You may be building a home gym or perhaps even creating a professional commercial gym. If you are in this market, you have most likely heard of functional trainers.
These machines are generally used to perform exercises where the underlying mechanism is cables. Their advantages include:
- Cheaper than many other pieces of gym equipment.
- Require a small amount of floor space.
- Many people prefer to use a functional trainer rather than lifting traditional weights. You can save money if you use one of these at home.
Functional trainers are sometimes referred to as cable crossover machines or cable gyms. Each of these machines consists of cables that are attached to pulleys, using these it is possible to work out the entire body due to the significant number of exercises that they have to offer. They also feature many adjustment features such as being able to adjust the height and positions of the pulleys. So these are very versatile machines.
They are also adjustable when it comes to weight or resistance. Most functional training gyms have a maximum weight in their stack of between 100lbs-250lbs.
Functional Trainer Reviews
|XMark Functional Trainer
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|A great solid trainer. We couldn't ask for more.
|HFT Functional Trainer
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|Packed with workout features
|Life Fitness G7
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|An outstanding and super sturdy functional trainer from a well respected manufacturer.
|Precor FTS Glide
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|An great device with with a unique smooth and quiet motion.
|Click For Bowflex Revolution Price
|Perfect for the home or where there is limited floor space available.
|Marcy Diamond Elite Smith Cage
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|Best for versatility
|Powertec Workbench Functional Trainer
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|Perfect for curls and squats
|Body Solid Best Fitness BFFT10
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|Best of the cheaper trainers
#1 – XMark Functional Trainer Cable Machine – Best Heavy Duty On The Market
The XMark features a dual-weight stack with pulleys attached to each. These pulleys are fully and quickly adjustable. The XMark also comes with:
- Four cable handles
- A leg extension strap
- An ankle strap
- A short bar
- A long bar
- Tricep pulldown rope
- Pull-up bars
As you can see, the XMark comes with all of the accessories that you would expect. It is constructed from a heavy steel frame covered in a powder coating that is scratch resistant, and the weights are nicely rubber-coated rather than just plain old steel.
This comes in a large package. You can expect eight boxes to be delivered. Fortunately, these boxes are quite light, so one person can carry them upstairs on her own. The time to assemble this piece of equipment is approximately four hours, and all of the tools that you need are provided.
The pulley system is the most difficult part of the assembly, but once you understand how it works, it’s quite simple.
The XMark is easy to adjust and provides as much versatility as you would require for any exercise, and the pulley system is very smooth. This, along with the rubber-coated weights make this a very nice piece of equipment to use.
#2 – BodyCraft HFT – Best Multi-Gym
The BodyCraft HFT functional trainer is great for a home gym as it has a smaller footprint than some others. It comes with two 150lb weight stacks (upgradable to 200lbs) and a dual independent pulley system. The pulley ratio means that it has a great smooth cable action and lower increments of weight increase. It features:
- Two fully adjustable cables
- Pull-up bar
- 2 chains
- Assisted pull-up strap
- Tricep pulldown rope
- Two cable handles
- Long bar
- Short bar
- Ankle cuff for leg workouts
The trainer from HFT is a very versatile machine. It allows you to work your entire body with ease. And there are options to add even additional handles and weights to the trainer for even more exercises. Plus, it features the ability to add an extra 50lbs of weight on each stack. So that’s around 30% additional weight that you can have if you ever need it.
The assembly is designed for home users and takes about 2 to 4 hours to complete for 2 people. Once set up, it is a very solid machine that should last many years.
One thing which could be improved is the padding on the leg press attachment. We found this to be a little too thin so when lifting heavy weights, it can dig into the legs a little.
The footprint of this trainer is quite small considering its versatility. The pulley system is super smooth and quiet making the whole thing a pleasure to use.
#3 – Life Fitness G7
This is simply one of the best functional trainers ever made. Life Fitness is an extremely well-known brand and reputable, especially in the commercial gym industry. If you have ever been to a gym or health club, chances are you’ve used a piece of life fitness equipment already.
The life fitness G7 is a dual pulley setup that features a wide range of customization with 20 different pulley positions, thus offering a great variety in your exercise. It allows its users to perform 55 exercises and the machine also includes a training manual mounted on the machine plus a video guide too.
As you expect from life fitness, the cable mechanism is super smooth and the functional trainer feels sturdy and well-built during use, due to its steel frame.
