Functional Trainers- The Swiss Army Knife for At-Home Workouts

Functional Trainers: The Swiss Army Knife for At-Home Workouts

To maintain an active lifestyle throughout the winter months while training indoors, it’s essential to incorporate a diverse routine and make use of versatile equipment. This ensures that you stay engaged and avoid monotony in your workouts.

That’s where functional trainers come in. Hailed as “the Swiss Army Knives” of full-body training, they’re the perfect solution for home gym workouts by offering the perfect blend of convenience, variety, and efficiency. 

In this blog, we’ll uncover what makes functional training machines so beneficial for at-home use and introduce 9 of our favourite cable machine exercises to achieve a full-body workout.

What Is a Functional Trainer?

Picture a piece of workout equipment you can use to train any muscle group that adapts to every fitness level and fits snugly in your home gym. That’s a functional trainer. 

Also known as cable machines, functional trainers use weight stacks and pulley systems to cater to a range of strength training, flexibility, and conditioning movements. Their versatility makes them a powerhouse for full-body workouts and the perfect centrepiece for any home studio. 

Features and Components of a Functional Trainer

Weight Stack: The heart of a functional trainer is its weight stack. Most have one or two weight stacks weighing between 150 to 400 pounds. You can adjust these weights incrementally with the pop of a pin, which is perfect for various exercises and fitness levels. 

Cable Pulley System: The functional trainer’s pulley system is where the magic happens. Functional trainers offer multiple adjustment positions so you can set the cables at different heights and angles to play around with a variety of exercises. Plus, you can use cable pulleys independently or together, so you’re never short on workout options. 

Optional Attachments and Accessories: The cherry on top of the functional trainer’s versatility is the add-on accessory and attachment options. Some cable machines (like the HOIST Mi6) include attached pull-up bars, and all are compatible with attachments like aluminum lat bars, tricep ropes, ankle straps, and curl bars

What Are the Benefits of Having a Functional Trainer in Your Home Gym?

While having dumbbells or resistance bands to work out from home is wonderful, nothing beats having a full-blown functional trainer at your disposal. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner trying to get a jumpstart on your fitness routine, cable machines provide an all-in-one solution to stay on track with your training. 

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons a functional trainer would make a great addition to your home gym. 


One of the biggest benefits of functional trainers is their versatility. 

Cable machines feature 1-2 weight stacks and dual pulleys that you can adjust between 20-30 different positions. This allows you to set the pulleys high for exercises like pull-downs, push-downs, or crunches. Or you can position them lower for curls, upright rows, or cable kickbacks. This adjustability also allows you to train in all planes of motion (multi-planar movements), which is perfect for athletes or anyone trying to build explosive power. 

On top of that, cable machines are compatible with attachments like bars, handles, ropes, and straps, which allows for even more versatility. We’re talking virtually unlimited compound or isolation exercises that target multiple muscle groups. In fact, we challenge you to find an exercise you can’t do on a functional trainer. 

Saves Space

When building your home gym, you want to maximize every square inch with versatile, compact pieces of equipment. A functional trainer checks that box. 

Cable machines allow you to train multiple movements and body parts on a single machine — eliminating the need for tons of equipment for each exercise. And models that come with storage racks for your attachments and accessories keep your floor space spic and span while ensuring you have easy access to your training tools. 

To save even more space, look for single-stack models like the HOIST Mi5. It fits seamlessly into a corner of your home gym and doesn’t sacrifice anything in terms of functionality. (No wonder it’s our CEO’s favourite). 


Safety should be the #1 priority of any training routine. Especially, if you train Home Alone (Christmas pun intended). Functional trainers come with safety features that make them not only suitable for solo training but also ideal for beginner athletes. 

When you train with free weights, it’s easy to lose control of your dumbbells on an overhead press or your barbell on a squat. And when you train alone, it can be dangerous to perform these lifts without a spot. 

But the cable machine’s pulley system controls your range of motion during an exercise, which acts as your safety spotter and can help eliminate joint and tissue injuries. Plus, the weights are easily adjustable with a pin — so if an exercise becomes too heavy at any point during training, you can easily reduce the load to stay safe. 

9 Functional Trainer-Friendly Exercises

We’ve talked a lot about how many exercises you can do on a functional trainer. It’s time to introduce you to 9 of our favourite functional trainer exercises that target your full body. 

Upper Body Exercises

1 Cable Flys

Arguably, the most popular functional training machine is the cable fly. 

How to do it: You can choose a high, middle, or low cable position for this exercise. Stand in the middle of the functional trainer with a cable handle in each hand. Start with your hands by your side and squeeze your chest to pull your hands together up and out in front of you. Slowly return to the starting position. 

2 Lat Pull-Downs

The key for building wide lats and an hourglass illusion. 

