Best Functional Trainers to Buy in 2022

For pain-free movement, but improve your power and performance, and have better muscle activation all at the same time? That sounds like a functional trainer could do.

There are a lot of functional training machines available. And looking for the one that suits your needs will take a lot of time. So we’ve rounded up the 5 Best Functional Trainers that can target all the muscle groups in every possible angle you can train them in.

Best Functional Trainers in 2022

  1. Titan Fitness Functional Trainer (Best Overall)
  2. Fray Fitness Commercial-Grade Functional Trainer (Best Budget-Friendly)
  3. HFT Functional Trainer for home gyms (Best Compact)
  4. Freemotion Dual Cable Crossover (Best Adjustability)
  5. Inspire Fitness FT2 (Best Specs)

What is a Functional Trainer?

A functional trainer (FT) is an exercise machine that can be divided into the following parts: a stable frame, a weight stack or two, and a system of pulleys and arms.

You’re probably more familiar with its other names such as pulley machine, or cable crossover.

The functional trainer machine allows you to get a full-body workout without barbells, dumbbells, and other free-weight equipment. 

It is a versatile exercise equipment that allows you to work out from a variety of angles and in all movement patterns such as pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, carrying, and more.

By design, a functional trainer allows you to exercise using unilateral movements for muscle isolation, bilateral work for balanced training, and plyometric work to build athleticism.

Thus, owning a functional trainer would be beneficial no matter what your fitness goal is, be it for endurance, hypertrophy, strength, or power.

Who should use a Functional Trainer?

Despite its name, everyone can benefit from a cable trainer machine, not just functional trainers.

First, the machine’s name is derived from the type of training where you mimic everyday movements such as gaiting (running and walking) or carrying (a combination of squatting, hinging, pushing, and more).

The goal is to make you stronger and healthier in those movement patterns. They strengthen your bones and muscles so your risk for injuries is minimized,  especially if you are sedentary to start with.

Functional training systems are also great for individuals rehabbing an injury and aiming to get their strength back.

To a more intense extent, athletes can use functional trainers to train plyometric power and core strength. Bodybuilders and strength athletes can use it to target — or isolate — and build muscle better than free weights because of the better intramuscular tension that the pulleys produce.

How does a Functional Trainer work?

Functional trainers work on a pulley system that’s either fixed or adjustable to different levels. One end of the cable is connected to a weight stack, and the other end, or user-end, connects to a handle attachment point.

Some functional trainers, besides a frame and pulley system, have additional arms that extend the user-end of the pulleys further to the side, further up, and further down. This eliminates the need for additional pulleys since the arms already provide almost 360-degree adjustability.

Functional trainers let you adjust the load or weight where you need it to be (on the muscles, not the joints) and where it is most comfortable for you.

Given this wide range for adjustability, you can target every single body part and muscle group from head to toe with the right handles and attachments.

Advantages of Using a Functional Trainer

Versatility

It allows you to train every muscle group from all angles for maximal stimulation and, thus, better development.

The incremental changes in position will allow you to emphasize specific areas of the muscle you want to develop, such as training the clavicular head versus the sternocostal head of the pec muscles.

Functional trainers let you train movement at high, medium, and low heights. You can work the whole body with proper attachments and handles, and other gym accessories like an adjustable bench.

Complete Gym

With a functional trainer, there’s no more need to purchase other gym equipment. It is essentially an all-in-one home gym.

You can train all movement patterns: pull, push, hinge, rotate, gait, squat, and many more — and even a combination of those movements.

A functional trainer might be the only piece of gym equipment you would need, ever.

Safer than Free Weights

The freedom of movement you can do with functional training systems lets you lift in your specific, and, thus, natural movement patterns.

It is also safe to use for all age groups because of the incremental increases in weight.

Functional trainers also remove the need for spotters when performing heavy lifts. Since the weight stacks are in a fixed point far from your body, bailing on a lift when it gets too heavy does not pose a high risk for injuries or accidents.

Since your joints are not fixed in one plane of movement, you’ll be able to focus on using the muscles — not the joints — to stabilize and lift the weight. This leads to better gains and a lower risk for pain and impingement.

