Best Functional Trainers | Top 7 Cable Machines (2020)

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Best Functional Trainers

The popularity of Functional Trainers has risen up quite dramatically in the past few years. There’s a good reason, it’s one of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment for working out at home.

If you want to get a full-body workout at home but don’t have the money or space for a bunch of exercise equipment, buying a good functional cable machine trainer is one of the best purchases you can make.

There are quite a few machines out there, and choosing the right one for you isn’t so obvious.

In this buying guide, we’ve picked the best functional trainers that you can get in 2020.

We review low budget functional trainers as well as mid-range and top of the game machines. in case you live in a small apartment, we review two excellent compact functional trainers, including one that folds to take only half the space.

In case you are in a rush, we’ll begin with our 7 top picks first, but if you want to know more, read the whole guide. We talk about the features of functional trainers, show home workout videos, and more, it’s all here.

TOP 7 FUNCTIONAL TRAINERS AT A GLANCE

Functional TrainerFeaturesPrice Range
XMark Functional TrainerBest Heavy Weight$$$
FreeMotion Dual Cable EXT CrossoverAdjustable Pro Level$$$$
HCI Fitness PTX Functional TrainerFolding & Compact$$
Body-Solid BFFT10RBudget Pick$
Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional TrainerPremium Pick$$$$
Inspire Fitness FT1 Functional TrainerSmall for Corners$$
Body-Solid Powerline PCCO90XlAffordable & Light$
XMark Functional Trainer
Best Heavy Duty Functional Trainer
Our rating:
  • Most Weight for Price
  • Lots of Accessories Included
  • Stable like a Tank
Read Review
FreeMotion Dual Cable EXT Crossover
Most Adjustable Pro Trainer
Our rating:
  • Adjustable Counterbalanced Arms
  • Small 3 lbs Weight Increments
  • Commercial Grade Design
Read Review
HCI Fitness PTX Folding Functional Trainer
Best Compact Functional Trainer (Folding)
Our rating:
  • Folds to 40% of Its Size
  • Weight Stack Convers to Free Weights
  • Includes a Weight Bench
Read Review
Body-Solid Best Fitness BFFT10R
Our Budget Pick
Our rating:
  • Simple and Flawless Design
  • Can Add More Weight
  • Easy Assembly
Read Review
Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer
Best Premium Trainer
Our rating:
  • Integrated Smith Machine
  • Weight Multiplier Doubles Max Resistance
  • Tons of Accessories
Read Review
Inspire Fitness FT1 Functional Trainer
Best for Small Spaces (Non-Folding)
Our rating:
  • Fits Snugly in a Corner
  • 30 Pulley Positions on Each Side
  • Almost no Assembly Required
Read Review
Body-Solid Powerline PCCO90X
Affordable & Light Crossover
Our rating:
  • Extra Wide Ideal for Cable Crossover
  • Great for Large People
  • Uses Olympic Weight Plates
Read Review

XMark Functional Trainer

Best Heavy Duty Functional Trainer
XMark Functional Trainer Cable Machine with Dual 200 lb Weight Stacks, 19 Adjustments, and Accessory Package XM-7626 (Gray)

Xmark’s functional trainer has a sturdy wedge-shaped frame made from 11-gauge steel. No wonder the Xmark has the heaviest weight stack because the solidness of the frame’s welds really stands out.

You’ll really start to appreciate the quality of the Xmark Trainer the moment you start using it. Why? Because the movement just feels so smooth, from start to finish of each rep. We have to give a thumb up to the design of the Xmark’s cable pulley system.

The Xmark is also very stable and won’t rock during exercise.
The machine’s wedge shape puts the narrow end at the back, so all the force of your heavy pulling goes toward the wide end. This keeps the trainer sturdy and helps make sure you can’t tip it over even with heavily-weighted crossovers or swinging pull-ups. There are also rubberized pads on each foot to keep it in place and protect your floor.

It has two separate weight stacks of 200 pounds each for a total of 400 pounds. Each weight in the stack weighs 10 pounds.

The pulleys’ cables extend nearly 7 feet in front of the machine, which should give you plenty of room to move freely. The cable weight ratio is 2:1, which means you can lift a real-weight total of 200 pounds.

You should be able to put the Xmark trainer together in two or three hours, maybe faster if you have a friend to help. The frame has a lifetime warranty, and the moving parts are guaranteed for one year.

