Fitness is not just about pumping iron; it is about getting your body primed for peak performance and everyday physical challenges. By engaging multiple muscle groups at once, functional training boosts overall strength, stability, flexibility and coordination. 

Functional training has been a growing trend in the fitness industry for years now, and its popularity is not a surprise. Fitness enthusiasts and athletes are recognising the practicality and engaging nature of this type of training. Its focus on real-life movements makes it very appealing to those looking to enhance their performance in sports and everyday activities.

There is a range of equipment that can support functional training exercises, from cable crossover machines to all-in-one functional trainers. In this guide, we’ll give you all the information you need to decide which one is right for you.

What are cable crossover machines? What are functional trainers?

Cable crossover machines and functional trainers have several similarities when it comes to functional training. Both cable crossover machines and functional trainers use a cable-based resistance system. This allows for a wide range of motion and enables users to perform exercises in multiple planes of movement, similar to real-life activities. 

Both machines are highly versatile and can accommodate a variety of exercises. While cable crossovers are often associated with isolation exercises, they can still be used for functional movements and compound exercises. Functional trainers, on the other hand, are specifically designed for functional exercises, making them even more adaptable for functional training purposes.

Benefits of a cable crossover machine

A cable crossover machine is somewhere between a home gym and a functional trainer. Similar to a home gym, it consists of two vertical posts with weight stacks on either side, connected by a horizontal crossbeam. Similar to a functional trainer, each weight stack has an adjustable pulley system with handles or attachments. Users can position the pulleys at various heights and angles to perform a wide range of exercises targeting different muscle groups. 

While cable crossovers are often associated with isolation exercises such as cable flys for chest muscles and cable curls for biceps, they can still be used for functional movements and compound exercises. The cables provide constant tension on the muscles throughout the range of motion, making this machine an effective addition to free weights and barbells or a basic alternative to a functional trainer if you don’t have access to one.

Can I use a cable crossover machine for functional training?

Functional training is about mimicking real-life movements and improving overall functional fitness—with just a cable crossover machine, you can perform a variety of exercises that target multiple muscle groups and enhance your stability, balance and coordination. 

Take a cable deadlift for example. A deadlift is an exercise we usually associate with free weights, but unlike traditional barbell or dumbbell deadlifts, where the resistance decreases at the top of the lift due to gravity, the cable deadlift maintains resistance from start to finish. 

Set the pulley at the lowest position on the cable machine. This allows you to perform the deadlift movement with the handle or attachment starting close to the ground, mimicking the setup of a conventional deadlift with a barbell. By setting the pulley at the lowest position, you can effectively target your lower body muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back during the exercise.

Proper form

  • Stand facing the cable machine with feet shoulder-width apart and grab the handle or attachment with both hands using an overhand grip.
  • Hinge at your hips, lower the handle, then push through your heels to return. Focus on engaging glutes and hamstrings throughout the movement.

The continuous tension on the muscles throughout the exercise leads to greater muscle activation and recruitment, making it an excellent variation for building strength and muscle mass in the targeted areas. Additionally, the cable deadlift can be a safer alternative for individuals with certain mobility issues or back concerns since it allows for a more controlled and stable movement.

Benefits of a functional trainer 

Functional trainers cater to natural, multi-phase movements, making them more aligned with the principles of functional training and better suited to athletes and others who want to enhance their agility, balance, and coordination.

Is a functional trainer better than a cable crossover?

The narrow base of a functional trainer is one thing that sets it apart from a cable crossover in terms of functionality and versatility. The small footprint of a functional trainer isn’t just great for those who are short on space; it is designed that way so the pulleys on either side are closer together, giving you better range of motion and facilitating more exercises than a cable crossover machine.

Also, with the absence of a wide crossbeam found in cable crossovers, users have greater freedom to move around the machine and engage in exercises that involve lateral movements, rotational exercises and dynamic activities. The lack of a wide crossbeam also makes it easier for users to perform movements closer to the machine, which is beneficial for specific functional exercises and body weight workouts. 

Should I get a cable crossover machine or a functional trainer?

A functional trainer may seem like the obvious choice for many people, but a cable crossover machine still has its benefits. Cable crossovers are excellent for targeting specific muscle groups with isolation exercises, making them valuable for bodybuilding and muscle development. With a similar starting price point, the best machine for your gym is the one that helps you reach your goals. They are both excellent tools for getting fitter and stronger. 

Whichever machine you choose, our dedicated team is here to help you discover the perfect equipment solution to achieve your goals. GymQuip is your go-to destination for all types of functional trainer equipment and professional installation in Australia. 

We work directly with global brands such as Body Solid, Circle Fitness, Force USA and DKN to make sure you get the price and manufacturer-backed quality. 

If you find a better deal out there, let us know and we'll match or beat it, regardless of how you decide to buy.