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5 Best Functional Trainers [57 Reviewed]

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For the love of all that is good and holy, don’t spend more than 5K on a functional trainer.

Seriously…there are better ways to use the money.

Trust me.

There are two exceptions to that rule…we’ll get to those in a minute.

Who’s this stranger asking for trust?

That’s a fair question…

My name is Steve Hoyles, and I’ve been a personal trainer and a gym owner for over 2 decades now.

I know these machines bolt-to-paint.

I’ve used many of them.

I know what’s worth the buck and what’s a waste of money.

So, think of me as your industry insider.

On top of that, over the last two weeks, I neglected family and friends to dig deep into EVERY trainer on the market that deserves attention.

I promise you this – I won’t just rehash and spew the information you already know or can find on the makers’ websites directly.

What I did for this guide

I compared 57 functional trainers in 25 quality categories.

I then chose 9 winners by type and budget.

We’ll analyze what makes those 9 babies better than the competition and what’s missing or could be better.

Most importantly, we’ll focus on finding the best functional trainer FOR YOU.

And yes…I’ll also mention the expensive machines with the pretty colors and all…just in case you have money to burn.

Let’s get to work.

Budget Option

Bells of Steel FT

Bells of Steel FT

Best Overall

Rep Fitness FT-5000

REP Fitness FT-5000

Premium Option

Cybex Bravo Advanced Compact Functional Trainer Version 8800

Cybex Bravo Advanced (8800)

9 best functional trainers

NameBest in category/label awardedRatingPriceDefining feature/characteristic
1. REP Fitness FT-5000Best value overall78$$$Premium build & great value for money
2. Inspire Fitness FT2Top trainer with Smith machine72$$$$Smith machine
3. Bells of Steel FTBudget67$$budget-friendly
4. Cybex Bravo Advanced compact functional trainerMoney-no-object pick67$$$$$$Adjustable pulley arms, stabilization pad
5. Titan Fitness plate-loadedPlate-loaded66$$cheap
6. Force USA G20Most versatile66$$$$$$14 stations
7. Torque F9 Fold-awayCompact63$$$foldable
8. TonalSmart62$$$$$$Electronic smart resistance control, guided workouts, adjustable arms
9. Body-Solid Powerline PFT100Cheap62$$solid bang for the buck

1 – Best functional trainer for the home gym – REP Fitness FT-5000

Rating: 78 out of 100

Rep Fitness FT-5000

Who it’s for: For the conservative buyer who wants a commercial-grade trainer for a “home-gym” price.


  • Great value – commercial-like quality at a fraction of price
  • Heavier stacks than the competition – 220 lbs per side
  • Adjustable for different body types
  • Multiple grip options on the chin-up bar
  • Easy to put together (ships partially assembled)


  • It’s bigger than the competitors (42 sq. inches footprint)
  • Not the best fit for the tall (handle tops out at 52 inches)


The FT-5000 is the best functional trainer for most home gyms because it gets the quality-functionality-price trifecta just right.

First of all, it’s built better than functional trainers in its price range, which is the most competitive (we’ll get back to this point in a minute).

Secondly, it’s a selectorized trainer (you pop a pin in to select the weight) with 440 lbs of weight, which is 10% more than its main competitors.

Selectorized Weight Capacity of Functional Trainers

All that is mounted on a beefy 11-gauge frame that stabilizes it. This lets you use every ounce of the weight…even on the low row, which tends to be problematic.

Thirdly, it costs a bit less than the competition.

Combine all three, and you get a trainer that feels and looks premium at a less-than-premium price.

Now, to dig a bit deeper into the first point…

There are three popular functional trainers in this price range that are very similar – the Xmark XM-7626, Titan Fitness, and this REP.

The differences between the three are subtle, but most of those aspects give a slight advantage to the FT-500:

To name a few:

  1. It’s heavier and bigger, which makes it feel similar to the functional trainer at your commercial gym. Stability is a huge point – I’m familiar with functional trainers that can literally be pulled over with a strong tug.
  2. The stacks are bigger – 440 lbs vs. 400 on Titan and Xmark functional trainer.
  3. The finishes are finer and more precise, which gives it a premium feel.
  4. The attention to detail is better…the little stuff that makes a world of difference – from the housing of the pulleys to the magnetic pop-pins.

You get my drift here – it’s just a peg better in many ways, and that stuff adds up.

On the other hand, the heft comes at a cost – it takes up more space than the competition, primarily because it’s wider. Something to consider if space is a premium in your home gym.

Bottom line

If you want a commercial-grade functional trainer on a budget, get the FT-5000.

Dimensions – L (length/depth) x W x H45 x 72 x 84
Weight of the trainer (lbs)1,001
Weight capacity (lbs)220
Load-to-weight ratio2:1
Weight increments (lbs)10

2 – Best premium functional trainer with a Smith machine – Inspire Fitness FT2

Rating: 72 out of 100

Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer

Who it’s for: For anyone who already has a rack and wants a premium functional trainer with a Smith machine.