DIMENSIONS

The machine measures 65 by 43 inches on the ground. It’s 83 inches tall at its highest point, which is the pull-up bar. In total, it weighs a bit more than 800 pounds.

ADJUSTABILITY

You can adjust the swivel pulleys up and down in 3.5-inch increments. Its highest setting is 6 feet 6 inches, and its lowest setting is about a foot off the floor.

There are seven quick-adjust accessories. These include a pair each of short and long handles, both a short and long bar, a tricep rope, an ankle strap, and a leg-curl strap.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

You can’t add any extra weight to the stack, but the two 200 lbs stacks should be fine for most people.

The assembly instructions aren’t as clear as they should be.

WHY WE LIKE IT

We like the stability of the machine’s wedge shape as well as the variety of all its accessories. The Xmark functional trainer also comes with the most weight for its price. Other trainers with this much weight (two stacks of 200 lbs) are usually double the price.

XMark Functional Trainer
Our rating:
  • Most Weight for Price
  • Lots of Accessories Included
  • Stable like a Tank
XMark Functional Trainer

FreeMotion Dual Cable EXT Crossover

Most Adjustable Pro Fuctional Trainer
Light Commercial FreeMotion EXT Dual Cable Crossover Silver Machine with Weight Stacks, Rotating Arms and Swivel Pulleys.

Instead of adjustable pulleys connected to a frame, the FreeMotion trainer comes with two adjustable arms that jut out of the center. The arms rotate freely in space, almost like real arms, and come with swivel pulleys at each tip. This gives you nearly unlimited planes of movement.

Each arm is connected to its own 210-pound weight stack that it lifts independently of the other. Although there’s a total of 420 pounds of weight, the cable weight ratio is 3:1, so it only feels like 140 lbs. The stack is adjustable in 3-pound increments.

If you’re new to functional training, you’ll love the included instructional videos, and there’s also a nice wall poster that shows you some great exercises. The assembly instructions are top-notch, and there are even individually-labeled bags for all the smaller parts.

There is a lifetime warranty on the 11-gauge steel frame, and a 10-year warranty on all moving parts except for cables and accessories.

DIMENSIONS

This trainer is 113 inches wide and 84 inches tall with a depth of 60 inches. It weighs 997 pounds.

ADJUSTABILITY

Each arm is adjustable up and down in 12-inch increments and sideways in 9-inch increments.

The trainer comes with handles and ankle cuffs.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

At almost 1000 pounds, the FreeMotion trainer is heavy. You’ll want to be careful about where you put it, and you probably won’t be able to move it around that much, if at all.

There are only two included accessories, so if you want to add other attachments like special bars, triceps ropes, etc… you’ll have to buy these separately.

WHY WE LIKE IT

If you’re a beginner, or even if you have been trying to years, you’ll appreciate the 3 lbs weight increments. They’re small enough to let you start with almost no resistance and take your time to get stronger. It’s best to add a little more weight each time, which builds up over time instead of trying to add too much weight at once.

FreeMotion Dual Cable EXT Crossover
Our rating:
  • Adjustable Counterbalanced Arms
  • Small 3 lbs Weight Increments
  • Commercial Grade Design
FreeMotion Dual Cable EXT Crossover

HCI Fitness PTX Folding Functional Trainer

Best Compact Functional Trainer (Folding)
HCI Fitness PTX Gym Folding Functional Trainer Compact Home Gym

The HCI Fitness PTG Gym is the best compact functional trainer you can get. The PTX Gym is a trainer that folds in half when you’re not using it, so you’ll love it if your space is limited. It comes with two independent weight stacks of 110 pounds each and an adjustable bench that folds up into the contraption for easy storage.

It has a weight stack of 220 pounds, 110 lbs on each side. You can also remove plates from the stack to use them as free weights. Each plate weighs 11 lbs, and we like the neat feature that each plate has a built-in handle for easy lifting.

The cable travels smoothly throughout the exercise. The folding mechanism is simple with feet that retract into the machine and wheels that make it easy to roll the two sides together.

It comes with a lifetime warranty on the frame and a 5-year warranty on the moving parts.

DIMENSIONS

Unfolded, the PTX measures 51 by 24 inches on the floor and 73 inches tall. It folds up from 51 to 20 inches wide, so this really saves a lot of space when not in use. The total weight is 432 pounds.