Disadvantages of Using a Functional Trainer

Limited Poundages

While it will help you gain significant muscle and strength, it is not ideal for those that want to get into competitive bodybuilding or powerlifting.

It can be limited in terms of total weight. And, there’s just no substitute for heavy barbell and dumbbell work.

While you cannot do heavy compounds with a functional trainer, you can do heavy isolated work, which still makes it a significant piece of equipment in your training arsenal.

But, for competition training in athletics, it is an excellent tool to increase your drive power (golf), jab power (boxing and MMA), or vertical leap (volleyball).

Price

Be prepared to spend at least $1000 on a functional trainer. Even with that price, you’ll only be able to get a low-tier FT.

For quality functional training machines, prepare at least $2000. While it may be a hefty price, FTs in that price range are sure to last.

Plus, owning functional exercise equipment beats having to drive to the gym every day and paying membership fees.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Functional Trainer

Weight Stack

Some cable fitness machines will only have a single weight stack. But, if your resources allow it, better go for the dual-stack ones.

A single weight stack limits how heavy you can go, as well as the range of exercises you can do. 

It’ll also become a problem when you are able to lift the total stack for reps — you’ll be left no choice but to buy another machine or add other exercise equipment to increase the weight.

A dual-stack essentially gives you double the weights. Besides significantly higher poundage, it also allows you to do bilateral exercises. You’ll get even stimulation and, hence, balanced muscle and strength gains.

Dual weight stacks also let two people use the machine at the same time.

Another important consideration is the total amount of weight a stack has. Shoot for at least 150 pounds of total weight.

If you have a dual-stack, then you’ll have more than enough weight, no matter how big and strong you get.

Lastly, consider how heavy the jumps are in weight. The increments are user-specific but look for 5 to 10-pound increments — the standard.

The jump is enough for progressive, rather than counterproductive, overload.

Build Quality (Cables, Pulleys, and Frame)

Never sacrifice quality for price. The build quality of the functional trainer you buy is the most important.

Since functional training machines are made up of a lot of moving parts, this factor should be your biggest consideration.

A great functional trainer will have a sturdy frame, heavy-duty pulleys (and bearings), and smooth and strong cables.

For the frame, choose a fitness cable machine that is built with at least 11-gauge steel. This is thick and heavy enough to withstand denting, bending, and overall breakdown from constant use.

For the pulleys, aluminum ones are best. Plastic pulleys are okay, as long as they are reinforced with a metal skeleton or made from nylon. Also, look for ones with sealed bearings — these allow for a smooth and responsive cable feel.

Conventionally, functional trainers have 2 pulleys. Other manufacturers install up to 8 pulleys on their machine for maximum functionality. And with pulleys, more is better.

Coated cables are the best. Rubber or PVC-coated cables are the most common. Inside, the steel cables should be thick and strong. Look for warranties on this part of the functional machine you plan to purchase.

Adjustability

The adjustability of functional trainers is what makes them great exercise equipment. This feature makes it a compact home gym that you can train most, if not all, movement patterns.

The variability in height and angle of push or pull allows you to, as mentioned earlier, train almost every muscle — from the neck, traps, delts, arms, chest, back, core, hips, quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and feet.

Consider how much freedom the functional machine has in terms of adjusting height and angle. Some may have big gaps between adjustments while others are more gradual.

Check the ends of the cable in the user-end part; do they have ball bearings that allow the hand more movement, or does it simply have a rubber ball stopper?

Some cable trainers have adjustable arms instead of simple upright posts to adjust the height and angle of the cables. This type can be vertically AND horizontally adjusted, allowing more and better angles to work the muscles in.

Attachments

Make sure you look for these attachments when planning to buy a functional trainer: D-handles, lat pulldown bar, short bar, EZ curl bar, rope, squat/pull-up belt, ankle cuffs.

Your chosen functional machine should at least have half of those enumerated above. If not, make sure your budget is big enough to buy those handles and attachments later on.

You would not want to buy one without these, then have to wait a couple more weeks for the accessories to arrive before you can actually start using your functional trainer.