  • Includes a Smith machine
  • Extra pulleys for low rows and curls (middle frame section)
  • Separate column for a lat pulldown
  • Works in both 2:1 and 1:1 ratio
  • Pairs with a bench for leg extensions and curls


  • Expensive
  • Nylon pulleys (not as durable or smooth as aluminum)
  • Assembly not straightforward & needs better instructions


If I was searching for myself today, this is the machine I’d go for.

It’s the best standalone functional trainer built specifically for a home gym.

I understand that’s a bold thing to say.

And I stand by it still.

Now, if you wanted to nitpick on the FT2, you could find ways to do it:

  1. You could compare this to one of the Force USA machines.
  2. You could compare it to modular setups like REP Ares.

Both arguments above have an inherent flaw:

  1. Force USA machines are all-in-ones….and the one we like most (G20) costs more.
  2. REP Ares is great, but it’s not a standalone functional trainer – it’s a rack attachment.

The good and the unique

First of all, FT2 hits all the major bases of good classic trainers like the FT-5000 – from the solid pulleys and cables to the heavy stack (215 lbs per stack in the upgraded version).

What I’d like to focus on here is the unique stuff:

  • The Smith machine
  • The extra pulleys
  • The two ratios of the pulley system
  • The optional pairing with their bench that allows for iso leg work – extensions and curls

Smith machine

The Smith machine is unique among standalone functional trainers.

And it’s not a gimmick, either.

There are no weights, but there is a smartly-designed notch that connects the stacks to the Smith bar.

The whole system is designed for working out alone.

You choose the weight, get into position and engage the Smith bar by rotating it.

This does two things – connects the stacks and fixes the safety mechanism.

Some smart engineering went into designing this…kudos for that.

What could be better

The finish of the Smith bar could and should be better. The surface feels slick and “plasticky,” with a dull knurl.

Given you won’t be performing the Olympic lifts, or gripping and ripping a heavy deadlift with the Smith machine bar though, I’m willing to overlook this as a detail.

It’s still good enough for most people.

But, the advanced lifter coming to this machine from a good ol’ barbell will probably be disappointed. At this point, it’s important to put the bar and its limitations into perspective, though.

It’s not a stand alone bar, and it’s not going to be competition quality.

Extra slots on the pulley system

The extra pulleys (4 in the lower middle part and two at the top) do two things – they add functionality and lower the space needed for low rows and curls.

On a classic functional trainer like the FT-5000, you’d use the pulleys on the columns and go way outside the footprint to do a low row.

On the FT2, you’re “inside” the machine.

This is a space-saver with a caveat – if you plan to press and do leg work on the FT2, you’ll still need the extra space for the bench.

Dual pulley system – 2:1 or 1:1  ratio

“Dual pulley system” sounds more complicated than it is.

The actual ratio is 2:1, but you can connect two cables into one on the Smith machine and the middle pulleys and effectively get the full weight of the stack.

It’s an overhyped feature if you ask me.

It’s well-executed but essential for the full functionality of the middle pulleys and the Smith bar.

And that’s what you’re paying for.

Bragging about it is like a car bragging about having wheels.

Vroom, vroom…we get it…

Immature jokes aside, the one direct advantage here is the weight you can use on the low row.

An intermediate lifter will need at least 200 lbs for rows, and a typical functional trainer has 70-80 lbs of resistance per side.

This makes the FT2 one of the few functional trainers with full low-row functionality.

What could be better

The pulleys are made of nylon, which means they won’t feel as smooth, and you will see some wear over time.

However, nylon is gentler on the cables, and they’re less likely to fray or snap, which is the most common critical failure I’ve seen on functional trainers.

Bottom line

If you already have a rack and like the idea of a Smith machine on a functional trainer, Inspire FT2 is probably where your search ends. If you have the budget, that is.


Dimensions – (L x W x H, inches)58 x 61 x 89
Weight of the trainer (lbs)700
Weight stacks (lbs)330 (430 with the upgrade)
Max weight on the Smith bar (lbs)380 (base version)
Load-to-weight ratio2:1 (with optional 1:1 on the middle pulleys and Smith machine)
Weight increments (lbs)10

3 – Best budget functional trainer (selectorized category)Bells of Steel FT

Rating: 67 out of 100

Bells of Steel FT

Who it’s for: For anyone looking for a good functional trainer on a tight budget.


  • Great value for money
  • Premium aluminum pulleys
  • Compact – smaller footprint than most
  • Stainless steel, knurled handles
  • Great warranty terms (lifetime)


  • 14-gauge steel (not as thick as the competitor’s)
  • Top pulley position might be too low for tall lifters


The Bells of Steel functional trainer is the runner-up for one key reason – the price.

But “price” probably isn’t the best wording because it implies that it’s cheap and there’s something wrong with the machine.

That’s not the case.

It hits home runs in all the major quality aspects, excels in a few, and does it for less money than the competition from REP, Fray, Titan, and Xmark.

They did the best job where it counts the most – the pulleys.

Aluminum pulleys are expensive

But their reasoning for splurging on the pulleys is sound.

Pulleys and cables are two parts of a functional trainer that constantly move. If you think back to all the gym fails you’ve seen, you won’t remember a clip of a functional trainer collapsing.

You’ll probably remember a clip of a cable snapping, though.