ADJUSTABILITY

Each swivel pulley has 12 vertical positions. The bench comes with seven incline positions.

The accessories included in the package are two handles, a tricep rope, an ankle strap, a short bar, and a long bar. You can attach the long bar to the top of the trainer and turn it into a pull-up bar for during chin-ups and pull-ups.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

With only 110 lbs of weight on each side, the HCI PTX gym is better suited for light workouts, beginners, or for rehab.

The machine is quite compact even when unfolded., and if you’re taller than 6 feet, the machine might be less comfortable to use for certain exercises.

WHY WE LIKE IT

If you live in a small apartment or just don’t have much space for a home gym, the HCI Fitness PTX is the best compact functional trainer you can find. It shrinks to 60% of its volume when you fold it up, ideal for cramped rooms. If you have a low ceiling, it’s also the shortest trainer on our list.

Oh, and it also comes with a fold-up bench that we really like. The included bench and the weight stack that doubles as free weights show HCI put a lot of effort into the design of this trainer. None of the other machines on our list come with free weights or a bench.

HCI Fitness is a well known brand of high-end home exercise equipment and machines for rehab. They also make unique machines with high weight capacity.

HCI Fitness PTX Folding Functional Trainer
Our rating:
  • Folds to 40% of Its Size
  • Weight Stack Convers to Free Weights
  • Includes a Weight Bench
HCI Fitness PTX Folding Functional Trainer

Body-Solid Best Fitness BFFT10R Functional Trainer

Our Budget Pick
Body-Solid Best Fitness BFFT10R Functional Trainer and Cable Machine with 190 Lb. Weight Stack

 

This simple trainer from Body-Solid comes with a sturdy skeleton, a pull-up bar, and a single weight stack of 190 pounds. However, unlike the other functional trainers on this round-up, you can add more weight if you want to.

There are several ways you can add more weight. If you outgrow the included stack, there are some creative ways in which you can add more weight, although not officially supported by the manufacturer. This is one of the cheapest, yet high-quality functional trainer we’ve seen, so adding extra weight might be worth it.

The BFFT10R isn’t very complicated, so assembly should be quick. You can even find a step-by-step video guide on Body-Solid’s website. The manufacturer includes a frame warranty of three years and a parts warranty of one year.

DIMENSIONS

This trainer is 84 inches tall, 55 inches wide and 61 inches long. It weighs 309 pounds.

ADJUSTABILITY

The pulleys swivel 180 degrees and are adjustable vertically from almost floor height to a maximum of 70 inches.

The weight stack adjusts in 15-pound increments, which feels like 5 pounds of actual weight.

The only attachments included are two handles.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

The main complaint we have about this machine is that the cable length is on the short side. If you have long arms, this can give you a somewhat limited range of motion on some exercises.

The other drawback is that you have to buy any other attachments that you want since the Body-Solid only comes with two standard handles.

WHY WE LIKE IT

Even if the Body-Solid isn’t the most feature-rich functional trainer, we still give it 4 stars for its value on the dollar. It’s much cheaper than most other machines on our list, so it acts as a good starting point for buyers on a budget. Over time, you can slowly upgrade by buying other cable attachments. Adding more weight is possible with some tinkering.

Body-Solid Best Fitness BFFT10R
Our rating:
  • Simple and Flawless Design
  • Can Add More Weight
  • Easy Assembly
Body-Solid Best Fitness BFFT10R

Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer

Best Premium Trainer
Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer and Smith Station

The FT2 from Inspire Fitness is as impressive as it is expensive. The eight pulley systems have an incredible amount of positions. The dual weight stacks weigh 165 pounds each. They come in 10-pound increments, but you’ll also find 5-pound add-on accessories so you can tweak the resistance more precisely.

This is the only functional trainer on our list that also comes with a Smith bar. Although the rest of the machine has a cable weight ratio of 2:1, the Smith bar features a weight multiplier that doubles the resistance to 1:1. This means you can use the full 340 pounds when doing your heaviest exercises like presses and squats.

The cable travels smoothly and consistently through the movement, making any cable exercise and using the smith bar a pleasure. The Smith bar uses linear bearings instead of bushings to make sure the barbell really glides.

The assembly instructions are easy to follow, even though the machine is complex and may take a while to put together. You’ll appreciate that the warranty on both the frame and moving parts lasts a lifetime.

