Functional trainers help you target those muscles that often get ignored while working out with free weights. Since you will be moving the cables in non-standard directions and angles, you will be able to isolate those muscles that do not get to work while doing weighted squats or dumbbell flys.
Functional trainer i.e. cable machine workouts are beginner-friendly and safer for joints than free weights. They require less coordination and balance than free weights. No wonder why cable machines have slowly made their way to home gyms.
In this article, we will be reviewing some of the best functional trainers for home gyms. We will also be sharing a brief functional trainer buying guide and answeting some common FAQs.
Please note: Functional trainers are expensive and huge machines. If you have a limited budget, you can go with cable pulley systems instead.
Article Quick Navigation
- Our List of the Best Functional Trainers
- Functional Trainer Buying Guide and Frequently Asked Questions
Our Top Picks
- 💪 Affordable and Functional: Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station
- 🥈 Expensive But Worth It: Titan Fitness Functional Trainer
- 🏋️ Compact But Heavy Duty: FT-3000 Compact Functional Trainer by REP Fitness
- ⭐️ A Solid Option: Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Functional Trainer Cable Machine
- 👑 If You Have a Lot of Space and Cash: XMARK Functional Trainer Cable Machine
- 🏬 The Costco Option: Inspire Fitness FTX Functional Trainer with Bench
Our List of the Best Functional Trainers
💪 Affordable and Functional : Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station
This is probably the only good-quality functional trainer machine available for under $1000. But, don’t underestimate it because of its low price. This cable crossover machine is cheaper because it doesn’t come with weights like other standard cable machines. You need to use your own weights.
There are many functional trainers available in a wide range of budgets for your home gym but, we have chosen the Valor Fitness BD-61 because, after comparing it with other competitive products, we conclude that it offers much more than what you can expect from others. Below, is a thorough review of Valor Fitness BD-61 and why it is counted among the best functional trainers for home gym.
We hope it helps you set your expectation right before investing in it.
Valor BD-61 cable crossover machine is meant for home and light-commercial use but it works best as a home gym equipment.
Unlike other products, this functional trainer machine lets two people work together, so it is highly preferred by people who like to exercise with their partners or trainers.
There are three pulley positions
The high pulley, the low pulley, and the multi-grip pull up station helps add a lot of variety and versatility to your exercise routine. The sleeve can be positioned at 17 different levels giving you approximately a 63” range of height adjustment. The pulleys pivot in multiple directions so you and your partner can exercise together while still maintaining a safe distance.
The handles of Valor BD 61 functional trainer are adjustable
Adjustable handles help everyone find their comfortable exercising positions. The BD-61 also has plate storage pegs, which help store the weights properly.
Please note that Valor BD-61 cable crossover machine doesn’t come with any weight. You can use the weight you have to buy them separately. But, this will still be cheaper than a $4000 cable machine. If you don’t have weight plates, here are some of the best options for you.
Valor Fitness functional trainers are safe for beginners
No matter what your budget is, you must not ignore the safety of use. Some unreliable manufacturers of home gym equipment do compromise on the built, stability, or weight-bearing capacity to cut down their manufacturing cost and sell their product at a very low price.
Such equipment can tip over and can cause severe injuries, permanent disability, and even death. (2) Thankfully, renowned brands such as Valor will never compromise on any of the safety aspects.
The feet have rubber caps
The BD-61 functional trainer has a double bar track with rubber base caps that encase the feet and make the machine stable and safe. You can also mount it to the ground using the provided hardware or weigh it down using your weight plates (which is better because it won’t damage the floor).
We reviewed all the customer reviews and didn’t find any of them claiming stability issues, so you can trust this product.
The Valor BD-61 is a heavy-duty functional trainer machine
It has a high-quality steel construction and weight-bearing capacity of 250lbs. This is the max you can expect from such an affordable home cable crossover machine but unless you are an advanced level fitness enthusiast, the weight bearing-capacity is fine.
Things that we like about the Valor BD 61 cable crossover machine
- The footprints of Valor Fitness BD-61 crossover station are depth: 52” width: 56” and height: 80”. So, it doesn’t require too much space. Rather, the columns are wide enough to place a situp bench between them. Perfect for small home gyms.
