How to buy a functional trainer: The basics

Although often overlooked at first, functional trainers make extremely versatile home gyms. Their design is quite simple. Two cable columns, two weight stacks (some only have one) and a chin-up bar. With this simple but ingenious design you can perform countless different exercises. To make things even better, you can use functional trainers to emulate nearly every motion from everyday life or from a specific sport. If you are thinking of purchasing a home gym then you should definitely check out some functional trainers and have one of you local Fitness Town experts give you a demonstration of all the different ways you can use them.

There are several things to look out for when you are choosing you functional trainer. Here are a few important factors that make some functional trainers a better choice than others

–    Make sure it has two weight stacks! This is extremely important. If there is only one weight stack then it defeats the whole purpose of a functional trainer, since one side of your body can compensate for the other just like with a traditional home gym. This will only increase muscle imbalances and promote future injury. Two separate weight stacks will allow each side of to work independently and hence even out any imbalance.

–    Long pulley travel. You want to be able to take several steps outwards with the pulleys. This will allow you to do power lunges and weighted sprints as well as several other exercises.

–    Smooth like butter. I think that everyone knows that whole is not always equal to the sum of its parts (at least not the sum of its described parts). No matter what fancy names people come up with to describe the pulleys or the weight stack guide rods, you have to try it out to feel how smooth it actually is. The smoother it is, the more even of a resistance you will get. You will also be able to carry out quick powerful movements that will aid in increasing your agility and strengthening your fast twitch muscle fibres.

–    Lots of adjustments. Make sure your new functional trainer has a lot of different height adjustments. Too few adjustment options might make certain exercises awkward or difficult to perform correctly.

–    Simple to use. If it is difficult to adjust the height of the pulleys then you won’t enjoy using it. And if you don’t enjoy using it you quite simply won’t. Easy adjustments will also make your workout quicker and more effective because you won’t have to take lengthy brakes to adjust the machine.

–    Good chin-up bar. A good chin-up bar with multiple different grip options will save your wrists and allow you to target different muscles. Of course the machine should be well balanced so that it feels solid and sturdy when you are doing pull-ups.

–    Storage. Most functional trainers come with several different cable attachments to use for your workouts. If the unit doesn’t offer an easily accessible storage spot for all you accessories, they will end up lying around on the floor impeding your workout.

There’s a ton of different brands of functional trainers in the marketplace, just make sure to stick with a brand that makes high-quality, commercial grade equipment.  Many of these manufacturers already make commercial functional trainers for fitness facilities around the world, and have just taken these designs and made home versions for the residential consumer.  A few brands to look at include:  Hoist, Life Fitness, Matrix, Keiser, Cybex, and SEC.  Visit your nearest Fitness Town location to ask any one of our experts to walk you through a 15-minute functional trainer, body blast.

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