DIMENSIONS

The FT2 has a floor footprint of 58 by 61 inches. You can move the pull-up bar up and down, so the machine’s height varies from 83 to 88 inches. It weighs 825 lbs total.

ADJUSTABILITY

You can make a lot of adjustments to make the FT2 fit your body and any exercise you want. Each pulley has 32 vertical positions and swivels 180 degrees. Even the pull-up bar is adjustable, it has 5 inches of vertical adjustment.

This machine comes with practically all the accessories. This includes two handles, a long bar, an EZ bar, a tricep rope, an ankle strap, a weight belt and a few more.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

The FT2 is very sturdy and it’s heavy, so make sure you have a stable surface to put it on.

The other drawback is the price. It’s the most expensive unit on our list, but it’s worth every penny.

WHY WE LIKE IT

Since our main problem with functional trainers is their low weight, we love the Smith bar combined with the weight multiplier. It’s satisfying to be able to do heavy exercises without sacrificing safety. If you like heavy weight, you’ll love the FT2.

We also can’t get enough of the sheer number of positions and exercises this machine gives you.

Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer
Our rating:
  • Integrated Smith Machine
  • Weight Multiplier Doubles Max Resistance
  • Tons of Accessories
Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer

ALTERNATIVES TO THE INSPIRE FT2

The FT2 function trainer is often out of stock. One alternative you can consider is the Body-Solid EXM3000LPS, which is similar in size and price. It is one of the top home gyms we reviewed. It has a plethora of workout options, although the FT2 provides a bit more weight. While the FT2 is made for one person, the EXM3000LPS is designed to let three people work out at once.

Inspire Fitness FT1 Functional Trainer

Best for Small Spaces (Non-Folding)
Inspire Fitness Functional Trainer (Ft1)

Inspire’s FT1 is similar to the FT2 model, although it’s slightly smaller and cheaper. The two weight stacks have the same 165-pound total, 10-pound increments, 5-pound add-ons and 2:1 cable weight ratio. This model comes with two pulley systems and no Smith bar.

The FT1 is a surprisingly compact machine. It’s built to be set up in a corner and take up the least space possible.

It’s easy to set up the FT1 since each side comes preassembled, and all you have to do is connect the two sides and install the weight stacks.

The frame and all parts also come with a lifetime warranty.

DIMENSIONS

This trainer is 83 inches tall and measures 54 by 46 inches on the ground.

ADJUSTABILITY

Each pulley has 30 different vertical positions and swivels 180 degrees.

You get lots of attachments. The included accessories are two handles, a long bar, an EZ bar, a tricep rope, an ankle strap, and a weight belt.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

Although the Inspire FT1 does its best to stay small, it may be a bit too narrow if you have long arms. You can notice that if you have long arms and want to do chest flyes.

WHY WE LIKE IT

Besides the HCI PTX folding functional trainer that we reviewed earlier in this guide, the FT1 is the smallest machine on our list. It’s perfect if you only have a small corner to work with but don’t want to sacrifice variety.

Inspire Fitness FT1 Functional Trainer
Our rating:
  • Fits Snugly in a Corner
  • 30 Pulley Positions on Each Side
  • Almost no Assembly Required
Inspire Fitness FT1 Functional Trainer

ALTERNATIVES TO THE INSPIRE FT1

If the FT1 is out of stock, a similar alternative would be the first machine on our list, the XMark Functional Trainer. The price and features are similar, although the XMark is a bit wider. The second alternative, especially if you are looking for something compact, is the HCI PTX folding functional trainer.

Body-Solid Powerline PCCO90X

Affordable & Light Crossover
Body-Solid Powerline PCCO90X Cable Crossover Machine for Weightlifting, Bodybuilding, and Training Workouts, Black

The PCCO90X from Body-Solid is technically a crossover machine. Because of this, it’s taller and wider than any other trainer on our list. It comes with four non-adjustable swivel pulleys, one high and one low on each side. The pulleys are 7 feet apart, and the high pulleys are 7 feet tall.

This machine uses weight plates rather than a weight stack. The weight plates are not included, which is why it’s also the best low-budget functional trainer on our list. The benefit of this is that when you buy the weight plates, you can also use them to do free weight exercises at home.

