Functional trainers—especially when combined with cable attachments—are redefining fitness, offering both targeted muscle activation and exercise variety. Suitable for beginners and seasoned enthusiasts, cable attachments adapt to individual needs and address muscle imbalances effectively.
There are two types of machines that are compatible with cable attachments: regular functional trainers and all-in-one trainers.
All-in-one trainers are the multi-tools of gym equipment, consolidating a number of different capabilities into a single unit, including a functional trainer station and additions such as Smith machines and free weights. Because cable attachments are used the same way on both machines, in this article we’ll use the term “functional trainer” to describe both regular functional trainers and all-in-one trainers for simplicity.
Here we will cover how these functional trainer attachments prevent workout monotony with endless dynamic movements while prioritising safety with padded grips, j-hooks and ergonomic designs. We’ll also cover specific benefits for commercial gym use as well as home use.
What are the most common functional trainer attachments?
The attachments for a functional trainer vary depending on the specific model or brand. Common attachments for functional trainers are:
- Lat pulldown bars and lat pulldown bar variations
- Triceps ropes
- Ankle straps
Neutral grips & Pronated Grips
When deciding which attachments to use, there are two main choices: Pronated grip attachments and neutral grip attachments. All of the attachments above either have separate options for both, or can be used either way by changing body positioning.
What is a neutral grip?
What is a pronated grip?
Is a neutral grip or pronated grip better?
There are several advantages to using neutral grip attachments, including:
- Wrist & Shoulder Comfort: A neutral grip is gentler on wrists, easing strain and discomfort. It also aligns shoulders more naturally during exercises, promoting joint health and preventing unnecessary stress.
- Muscle Activation: Neutral grip exercises engage muscles differently, enhancing muscle activation. For instance, neutral grip pull-downs target back muscles uniquely, such as lats and rhomboids.
- Forearm Stress Reduction: In moves like curls, neutral grip minimises forearm stress, aiding those with discomfort and focusing on targeted muscles.
- Functional Benefit: Daily tasks and sports often involve a neutral grip. Training with it enhances functional strength and movement for practical activities.
Using a lat pulldown bar
The main difference between a lat pulldown on a regular trainer (such as a basic lat pulldown machine) and a lat pulldown on a functional trainer is in the mechanics of the exercise and the level of functional movement they involve.
Set up the functional trainer with a high pulley attachment and ensure it is securely fastened. Stand facing the machine with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees, then adjust the handle or attachment to a wide grip, similar to the position you would use on a dedicated lat pulldown machine.
- Reach up and grab the handles with an overhand grip, palms facing away from you. Keep your back straight, chest out, and core engaged. Take a step back to create tension in the cables.
- Exhale and pull the handles down towards your chest, engaging your lat muscles and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement to feel the contraction in your lats, then inhale as you slowly release the handles back to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the movement. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Make a cable lat pulldown easier
If you are a beginner or building up strength and mobility after an injury, there is more you can do to make the most of this exercise than simply reducing the weight or resistance–the different functional trainer parts can work in your favour.
The first thing you can do is lower the pulley attachment to a comfortable height, around shoulder level, to make the exercise more manageable. You can also start with a closer grip on the handles, slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. This grip requires less strength and provides better stability.
Make a cable lat pulldown more difficult
If you are looking for added challenge, in addition to raising the pulley or widening your grip, you can introduce form variations such as single-arm or plyometric lat pulldowns or add other attachments such as resistance bands or ropes. You can also implement high-intensity techniques like drop sets or supersets to push your limits.
Focus on explosive and controlled movements during the exercise, emphasising both the concentric (pulling down) and eccentric (releasing) phases. Prioritise tempo and time under tension, using slower controlled movements or isometric holds to challenge muscle strength and endurance.
Using a triceps rope (for a cable woodchop)
The free-hanging ends of this attachment enable dynamic and fluid movements, making them more natural and effective. They also allow rotation during exercises, which promotes natural movement patterns and more efficiently engages stabiliser muscles than many fixed-grip attachments.
This exercise, also called a “high-to-low cable rotation”, targets the core, obliques, and shoulders, enhancing rotational strength and stability
Set up the functional trainer with the pulley at its highest position and attach the triceps rope. Stand sideways to the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. Position yourself at a distance where you feel a slight tension on the rope when your arms are extended in front of you.
- Grasp the rope with both hands, each hand holding one end of the rope. Your palms should be facing each other.
- Start with your arms extended away from the machine and to one side. Initiate the motion by rotating your torso and pulling the rope diagonally down and across your body to the opposite side, finishing near your hip.
- Slowly return to the starting position with control, following the same diagonal path and keeping your core engaged throughout the movement. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching sides.
Make a cable woodchop easier
If you’re a beginner or building strength and mobility after an injury, the simplest way to adapt this exercise is to complete it from a seated position, making sure to keep the legs still and the core engaged throughout the movement.
Make a cable woodchop more difficult
For advanced athletes seeking an additional challenge, perform the exercise using only one arm at a time. This adds an element of instability and requires greater core engagement. Alternatively, you could perform a cable woodchop with one leg, keeping your hips and shoulders square and avoiding excessive movement in your standing leg.
Choosing the right attachment for your workout
First and foremost, functional trainer attachments provide targeted muscle activation. Whether it's a single-handle attachment for isolated bicep curls or a rope attachment for dynamic core exercises, these functional trainer accessories enable you to focus on specific areas, aiding in mass gains and addressing imbalances. Pick and choose from dedicated attachments like those mentioned above and many more. Essentially any functional movement can be trained with the right attachment.
Get the best functional training equipment
GymQuip is your go-to destination for the best functional training equipment and installation. We take pride in curating a top-notch selection of machines and attachments from renowned global brands.
Quality is our priority, and we ensure that every piece of equipment we offer meets the highest standards at the best prices.
If you happen to stumble upon a better price for the same item elsewhere, let us know, and we will beat the price no matter how you decide to buy.