Do toning tables actually work?

Getting thin and fit is a national obsession, and a number of diet plans and exercise crazes have cropped up to help people reach their goals. Toning tables are one set of exercise equipment that seems to be too good to be true.

The perception is that while you lie on the machine, it goes through the motion of the exercise and your body reaps the benefit.

Perceived Benefits

A toning table is a machine that allows you to go through the motions of an exercise with little effort. Some people who use these machines claim that they see results in a relatively short amount of time. Rather than focusing on weight loss, the goal here is to improve muscle tone to gain strength and lose inches. Toning tables may be a good alternative exercise for the elderly and those who have difficulty doing traditional aerobic or weight bearing activities. Besides the inches lost, many people with mobility issues gain flexibility, improve their posture and get stronger using toning tables. You can purchase these machines for home use, but they are fairly expensive, running hundreds of dollars each. Many beauty and tanning salons also incorporate the toning beds.

The Mechanics

It is a common misconception that people on toning tables are just lying there letting the machine do all the work. This is not the case. The machines are designed to position the body in just the right way to focus on a particular muscle group. While the machine goes through its motion, you perform isometric exercises to gain the most benefit. Isometric exercises are performed by tightening a specific muscle and holding it, or moving very slightly. Many yoga and Pilates moves are isometric exercises, and they are very effective. Toning tables assist you by providing a little more intensity to the isometric move. A good example is the sit-up machine. It looks like a hospital bed, hinged in the middle so it can raise and lower. You are instructed to hold your abdominal muscles tight, as if you were going to perform a sit-up or crunch on your own. But the machine raises and lowers your upper body instead. Since your muscles are contracted, and your body is going through the motion, it is as if you are doing the sit-up yourself. First developed by biochemist, Bernard H. Stauffer, for his polio-stricken sister, these types of machines have been around since the 1950s.


As with any new exercise plan, you should consult with your health care provider before joining a toning table program. If you have a health condition like high blood pressure, arthritis or diabetes, take extra care when using the tables due to higher heart rate and risk of injury, just like with other exercise programs.