The cable travel is smooth thanks to its use of both sealed ball bearings and nylon bushings. The cable weight ratio is 2:1, so buy twice as much weight as you can lift. According to the manufacturer, the maximum weight allowed is 250 pounds on each side. You might be able to get away with adding more weight but expect a little bowing on the frame, and this may void the warranty.

The setup is very easy, it only takes about an hour.

The frame warranty is 10 years, and the moving parts warranty is one year.

DIMENSIONS

The PCCO90X is 39 inches long, 112 inches wide and 82 inches tall. Without any weight plates, it weighs 108 pounds.

ADJUSTABILITY

The adjustable accessories included are two handles and an ankle strap. Anything else you want you’ll have to buy separately.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

Our main con is that you have to buy the weights and other attachments separately.

Weighing just 108 lbs, with no built-in weight stack, the Body-Solid Powerline PCCO90X is a light machine. If you do an exercise such as standing crossover chest flys, the machine can wiggle forward a little. You shouldn’t notice that on most exercises though. You can easily solve it by putting a few weight plates or sandbags on the feet. This will keep it still.

WHY WE LIKE IT

If you’re extra tall or have long arms, you’ll love the size of this functional trainer. If crossovers are your thing, you’ll be happy to finally see a machine built for doing crossovers with perfect form. It’s also relatively inexpensive compared to the other machines we reviewed here.

Body-Solid Powerline PCCO90X
Our rating:
  • Extra Wide Ideal for Cable Crossover
  • Great for Large People
  • Uses Olympic Weight Plates
Body-Solid Powerline PCCO90X

How Functional Trainers Work

A functional trainer is a cable machine that uses multiple pulley systems to help you perform movements with resistance in practically any direction imaginable. It’s basically the chameleon of cable machines.

Most trainers have at least two independent pulley systems that are attached to two separate weight stacks. This lets you work out your left and right sides independently to make sure one isn’t compensating for the other.

The main pulleys are built on a swivel so you can turn them left and right, and you can usually also adjust them up and down. This gives you an incredible amount of freedom of movement.

Most people don’t know, but functional trainers started out as rehab machines. They were used in clinics to help patients in physical therapy relearn important functional tasks.

Soon they were discovered by the world of sports. Professional athletes found them quite useful for practicing sports-specific movements. They discovered they could add power to their stroke, swing or shot by practicing on a functional trainer with resistance.

There are very few limits to the movements you can perform on a quality functional trainer. You can isolate specific muscles (good for definition) or perform compound motions to train your body to work together as a whole (great for strength and mass).

No matter what your idea of a great workout is, it’s hard to run out of things to do on a functional trainer. It’s their versatility that makes them great for working out at home.

Functional trainers aren’t the cheapest, but given the so many exercises you can do with them, they are actually more affordable than buying a bunch of machines and weights. It’s a whole home gym in one machine.

The Pros & Cons of Functional Trainers

PROS

CONS

Exercises You Can Do With a Functional Trainer

Your functional trainer can act as a complete home gym. Besides hitting all your major muscles, it can also efficiently engage many of your smaller stabilizing muscles with rotational and compound movements.

Here are a few of the exercises you can do on your functional trainer to get a full-body workout. We’ve also included variations you can use to hit the muscle from different angles and keep your routine colorful.

PECS

  • Chest Presses: Standing, lying and incline options 
  • Chest Flyes: Standing, lying and incline options 

DELTS

  • Standing Shoulder Presses: Together and alternating options 
  • Standing Front Raises
  • Standing Lateral Raises
  • Standing Cross-Body Laterals

BICEPS

  • Standing Curls: One- or two-arm options
  • Bent Over Concentration Curls

TRICEPS

  • Standing Tricep Extensions: One-arm and two-arm options 
  • Tricep Pushdowns

LATS

  • Standing Rows: Horizontal and low options 
  • Pull Ups: Underhand and overhand options
  • Kneeling Lat Pulldowns

CORE

  • Woodchops: Low-to-high, high-to-low and horizontal options

LEGS

  • Leg Raises: Forward, backward, sideways outer thigh and sideways inner thigh options
  • Hip Flexions
  • Leg Extensions
  • Leg Curls
  • Glute Kicks

COMPOUND EXERCISES

  • Standing Lunge Presses: Overhead and forward options
  • Standing Lunge Curls
  • Squats to Presses
  • One-Leg Reaches to Rows 

You can do many more exercises besides the ones we listed above.