Another important note, choose the attachments or accessories that will complement the fitness goals you are trying to achieve.

For example, don’t buy a sports bar/handle if you are not planning on working on your home run swings or knockout left and right hooks.

Likewise, do not buy a squat belt/bar if you’re on team no-leg-day.

… On second thought, buy one so you’d be forced to actually train the whole body. Never skip leg day, bud!

When shopping for a functional trainer, look for accessory packages that come with the machine itself. It will save you extra costs, time, and effort. Plus, it’ll give you exercise variety from the outset.

While you can buy the accessories from any fitness and gym equipment store, purchasing from the same manufacturer makes sure that they function seamlessly with the cable and pulley system.

Dimensions

While functional trainers are, basically, compact gyms, you still need to make sure that the one you purchase will fit the room you intend to place it in.

Besides the most obvious consideration which is the floor area it will be taking up, you also have to consider the height of the functional machine.

Some functional trainers can be as much as 10 inches taller than the other kinds.

Most FTs have an integrated pull-up bar. Thus, besides the machine height, you should allot about a foot of space over that so you can perform full reps.

Besides the space, it may take up horizontally and vertically, take into consideration that the functional trainer you choose will not be easy to move around.

They can easily weigh up to half a ton, weight stack and steel frame combined. So, make sure to plan a permanent place for it.

If you live in an apartment or a small house, opt for a compact functional trainer that could easily fit a corner. Functional machines with plain pulleys are great for small spaces.

Those with arms and levers that extend further out, up, down, and to the sides, will be better suited for wide-open spaces, spacious garages, or dedicated exercise rooms.

Warranty

With so many moving parts, a functional trainer is more prone to wear and tear compared to slabs or bars of steel. Thus, warranties on these parts should not be taken for granted.

The obvious choice is to go for manufacturers that provide at least a one-year warranty, especially with the pulleys and cables.

Warranties on the frame, weight stacks, and accessories are also common. These usually carry longer warranties.

Most of the products undergo a quality check before they get shipped out. Remember that warranties are meant for substandard parts, not parts that you break because of misuse — so don’t go too ham on your functional trainer!

1- BEST OVERALL FT: Titan Fitness Functional Trainer

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Dimensions: 44x64x82” LWH length=depth
  • Weight Stack, Max Load: Dual stack, 200lbs. each, 10-pound increments
  • Adjustability Features: Vertically adjustable, horizontal swivel attachment point
  • Attachments: rope handle, single D and double D handles, long bar, short bar, and ankle/wrist cuffs
WHAT WE LIKEWHAT WE DON’T LIKE
Combined weight stack of 400 lbs.❌ Equipment height might be a problem for really tall lifters
Allows you to perform heavy bilateral movements Requires two people to assemble
Includes a lot of attachments/handles 1-year warranty only
Excellent price-to-value ratio

The Titan Functional Trainer has an unbeatable price-to-value ratio, making it the best choice overall.

It comes with several attachments that aren’t just bunched together. Each of them enables you to get a complete workout from upper to lower body. No need to buy additional accessories.

Titan Fitness is known for its extremely sturdy products that do not break the bank — and, this happens to be one of them.

The pulleys are reinforced with fiberglass. And, each of the 200-pound weight stacks sits on a thick gauge steel frame. This one would not even budge even if you are able to lift the whole 2 stacks.

For safety, the stacks are enclosed so your clothes and limbs are safe from pinching. Also, I like that the weight pin is magnetic so it won’t slip and have the plates unexpectedly smash together and shatter your eardrums.

It comes with an integrated multi-position pull-up bar. My favorite accessory, though, would be the long bar for simulating barbell movements like the floor press, squat, and deadlifts.

BOTTOM LINE
The height, width, and depth of the Titan Fitness Functional Trainer make it a good fit for a small or big room. The rubber footing is a big help in reducing impacts and protecting your floor.

Solid frame, smooth pulleys, and complete attachments for a mid-range price — there’s no doubt that the Titan Fitness Functional Trainer is the best overall functional trainer on this list.