The other side of that medal is that aluminum pulleys are not as gentle on the cables as nylon or fiberglass.

I’ve reviewed dozens of Bells of Steel cable machines over the years, and I’ve never seen a problem with their steel cables.

That’s crucial.

If that wasn’t the case, Aluminum pulleys would be moot.

Not the most stable unit – you’ll see some wobble and rattle

The trade-off for the competitive price is the 14-gauge steel.

That’s the “thinnest” in our top 9.

Furthermore, the 14-gauge is paired with square tubing, which will never be as strong and stable as a rectangular profile (more on that in the buyer’s guide).

What it means for you

It means that you should skip it if you’re an advanced lifter doing a lot of explosive pulls.

The heavier machines like REP or Inspire are more stable.

On the other hand, I know how Bells of Steel makes the joints and welds, so 8 out of 10 people will never notice the difference.

Bottom line

The value proposition of this Bells of Steel is clear. Get the major stuff right, splurge on the crucial parts (the pulleys), and live with the minor flaws. In all honesty, it works. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s a way to pick up a more-than-decent machine for a reasonable price.


Dimensions – (L x W x H, inches)30 x 53 x 81
Weight of the trainer (lbs)560
Weight capacity (lbs)320
Load-to-weight ratio2:1
Weight increments (lbs)10

4 – Money-no-object pick – Cybex Bravo Advanced compact functional trainer (8800 version)

Rating: 67 out of 100

Cybex Bravo Advanced Compact Functional Trainer Version 8800

Who it’s for: For the no-compromise buyer looking for the absolute best.


  • Stabilization pad – greater muscle activation and gains
  • Fully adjustable pulleys – greater range of motion
  • Available as compact or tall
  • Low starting weight (5 lbs)


  • Expensive
  • Smaller stacks than most 


Two features of the Cybex Bravo stand out – the back pad and the adjustable pulleys with arms.

It goes without saying that at this brand and price level, you get premium materials, design, and some extra pizzazz.

That’s a given.

It’s the pad and the arms that will make the most difference.

The adjustable pulley system

This is the more straightforward advantage of the two.

The pulleys are mounted onto the little T-rex-like arms, which means two things:

  1. You have full control of the angles from which the cables arrive
  2. The range of motion is greater

Both are massive pluses…We all have that angle that feels just right…for any exercise. It’s easy to find it with free weight because you can adjust in any plane.

The pulleys of the Bravo give you that kind of flexibility.

The back pad – Cybex’s “stabilization system”

Cybex calls the pad a “progressive stabilization system.”

It’s not a system, it’s a pad…a pad that adjusts to your height and position.

Using plain language to describe it doesn’t make it any less useful.

But I get it…

If you want me to cough up a lump sum like this, you’ll be selling me a “system,” not a pad (#marketing).


Whatever you wanna call it, it’s a huge plus for stabilization, and that translates to better isolation and safer movement. Better isolation = more effective exercise.

That much I can say for sure because I know how kinetic chains work.

To be specific…

If you’re starting a cable crossover from a stable, neutral position, it’s gonna be all pecs and front shoulder for the pull and core for stabilization.

As the weight goes up, you find that neutral position by leaning forward.

As you do that, you lose the core-activation component. The greater the weight, the less control you have as the cables pull you backward.

It’s simple stuff.

I can’t be sure if the numbers they mention when talking about the Bravo are accurate. I just don’t have the measurement capacity. So let’s assume they’re ‘somewhat’ accurate.

They claim that the machine doubles the load capacity and core activation, and brings a 38% increase in strength gain.

The last number is the important one here – the strength gain.

Sure, you have something that keeps you in place, and that isolates the muscles you’re working.

That makes sense, and it’s nothing to write home about.

The real question is how that translates to strength and muscle gain.

Why is that important?

Because if their claim about the strength gain is true, it changes the narrative.

The question goes from “is the machine worth it?” to “how much is your time worth?”

The question is now:

“If you could get the pecs you want in 14 months instead of two years, what price tag would you put on that?”

I know this sounds salesy, but it’s not meant to be.

I’m writing it because it’s the question I’m asking myself as I type this.

Bottom line

If you’re results-oriented, Cybex Bravo is the only trainer on the list that can make a direct impact by speeding up your progress. It’s expensive, though.


Dimensions – L (length/depth) x W x H45 x 54 x 77
Weight of the trainer (lbs)866
Weight capacity (lbs)340
Load-to-weight ratio2:1
Weight increments (lbs)5

5 – Top plate-loaded pick – Titan Fitness functional trainer

Rating: 66 out of 100

Titan Fitness Plate Loaded Functional Trainer

Who’s for: For anyone looking for a budget trainer and is OK with using plates.


  • Cheaper than weight stacks
  • Full control of the weight increments and progress
  • Robust, 12-gauge frame


  • Not as convenient as selectorized stacks
  • Requires extra space for loading/unloading


The best functional trainer among the plate-loaded machines is this beefy Titan.

The competition in this category isn’t fierce since most of the plate-loaded trainers are either cable crossover machines or towers.

The only real competition to Titan is the Powertec Streamline, which is very similar design-wise but costs about 70% more for a lower weight capacity.