In the next session we’ll show you no less than 100 exercises that you can do to get a full-body workout.

Full Body Workout Using a Functional Trainer

Functional trainers allow you to work just about every muscle group you want, they are made for full-body workouts.

Here’s a set of 3 videos with ideas for a full-body workout involving 100 different exercises. There’s enough variety here to keep your home workouts interesting so you’ll never get bored.

Most exercises here can be done with any functional cable machine that has two pulleys. You’ll see some exercises use a weight bench, but that’s optional. You can target every muscle group and get a whole-body workout with nothing but the machine itself. If you are lucky enough to own the HCI Fitness PTX you already have a weight bench included.

  • • Triceps Extensions Russian • Twist Row • Squat Row Combo • Stiff Push-Down • Seated Row • Lying Biceps Curls • Wood Chopper • Obliques Crunch • Double • Biceps Curls • Chest Slash • Biceps Lift • Stiff Pulldown • Upright Row • Bent-Over Row • Shrugs • Hanging Tuck Crunch • Handing Obliques Tuck • Overhead • Triceps Extensions • Squat with Calves Raises • Squat • Isometric Squat • Sumo V-Squat • Romanian Deadlift • Stiff Leg Deadlift • Alternate Lunge • Courtest Lunge • Thruster • Preacher Biceps Curls • Lawn Mower Row • Obliques Tilt • Lateral One Arm Delt Raise • Rear Delt Raise • Triceps • Kick-back • One Arm Shoulder Press • Standing Kick-back • Lying Single Leg Press • Alternate Arm Seated Row • Seated Row with T-Row • Seated Reverse Fly • Seated Biceps Curls • Alt. Biceps CurlsSeated Buceps Clutch • Stiff Arm Push-Down • X Fly • X Triceps Extension • Chest Press • Chest Crossover • Low Chest Fly • Fly Hammer Press • Prone Chest Press • Prone Chest Fly • Prone Double Biceps Curls • Cable Front Squat • Static Feet Lunge • Calves Raise • Squat with Calves Raises • Cable Thruster • Cable Deadlift • Narrow Squat with Cables • Sumo Deadlifts • Lat Pulldown • Lying T-Row • Lying Row • Lying Biceps Curls • Dynamic Back Extension • Back Extension with T-Row • Abs Pulldown • Triceps Extension • Standing Pullover  • Assisted Pull-up • Assisted Chin-up • Seated Shoulder Press • Lying Triceps Extensions • Lying Biceps Curls • Lying Upright Row • Standing Shoulder Press • Front Squat • Front Lunge • Calves Raise • Front Sumo Squat • Bench Press (Flat Press) • Triceps Bench Presses • Shrugs • Biceps Curls • Front Delts Raise • French Presses (Skull Crusher) • Incline Chest Press • Pullover • Seated Row • Seated Back Extension • Lying Leg Press • Romanian Deadlift • Stiff Leg Deadlift • Sumo Deadlift • Squat • Narrow Squat • Sumo Squat • Squat with Calves Raises • Alternate Lunge • Courtest Lunge • Bent-Over Row

Building Muscle Mass With a Functional Trainer

Although many people believe you can’t build mass with a functional trainer, this is a misconception.

Muscle growth comes from the amount of tension you place on a particular muscle during an exercise. Free weight exercises tend to use a kind of stop-and-go tension. They contract the muscle hard at certain points within the movement and let it relax at others.

Functional trainers and other cable machines give you smooth constant tension throughout the entire movement. This gives each exercise more potential to hit more muscle fibers.

It’s true that building mass with a functional trainer might require you to be a bit more intentional, but assuming you pick the right exercises, it’s definitely possible to build muscle mass. Traditional weights focus almost exclusively on volume. Functional training corrects misalignments and strengthens stabilizing muscles as well. This helps build a strong foundation around your major muscle groups that gives you more real-world strength in the long run.

Of course, you don’t have to use just a functional trainer to build mass. You can build mass with nothing more than a weight bench and a pair of dumbbells. In our opinion, you can get even more variety and greater synergy by using a weight bench together with a functional trainer.

Can a Functional Trainer Replace Gym Membership?

Your gym used to be the only place you could find enough equipment to get a full-body workout. Personal trainers used to be the only way you could learn to use the equipment in the right way.