2- BEST BUDGET-FRIENDLY FT: Fray Fitness Commercial Functional Trainer

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Dimensions: 36x66x90”
  • Weight Stack and Max Load: Dual stack, 198lbs. each, 11-pound increments
  • Adjustability Features: Vertically adjustable, horizontal swivel attachment point
  • Attachments: D-handles only
WHAT WE LIKEWHAT WE DON’T LIKE
Cheap yet durableNo other attachments/handles included
✅ Frame is made with 11-gauge steelWeakest link: plastic pulley wheels
Lifetime warranty on frame and pulleys

As previously mentioned, most top-notch functional trainers are expensive. While there are cheaper alternatives, the quality just isn’t up to par. Fortunately, there is an exception: the Fray Fitness Commercial Functional Trainer.

This cheap functional trainer was intentionally built to fill in the gap between quality and price. It is not the best, but it beats all other machines within its price range in terms of build, warranty, and functionality.

The Fray Fitness Commercial Functional Trainer is equipped with dual weight stacks that weigh a total of almost 400lbs. Thus, the total poundage is equal to those of well-known brands.

In terms of build, this functional machine is built with an 11-gauge steel frame throughout, making it solid, stable, and sturdy.

The pulley system is smooth and is easily adjustable to 11 different positions from top to bottom.

The pulleys, however, are plastic. The cables, on the other hand, are thick and, therefore, presumably strong.

Given the lifetime warranty on the pulleys, we can assume that they are up to the challenge of daily workouts

BOTTOM LINE
The Fray Fitness Commercial Functional Trainer is solidly constructed and budget-friendly. It would be hard to find another FT with this combination, especially one backed up by positive reviews.

This will be a great home gym for people that realize the importance of fitness but cannot really afford to go all out with their gym purchase.

3- BEST COMPACT FT: HFT Functional Trainer

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Dimensions: 40x55x82”
  • Weight Stack and Max Load: Dual stack, 150lbs. each
  • Adjustability Features: Vertically adjustable, horizontal swivel attachment point
  • Attachments: 2 plastic handles, long bar with ball bearing ends, sport stick with bearings, triceps rope, chin/pushup assist strap, ankle/wrist cuff, 2 chains, and integrated multi-grip chin bar
WHAT WE LIKEWHAT WE DON’T LIKE
Wide range of attachmentsOn the low end of max weight stack load
CompactNot made for broad individuals
High quality and durable cables and pulleys

While you might be able to afford the best functional trainer, maybe your gym floor is just not big enough to accommodate another machine. Or, maybe you just want a cable machine small enough to fit your garage gym’s corner and complete your set-up.

Whatever the case may be, the HFT Functional Trainer is the best choice for a compact functional trainer. It may be dimensionally small, but it does not lack the key factors to look for in an FT.

You can micro-adjust the user-end of the pulleys to 31 height positions. And, the swiveling motion of the pulleys lets you train from a good range of angles.

It also has two 150-pound weight stacks for arm or leg independence while lifting, aka bilateral or unilateral training.

As far as build quality is concerned, you wouldn’t have any trouble with the HFT Functional Trainer.

The pulleys are made from fiberglass-reinforced nylon, the nylon-coated cables have a 2000-pound tensile strength rating, and the frame is made from heavy-gauge steel.

For those keen on aesthetics, this, for me, is the sleekest looking functional trainer on the list. Oval tubings, laser-cut plates, laser-etched chrome uprights — the attention to detail on this FT is amazing.

BOTTOM LINE
For its price, attachments included, aesthetics, and frame, pulley and cable build, you would imagine a piece of beefy gym equipment worthy of a large commercial gym complex.

But, the fact that all these can be found in a compact functional trainer that fits the corner of any room definitely makes it a product to consider buying.

