to compete.” I was like, “I’ll give it a shot.”

I had already been on this weight loss journey trying to cut the dad bod thing. When we made that decision, it was late May. It was the summer season. I made this decision on Memorial Day and had to compete on Labor Day. That’s a 3 or 4-month prep. I didn’t know what I was doing. I watched a ton of YouTube videos. I said, “Let’s do it.” It went well. I had fun. That’s the fun part of it. Seeing my body change over those months is what locked me into it.

It’s nice that your wife was so supportive of your decision to get into peak physical condition. That’s quite the sacrifice on her part. She’s like, “If you want to, I don’t want to step on a dream.”

I’m curious how you integrate Tonal into your workouts to build. We’ve talked to a lot of people who have done Tonal. I feel like most people, once they try Tonal, love it. I like to hear from people who lift super heavy. There are always the naysayers or the question mark people out there like, “I don’t think Tonal is good enough for me. They can’t lift enough weight.” I’m curious about your thoughts on that.

There are schools of thought on this. Some people train and think more weight needs more muscle. There’s some truth to that but there’s also some truth if you have proper form and isolation techniques. If you pound a lot of volume, that muscle is still going to get worn out. You’re still going to tear it down. It’s going to have to rebuild and grow.

Some people train and think that more weight needs more muscle. However, you still need proper form and isolation techniques. Otherwise, you will get worn out. Click To Tweet

To some respect, I will say, “Yes, it’s heavy enough for most of your body.” I’ll be honest myself. On that first competition, I also had doubts whether it’d be enough. I’d been training on Tonal for six months or so prior to getting into prep exclusively on Tonal. When I decided to do the competition, I said, “This isn’t enough. I need to do two a day. One needs to be at a commercial gym with heavy weights.” That’s what I was doing at lunchtime. At night, I’ll do Tonal.

I found that everything I was doing at a public gym, for the most part, could be done at home on Tonal. On this last prep, I did just Tonal. I felt like I improved year over year, in my opinion. Most people said, “You had some gains.” I do think where Tonal is lacking, in my opinion, is for leg stuff. That’s specific because I’m trying to grow my legs a lot. You have to do a lot for them. That’s where you might not be heavy enough.

If you’re in any competitive mode, the average male should be able to squat 225 at a minimum. If you scale the machine, it only goes up to that. You can do that, do squats, and pound a lot of volume but I also like to feel the steel from time to time and get that heavy weight. Either way, you can make it work if you put your mind and focus into it. It might take more time to get that amount of volume in.

How are you continuing to evolve with Tonal?

When I was younger, I didn’t go through focusing on the eccentric portion of my moves. I call it ego-lifting. If I want to look strong, I have to throw a lot of weight on the bench and push it around. Now, I’m focusing more on a full body thing and a lot more of let’s drop the weight a little bit, get the move, and feel it on the way back.

You are using the eccentric mode. Even if you do a normal mode, as long as you feel the movement and the stretch, you’re doing yourself a favor by putting more focus on the movement. That’s something that Tonal has helped me evolve with because the machine itself will tell you to slow it down or do a full range of motion. Those form corrections are game-changing.

When you talk about when you were younger, it was a little bit more ego-driven in terms of you wanting to lift a lot of weight, which I get. I’m not even disparaging you for that but I’m curious. Was there a moment in time when you had an epiphany, and you were like, “This is not the most efficient and effective way for me to lift weight?” Was it a slow realization over time?

When I was in law school, I was the biggest and lifting heaviest I had ever done in my life. I also was getting injured a lot more often. I was having shoulder pain, wrist pains, and a tricep elbow kind of thing that was always nagging me. There were a lot of upper-body injuries.

You were skipping leg day.

My form wasn’t great. I was trying to go as heavy as possible. For a while, I’d say, “I’ll take some time off, heal, and get back to it.” It kept happening. That was when I realized, “I’m getting older.” There’s no reason I’m not trying to get into powerlifting. There’s no point to this. The epiphany was after six months of recurring injuries, it happened.

Is there a different way to do this?

Work smarter, not harder.

How do other people in the bodybuilding community feel about Tonal? Are they skeptical? Are they surprised that you can get the look that you are happy with using the sci-fi equipment? Does it not even come up?

I don’t think it’s something that comes up a ton. Once you step on stage and everyone knows you work out, people don’t usually ask, “What are you doing? What machine are you using? What’s your equipment?” Everyone has their secrets of how they do it. They do help each other but I don’t think I’m at that level where I’m crushing it so hard that people want to know what I’m doing. Let’s be honest. I’m relatively average.

