When purchasing a new functional trainer or looking to upgrade it can be hard to determine which product is right for you. We have put together the top 5 things to look for to find the ideal functional trainer for you and your training goals.
A functional trainer should be just that- functional! Although just because a machine has the title “Functional Trainer” does not always mean it can live up to its name. A true functional trainer should always give options to train multiple muscle groups at the same time, also known as compound exercises.
Ideally, a complete functional trainer should include the following parts: Smith machine, adjustable dual cables, landmine attachment, chin-up bar, J-hooks & spotter arms, and storage for attachments. A full-body workout should easily be able to be completed with diversity and comfort.
A functional trainer gives the user the ability to move in all directions and imitate everyday movements. Additionally, this style of machine is often used by athletes and sporting clubs where a repetitive movement can be re-enacted with the aid of weighted cables to increase power and performance.
When buying a functional trainer look at how you are training and why. Can you improve your workout and transition from static exercises to functional fitness with the aid of a machine?
Resistance – Plate Loaded or Pin Loaded what is better?
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to how the machine is weighted although there are a few differences that may just make the difference to your workout experience.
Machines that can adjust the weight on the cables with a pin are quick and easy to use. The pre-loaded weight stack ranging from 60 – 90kg is ideal for those wanting a fast-paced workout or super setting. Pin loaded functional trainers that feature compact steel weight stacks provided a small footprint and are generally heavier increasing the machine’s total weight for added stability.
Although a plate loaded stack will have a maximum weight it is rated too, it allows more room to move when it comes to adjusting weight increments, this is ideal for someone that wants to increase their resistance slightly and find their maximum lift strength. Plate loaded trainers provided value for money and allow the same weights to be used on the smith as on the functional trainer.
Aesthetics aside, the layout of a functional trainer can differ and change the workout experience as well as functionality. For example, cable systems with only a single weight stack limits the range of exercises as well as reducing the user capacity to one at a time.
A dual-stack gives the option for a more even workout across the body as well as offering the addition of another user at the same time. A dual-stack can be placed either side of the machine or at the back, the main difference to this being where the attachments are stored which is more of a user preference.
A big feature of the design that is often neglected in thought until it is too late is how your bench can be used comfortably in the machine. Benches come in all different shapes and sizes and before purchasing a new trainer check how your bench will function in different positions.
For example, does the bench retract into the back of the smith machine deep enough while in an inclined/ upright position for exercises such as shoulder press. Some functional trainers will come with a specific bench to suit the design and layout if there is an option to purchase such this is always a good idea as functionality will be at optimum.
Build Quality – Pulleys / Cables / Frame
What makes the best functional trainer its build quality, a great machine needs to include sealed bearing pulleys which allow for smooth and responsive cable feel. A thick and flexible PVC rubber coated cable with a high tensile strength of 2000lbs or more is recommended.
When purchasing a functional trainer its important the frame is made from steel that is around 2-3mm in thickness, this provides maximum support especially when using the squat rack arms to perform barbell exercises.
Additional Extras – What does it Include?
If you cut a functional trainer back to its bare basic’s you are left with a smith machine, cables, and rack. Ideally you want to get the best bang for your buck not only in price but also for exercise variety. Different gym cable attachments such a D handles and T-bar row are generally always included although check for additionally bars and items that will compliment your work out.
Lat pulldown attachments should come with the option to use a knee pad attachment to assist in stabilising the body while performing heavier lifts. Some machines come with a bar often referred to as a functional trainer bar that is the same length as the distance between the pulleys and is useful for exercises like deadlifts, upright rows, curls, etc
Generally, all cable attachments should be able to used on a functional trainer. If your current set up does not include these attachments, when purchasing look for packages that include attachments with the machine, this will save you money and give you more options for exercise variety from the get go.