- It also has a pull-up and lat pull stations, giving you a wide range of workout options.
- It allows two people to work together. However, both users have to use the same weight.
- 3 years frame warranty and 1 year cable warranty.
- Many buyers have stated that Valor has an amazing customer support team. So, in case you need any help, you can expect a prompt response.
Areas that need improvement
- Assembling BD-61 functional trainer is not so easy, especially if you are not fond of using tools. It does come with instructions but some buyers found them difficult to understand, especially the pulley installation. Many buyers have stated that they had to redo it a few times, as the instructions were not clear. Thankfully, some YouTube tutorials can help you with this.
- The pulleys of this functional trainer are not made of metal. They are made of plastic and they do not have ball bearings. But, most buyers have stated that they do their job fairly well. So, maybe this can be ignored.
- The height of the Valor BD-61 functional trainer machine is 80”, so taller people would find the pull-up bar to be too low. But, unless you are above 5.11” you can still use it comfortably.
We are giving this a rating of 4.5 out of 5.0.
🥈 Expensive But Worth It : Titan Fitness Functional Trainer
If you are looking for an all-in-one, commercial-grade functional trainer machine that you can keep in one corner of your home or garage gym, Titan Fitness has a good option to consider. It has fully enclosed weight stacks and a fiberglass-reinforced pulley system that provides absolutely smooth workouts with no lags and jerks. There are a bunch of accessories and attachments included with this functional trainer, so you don’t have to buy anything separately.
If you are looking for cable crossover alternatives within a budget, we highly recommend this machine.
Features of Titan Fitness functional trainer
- Dimensions: 82″ X 64″ X 49″
- Weight: 672lbs
- Has two fully-enclosed 200lbs weight stacks, making a total of 400lbs weights
- Resistance ratio: 2:1, which is what all best functional trainers provide
- Accessories included: a short and long bar, ankle straps, rope handles, dual stirrup handles, single and double D-handles
- The pullup handles of this functional trainer has multiple grip options.
- The feet have rubber end caps to protect your floor or weightlifting platform.
- Comes with 1 year limited warranty
Titan Fitness functional trainer machine comes with almost every accessory you may need
As always, this functional trainer from Titan Fitness provides the best value for money. It comes with a short bar, a long bar, tricep rope handles, ankle straps, stirrup handles, D-handles. You can use these for targeting every major and minor muscle group of your body. Since it comes with every possible attachment, you don’t have to worry about buying things separately and bother about compatibility.
Has a fully-enclosed weight stack for ease of use
Despite being an affordable functional trainer, the Titan Fitness cable crossover machine comes with a fiberglass enclosed weight stack, which not only adds to its aesthetic appeal but also makes it easier for you to adjust the weight with just one hand.
The handles of the cable workout machine are ergonomically designed, so you don’t feel any discomfort during your training. The handles also pivot effortlessly in almost all feasible directions, making it easier for you to pull them in any direction and any angle.
Affordable than numerous other best functional trainers
A good-quality cable workout machine with all these attachments, a heavy-duty 11 gauge frame, fiberglass reinforced pulleys, and concealed weight stacks can cost you about $4000-$5000. But, just like all Titan Fitness products, this functional trainer beats most competitors in terms of price. We agree that it isn’t the best functional trainer we have come across but it works as expected and that’s all that matters.
Numerous buyers have agreed that the pulley provides a smooth and almost quiet operation, even when you are training with the heaviest possible load.
Just in case you don’t know, the Titan Fitness functional trainer provides a 20lbs starting resistance and a 20 lbs increase thereafter i.e. 10lbs from each stack.
You can expect standard shipping and packaging issues
Titan Fitness is known for this. The products are often poorly packed and sometimes you get incomplete kits with missing parts or misaligned parts. Thankfully, the company has a decent customer support team and it doesn't hesitate to send replacements whenever needed. Regarding scratches and dents; this is a home gym equipment and not a centerpiece. These things will get scratches and dents and even rust. So, don’t consider the shipping issue as a dealbreaker. Moreover, you can always ask for replacements or returns.
