Functional Trainers are often referred to as cable machines or crossover cable machines and provide a considerable amount of exercise functionality. If you’ve been to a gym or fitness club, you have most likely used a functional trainer at some point to perform bicep curls, tricep extensions and various fly movements for the chest.
However, you don’t need a gym or fitness club to have access to these exercise movements. There are plenty of functional trainers suitable for your home gym that won’t take up a lot of space and won’t cost as much as you might think. Before you purchase one, you’ll need to decide if you want a functional trainer as the centerpiece for your home gym or if it will be in addition to other exercise equipment such as a Power Rack.
Today, I will cover home gym functional trainers and perhaps it will help you decide if a functional trainer is right for you.
Home Gym Functional Trainer Review
Functional trainers are based around a swivel pulley system which allows the user to perform various exercises using many different attachments. The primary goal is to keep constant tension on the muscle throughout its full range of motion.
For example, you could perform a bicep curl with a dumbbell or barbell; however, at the bottom and top of the movement, you lose most of the tension put on the bicep, especially when fatigued. This doesn’t mean that you can’t lose tension on a functional trainer, but you have a greater degree of control over the movement with the help of the pulley system.
Another example of control would be stepping farther away from the pulley while performing a bicep curl. By stepping farther away, you can increase tension without increasing the weight. You could also use various attachments to target a different part of the muscle group.
As you can see, a major advantage of a home gym functional trainer is being able to play with different angles and movements that you can’t get with a barbell or dumbbell. The other advantage is that you can perform many exercises on one machine, saving space and time.
Home Gym Functional Trainer Advantages
Balance, Stability, Endurance, and exercise progression is where the real value of a functional trainer shows up. When you consider a core exercise such as the plank, how long are you really prepared to stay in that boring position? One of two things is going to give out, your body or your patience.
If you can perform a plank for 1-2 minutes, maybe the next step in the progression would be a plank cable row or plank cable press, instead of adding more time to a normal plank. There are more efficient and fun ways to activate your core with a functional trainer.
Finally, it is well known that as men age, keeping muscle mass and mobility is extremely important. In fact, I’m sure this applies to women too. Having a functional trainer at home is ideal, particularly for the elderly, but also for anyone that can’t make it to the gym frequently. Hopefully, having a home gym and functional trainer will become as common as having a TV.
Home Gym Functional Trainer Disadvantages
While you can perform leg exercises on a functional trainer, some movements are better with free weights. Most functional trainers have an attachment which allows the user to perform squats, but squatting this way is inferior to using a barbell, dumbbell or bodyweight squats.
First, the squat bar attachments are connected to the pulley system, and even if you have 240lbs selected, that isn’t the amount of weight you end up squatting. Often it ends up being 20-30% less on most machines. This might not be an issue for some, but for people looking to put on muscle mass, it isn’t ideal.
Furthermore, the bars don’t accommodate the various squat stances for different body types. People may find themselves leaning to forward or being too upright, thus missing out on hitting the intended muscle groups. There are different squat positions for targeting different muscle groups.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t squat on a Functional Trainer; it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your training. I mentioned earlier that trainers are great for balance, stability and endurance exercises, and there is nothing wrong with using it for those purposes.
If your goal is to maximize strength or muscle mass, there is no substitute for the barbell unless there are circumstances that prevent you from using one. You might want to look into getting a power rack as the centerpiece of your home gym, and a functional trainer as an accessory.
Finally, there are home gyms that have leg press attachments, lat-pulldowns, and chest press movements all in one like the Hoist Mi1 Home Gym. These type of gyms are also very useful and focus more on strength training. A great place to find gyms like these is TheFitnessOutlet.
I worked for TheFitnessOutlet when I lived in Seattle and they have a great team. They also ship all over the Country and will do the installation, for a fee of course.
Best Functional Trainers
The best functional trainer is going to be the one you enjoy using and in your budget. Don’t get wrapped up in the name brands. There are some companies that I personally like and you’ll find them if you look around this website. Most home gym functional trainers are on par with each other and provide the same exercises. The ones to avoid are obvious because they look like garbage.
However, good trainers typically have two weight stacks which not only provides the user plenty of weight to exercise but helps stabilize it the machine.
Also, angles matter and you should look for a trainer that has as many selectable positions and attachments as possible. Most trainers also have a pull-up bar, and you’ll want to get one that has various hand positions if you can.
Finally, the best home gym functional trainers are smooth, well constructed, show little cable, and are simple to use. Other than the various attachment handles, you shouldn’t have to spend much time doing adjustments.
Functional trainers can be a great addition to your home gym, garage gym, or fitness club. If you’re interested in purchasing one for your home, you’ll need to decide if you want it to be the centerpiece of your workout routine, or if it will be an accessory.
If you’re training for maximum muscle or strength, you may want to add a power rack with your functional trainer. However, it can be used for stability, balance and endurance work by itself. It’s also excellent for rehabilitation and maintaining some muscle mass as we age.
Quality functional trainers are well thought out and will last a very long time if taken care of. If you’d like to see what I think are some of the best functional trainers, please check the shop.