4- BEST ADJUSTABILITY: Freemotion Dual Cable Crossover

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Dimensions: 70x122x92”
  • Weight Stack and Max Load: Dual stack, 240lbs. each, 3.3-pound increments
  • Adjustability Features: Arms adjust vertically and horizontally, 360-degree handle attachment joint, cable travel up to 108 inches
  • Attachments: hand grips
WHAT WE LIKEWHAT WE DON’T LIKE
Unmatched number of possible angles to train inRequires more space to maximize the features of the machine
Dual, swivel pulleys offer a fluid range of motionOnly hand grips attachments are given
Extremely durable, made with 7-,11-, and 16-gauge steel

The Freemotion Dual Cable Crossover is a favorite of the movement, prehab, and hypertrophy nuts. This is because it allows for the most number of adjustments, thus, fine-tuning of exercise angles and heights.

Contrary to conventional upright pulley columns, this functional trainer has independent rotating arms with swivel pulleys that offer about a hundred positions. Hence, you can perform almost any movement pattern and target what needs to be targeted.

The cables can extend up to 97 inches, giving you endless possibilities for movement and angle variation.

For science-based trainers, the freedom and mobility this cable machine provides could mean the difference between winning and losing a competition, such as successfully addressing weak areas of a bodybuilder’s physique.

Among the functional cable machines with similar arms instead of uprights, The Freemotion Dual Cable Crossover is the best built.

The frame and arms are constructed with 11 and 7-gauge steel, with 16-gauge kick plates. Thus, this machine is truly built to last.

The frame and arms have a 10 and 3-year warranty, respectively. The cables have a 1-year warranty, while the cosmetic aspects of the machine have 6 months.

BOTTOM LINE
With the almost unlimited range of motion it provides, along with its heavy-duty construction and compact design, the Freemotion Dual Cable Crossover is hard to pass up if you have the money to spend.

5- BEST FEATURES/SPECS: Inspire Fitness FT2

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • Dimensions: 58x61x83/88”
  • Weight Stack and Max Load: Dual stack, 165lbs. each, 10-pound increments
  • Adjustability Features: Vertically adjustable, horizontal swivel attachment point, PLUS 4 center low pulleys and 2 center high pulleys, smith machine
  • Attachments: tricep rope, 2 rubber
WHAT WE LIKEWHAT WE DON’T LIKE
Integrated smith machineCan be pricey
Weight multiplier for even higher resistance
Numerous accessories with rack for gadgets and 2 water bottles
Adjustable pull-up bar

The Inspire Fitness FT2 is a premier functional trainer, especially spec and functionality-wise. It integrates a smith machine into a functional trainer so you can train barbell-type movements, too, without the need for barbell plates.

Not only that, but it also has a total of 8 pulleys: 2 conventional adjustable upright pulleys, and 4 low and 2 high pulleys at the center of the machine.

It has an adjustable pull-up bar to meet your ceiling height requirements. Thus, you have a virtually unlimited number of exercises to perform on this functional trainer.

An innovative feature that makes the FT2 sought after is the weight multiplier that doubles the maximum resistance provided by the dual 165-pound weight stacks.

So, there’s no need to worry about maxing out the stacks — “hello, isolation training” for strength athletes.

Inspire Fitness offers an upgrade on the weight stack. Even better, you can also purchase a bench with a leg curl/extension attachment and a preacher curl attachment for more brutal leg and arm sessions.

Apart from all of that, the purchase comes with a 7-piece attachment/handle package, integrated gadget, bottle, and accessories holder, and limited lifetime warranties on all parts.

BOTTOM LINE
If you are looking to build a complete home gym, the FT2 can be the only piece of gym equipment you’d need to buy.

There is a very wide range of exercises you can do on the base package alone for the whole body. Add the upgrades, and you won’t need a power rack or a set of dumbbells anymore.

Other Functional Trainers to Consider:

Prime Fitness Functional Trainer

The Prime Fitness Functional Trainer is a beefed-up version of the Freemotion Dual Cable Crossover. When I say beefed up, I mean it has a dual weight stack that provides you with 265 pounds each!

It has a micro-weight system to ensure progressive overload via 2 5-pound rings attached near the weight stack that you simply move from left to right like an abacus.

This machine provides loads heavy enough for beasts, and light enough for beginners. Thus, it suits individuals for all fitness levels.

Titan Fitness – Plate-Loaded Functional Trainer

If you don’t have a budget that breaches $1000 for your home gym, you can opt for plate-loaded functional trainers. The Titan Fitness Plate-Loaded Functional Trainer is the most budget-friendly way to get a cable crossover machine in your gym without the hefty cost.