Today’s functional trainers can give you all that and more. A quality trainer with a loaded weight stack can replicate most of the exercises from the machines in your gym. Most trainers also come with comprehensive workout videos and instructional posters. These make the movements easy to figure out if you’re new to the fitness scene.

Just like your gym used to, your cable machine can allow you to work out any part of your body whenever you want for as long as you want. Your home gym is your new gym.

Functional Trainers - Features & Attachments

Here are a few of the most important things you should know when looking to buy your first functional trainer.

SMOOTHNESS OF MOTION

‘Smoothness’ is another word for even resistance. You want a machine that doesn’t catch or jerk in the middle of a movement. Smooth resistance lets you do both slow, heavy movements to build mass and quick, agile movements to improve your speed and train your fast-twitch muscle fibers.

CABLE LENGTH

The cable should be long enough to let you take a few steps forward while holding on to the handles. A long pulley travel will let you do weighted sprints, crossovers, power lunges, and other freewheeling movements.

PULL-UP BAR

A sturdy pull-up bar with a few different grips will let you target more muscles without straining your wrists. The frame should feel solid and balanced when you do pull-ups.

WEIGHT STACK

Most functional trainers use two separate embedded weight stacks, one on each side. You can also find a few that accommodate generic weight plates. Some even let you remove weights from their stack to use as free weights.

A cable machine with just one weight stack can let your strong side subconsciously compensate for your weak side. This can encourage future injuries and promote imbalanced muscles. A weight stack for each side will work both sides independently and help to even out imbalances.

ATTACHMENTS

Handles– A nylon strap that passes through a metal eyelet with a soft coating. Each handle is used by a single hand.

Tricep Rope – A thick length of rope with a hook in the middle and some kind of stop on each end. The hook attaches to a cable pulley, and the rope is held with one of your hands at each end just above the stop. The tricep rope is used for tricep pushdowns and extensions.

Long Bar – The long bar is a straight bar that’s usually attached to both pulleys, acting like a barbell. It’s long enough to give you plenty of hand positions and grip widths. Instead of a long bar, some functional trainers use a Smith bar, which is like a long bar housed in a vertical track for extra stability.

Short Bar – Straight like a long bar but smaller and easier to handle.

EZ Bar – Almost as long as a long bar but wavy instead of straight. The waves allow for a more natural hand grip and less wrist strain.

Ankle Cuff – A cuff lined with Velcro that fits around your ankle. This lets you use your trainer to work out each leg independently.

POSSIBLE ADJUSTMENTS

Your functional trainer’s pulleys should have plenty of height adjustments. This will let you move within any low, medium, or high plane without feeling awkward.

If it uses a weight stack, the weight increments should be small enough to let you increase or decrease the resistance comfortably in step with your progress.

The adjustability should be easy and intuitive to make your exercise session as quick and effective as possible.

EQUIPMENT SIZE

Although functional trainers are incredibly versatile, they can take up quite a bit of space. If your space is limited, you can find a trainer designed to fit in a corner, or one that you can fold when not in use.

When measuring your space, keep in mind any exercises you need to perform in front or to the side of the machine. Make sure to leave about a head’s length of space between the pull-up bar and your ceiling.

WARRANTY

A good functional trainer can be quite expensive, so make sure to invest in a machine with a good warranty. The frame warranty should be at least 10 years long. Some of the best functional trainers we cover here offer a lifetime warranty. The moving parts warranty is usually shorter, but it should last at least a year or two.

MECHANISM

Pulley systems tend to reduce the amount of weight you lift compared to the actual weight of the weight stack. This is called the cable weight ratio. A trainer with a 200-pound weight stack and a cable weight ratio of 2:1 means you actually only lift 100 pounds.

Most trainers have a 2:1 or 3:1 cable weight ratio.

EASE OF INSTALLATION

Your functional trainer should come with simple assembly instructions and clearly-labeled parts. Most installations can be done with one capable person but are usually easier with two people.

Conclusion & Final Words

Exercising on a functional trainer cable machine is a great way to work out your entire body without leaving home. We’ve covered the best options for bigger or smaller people, for people who have a lot of space or not much at all. There are starter options or comprehensive packages and options for light lifters or people who want to build mass.

If you investigate and invest in a functional trainer that fits your needs, it could be the last workout machine you ever need to buy.

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