Standard 1 year warranty
It’s a standard warranty but a few buyers might not feel confident enough to spend $2500 on a home gym product that comes with just a year of warranty. Other competitive functional trainers often come with a 5 or 10 years warranty and even a lifetime warranty on the frame. Maybe Titan Fitness should start giving different warranty periods for different products.
We are giving this a rating of 4.4 out of 5.0.
🏋️ Compact But Heavy Duty : FT-3000 Compact Functional Trainer by REP Fitness
At just 78” tall and 53” wide, the FT-3000 is one of the most compact functional trainers for basements and other low ceiling areas. It is so compact that it can pass through a door even when fully assembled. You can store it against a wall or in a corner of a room.
Due to its compact footprint, Rep FT 3000 functional trainer is more suitable for people who are less than 5.8’ tall. Others may not be able to use the pullup bar comfortably. But, that's OK if you are short on space and budget.
If you don’t want to compromise, you can go with the full-size REP FT-5000 functional trainer machine that is 85” tall and 72” wide. This advanced model has heavier weight stacks and a better-designed pullup bar. But, all these additional features come at a high price tag and that’s why buyers usually prefer to go with the REP Fitness FT-3000 functional trainer.
Features of REP Fitness FT-3000 compact functional trainer
- Dimensions: 78″x53″x34″. Just for comparison, the FT-5000 functional trainer is 6″ taller, 19″ wider, and 11″ deeper than the FT-3000 cable crossover machine.
- Weight: 770lbs
- Has two 180lbs weight stack
- Resistance ratio: 2:1
- Has 15 cable pulley positions
- There are pegs at the back of the frame to hang additional accessories
- Accessories included: a pair of strap handles
- Warranty: lifetime on frame and 10 years on hardware for residential use
Although compact, the REP Fitness FT-3000 functional trainer doesn’t miss on any features
It weighs 770lbs and has a thick, heavy-duty frame that provides exceptional stability to this cable crossover machine even if you are maxing out on the weight. Buyers have agreed that the machine doesn’t wiggle when used for pullups. We don’t know what the steel gauge is but we are pretty sure REP would never use anything below 11 gauge.
As mentioned above, the REP FT-3000 functional trainer machine has two weight stacks with 180lbs weight each and the resistance it offers is 2:1. This means you will feel as if you are lifting half the weight that you are actually lifting. Don’t worry; all of the best functional trainers provide 2:1 resistance. Moreover, 90lbs resistance is more than enough for each hand unless you are already a strong man.
The pulley can be adjusted to 15 different heights for targeting various different muscle groups in various ways.
REP FT-3000 functional trainer comes almost assembled
To make your life easier, the manufacturer sends pre-assembled sides. All you need to do is to attach the sides with the connecting bars. This process is pretty simple but could take up to 2 hours depending upon your skills. We strongly recommend asking your friend or family member to help you with this.
REP FT-3000 functional trainer doesn’t come with too many accessories
As we mentioned above, all you get with this REP Fitness FT-3000 cable machine is a pair of D-handles, which is the very basic thing you can expect from even a low-cost cable machine. It doesn’t come with any other attachments such as tricep ropes, curl bars, sports bar, etc. Even the pullup bar is just a pullup handle. This is the biggest disadvantage of this functional trainer machine. The money you will save buying the FT-3000 model will be spent on accessorizing it.
It is probably the only one that comes with a 10-year warranty on parts
The lifetime warranty that it offers on the frame is understandable because it is anyways a very sturdy functional trainer machine, manufactured by a renowned brand like REP Fitness.
But, most of the brands that we have come across provide just 1 or 2 years warranty on the parts. A very few high-end brands may offer 5 years of coverage on parts but absolutely none of those we have come across provide 10 years of coverage on the parts including pulleys, pins, hardware, and cables.
REP Fitness does an excellent job here and deserves to be counted among the best functional trainers for compact spaces.
We are giving this a rating of 4.5 out of 5.0.
⭐️ A Solid Option : Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Functional Trainer Cable Machine
Body-Solid manufactures quite a few home strength training equipment including several functional trainers. Its products are well-built and designed for serious training sessions. They are often backed with a decent warranty and an excellent customer support team.
The PFT 100 functional trainer is one of its most popular and affordable products. In fact, it is one of the best functional trainers that you can buy for around $1500. And yet, it provides great value to a user, especially if you are a beginner or an intermediate-level trainer.