Main advantage of this Titan – it’s great value for the money.

Main drawback – it’s not as fast, cool, or convenient as the stacked trainers.

Bottom line

If you fully understand what to expect (and not expect) from a plate-loaded trainer, this rugged Titan will not disappoint. And it will leave room in the home gym budget for other coolness.


Dimensions – L x W x H53 x 61 x 81
Weight of the trainer (lbs)178
Weight capacity (lbs)660
Load-to-weight ratio2:1

6 – Most versatile functional trainer – Force USA G20

Rating: 66 out of 100

Force USA G20

Who it’s for: For the person looking for a kick-ass machine that does it all.


  • As versatile as a gym machine gets
  • Rugged build – 11-gauge frame
  • Premium cables – 2000-lbs tensile strength
  • Two pulley ratios (2:1 and 1:1) – uses full weight on lat pulldowns


  • Big and tall
  • Expensive
  • Resistance on low row might not be enough for advanced lifters


The label of “most versatile” doesn’t do the G20 justice because it’s more than that.

Much more…

In the upgraded version, it’s home to 14 training stations – everything from a functional trainer, power rack, and Smith machine to low row, leg press, and a core trainer.

That’s what separates it from the classic units like REP, Xmark, or Titan – the all-in-one versatility.

It’s also the most solid and heavy machine out there so if safety is your concern this is probably the best funcational trainer for you.

Weight of Functional Trainers

They solved the ratio problem

The G20 now has a 2:1 ratio instead of a 1:1 ratio.

There are three key points to make here:

  1. The 1:1 ratio was the one problem that kept it from many a top spot in the past because it was too heavy for many people and the cables had little travel.
  2. For the lat pulldown, you need the 1:1 because the resistance would be too low at 2:1.
  3. There’s one downside of the new design – the resistance of the low row. It’s a 2:1 station that attaches to one stack, which might not be enough for the beasts among you.

Bottom line

If you’re just starting your home-gym project in a limited space, G20 is the most versatile machine you can get. It’s not cheap, but it houses 14 stations and is the absolute king of versatility.


Dimensions of the base unit – (L x W x H, inches)67 x 79 x 91
Dimensions with the upgrade – (L x W x H, inches)95 x 79 x 91
Number of stations (upgraded version)14
Number of included attachments30
Weight stacks (lbs)2 x 289
Load-to-weight ratio2:1 (1:1 on the lat pulldown upgrade)
Weight increments (lbs)10

7 – Best compact functional trainer – Torque F9 Fold-Away

Rating: 63 out of 100

Torque Fitness F9 Fold-Away Functional Trainer

Who it’s for: For anyone who is short on space but not willing to sacrifice functionality.


  • Folds away to take up minimal space
  • Dual weight stacks – no loss of functionality
  • 90+ inches of cable travel
  • Optional stack size


  • Will not feel as “roomy” for the tall and big
  • Assembly is a two-person job


Torque F9 is hands-down the best compact functional trainer.

In other words – it’s the only one that can give the standard machines a run for their money in any aspect and then fold away to a neat 10-square-inch footprint.

And the compactness is not only about the size.

It’s also about the aesthetics and the functionality when fully open.

  • When the doors are closed, it has a minimal look to it that can work in any space, in or outside of your home gym.
  • When open wide, it transforms into an averagely-sized trainer with over 90 inches of cable travel and about 70 inches between the cable pulleys.

What it means for you

It means that compactness doesn’t come at the cost of functionality.

With other compact functional trainers like Bells of Steel (similar footprint to a closed F9), making a compact functional trainer means cutting back on the distance between the pulleys.

This renders them useless for cable crossovers if you’re big and tall.

That’s not the case with the Torque F9.

The combination of size and the ability for it to fold away offers another level of design functionality. It means smaller rooms that would previously have been considered unsuitable for a gym could now house one of these. It folds away and looks like an anonymous closet in a corner.

It’s perfect for apartments or small-space living.

Bottom line

Torque F9 is the one compact functional trainer for small spaces that has little to no functionality loss. If the space is tight in the home gym or even if you have an unused corner in the hallway, it might be a good fit.


Typeselectorized, foldable
Dimensions when closed (L x W x H, inches)34.6 x 44.9 x 83.8
Dimensions when open (L x W x H, inches)55.35 x 52.13 x 83.8
Weight of the trainer (lbs)610
Weight capacity (lbs)optional – 150, 200 or 225
Load-to-weight ratio2:1

8 – Best smart functional trainer – Tonal Smart Home Gym

Rating: 62 out of 100

Tonal Smart Home Gym

Who it’s for: For the modern person with a solid budget who’s looking for a stylish, cutting-edge machine that offers a full-body workout in one compact unit. It’s not for the old-school lifter.


  • Fully adjustable arms
  • Wall-mounted, compact design
  • Great software and user interface for guided workouts
  • Futuristic yet minimal look


  • It’s expensive and requires professional installation
  • Resistance doesn’t feel the same as weight stacks/plates


Even though I’m not a fan of Tonal compared to other smart home gyms, it’s the best functional trainer among them…no doubt about that.