Saying that is a narrow window.

That’s a sliver of a sliver.

People online, I’ve heard question it, whether it’s something they can do or not. It’s very possible. It’s fine.

What do you personally love most about Tonal?

Convenience and safety. My first part is I have young children in the home. For a long time, I was scared if I got a weight rack in there. My kids like to climb on things and pull things. You talk about a small child that only weighs 30 to 40 pounds. If a 45-pound bar or weight falls on them, they’re going to be seriously hurt. If I drop one of them myself as a full-grown adult, it hurts. A small child will get banged up easily.

The convenience is that I walk down there in my basement, rotate the arms, and it’s ready to go. There’s a lot more setup in between and movements with a weight rack. I enjoy that but when you’re working full-time and you have kids, it’s hard to find a lot of time. That convenience of trimming off the time and fat from changing weights helps a lot. Those are my two favorite things about Tonal.

When you're working full-time and have kids, it's hard to find a lot of time for weightlifting. Tonal is a great solution to trim off the time and fat from changing weights. Click To Tweet

Are you doing specific Tonal programs? Are you doing custom workouts because you have some hyper specificity in your goals that maybe the average bald goatee, middle-aged guy would not have?

Yes. It’s funny because, in the Official Tonal Community on Facebook, I’ve made plenty of posts about my journey. I get asked that a lot. I’ve done a mix but looking at my profile history compared to others, I do a lot fewer programs compared to the average Tonal user. Not that I don’t enjoy the programs or think they’re reputable by any means. They’re great. I specifically like Joe Rodonis. I like his programs a lot.

The reason I do custom stuff is when I’m in prep mode, you’re trying to do a lot more focus on specific muscles. When I do the programs, they’re very whole-body all combined. If I have an area of weakness that’s lagging, I try to double up on that body part to grow it and make it catch up to the rest of the body. With that, I do a lot of custom stuff.

When it’s my off-season, I’ll switch back more towards the Tonal programs. I find that mentally when it’s off-season, I can slack a little bit. If I do a program, they push me to do the work. I can’t slack. If I’m on my own, I’m like, “That’s enough.” I’m not driven as I am in prep mode when you’re like, “I got to put in this work. Otherwise, I’m going to look like a fool on stage.” There’s a balancing act. It’s hard to do it all on your own and keep pushing yourself year-round unless you’re a professional and do it for a job. That motivation does come into play with those programs.

That balance makes total sense, especially given what you do with bodybuilding. You are coming to the machine with a level of knowledge that a lot of people aren’t. As someone who has no knowledge in the space, I rely on the machine for the knowledge. If I start picking custom programs, I don’t know what I’m doing.

I’m like you on day one when you were in college in the weight room. I don’t know what I’m doing. I let the machine be the guy teaching me. That mimics total sense, especially when you throw in the idea that you are going to have some very hyper-specific needs in terms of, “I needed my triceps to look like this.” For an average guy, it’s not. I got ways before people like me need to start worrying about that stuff.

You can step on stage in the summer of 2024 if you want.

It doesn’t mean I would do any good but I could do it.

What is something about Tonal that surprised you when you started using it?

I’m going back to the skepticism of enough weight. That is what surprised me the most. I tried it at Macy’s. They have a setup in the store. I put some weight on there, comparable to what I would do in a gym with dumbbells. I said, “I tore my shoulder off. This is heavy.” It catches you by surprise. Even if you have the strength, the first time you turn it on, the way it pulls you, your body has to get used to it. It was surprising to me how much heavier it felt.

Early on, I did a comparison. I went to my in-laws. They have dumbbells. I was doing a flat press. The heaviest they have is 80-pound dumbbells. I was pushing those pretty smoothly by ten reps. I keep and do multiple sets. I go home and try to do that on Tonal. I thought I was going to have a hernia. It was wild. It was a big difference.

It was probably on the machine. I was feeling comfortable at that same time with around 60 pounds in each hand. It still felt heavy. It surprised me the big gap in what it feels like when you have constant resistance against you, pulling you when you’re doing your movement versus weight and gravity. What surprised me the most was how difficult it was.

I was surprised by how stable it was. It’s not a pulley but visually, it feels like it should be a pulley. In my head, I’m like, “Cables and pulley feel like it’s going to be like a BowFlex and wobbly.” There is none of that.

It’s remarkable from a technology standpoint of what it’s able to handle and do.

On that note, how do you specifically explain to somebody what Tonal is when they know nothing about it?