The Body-Solid PFT-100 functional trainer machine uses the same weight resistance system and same adjustments that are used in its high-end models. The only difference is its more compact, simpler frame and lack of a few accessories.
Features of Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 functional trainer
- Dimensions: 42 in. x 63 in. x 83 in. Due to its small footprint, it is counted among some of the best compact functional trainers meant for small home gyms in basements or garages.
- Weight: 476lbs
- Comes with two weight stacks of 160lbs that can be upgraded to 210lbs. You can buy the 50lbs stacks separately while ordering this one or later when you are ready.
- Pulleys can be adjusted to 20 different positions with a 3.2” gap in between
- Resistance Ration: ½ : 1, which is the same 2: 1 ratio that other functional trainers offer
- Comes with a pair of D handles
- Warranty: 10 years on frame and 1 year on parts
BodySolid PFT100 functional trainer is not as heavy as other best functional trainers listed here
It weighs just 476lbs, out of which the weight stacks weigh 320lbs.
For a fair comparison, the Titan Fitness functional trainer cable crossover machine weighs 672 lbs. The REP Fitness cable machine weighs 770 lbs. The Xmark XM-7626 functional trainer that we have reviewed below weighs 800lbs.
Now, one thing you need to note here is that they are all pretty expensive functional trainers. The Body Solid one is much more affordable, so you get what you pay for. Don’t worry; this compact functional trainer machine is still quite heavy and won’t wobble or shift during your workouts.
It is a superb piece of home gym equipment
The frame is made of 11 gauge steel. The pulleys are well-built, smooth, and can swivel 180 degrees. The two weight towers are independent of each other, so you can exercise with one or both hands, as suitable to you. Most of the high-end functional trainers that we have come across are equipped with this feature but not the affordable ones, so Body Solid definitely gets leverage here.
The PFT 100 functional trainer cable crossover machine provides 20 height options
The gap between each height setting is just 3.2”, which is pretty close. This gives you an option to target various muscle groups from various positions. As expected from a good quality functional trainer, changing the position of the pulleys takes seconds and can be done independently with just one hand.
The Body-Solid PFT100 cable crossover machine requires some basic assembly, which is pretty straightforward.
Overall, we found it to be a good product.
Body Solid PFT100 functional trainer comes with very few accessories
The only accessory that you get with the Body-Solid PFT100 cable machine is a pair of adjustable-length nylon handles. These are the standard attachments available with all functional trainers, even the low-cost ones. Body-Solid cable machines are low-cost products, so we understand that the manufacturer may have skimped on attachments and accessories to reduce the overall cost of the machine. You can anyways buy these accessories separately when needed.
Unlike the high-end functional trainers, it doesn’t come with a bench. You will have to buy your own either from the manufacturer or you can choose any of the best adjustable benches or the best flat benches we have selected for you.
The pulleys of the Body Solid PFT 100 functional trainer are not made of metal
They are black nylon pulleys.
You may find it hard to believe that a $1500 cable machine comes with nylon pulleys but that's fairly common with almost all of the best functional trainers available at an affordable price range. The high-end machines come with steel or aluminum pulleys.
Don’t worry, none of the buyers have ever mentioned any issue with the pulley. Plus, the manufacturer offers a solid warranty on it, which should make you feel more confident while investing your money in it.
We are giving this a rating of 4.5 out of 5.0.
👑 If You Have a Lot of Space and Cash : XMARK Functional Trainer Cable Machine
If you are looking for a commercial-grade, high-end functional trainer cable machine for your home gym with plenty of attachments, XMARK deserves a special mention. With more than 20 years of experience, XMARK is a household name, known for manufacturing some of the best home gym products.
The XMark XM-7626 cable crossover machine is a fully equipped, ergonomically designed, well-engineered functional trainer. It is more expensive than the above-mentioned products, and you obviously get what you pay for.