The reasons go beyond the fanciness – it’s two things above all else:

  1. The fully adjustable arms
  2. The 100 lbs of resistance per side

The adjustable arms are the greater factor of the two.

They make Tonal crazy versatile compared to the competition. 

Bear in mind that its competitors are not the Force USA machines.

It’s the smart all-in-one home gyms like Speediance and Mirror. These typically have a fixed pulley-to-pulley distance or have no pulleys to begin with.

In terms of manipulating the cable position to change stuff up, Tonal is up there with the most expensive functional trainers like the Cybex Bravo and Freemotion.

Bottom line

Tonal is the best functional trainer among the smart home gyms. It’s all about the versatility of the fully adjustable arms.


Dimensions when closed – L x W x H5.25 (depth) x 21.5 x 50.9
Weight of the trainer (lbs)150
Weight capacity (lbs)200
Load-to-weight ratioDirect – 1:1
Weight increments (lbs)1

9 – Best budget functional trainer (selectorized category)Body-Solid Powerline PFT100

Rating: 62 out of 100

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Who it’s for: For anyone on a tight budget that still wants a decent, selectorized trainer with dual weight stacks.


  • Great value – cheap but well-built
  • Compact
  • Upgradeable stacks


  • Shipping and assembly can be problematic
  • Smaller weight stacks than most functional trainers (on the base unit)


This Body Solid is the cheapest you can go and still get a functional trainer with dual weight stacks.

Let’s illustrate that in three points:

  1. The cheaper selectorized units that come to mind use a single stack, and the resistance on those is far too low.
  2. Our top plate-loaded pick (Titan Fitness Functional Trainer) only costs about 20% less.
  3. Some functional trainers we looked at cost 500-600% more.

It’s all about value with this one.

Bottom line

The PFT1000 is a cheap but well-built functional trainer that delivers on the basics and never tries to be more. If you’re lucky not to be in the 10% that experience shipping issues (delays or missing parts), you’ll love this money-saver.


Dimensions – L x W x H42 x 63 x 83
Weight of the trainer (lbs)476
Weight capacity (lbs)320 (upgradeable to 420)
Load-to-weight ratio2:1
Weight increments (lbs)10

Buyer’s guide to choosing a functional trainer

Below is an in-depth guide on everything and anything you need to look at when choosing the best functional trainer for you.

I try to keep it concise and use plain language.

9 primary factors to look for in a good functional trainer

Best Functional Trainer Buying Guide

1 – Type of functional trainers

(0 to 7 points in our ratings)

I could go down the look-what-I-know road here and make this super complicated.

I won’t do that.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of every machine that can be considered a functional trainer.

Instead, I’ll make this simple.

The machine we’re talking about today is what most people have in mind when they say “functional trainer” – two uprights with top and bottom pulleys and two loads. You might have heard them referred to as ‘cable stations’ in some places.

Like the one below…

Standard Functional Trainer

If that’s not what you’re looking for, you can find your single columns, crossovers, and all that other stuff in our guide on the best cable machines here.

Anyway, back to what I’d call a “classic” functional trainer.

There are two main types to choose from – the selectorized and the plate-loaded.

“Selectorized” means that there is a built-in weight stack. You pop a pin in to select the weight… bada bing bada boom.

The plate-loaded trainers use weight plates for resistance (duh!).

They’re not bigger or smaller per design, but they require more space because you need to maneuver around them when loading/unloading.

They usually come with adapter sleeves that allow you to use both standard and Olympic weight plates.

What I’d choose

If you have the budget, go for a selectorized model.

These are far more convenient and way cooler.

Since they’re more expensive to begin with, these are also usually better made in terms of finishes, materials, and attention to detail.

If the money is tight and space is a-plenty, an old-school plate-loaded unit will do just fine.

The one outlier on the list – a smart functional trainer

There’s one outlier that doesn’t belong to either group because it uses electronic resistance. It’s the Tonal smart home gym.

It’s the best smart functional trainer, and it exists in a class of its own.

2 – Size/footprint of a functional trainer

(0 to 7 points in our ratings)

You’ll need between 10 and 30 square inches of corner space for a functional trainer.

You can see the graph comparing the footprints below.

Tonal is the exception on the lower end because it’s 5 inches wide when not in use.

On the high end, the outlier is the Force USA G20, which is an all-in-one and a behemoth by nature.

Size or Footprint Comparison of Best Functional Trainers
Physical footprint vs. actual-use footprint of a functional trainer

Instead of just going with the numbers in the graph, do some math on the space you’ll need to actually use the functional trainer.

I know that this sounds commonplace and should go without saying, but you’d be surprised by how many people get this part wrong.

My approach – low row and pull-up as a reference

Have these two “rules” in mind:

  1. You’ll never use more floor space than on the low row.
  2. You’ll never use more vertical space than you will on the pull-up.

Doing the math for these two will tell you if the functional trainer is too big for your floor and ceiling.

I mean…we could split hairs, but I’m all about simplicity.The two rules above are just that – super simple and cover all the non-crazies.

The one exception to rule #1 – Inspire FT2

The Inspire FT2 smartly features pulleys in the middle part of the machine.

That changes the math.

It’s the most space-efficient solution for low rows because you’re using the physical footprint.