This is best for garage gym owners that already have free weight equipment laying around. With this FT, you can upgrade your old-school training with modern cables and get the best out of both worlds.

All you need to do is slap on your already owned weight plates onto the loadable sleeves, giving you the ability to go really heavy and also micro-adjust the weights.

Bodycraft RFT

The Bodycraft RFT is essentially a power rack with an integrated functional trainer, or it could be the other way around, really. It gives you maximum workout flexibility.

With this machine… or rack, you can do powerbuilding, aka powerlifting with extra steps. You can train power and strength-based movements like squats, benches, and deadlifts on some days, and isolation, hypertrophy-focused movements on the alternating days.

Thus, you can work on getting big and strong in a single program, without the need to buy other pieces of equipment.

For powerlifting training, you can attach the pulleys to the barbell to train “getting out of the hole” for squats and bench presses.

Upper Body Workout using a Functional Trainer

There are hundreds of exercises you can do on a functional trainer. Likewise, there are countless exercise routines to follow.

However, the exercises you do and the routine you follow will differ based on your fitness goals.

For a hypertrophy-based workout using a functional trainer, here’s a video you can follow step-by-step for the upper body.

Final Thoughts

We talk too much about tailoring your exercise and diet programs to suit your goals. Rarely do we talk about tailoring the movements that we do to suit our leverages, muscle insertions, limb length — you know, the nerdy stuff.

It is important to know that training to suit the nerdy stuff helps you reduce your risk for injuries, activate your muscles better, and, thus, progress quicker in the pursuit of your fitness goals. 

And, functional trainers absolutely help with that!

Despite their hefty price tags, functional trainers are worth the money, in my opinion. They allow you to perform a plethora of exercises using all your muscles in an almost unlimited range of motion.

Now, it’s time for you to pick which among the functional trainers we’ve talked about fit your needs and goals best. Do you think you’ve found your perfect match?

FAQs: 

1 – What is the difference between a home gym and a functional trainer?

A home gym is a blanket term for any exercise equipment, be it free weights or machines, that you use at home to achieve your fitness goals.

Thus, a power rack equipped with barbells and plates can be considered a home gym. A functional trainer, which is a type of machine with cables, pulleys, and weight stacks, can be considered a home gym.

Having both a rack and machine at home is a home gym.

2 – Which is better, functional trainers or free weights?

Functional trainers are not better than free weights, and vice versa. Both are great pieces of gym equipment for improving athletic performance, increasing strength, and building muscle.

The answer to which is better will boil down to the type of training you like to do better.

If you like the intensity of performing compound exercises like bench presses and upright rows, go for free weights.

If you prefer more of a time-under-tension approach like doing seated one-arm rows or cable flyes, then functional trainers are for you.

3 – Is the Total Gym a functional trainer?

No, the Total Gym is not a functional trainer. It is bodyweight training equipment.

It is good for low-impact workouts and getting your heart rate up, but does little for grander fitness goals.

4 – Can you bench press on a functional trainer?

A bench press is done lying on a bench and pressing a weight upwards, against the force of gravity.

Thus, with the right setup, you can bench press on a functional trainer. Move the pulley to the lowest notch, grab the handles, lie down on the bench, and press up.

Without a bench, you can do a floor press or a standing press with the pulleys set to chest height.

Imad Deryan

My name is Imad, and I struggled to gain mass in the past due to my metabolism and being very skinny. In this blog, I share the best reviews and advice when it comes to gaining weight and mass, for all the people that are struggling like I was.

Recent Content

link to Sole E35 Elliptical Review

Sole E35 Elliptical Review

Sole E35 Review 2022 – Pros, Cons, Pricing And Alternatives Best Mid-Range Elliptical Overall rating The improved Sole E35 is a compact, front-drive elliptical machine created for beginners up to intermediate fitness enthusiasts. It has an ergonomic design to make sure you work out comfortably. The cushioned, oversized pedals have a physical therapist-recommended 2-degree inward […]