Features of XMARK XM-7626 functional trainer
- Dimensions: 65”W x 43.5”L x 83” H
- Weight: comes with two weight stacks of 200lbs each
- Resistance ratio: 2:1
- Accessories included: a pair of 8” hand straps, a pair of long strap handles, tricep rope, short bar, long bar, leg extension strap, ankle strap
- Pulley can be adjusted to 19 different positions with a 3.5” gap in between
- Warranty: limited lifetime warranty for residential use
Xmark functional trainer has a heavy-duty construction
The high price tag of XMARK Fitness XM7626 cable machine is justified by an 11-gauge heavy-duty 2″ x 3″ steel frame and aircraft-grade steel cables with PVC coating that is tested for 2000lbs weight. The thick frame gives it a commercial-grade look.
It weighs around 800lbs, making it one of the heaviest functional trainer machines you can buy for home use. Despite that, it doesn’t have a huge footprint, so you can accommodate it in any decent-sized home or garage gym.
The fully adjustable pulleys are made of industrial-grade steel
Each of the pulleys is fully adjustable on its own. They have sealed ball bearings that provide the smoothest possible motion, so even your hardest training sessions do not take a toll on your joints. You can set them at 19 different spots with a 3.5” gap between each of them. Each of these spots is meant to help you target a specific muscle group in a specific way.
Xmark functional trainer provides 10 lbs weight increment
That’s because this cable crossover machine is meant for people who are already quite fit and active. But, if you are just getting started, a 10lbs increment in each arm i.e. a total of 20lbs increment in both arms may be too much to deal with. However, please note that the resistance ratio is 2:1, so 10lbs will actually feel like 5lbs. Plus, the increment becomes 20 lbs after you have reached 50lbs.
Many functional trainers provide a 5lbs increment, which makes the transition easier for beginners. Well, this isn’t a deal breaker though.
Xmark functional trainer cable machine comes with plenty of attachments
Here is what you will get in your box:
- A set of hand straps– These are the standard 8” handles that you get with almost all of the best functional trainers.
- Long hand straps: These are almost the same as the shorter 8” ones. They are 17” long and are meant to be used when you want to stand at a distance from the cable machine. Not many functional trainers provide this and, to be honest, you may not actually need it.
- Tricep rope: It measures 23”, which is pretty long and can be used for extended tricep workouts including kneeling curls.
- Long bar– This is more like a standard 42” pullup bar with multiple grip options. Excellent option for bodyweight and barbell exercises. The other best functional trainers we have reviewed above have pull up handles; not a full-size bar with multi-grip options.
- Short bar– It is used for practicing some sports moves such as swings.
- Leg extension strap– Perfect for lower body workouts.
- Ankle strap-Another attachment that you can use for targeting lower body muscles such as hamstrings and glutes.
Installation requires some brainstorming
The instructions are poorly written. This is a major problem that buyers have had with the XMARK cable crossover station. And, for years, the manufacturer hasn’t bothered about addressing it.
A few buyers have stated that the cables need to be installed in opposite directions from what is shown in the brochure. See the image above for correct instructions that a buyer has shared after spending hours assembling this unit.
Some buyers have stated that they received incorrectly labeled parts and that's why they had to redo things a couple of times before figuring out what needs to go where and how.
Numerous buyers have stated that the instruction guide doesn’t tell you that you need to run the cable as you install each pulley. If you follow the process mentioned in the guide, you may have to take off all the pulleys and the nuts and redo everything.
We are giving this a rating of 4.5 out of 5.0.
🏬 The Costco Option : Inspire Fitness FTX Functional Trainer with Bench
Noteworthy features and specifications of the Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer
- Dimensions: 54 in x 40 in x 82 in
- Weight: 544 lbs (247 kgs)
- Training weight: 2 X 165lbs
- Resistance ratio: 1:2
- The Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer has two fully adjustable pulleys that can swivel up to 180 degrees
- Accessories included: Tricep Rope, 2 x Deluxe D Handles, Dual Hook Curl Bar, Chin/Dip Belt
- Optional accessories available
- Assembly required
- Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer comes with complimentary access to Inspire Fitness app, so you can learn how to use this functional trainer to target the various muscle groups of your body
- Covered by a limited lifetime warranty on parts and frame
Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer versus FT1
FT1 functional trainer is probably the most popular and most-sold product in its niche. That’s because it provides a great value at a much lower price when compared to other competitive products. FT1 comes with almost every possible accessory that you may need to add variety and versatility to your workouts.