What it means for you

If you’re buying the Inspire FT2, do the math based on a bench press instead the low row.

Space planning - Other Functional Trainers vs Inspire FT2

3 – Height of a functional trainer vs. your ceiling (a.k.a. think about pull-ups)

(no specific points in our ratings)

Before we move on to the analysis, let’s look at the height comparison graph.

Comparing the Height of the Top-Rated Functional Trainers

There are three height aspects to consider:

  1. Your ceiling height – can you comfortably do a pull-up?
  2. The height of the top pulley position.
  3. Are you likely to use it for muscle ups?

Ceiling height vs. the pull-up bar

The first and last points are pretty straightforward because the top bar/handles are typically the highest point of a functional trainer.

Here’s the math…

  • Add at least 15 inches to the total height (as listed in the specs).
  • If that number is lower than your ceiling height, you’re good.

That gives you enough space for regular pull-ups….and kipping on the functional trainer is probably not a great idea unless it’s a heavy, stable machine…

Is that enough space?

Again, I could be a prude here and go for at least 20 inches of clearance, but that might not work.

It would eliminate the majority of the functional trainers.


Because they’re all in the 77-90 height range, and the average ceiling height in the USA is 96 inches. It means you have to really consider the room where you’ll be using your functional trainer if you intend to do muscle ups with it.

Height of the top pulley position

This is an overhyped factor…that’s my opinion.

Two reasons for that:

  1. It’s only significant if you’re unusually tall (I’d say in the top 3 percentile).
  2. Even for the tall, it’s not a deal breaker…it just means the angles might be slightly off on some exercises.

I’d put it like this

Any functional trainer with the top pulley position higher than 55 “ will do just fine, even for the tall. If it’s in the 50-55 range, the machine will lose a bit of its functionality for people over 6’1. Some of the best functional trainers fall into this height bracket.

4 – Overall build of a functional trainer

(no specific points in our ratings)

Overall build is another way to describe the structure and stability of the frame.

It comes down to these three:

  1. Gauge of the steel
  2. Cross section and shape of the tubing (especially of the main uprights)
  3. The joints and the welds

Gauge of the steel used for functional trainers is between 11 and 14 (lower is thicker).

Interpreting gauge

Gauge tells one part of the stability story.

You get the full story by interpreting it along with the cross-section (and shape of) the tubing and joints.

The cross-section of the tubing used for the best functional trainers is usually in the 6-9 square inches range.

A moment to nerd out – square vs. rectangular tubing

In my experience, even when the cross-section is the same on paper, a functional trainer (any gym machine, really) will be more stable with rectangular than square tubing.

Best Functional Trainer - Gym Equipment Gauge Steel Thickness

What’s that all about

It’s material mechanics.

Inch-for-inch, rectangular tubing will always be stronger than square.

The explanation involves saying stuff like “strong and weak axis” and “moments of inertia.”

I won’t do that.

Instead, let’s be super practical…

Here’s a three-rule bottom line:

  1. Go for functional trainers made of at least 14-gauge steel and have a cross-section of no less than 6 square inches.
  2. If you’re spending over 2K, look for 11 or 12-gauge and at least 7 square inches.
  3. With all other things equal, go for the rectangular tubing profiles.

Don’t obsess over the numbers, especially since they’re not always available in the specs.

That covers the part that’s under your control.

For our picks, we covered the rest of it, like the quality of the welds and joints.

5 – Cables and pulleys

(no specific points in our ratings)

All the best functional trainers feature aluminum, nylon, or fiberglass pulleys and steel cables.

On the higher end of that spectrum, the pulleys are strengthened by (or made of) aluminum, which is the most durable.

Reality check – you’re limited by the weight stack or the loadable space, and the cables and pulleys can easily take on double the weight.

What that means for you

There’s little point in jacking the price up by specifically looking for aluminum pulleys. It’s an expensive game that’s not worth playing. 

If you have the option to choose between nylon and fiberglass, go for the latter. It’s much stronger.

Note: We awarded no points here because the data is inconsistent.

6 – Load-to-resistance ratio of functional trainers

(no specific points in our ratings)

This one is messy with no real reason.

Sure, the physics behind the pulley ratio is complicated…it’s good news that you don’t need to understand it to choose right.

Here goes…

A pulley ratio is a number that describes how much of the weight gets to your end of cables.

Secondarily, it affects the travel length of the cable.

Most commonly, it’s 2:1, which means that popping that pin into the hole marked 100 lbs will give you 50 lbs of weight.


1-to-1 vs 2-to-1 vs 3-to-1 vs 4-to-1 pulley cable ratio

What it means for you

If you’re not a beginner or recovering from an injury, go for a 2:1 ratio.

That will give you plenty of weight and cable length and make the increments better for super sets and controlled progress.

If you’re a beginner, you can look for a machine with a 4:1 ratio to lower the starting weight and the increments.

I don’t recommend that.

The 4:1 machines are rare and expensive.

Only one of our picks (the most expensive one, Cybex Bravo) comes with a 4:1 ratio as optional. 


Just get a 2:1 machine and some microload magnetic plates (2.5 or 5 lbs) like the ones below.

