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Functional Trainers VS Home Gyms

Functional Trainers VS Home Gyms


Hey there, Bandit Fitness here to talk about the differences between user defined functional trainers and machine defined home gyms. Hopefully by the end of this video, you’ll have a better understanding of which one is better for you. 

First off, what’s what?

A functional trainer is a machine with adjustable pulleys that you can move up and down to use for a wide variety of exercises. You’ll also hear these referred to as a cable crossover or just simply a “pulley machine”

On the other hand, we have the home gym, which can also be called a universal gym, or a multi-gym. Basically a multi-gym home gym will combine a wide variety of fixed movement machines into one, to be as efficient as possible in a smaller space. There’s a lot of variation as to what exact movements are included from model to model when looking at home gyms, but they’re typically defined by having a fixed press/row arm, lat pulldown, and low pulley, at minimum. Many models can pack a whole lot more in than just those basic functions, however.

Functional Balance

WIth functional trainers, balance is key. Literally. The whole difference in what a functional trainer is designed to do revolves around you being responsible for keeping your balance through the movement. Your muscles have these small neurons called proprioceptors, which are responsible for telling your muscles how to react based on sudden changes. The process is called proprioception, and quite simply, it’s coordination of your motor skills, or reflexes.

This is also where the name “functional trainer” comes from. It’s derived from “functional strength” meaning simply strength that helps you in your everyday life to do things, like pick up a box to put it on a shelf, or catch yourself going up stairs.  

Proprioception becomes increasingly important as we age, especially, because injuries usually occur when the body is doing something it’s not used to doing, and then loses its balance. This is why elderly people might fall more often than younger people, or struggle to pick up heavier objects.

Linear Movements

The opposite is true of a universal gym or really any gym machine that utilizes a linear movement. Your body doesn’t have to try very hard to keep its balance as you move through the activity. But, that has an upside, which is that you can teach your body to get more used to heavier weight more quickly. So you’ll move more weight, but it’s less to do with functional strength. 

You might prefer linear press movements to help with other things though, and home gyms are also significantly easier to use for beginners or people who are less sure of what their correct physiology should be. 

When you get on a home gym to do a bench press, there’s usually only one way to do it. When you try to do the same activity on a functional trainer, there’s a lot of ways you can work the same movement. You could be standing, sitting on a bench while upright, or laying down on a bench, just as a few examples. 

Missing Exercises

There are also some major differences in how you’ll do workout movements with the two categories. Some exercises will be very similar, like we just discussed with bench presses, while others will be more complex. For example, most home gyms will come with a leg extension and leg curl attachment on the seat. However, replicating the same movement with the functional trainer needs to be done with an ankle cuff and in a standing position, which may not be as easy for some people. 

Meanwhile, some smaller muscle group exercises, like lateral shoulder raises or other single-arm movements, can be more challenging to accomplish in a way that feels natural on a home gym when compared with a functional trainer. 

So it’s important to think about what exercises you like to do, and how convenient they would be on the two different types of machines, because that may also be a big deciding factor. Just keep in mind that different models may also offer different exercises within the same category. 

Who’s it for?

Typically, functional trainers are best suited for people who are trying to focus more on their abilities in daily life and staying active as they age, and not necessarily trying to focus on physique or raw power. So if you’re looking to keep up with kids or grandkids, make sure you can be self-sufficient when it comes to moving heavier objects, and looking for toning and muscle definition, a functional trainer is probably a better bet. 

On the other hand, if you’re new to working out, and are looking for simple, quick exercises, a home gym setup might be ideal. Home gyms are easier to operate with less likelihood of injury if used improperly, so they’re better for beginners. They’re also great for people who are more focused on trying to bulk up or add more strength and are less concerned with tone and definition. 

Regardless of whichever you try, we’ll always recommend that you find a place you can actually test out the equipment and make sure the machine you’re looking at feels right and comfortable to use for you, as well as anyone else in your family who might be using it. Physiological differences can make or break your routine, and investing in a machine that doesn’t fit you is a recipe for failure. Not to mention, quality is a hard thing to judge with this kind of equipment, and just because the photos look good doesn’t mean it’s always as sturdy as it seems. 

Thanks for watching, hopefully this helped. If you’d like to try out any of our functional trainers or gym systems, just stop by our store in Clearwater Florida and catch a quick workout.

Have a great day and train hard. 

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