FTX functional trainer is its more affordable version. Both of them have the same adjustable pulley system, same weight stacks, and even the same lifetime warranty. The only difference is the number of accessories you will get. Plus, FT1 has a wide footprint and is heavier than the FTX one. Another thing that makes FT1 better than Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer is that you can upgrade its weight stacks in case you want to train with weights heavier than 165lbs.
If you can afford to spend $3000, we would suggest you go with Inspire Fitness FT1 functional trainer but we bought the FTX one because we already had a FLYBIRD Adjustable Bench, DYNASQUARE LAT Pulldown Bar, and a few other attachments. Plus, we needed something compact. Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer was a more suitable option for us.
Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer is a fantastic home gym equipment that can bear a decent amount of rough use
We have been using it for a few weeks now and we must admit that we are really impressed with the quality and functionality of this cable crossover machine. Although it comes with very limited accessories, everything included is well-designed and made to last for a really long time.
A major problem that we have experienced with cheaper functional trainers is that the pulleys aren’t really smooth. If you are training with a light to medium amount of weight, you may not be able to feel the slightly rough movement. But, if you are training with more than 100lbs, the jerky motion of the pulleys can significantly affect your comfort. Plus, the rough movements can impact your joints and muscles, leaving you sore at the end of your workouts.
This is why it is better to invest in good quality equipment such as the FTX functional trainer by Inspire Fitness. Thousands of buyers, including us, agree that the pulley system, which is the core feature of this product, works exactly as expected from a premium-quality functional trainer. There are no lags or jerks.
Plus, the Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer is totally noise-free, so your kids or other family members won’t get disturbed. No matter how demanding your workouts are, Inspire Fitness functional trainers are much more reliable than the affordable alternatives.
Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer comes with a lifetime warranty
And the manufacturer stands by its warranty. But, please note that it is a limited warranty and doesn’t cover routine wear and tear.
Nevertheless, a lifetime warranty still reflects the manufacturer’s confidence in its products. You can be rest assured that the company will send you replacements or get it repaired if anything goes wrong.
It is really heavy but quite easy to assemble
The Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer weighs 544lbs, which is pretty heavy. If you want to set it up in your upstairs home gym, you will have to get help to carry it up. The assembly process is easy but can’t be done by a single person because of the heavy weight stacks. Plus, you will need someone to help you align it correctly.
Nevertheless, the assembly process is still pretty straightforward. The assembly guide is easy to understand too. Plus, the weight stacks of Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer come fully assembled. So, all you need to do is to attach the weight towers to the frame and add the pullup bar. This could, however, take a couple of hours, so be prepared for it.
The height of the Inspire Fitness FTX functional trainer is just 82”, which might not be enough for taller persons
The problem is specifically for the use of a pullup bar. If you are taller than 6’, you may have to bend your knees to get a full range of motion with your arms. You might want to go ahead with the FT1 model, which is about 4” taller than this one but, to be honest, that's not a major issue. I am 6.2’ tall and I don’t mind bending my legs slightly, considering that this functional trainer machine is sitting in a corner of my home gym, leaving ample space for my other home gym equipment.
Moreover, if height is an issue, you might buy a screwless doorway pullup bar.
Some buyers have reported missing parts and manufacturing defects
These issues can be quite nerve-wracking, especially when you have spent $2500 for it. But, be assured that the manufacturer is quite cooperative and its customer service desk does every possible thing to address the concerns of the buyers.
More Assorted Pictures
We are giving this a rating of 4.6 out of 5.0.
Functional Trainer Buying Guide and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here is what you should consider while looking for or buying a functional trainer machine.
The overall footprint of the machine
Since functional trainers are meant to provide you with cable pulling exercises, they are rather large machines and they need a decent amount of floor space as well as space for you to move your body around. So, before you order, make sure you measure the room where you want to keep it and make sure it is big enough to accommodate the machine and still have enough room left for a bench as well as for you to train safely. Also, make sure there is enough room at the top of the machine so you don’t end up bumping your head to the ceiling.
If you have a small home gym, you may go with compact functional trainers. They are very basic and have a smaller footprint but they serve their purpose well. However, the compact machines are not meant for advanced trainers and athletes.
