If you are looking to build a quality home gym, you should definitely consider functional trainers. Sure, other equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, bench, power rack come before, but functional trainer (also called as cable/pulley machine) is something that you will use every day since it offers a multitude of exercise options that you can do on it.
On these types of devices, you will be able to pull unique exercises that target specific muscles groups no other machine will allow you to work (think about rotational exercises).
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A functional trainer is a machine that usually consists of two weight stacks, each with the same amount of weight, and adjustable, sliding pulleys that can be safely secured to different heights.
On the carabiniers you find on those pulleys you can connect many attachments. Different positions and various handles allow you to perform exercises for every single body part. Also, functional trainers will enable you to work only one, or two hands/legs at a time.
The “functional” part of the name describes what these machines are all about- they allow users to perform the exercises in a natural, unrestricted way, that is different for every user, considering the height, arm/leg length, etc.- the cable will always be in a perfect position.
Cables have additional benefits- they put your muscle under constant tension both in the eccentric and concentric part of the movement, which will result in some serious gains!
A functional trainer machine’s central part is dual weight stack, but depending on the model, you will find different add-ons. The most common extra is a pullup/chin-up bar, but there are some more advanced systems too.
Some functional trainers are basically full home gym systems- a smith machine, lat pull down and functional trainer, all in the same device.
Like with any fitness equipment, you have to consider few things, before deciding to pick anything:
Budget- you can’t buy what you can’t afford, that is simple enough. But, that doesn't mean you should always opt for the cheapest option, nor for the most expensive one. The cheapest option is the best one, only if it is the only one you can afford.
But, be careful when buying the most expensive system- most of the time, you will need to get some add-ons- some new bars and handles, that will let you perform additional exercises. So don’t deplete the whole budget on the system itself, leave a little for potential upgrades.
And remember, you are buying gym equipment to last, so pick quality. Furthermore, gym equipment has a high resell value, and you will get a big part of your investment back if you decide you no longer need the machine in the future.
Size- this goes both for the size of the machine, and the size of your room overall. Always leave extra room around your machine, especially up front, to give yourself enough space to perform the exercises correctly. Consider leaving some space above the device too- you don’t want to hit your head on the ceiling when doing pull-ups.
If your exercise room is small, consider getting a home gym machine (functional trainer+Smith+lat pulldown…). The device will take up extra space than just a functional trainer, but it will be the only thing you need, except for some free weights.
Total weight- when choosing weight, consider your growth too. You want your functional trainer to provide enough resistance not only now, but also in the future. Think about your future gains when choosing the machine.
Attachments- yes, two weight stacks are the focal point of every functional trainer, but you can’t use the machine if you don’t have your attachments. Consider getting as many handles, bars, and cuffs as possible. Those will not only give you more exercise option but also more possibilities within the exercise- different grips target your muscle from different angles, allowing you a better workout with the same weight.