It’s an all-in-one gym that fits on your wall. It’s most comparable. If you do ever go to public gyms and you see those machines, they have the various cable machines there, it’s mostly similar to that but it’s capable of 10X of those machines. It’s capable of meeting much more of your overall demands but the feel and the setup of it are very similar, at least from a workout standpoint. That’s my opinion.

Tonal is an all-in-one gym that fits on your wall. It is capable of meeting your overall demands while giving a similar feel and setup from a workout standpoint. Click To Tweet

Do you use any of the other content that’s available on Tonal? Do you stick straight to the lifting?

I used to do yoga because I was trying to help with my flexibility. I still need the flexibility. I have slacked on that. I’ve used the yoga and weightlifting content. From time to time, I’ve even done the young kids programs. There’s one. It’s like a superhero one. I don’t know if they still make them but they used to make them. There were kid-themed ones. It’s kids’ fitness and they don’t use a machine. It’s all stretching and pushups.

I’ve done stuff like that with my kids. Their friends have been over. They were like, “What’s that machine on the wall?” I do that with them. It gets the kids to work out for 10 to 15 minutes for as long as their attention span. I use those programs and they’re fun. Yoga is probably the only other thing besides weightlifting I’ve used.

TSS 58 | Weightlifting Journey


We have teenagers and we can’t get them to touch it. They see it as a thing the parents do. It’s not like they’re doing anything else. They’re doing nothing and I cannot cast dispersions because I didn’t start working out until I was 50. I’m like, “Who am I to yell at them?”

If mom and dad tell them to do it, they’re not going to do it. If they find interest on their own, they’ll get into it.

As you’ll learn in the not-too-distant future, every teenager is the smartest person who has ever lived.

You get it back on the other end. It’s not fun.

Do you have any advice for people who are entering the Tonal community?

For the most part, for people who are entering the Tonal community, I would advise them to take their time exploring the different coaches and find who they vibe with before jumping into a program. I know it’s easy to jump into a program based on the name of it but often, it’s the connection with the coach. I know you’re not connecting personally with them but when they teach you, you want to be able to learn from them.

If you find a coach whose voice annoys you or whose side jokes don’t sit well with you, those are the things that are going to rub you wrong and you’re going to not want to do the program. You’re going to be discouraged from them because you don’t want to see this person who’s annoying you. If you find somebody that you find enjoyable and you can work with, start with those programs. Get into a routine. Start with a program that’s not as frequent. Do one that’s only three days a week and build up from there.

It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. Everybody that jumps into it thinking, “I’m going to go to the expert level. I’ll hit it 5 to 6 days a week,” you’re going burn out. My advice is to find a coach you like, try some different ones out, commit to a program that’s less frequent, begin at level one, get your body used to it, see how you respond, and go from there.

That’s great advice. It was not purposeful but I ended up doing something similar to that. When it first started, I was doing three days a week. I did that for about a year. I was finally starting to see progress. Once I saw the progress, it was much easier to level up to 4 or 5 days a week because now that I had seen progress, I wanted to see more progress more quickly. In the beginning, there’s that delayed gratification part that can be hard to wrap your head around like, “I’m doing all this work and I don’t look any different.” You got to give it a minute but that’s easier said than done.

It’s hard to be patient. There are two parts. You’ve got your diet and workout. If you’re not doing both, the progress is slower. Many people think, “As soon as I start lifting, I’m going to start seeing gains.” It takes a lot longer. There is some patience that needs to come with it.

John, thank you so much for joining us. Before we let you go, let everybody know where they can find you if you would like to be found on Instagram or Twitter.

On Instagram, you can follow my bodybuilding journey. It’s @SilliFit. I post from time to time on the Official Tonal Community on Facebook.

Thank you so much for joining us. We greatly appreciate it.

Thank you guys so much for having me.

That brings this episode to a close. Where can we find you?

People can find me on Facebook at They can also find me on all the social media platforms @ClipOutCrystal and I will be on the Tonal leaderboard, @ClipOutCrystal.

You can find me on Twitter @RogerQBert or Facebook at I should say you can find me on Twitter unless they start to charge for it.

If that happens, you will never find me on Twitter again. Let me be clear. I am so out.

I am not spending money on it. You can find me on the Tonal leaderboard if that’s your jam to see if I’m lying about the 1-hour and 11-minute workout or 20,000 pounds. You can find me on there at @TomOKeefe because I’m super creative like that. Luckily, there apparently is not another Tom O’Keefe who has bought a Tonal yet. That’s it for this one. Thanks for reading. Until next time. Keep lifting.


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