- Manufactured by one of the biggest brands in exercise machinery
- Includes video guide
- Extremely sturdy
- Features 2 150lb weight stacks
- Smooth pulley system based on their commercial grade systems
- Comes with a pair of ergonomic handle straps, a foot strap, a thigh strap, a straight bar, and a stability ball
#4 – Precor FTS Glide – Best Overall
The Precor FTS Glide gave us a new appreciation for Precor manufacturing quality and design. It provides a unique super smooth cable motion and such a high level of freedom that anyone who uses it will simply have everything they need. Just by looking at it, you can tell that this is a commercial-grade piece of machinery but with a small footprint making it suitable for home and commercial gym use. It can also fit into a corner quite nicely.
- A dual-weight stack (91kg each) with a 2:1 lift ratio
- Has an instructional placard
- Superb warranty (10 years for frame, 5 years for mechanical parts)
- Uses standard carabiner clips so that any cable attachments can be used
The motion that the FTS Glide generates is smooth and consistent throughout movements. This is true for both long and short quick movements. The construction quality is 2nd to none with position welds and solid fittings making it a very robust machine.
Another interesting thing about the FTS Glide is the pulleys are designed in a way that they are near silent and so you don’t get that cable hissing sounds that you can get with some other functional trainers.
#5 – Bowflex Revolution – Best For Home Use
At first glance, the Bowflex Revolution doesn’t look like your standard heavy-duty functional trainer or even like other Bowflex models, but it is just as capable and is a great-looking piece of equipment.
With this, you will be able to easily perform over 100 different exercises thanks to the wide range of included accessories. It also comes with a DVD showing all of the exercises that the Bowflex Revolution is capable of.
- Great for versatility
- Over 100 exercises available and capable of full body workout
- Comfortable seat
- Regular maintenance is not required
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The Bowflex Revolution is extremely compact when compared to other functional trainers. This is thanks to its unique SpiralFlex technology. This SpiralFlex technology is an innovative type of resistance mechanism developed by Bowflex themselves and provides a smooth resistance of weights up to 300lbs. The Revolution will allow you to perform a full body workout and can also be folded away went it is not in use.
The ergonomically designed seat is one of the most comfortable that we have used and the smooth cable mechanism is a refreshing change.
#6 – Marcy Diamond Elite Smith Cage – Best For Home
Marcy has been creating gym equipment since the late 1950s and is well renowned for its innovative and reliable products.
The Marcy Diamond Elite Smith Cage comes with a multipurpose exercise cage and a bench. This is a great multi-gym that allows you to work out your entire body from one machine. It combines the use of free Olympic weights and pulleys so that you can get the best of both worlds. It features:
- Smith machine
- Olympic bar
- Multifunction bench including preacher pad and leg raise
- Pectoral fly station
- High pulley cables for cable crossovers and tricep pulldown
- Low cable and footplate for seated rows
The number of exercises that you can perform using this machine is simply astounding. On top of this, there are many other great safety features as well as additional features which are nice to have.
For example, it features a place to store your weights and a high-quality pop-pin adjustment system. The smith section features Marcy’s ultra glide linear bearing technology which makes for a super smooth movement.
The assembly of this is not as easy as some other trainers on our list but it’s worth it for the vast range of exercises you can do with it when it’s built.
The downside is that weights aren’t included so you have to source your own at an additional cost. But even after you have got your own weights, it still works out as great value for money.
Even though we said it before.. We’ll say it again; this is a whole gym in one package. You may even find that you have access to more exercises in this piece of equipment than you would at your local gym. The pulley system on this is very smooth, and we like the option of using free weights or assisted. For example with this, you can choose to perform free bench press exercises or smith machine bench press, and many commercial gyms don’t have this capability.
#7 – Powertec Workbench Functional Trainer – Best Value
Powertech is known for creating some of the top functional trainers around. This particular machine has been designed with space efficiencies in mind, so it takes up less floor space. It features adjustable pulleys, and a bench can also be added to increase the number of exercises that it can be used for. It features:
- Dual fully adjustable high or low pulleys
- Pull-up bar
- Long bar
- Two cable handles
The Powertec functional trainer allows you to do many types of exercises. One thing we particularly like about this machine is the ability to attach a long bar to both of the pulleys.
This allows you to perform curls without the usual twisting motion you sometimes get when a cable is connected as to the middle of the bar. You can also perform squats or deadlifts with this same mechanism.
