Are Functional Trainers Worth It For Your Home Gym?

I’ve received a ton of questions about whether functional trainers are worth it for your home gym. 

This is going to depend entirely upon the space that you have as well as if you’re training for bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc. 

Let’s go over why they may or may not be worth it for your home gym now!

I also created an in-depth guide for those interested in the best functional trainers for your home gym that you can check out as well.

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What Is A Functional Trainer?

A functional trainer is a piece of equipment very similar to cable machines in a commercial gym for pulldowns, cable crossover, pushdowns, and various others. 

The main difference is that they tend to have dual cable pulley systems to allow for a ton of different exercise variations.

Functional Trainer Pros And Cons

Functional trainers, like all workout equipment, have their pros and cons. 

I think the pros outweigh the cons on this one, so let’s go over them and see what you think!

Pros

#1 — It Expands Your Exercise Selection Tremendously

The sheer number of exercises you can do with just a functional trainer is insane! 

You can do pulldowns, pushdowns, rows, extensions, curls, different pressing and fly variations, and a lot more!

By having a functional trainer in your gym, you have a tiny area that is dedicated to dozens and dozens of different exercises.

With the standard barbell and power rack, you have a lot of options as well. 

But compared to a functional trainer, you’re going to be limited in the number of exercises you can do. 

If you want to build as much muscle as possible, getting a functional trainer for your home gym is one of the best investments you can make. 

#2 — Relatively Small Footprint Compared To Other Machines

Compared to all the different variations of exercises you can do on a fun ctional trainer, you would need a bunch of different machines, a power rack, barbells, benches, and more.

You don’t need that much space for a well-designed functional trainer in your garage gym.

#3 — Safety

Everyone knows that if you want to get as strong as possible, a barbell, dumbbell, and power rack setup is going to be the best you can get. 

However, if you want to train as safely as possible, the functional trainer is going to be better for most people out there.

Especially those that haven’t trained for a very long time and don’t know what needs to be done to ensure their technique is optimal. 

Plus, to get as big as possible, you want to have the most amount of stability you can. 

Cables and machines are going to be better than free weights if your main goal is to build more muscle for this very reason.

The more stable you are during a movement, the safer you’re going to be and the more muscle you’ll build.

Cons

#1 — Price

This should be obvious, but a lot of solid functional trainers are going to cost a decent amount of money, especially if it has a weight stack built into it. 

There are a couple of plate-loaded versions you can get, but usually, they won’t be worth it depending on who makes it. 

However, if you want to fully deck out a power rack with a pull-down cable setup, with iso lever arms and more, it might be comparable to a functional trainer.

Add in the price of a barbell, plates, benches, and more; the trainer might be cheaper.

If you’re trying to make a budget home gym, a functional trainer might not be in the cards for you, but if you can find a high-quality plate-loaded version, it might be worth it.

#2 — They Require Maintenance

With a typical power rack, barbell, and plates, you won’t have much maintenance at all.

Functional trainers have a lot of moving parts though, so you’re going to have to do some maintenance over time.

However, if you just plan on getting a functional trainer for your gym and that’s it, then a little maintenance is going to be worth it.

#3 – May Require A Learning Curve

Functional trainers allow you to do a ton of different movements. 

However, for many people, this is going to mean learning how to do a bunch of new exercises you’ve never even thought of before.

Machines are going to be a little easier to learn and perform because they lock you in. 

With cables though, you have a lot more wiggle room to move the cables around.

If you get past this, you’ll realize the full potential of having a functional trainer for your garage gym.

Functional Trainer Vs Free Weights

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If your main goal is bodybuilding or just building muscle, a functional trainer is a great option!

They allow you to do various exercises for the different divisions of each muscle group without a ton of extra equipment.

On the flip side, if you’re into strength training, powerlifting, or strongman training, getting things like free weights, a power rack, and dumbbells is going to be a better buy overall. 

The price is going to be something that you have to consider as well. 

Functional trainers are going to cost a little more than just free weights.

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A solid power rack, free weights, and barbells run anywhere between $500 to $2,000+ depending on the quality.

Whereas functional trainers are going to cost anywhere between $500-$5000+ depending on the quality.

Again, as I mentioned before, safety is also going to be a major concern for training in a home gym by yourself.

If you just have to choose between a functional trainer or free weights, a functional trainer might be a better idea.

After all, cables are usually a lot safer to train with compared to free weights that require a lot more stabilization to train effectively and safely.

Questions People Also Ask

Can You Build Muscle With A Functional Trainer?

You can absolutely build muscle with a functional trainer and it’s even better than what free weights allow you to do.

If you’re trying to train different divisions of the musculature, such as the various heads of the pecs, shoulders, or lats, it’s going to be much more effective training with cables.

Of course, using a functional trainer, you’re going to have more stability than with free weights, and you’re going to build more muscle without a ton of central fatigue. 

Having a cable setup that allows you to train all the major muscle groups is going to be perfect for building muscle.

What Should I Look For In A Functional Trainer?

There are 3 main things you should look for in a solid functional trainer. 

The first is if it is pin, or plate loaded. 

Each one has its positives and negatives but the main differences are as follows.

  • Pin Loaded – Easier to adjust but you’re limited by the weight of the stack, plus it’s going to be more expensive.
  • Plate Loaded – Much cheaper as long as you have budget weight plates lying around, but it’s a little more difficult to adjust the weights you’re using.

The next thing you should look for is the design. If you just have a single cable pulley, you will not have as many options, so you want to make sure you get a dual cable pulley system instead.

The third thing you need to pay attention to is the build quality of the frame, the pulleys, as well as the cables. 

This is probably the most important thing because the quality is going to determine how long your functional trainer will last, and help guarantee your safety while using it.

Some extras you can look for with your functional trainer are different attachments. 

This isn’t 100% necessary, but it’s also a nice addition they can throw in as you’re going to have to buy attachments for whatever it is you plan to do.

What Exercises Can You Do On A Functional Trainer?

There are a ton of different exercises you can do on a functional trainer. 

Here are just a few that I recommend!

  • Pulldowns
  • Pushdowns
  • Rows
  • Face Pulls
  • Extensions
  • Curls
  • Pressing Variations
  • Shrugs
  • Flyes
  • And Much More!

If you have the right attachments and a functional trainer, you’ll be able to do an entire work out of just cable stuff without ever leaving that section of your garage gym.

Can You Do Squats On A Functional Trainer?

You can do squats on a functional trainer, but I recommend you stick with barbells, dumbbells, and machine base squats instead.

Can You Deadlift With A Functional Trainer?

Just like the squat, you can do the deadlift with a functional trainer, but is this going to be optimal? 

Absolutely not.

Plus, if you’re trying to build muscle, there are better options than the deadlift anyway, such as a Romanian deadlift, stiff-legged deadlift, and even the trap bar deadlift.

How much does a functional trainer cost?

A functional trainer can cost anywhere between $500-$5000+ depending on the quality. 

Usually the best value is going to be found between $1,500-$3,000.

Anything lower than $1,000 is going to be pretty cheap and not worth the investment.

Not all budget options are created equal after all.

On the other hand, anything over $5000 is just not worth it as there are plenty of options that have a much better value.

Conclusion

Now I turn it over to you!

Do you think Functional Trainers are worth it for your home gym?

If so, which one are you interested in getting for yourself?

Let me know in the comment section below!

Until next time,

-Dante

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