It’s a cheap workaround that avoids replacing an expensive machine in 6 months.

This will get you through to the other side…the other side being a fitness/strength level where a 2:1 ratio is just right.

Note: We awarded no points for the pulley ratio because all the best functional trainers are 2:1. Moreover, no ratio is universally better for everyone.

7 – Versatility of a functional trainer

(no specific points in our ratings)

I have a two-punch approach to judging the versatility of a functional trainer – it’s the basic-advanced combo.

Basic and advanced versatility explained

Basic versatility comes down to 4 things:

  1. The trainer features fully functional pulleys with a minimum of 15 height adjustment settings.
  2. There is a swiveling, adjustable pulley system (side-to-side).
  3. The geometry allows for full functionality for different body types.
  4. The included attachments cover all the basics.

To put it simplygood functional trainers allow the majority of people to perform the majority of intended exercises comfortably and correctly.

All the top 9 functional trainers on our list tick that box.

Advanced versatility is about having extra stuff.

In those terms, three machines stand out:

  1. The Inspire FT2 because it’s the only classic functional trainer here that features a Smith machine.
  2. The Force USA G20 because it features everything and anything you can expect from a good all-in-one.
  3. The Cybex Bravo because of the adjustable handle pulleys and the back support.

What it means for you

Here’s THE question – do you already have a home gym, or are you just starting out?

Let’s break it down…

  • If you’re just starting out, take the time to decide whether you have the space for the standalone machines. If not, the G20 is a life-saver.
  • If you already have some stuff and are looking specifically for a functional trainer, the decision will come down to whether you have/want/need a Smith machine.
  • If you already have it or don’t need it, go for a traditional unit like the FT-5000.


If you do need a Smith machine and don’t have it, go with the FT2 and thank me later.

Note: We awarded no points for “versatility” as such, but it’s reflected in other rating categories, like the presence of a Smith machine.

8 – Warranty terms of functional trainers

(0 to 12 points in our ratings)

The warranty you get on a functional trainer is not just about time coverage.

It’s a testament to how well the machine is put together and how willing the manufacturer is to stand behind the marketing lingo.

The tall tales of the specs and descriptions

If everything is as rosy as they’d have you believe in the specs, why limit the warranty?

Why cover a piece of 12-gauge steel for only a year?

For me, it’s not about the frame….that’s not going anywhere….a sub-par warranty raises questions about the joints and the parts.

These are my warranty rule of thumb (#1 is crucial):

  1. If you’re paying over 2K for a functional trainer, expect a lifetime warranty on the frame.
  2. A lifetime warranty on parts is a plus, not a must.
  3. The upholstery should be covered in some way, even if it’s for 30 or 90 days.
  4. Finally, if a functional trainer is covered by a commercial warranty, tick that box and move on. In a home gym, that machine will take a beating and dust it off with zero issues.

9 – Price of a functional trainer

(0 to 19 points in our ratings)

I said that you shouldn’t spend more than 5K on a functional trainer for a home gym unless it’s a commercial unit.

Let’s elaborate on that in 3 concise points and a comparison graph:

  1. A high-quality functional trainer can cost between 1 and 10K.
  2. A majority of the quality functional trainers for home gyms are in the 1.5-5K range, and the best value lives in the 1.5-2.5K bracket.
  3. Once you go below that, the only units still worth buying are plate-loaded.

    The Titan Fitness functional trainer is the case in point – its selectorized cousin will set you back twice as much.

For reference, the graph below compares the prices of the 20 top-rated functional trainers.

Comparing the Prices of Top Functional Trainers

Methodology – how we assess and rate functional trainers

Let me take a moment here and talk to the like-minded fitness nerds out there – those who like to understand what’s what before they spend a cent.

I’ll briefly explain the methodology behind our rating system.

It’s not about us…it’s about giving you an idea of what makes our data-based approach different.

This is what we did:

  1. We created a database of all the functional trainers that we deemed to be candidates for the best-functional-trainer spot in different categories.
    The total tally here is 57 trainers from 34 sources.
  2. We talked to an industry expert, analyzed reviews, and talked to users to get a clearer idea about what people are looking for in a good functional trainer.
    The idea here is to get as many eyeballs on our functional-trainer rating system before we go public.
  3. Based on step #2, we defined a rating formula with all the quality categories to be rated.
  4. We tweaked the formula through a few iterations to make it as objective and as close to science (and away from opinion) as possible.
  5. We went out and gathered all the data for the 57 units – from basics like dimensions to details like the material of the pulleys and cables.
  6. We plugged the data into the formula and decided on the number of picks to present.

    The goal here is to cover all relevant best-functional-trainer categories that make sense and add value for you.
  7. We stay on top of the functional-trainer market at all times and look out for any new arrivals or changes in quality or manufacturing practices.

There are two key differences in our approach to rating a functional trainer:

  1. It’s data-based and only spiced with first-hand experience.
  2. We don’t care if the units we recommend earn us an affiliate fee – we just look for the absolute best.

This might be a blunt thing to say, but the second point is problematic in the online space. It’s plagued with recommendations based on financial interest alone.

That’s not us.

FAQs about functional trainers

Is a functional trainer worth it?