The assembly instructions for the power tech workbench are not the easiest to follow as they do not contain words and only diagrams. However because it is a smaller piece of equipment, it still does not take a longer time to put together than any of the larger alternatives.
So all in all, this is a well-built exercise machine that is compact offering a good selection of equipment.
#8 – Body Solid Fitness BFFT10 Functional Trainer – Best Compact Heavy Duty
This is a smaller machine meaning that it also takes up a smaller footprint. It has dual pulleys running from a single stack of weights of 190lb. It features:
- Pull-up bar
- Two vertical pulleys with 19 adjustment points
- Two cable handles
This is an mk2 version of the Best Fitness functional trainer. The BFFT10 is the easiest of the workout machines on our list to assemble. There are also videos on YouTube to assist in the process. Once assembled, it is simple to use as there are only ever two handles that you need to grasp. Body Solid calls this a “no cable change” design.
The pulleys on the BFFT10 swivel 180° allowing you to start your exercise in any position you desire.
Some may be put off by the lack of versatility with this as it just features two cables and a pull-up bar, but these still allow a significant number of exercises to be performed with it.
In summary, this is an excellent and affordable machine for those who don’t have a lot of space or require complex cable systems.
The Best Machines For Home Use
Maybe you want to work out many areas of your body and it can be difficult to do this without going to the gym. But a functional training machine changes this. Many of these are advertised to allow you to perform around 50 different varieties of exercise, but it’s very easy to do even more if you use your imagination.
This is great for the one-time investment that you would make. One thing that some people miss when working out from home is the advice from gym instructors. To help with this, it’s worth considering adding a gym mirror to check your form.
For example, a professional baseball player may use these devices to improve the strength of their swing. With a functional cable machine, they would adjust the pulley so that it is in the middle of the rack at around waist height. Then, while holding the cable handle, they would rotate their body thus working the same muscles that they use when they perform a baseball swing.
This will not only improve their swing strength but also creates muscle memory to also assist in their game. Many don’t even realize how many exercises these trainers can provide. It’s worth doing your research to see just how many are available to you.
Functional Training Equipment vs Free Weights
Generally, there are two types of functional trainers. The first is a tower with a single cable that can easily fit into the corner of a room. The second type is a dual cable tower. This takes a little more space and can go against the wall. Most people find that they can fit either of these into their home as neither takes up much space.
Another great benefit is being able to workout safely on your own without the need for a personal trainer.
The trainer is a great alternative to free weights and barbells as cable exercises are known also to include the use of stabilizing muscles when using a full range of motion exercise. A functional trainer machine will allow you to do many exercises that are not possible with free weights. For example, cable crossovers or seated row and cable machines are great for tricep pull-downs.
Getting The Best Functional Trainer For The Money
When you are trying to find the top functional trainer for your home or gym, there are a few things that we recommend you look for. Here are some noteworthy considerations to make when considering one of these workout machines:
Home gyms should allow a broad range of adjustments. It’s important to make sure that yours also has this functionality for you to maximize the number of exercises that you can perform.
You should decide if you want a single or double-weight stack. A single stack will only allow you to carry out a limited number of exercises. For example, you can’t use cable crossovers on both sides of the body at the same time with a single stack. Two separate weight stacks are required for you to work your body without any imbalance.
This gives benefits over barbells where your stronger side can sometimes be doing more of the work. It’s also important to check that the machine has enough weight so that you have plenty of room for progression. This will allow you to progress as you increase the weight which you use on your trainer.
Ideally, you would want your home gym to have long pulley travel that allows you to walk away from it while holding a cable. This will allow you to do even more exercises such as power lunges or weighted sprints using the full range of motion.
You should read functional trainer reviews to ensure that’s one you purchase has a smooth action. There is nothing worse than pulling a cable with resistance that does not feel smooth. Many devices make use of ball bearings for a smooth motion to make strength training comfortable.
You won’t enjoy using your trainer if you find it difficult to adjust the weights or pulleys. If you don’t enjoy it then you may use it less. Also having a functional training gym that is easy to use, it will make your workouts quicker and more efficient as you will not need to be taking long pauses to adjust the machine.
The best functional trainers will have extra appendages included allowing you to do even more exercises within your home gym. A good example of this is a chin-up bar. If you have a chin-up bar on your trainer, then there are a good number of exercises that will be included with your training machine for free.
Functional training equipment is perfect for professional gyms and home gyms. They are very easy to use and comfortable at the same time. These machines come highly recommended and are a great investment as they should allow you to work out on them for a lifetime.