How to do it: With the cables in a high pulley position, attach the aluminum lat pull-down bar. Sit on the ground facing the functional trainer and grab the bar with a wide grip. Pull the bar down toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly release back up

3 Tricep Push Downs

Want to have horseshoe-shaped triceps? Add tricep push-downs to your routine. 

How to do it: With the cables in a high pulley position, attach the rope attachment or the V Bar push-down handle. Stand facing the cable machine and grab the handle with both hands. Push down until your arms are fully extended and elbows locked. Slowly release back up. 

Lower Body Exercises

4 Cable Squats

Cable squats are a safe alternative to barbell squats if you are training alone, a beginner, or rehabbing an injury. 

How to do it: Attach the aluminum lat pull-down bar to a low pulley. Facing the machine, squat down and place the bar on your shoulders (you should be in a squat stance). Push through the ground, engaging your legs and glutes to stand up with the bar. Return down to the deep squat position and repeat. 

5 Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)

The constant tension on cable RDLs is a game-changer. 

How to do it: Attach a straight bar and start with the cable pulley in a low position. Stand facing the functional trainer with your feet hip-width apart and hinge at the hip to bend down and grab the bar (legs should be straight with only a slight bend in your knees). Keeping your lower back flat, engage your hamstrings and glutes, and stand up with the bar in your hands. Slowly lower and repeat. 

6 Hip Thrusts

A comfortable alternative to barbell hip thrusts. 

How to do it: Set up a flat bench horizontally in the center of the functional trainer. Situate the pulleys to be slightly lower than the bench. Attach the aluminum lat bar to both pulleys and place your shoulder blades on the bench with your feet hip-width apart in front of you and the lat bar across your hips. Thrust your hips upwards, squeezing your glutes at the top. Slowly lower and repeat. 

Core Exercises

7 Cable Kneeling Crunches

The classic ab-blasting crunch, but with a twist. 

How to do it: Kneel facing the functional trainer with the rope attachment overhead. Grab the rope with both hands and crunch your body down, bringing your head to your knees. Slowly rise up and repeat. 

8 Woodchops 

Need practice before chopping down your annual Christmas tree? This functional movement will get your obliques ready for the task. 

How to do it: Stand with your side to the machine, the cable pulley in a medium-to-high position, and hold one handle in both hands. Rotate your torso, pulling the handle across your body to the lower opposite side. Slowly rotate back and repeat. 

9 Cable Seated Ab Twist

The ultimate Russian twist. 

How to do it: Sit on a bench or a plyo box with your side to the functional trainer. Hold a handle with both of your hands and rotate just your upper body while pulling the handle across your body. Rotate back and repeat. Switch sides after 10-12 reps.

Top 3 Functional Trainers at Fitness Town

HOIST Fitness Mi5 Functional Trainer

The HOIST Mi5 functional trainer is small but mighty. 

It’s one of the most compact cable machines on the market but still packs a punch with a 200 lb silent steel weight stack. Though it only has one weight stack, it has dual cable arms that can be adjusted to 22 different heights and seven different rotary positions for a total of 1,000 different cable placement options. And for even more versatility, you can add on the Mi5 Functional Trainer Accessory Kit, complete with a chest pad and cable attachments like the aluminum lat bar and ankle straps.

HOIST Fitness Mi6 Functional Trainer

Want a commercial-grade functional trainer with a footprint only slightly larger than the Mi5? Then look no further than the HOIST Mi6 Functional Trainer. It features not one, but two 150lb Silent Steel stacks for all your heavy lifting needs. Still not enough steel? No worries, you can add another 100 lbs of weight for a whopping 400 lbs of solid steel. With 28 pulley adjustments per column and the innovative 360-degree rotating column, the workout possibilities are truly endless. 

PRECOR FTS Glide Functional Trainer

We don’t have a favourite functional trainer, but the PRECOR FTS Glide is pretty close. This commercial-grade cable machine comes standard with two 200 lb weight stacks, 33 pulley carriage adjustment positions, and it’s only 85” tall! It’s perfect for small home gyms or training facilities. Like the HOIST Mi6, it includes an attached pull-up bar which is perfect for upper body training or an anchor point for resistance bands or suspension training systems. And if you’re a beginner, you’ll love the guided video instructions. Simply scan the embedded QR code and unlock a world of training options. 

Want a breakdown of our top two HOIST Functional Trainers? Check out our Mi5 vs Mi6 comparison here. 

Final Thoughts on Functional Trainers

With a multi-faceted tool like the functional trainer at your fingertips, your health and fitness goals are always within reach. 

Want to explore these cable machines and cable attachments for yourself? Check out our collection here or stop by a Fitness Town store to test out these machines yourself. And if you have questions or need assistance in selecting the right equipment for your home gym, a fitness expert is always just a click or call away. 

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