Other than being huge, these cable crossover machines are heavy too. They could weigh from 450lbs to 800lbs and even more. If you have an old house, it might not be safe to have it on the second floor. Although it is safe to build a home gym on the second floor of the house, you have to be careful not to overload it.
Smoothness and adjustability of the pulleys
The way the pulley operates can make a lot of difference to your workouts. If it sticks and you get lags during your workout, you could end up feeling annoyed. You may not want to even continue your reps. But, more than that, lags can strain your muscles and joints.
The best functional trainers, therefore, have pulleys that work as smooth as water. No matter how fast you are training or how much weight you are training with, you will not experience any jerks or lags. You may have to oil the pulleys regularly as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Most functional trainers have aluminum or steel pulleys but sometimes the low-cost cable crossover machines may come with nylon pulleys. Both of them are good but nylon is not meant for heavy weights.
Other than smoothness of operation, the adjustability of the pulleys also matter a lot. They should swivel in all possible directions and you should be able to adjust them almost anywhere you want. The frames of most high-end functional trainers are designed in a way that they let you adjust the pulleys at 18 to 20 different positions with 3”-4” gap between each position. This is more than enough to target your muscles from various heights and angles.
Plus, make sure all the pulleys are independent of each other, so you can work with just one hand or more than one person can use the functional trainer machine at a time.
Wondering how you can find out about the build quality of the pulleys without trying the functional trainer?
If you have a sports store near you and if it has the functional trainer machine that you want you buy, you may go there to take a trial. Otherwise, you will have to rely on genuine product reviews from buyers and experts (like us).
Resistance provided by the functional trainer
Functional trainers can either work with magnetic resistance or with weights.
The magnetic resistance based cable crossover machines are almost silen, pretty smooth, and highly affordable. But, they are quite successful. That's because, no matter how well-built they are, magnetic resistance can never compete with weights. Plus, the resistance mechanism has a very short life. It may need repair/replacement sooner than expected.
Check out the NordicTrack Fusion CST functional trainer for example. It is one of the most compact functional trainers we have ever come across. The machine is well-built, stable, and highly versatile. But, many buyers have stated that the magnetic resistance is not just enough for people who are already in good shape. It may work for beginners and recreational trainers but not for those who want to grow stronger day by day. That’s why it couldn’t make it to our list of best functional trainers for home gyms.
That’s why most functional trainers use weight stacks to provide you the exact resistance you need to train. Most machines come with their weight stacks but some can work with the weight plates that you may already have. Both the designs are equally good.
Compact functional trainer machines usually come with a single stack of weights, which is OK but if you can spare some space and money, you should go for the ones that have dual weight stacks. That's because they provide more resistance, so you won’t outgrow them any time soon. Plus, dual stack machines have independent pulleys, so each arm or leg can train independently.
Talking about the amount of resistance that functional trainers provide; most of them offer 2:1 resistance i.e. if you are lifting 50lbs, you will get a resistance of 25lbs. A few compact functional trainers may provide 4:1 resistance which means if you are lifting 50lbs, you will get a resistance of 12.5lbs. We don’t recommend those machines because they don’t provide enough resistance.
What is a functional trainer and what exactly is functional training?
It is basically an advanced and more-sophisticated version of a cable pulley system. It is a rather full-fledged cable crossover machine that was initially used in therapy and rehab centers to help people regain their ‘functional’ mobility i.e. the mobility and flexibility that you need to perform the activities of daily living (ADL). That's where they get their name as functional trainers.
Functional trainer machines are no more limited to rehab centers. Due to their safety and versatility of use, they have found their way to commercial gyms as well as home gyms. They usually have weight stacks connected to a system of cable that passes through pulleys. For training, you need to pull the handles attached to those cables.
Functional trainers are highly versatile
Since the pulleys can swivel in almost all possible directions and can be adjusted at almost all possible positions, you will be able to do a multitude of exercises for targeting almost all major and minor muscle groups of your body. Functional trainer machines are highly recommended for people who do not want to try the heavy-duty, highly challenging strength training exercises such as barbell squats and barbell bench presses. In fact, functional trainers are safer than smith machines because all you need to do when your muscles start to give up is to leave the handles. There is no way the weights can fall on you and cause an injury or accident.