Yes, a functional trainer is absolutely worth it because a versatile unit like the REP Fitness FT-5000 can replace the better part of a home gym and give you a full-body workout.

The classic models are great for isolation exercises like pulls and curls, while some of the modern ones feature a Smith bar and allow for compound lifts.
All that is especially true if space is limited and every inch counts.

There’s also a cost factor here. If you were to individually buy the equipment needed to replicate everything a functional trainer could offer, it’d cost you far more.

Can you build muscle with a functional trainer?

Yes, you can build muscle using a functional trainer, especially the better ones like the REP Fitness FT-5000. Building muscle relies on mechanical tension – as long as you provide muscles with said tension, you’re on the right track. A functional trainer does that very effectively.

It’s not a replacement for free weights, but multiple studies (like this one) found similar muscle growth in free-weight and machine workouts.
Furthermore, functional trainers showed an advantage over fixed-path selectorized machines because of the greater range of motion and stabilizer activation (study).

Finally, functional trainers feel safer on some lifts allowing you to push your limits and stimulate hypertrophy in a way that would feel unsafe with free weights (like burnout sessions).

Can you do squats on a functional trainer?

Yes, you can do squats on a functional trainer.

To do it, choose a machine that comes with a Smith bar, like the Inspire FT2, or a functional trainer mounted onto a rack, like REP Ares.

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

The difference between a home gym and a functional trainer is size and versatility.

A functional trainer, although versatile, is typically smaller and has no “ambition” to replace a whole gym.

A home gym like the Force USA G20 (also known as an all-in-one) aims to do just that – offer stations for every single muscle group.

Other functional trainers we tested/rated – close-but-no-cigar

The section below is an overview of the machines that didn’t make it into the Top 9.

The list is home to some extremely popular machines like the Xmark XM-7626, as well as some premium options like the Rogue FT-1.

Some serious candidates for your next functional trainers are on here.

In other words – read it!

  • XMark functional trainer/cable machine (XM-7626) – by far the most popular and highly-rated functional trainer machines on Amazon, with user ratings you see once in a blue moon. It still is one of the best, but some similar machines (like REP Fitness FT-5000) are better for the same money, and others are of similar quality and cost less (like the Bells of Steel).

    It’s about as good as the Titan Fitness functional trainer.

    It’s still a viable candidate for the best value functional trainer in the upcoming updates.
  • BodyCraft HFT PRO – an updated, better version of HFT. It’s good in most aspects but great in a few. It’s ultimately more basic than machines in its price range – dual-weight stacks and solid pulleys.
  • Fray Fitness functional trainer – similarly to the XMark, this Fray ticks most boxes…even some left blank by the top picks, like being rated for commercial use.

    With that said, it comes with smaller dual-weight stacks (under 200 lbs) than most functional trainers and offers little beyond the traditional features. It also might be too tall for some a home or garage gym (6 inches taller than the FT-5000 and full 9 inches compared to Bells of Steel).
  • Titan Fitness double-stack functional trainer (the selectorized version) – made to compete with the likes of FT-5000,  this makes for good value. It should cost 10-20% less to be a viable candidate for the best budget functional trainer.
  • Body-Solid BFFT10R compact functional trainer –  this one is ugly as sin. If you can get past the morbid burgundy and the single weight stack, you’ll find a decent, old-school value.
  • Rogue FT-1 – a high-quality, heavy-duty functional trainer that’s too expensive for most home gyms. If you’re spending this kind of money, you should be getting extra resistance training options, like with the Inspire FT2 or the G20.

    If that’s not important to you and you just want the meanest-looking machine, this can easily be it.
  • Freemotion dual cable – a premium functional trainer many people’s favorite because of the fully adjustable angles.

    I have three points to make about it  – one – it’s great; two –  it’s not as good as its predecessor; three – it’s way too expensive for home gyms. It’s undeniably cool, though.
  • REP Ares functional trainer/cable machine – if you’re just starting out and don’t have a rack, pairing one of REP’s racks with the Ares is a more versatile setup than any standalone functional trainer machine. Having said that, this guide would be overly complicated if we included attachments and the wall-mounted stuff.
  • TRX PRO4 – if we were going this wide and covering all functional training, the PRO4 would most likely take home the title of the best portable functional trainer. We’re only interested in the traditional units, though.
  • Panatta Inside – one of the most complete pieces of fitness equipment I know and a likely candidate for the title of the best commercial functional trainer.

    Still, way too much going on here for an average home gym (and its budget).

Best functional trainer – key takeaways

We’re proud of the work we did here because a functional trainer is a complicated machine, and the competition is fierce.

Getting clarity on which of these is the best is no small feat, but I feel like we did it.

Here’s a quick resume…

For most people, the REP Fitness FT-5000 will be the best functional trainer for the money.

If you’re on a budget, you can save 20-30% and not lose any functionality; go for the Bells of Steel unit. It’s also the machine for you if you have lower-than-average ceilings (it’s 81 inches high).

If you like the idea of not getting a separate Smith machine, the Inspire FT2 comes with one. It also comes with a price to match the unique features.

To skip back to the table with the top picks, click here.

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Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

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