We also recommend functional trainers for people who want to improve their athletic performance such as swings. These machines are good for people who want to work on their strength without going overboard and buying a full set of barbell, squat rack, bumper plates, etc.
How to use a functional trainer?
As mentioned above, the pulleys of the cable machine can be adjusted at multiple spots with about 3” to 4” gap between them. The pulleys can swivel in almost all possible directions. This means, you can pull the weights from the weight stacks from any direction, angle, and level. You can pull them using your hands or legs.
Watch the video below to get an idea of how you can use a functional trainer and the type of exercises you can with it.
What is the best functional trainer for a home gym?
We have already reviewed some of the best functional trainer machines above. Basically these machines are compact in size so they do not take up too much space in your small home gym. They provide an absolutely smooth and quiet operation. Most of them provide enough resistance for intermediate to advanced level trainers but beginner-friendly options are available too.
Many functional trainers come with a bunch of accessories that you can use to add versatility to your workouts. There is often a short bar that can be used for tricep exercises and a long bar that can work like a barbell. There are various handles and ankle straps that let you target a specific muscle group in a very specific way.
The high-end functional trainer machines may come with a workout bench. If you don’t already have one, you can check out our list of best adjustable benches and best flat benches because you will need one of them.
Is a functional trainer worth it?
Functional trainers are expensive and bulky machines. Even the most affordable one could cost you about $2000. Plus you will have to buy a workout bench to go with it.
For the price of a decent quality compact functional trainer, you can buy a mid-range barbell, a decent squat rack, and a set of affordable bumper plates. Plus, you can buy a bunch of other accessories such as a set of barbell collars, a landmine attachment, resistance bands for doing band assisted squats, a small but effective deep tissue massage gun, and even a battle rope!
So, it is but obvious to doubt if functional trainer machines are actually worth their price.
Believe us, they are, even though they could rip your budget and take up most of the space in your home gym. That's because they are meant to improve your functional mobility by helping you strengthen those muscles that otherwise get ignored. They are all-in-one machines that can be used to train almost all muscles of your body.
Not everyone has the stability and flexibility to do weighted squats. Not everyone is interested in lifting free weights. If you are working out from home and need something safer so the weights don’t land on your feet or chest, functional trainers and smith machines are a better option than free weights that require a lot of practice, balance, and stability.
So yes, functional trainers are worth it.
Can you build muscle with a functional trainer?
A functional trainer machine basically provides you a safer and easier way to train with weights, just like smith machines. The weights are safely secured or hooked, so even if you miss a rep, you won’t end up having a loaded barbell on your feet.
Smith machines are meant for lower body exercises whereas the functional trainers are mostly meant for upper body workouts although you can creatively use both these machines to target almost all major muscle groups of your body. Since they use weights, they are as effective for muscle building as a set of dumbbells or a loaded barbell.
How many times a week should I do functional training?
As many times as you want!
Most functional training workouts mimic your everyday activities, so even if you spend an hour on your functional trainer 6 days a week, it’s absolutely fine. You may not experience any strain, provided you don’t overdo it or start training with a weight that you are not quite familiar with.
But, you can get bored using a functional trainer 6 days a week, just the way you can get bored of running or rowing, etc. So, we suggest you should choose different workouts for different days of the week. Having a lot of variety can help you stay motivated.
In our list of best cable machines for home gyms we have selected affordable and compact options because we believe that's what most of us need. Unless you are lucky enough to have a lot of space in your home gym or you have a $4000-$5000 budget, these products should serve your purpose.
If you have a space-crunched workout space for home and a cable machine seems just too big, you can go with the LAT pulldown machines that we have selected for you. If you have a squat rack, you can add a pulley system and the DYNASQUARE LAT Pulldown Bar to create an upper body workout setup. For specifically targeting your arm muscles, you can go with some of the best affordable forearm wrist rollers that we have reviewed for you.
Before you go, do check out our detailed article on ‘What Temperature is Too Cold to Workout in Your Garage or Outside Gym?’ because we can feel that many of you might be skipping your workouts during this cold season citing harsh weather as an obvious reason.
Do get in touch with us for queries and suggestions.