Functional Trainer Exercises: 10 Movements to Mix It Up

Functional trainer exercises not only work your major muscle groups, but engage the smaller stabilization muscles that surround them too. They’re an amazingly effective way to target varied areas of the body and a popular style of workout in any gym. However, most people do the same old exercises on a functional trainer machine – tricep extension, bicep curl, and chest press. So in this post, we wanted to share a few alternatives for you to try next time you hit the gym!

Our Top 10 Alternative Functional Trainer Exercises

Cable Reverse Lunge

Most of us are comfortable with the classical lunge movement, but doing the reverse motion can really challenge our strength and balance. With the cable pulley on the lowest height setting, position yourself in a lunge position with one knee bent at a right angle. Hold the rope attachment over one shoulder and extend your legs into a standing position, pulling the rope with you along the way. Then return to the lower lunge position and repeat for the desired number of reps to really work your hamstrings and posterior muscle chain.

cable reverse lunge exercise

Plank Triceps Kick Back

This exercise works the core, legs, and triceps too. Place the pulley on the lowest height with the D-handle (single grip with rotating handle) attachment. Assume the plank position facing the machine and grasp the handle with one hand. Pull the handle back towards your hips as you straighten your arm in a tricep extension movement. Repeat on one side and then switch.  This is one of the top functional trainer exercises to also engage your core along with the primary muscle group (triceps). 

plank kickback exercise

Standing Leg Curl

Using the ankle attachments allows you to try an even wider variety of exercises on the functional trainer machine. Place the pulley on the lowest height setting and attach the ankle strap to your leg. Face the machine and extend your leg behind you to really target your hamstrings and glutes. Keeping your leg straight and your core tight, return your leg to the standing position. Repeat the desired number of reps on one side and then switch over.

Side Plank Cable Row

This exercise activates the core, shoulders, and lats, while improving your overall balance too. Attach the D-handle and position the pulley on the lowest height setting. Assume a side plank position, with your body supported by your forearm and foot. With your free arm, pull the cable towards you whilst maintaining a strong core and not allowing your body to rotate. Repeat the desired number of reps on one side before switching to the other.

side plank cable row

 

Cable Front Squat

The cable front squat engages the quads, glutes, and hamstrings for a complete lower body workout. Place the pulley on the lowest height setting and face the machine. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and grasp the rope attachment with two hands in a goblet position. Lower down slowly into a squat, keeping the rope at shoulder height. Then push back up to standing with an explosive movement. Repeat the desired number of reps and sets, remembering to maintain explosiveness throughout each set.

Wood Chop

The wood chop is one of the more classic functional trainer exercises that challenges your core and shoulders across several planes of movement. Position the pulley slightly above shoulder height and attached the D-handle or rope. Stand at a 90-degree angle to the machine and pull it down and across your body to the floor, in a motion that’s similar to chopping wood. Return it to the start position and then repeat for the desired number of reps before swapping sides.

cable wood chop exercise

Cable Step Up

This exercise activates the hamstrings and glutes. Place a step or box in front of the functional trainer machine and set the cable pulley to the lowest height. Face away from the machine holding the rope attachment over your shoulder, and step up on to the box. Keep your core tight as you step back down and then repeat starting with the opposite leg. Keep switching legs until you’ve completed a full set to ensure that you build equal stability on both sides.

cable step-up exercise

Single Arm Row

The cable chest press is a favorite with most people, but have you thought about trying the reverse pulling movement to activate the shoulder and lats? The single arm row does just this and allows you to target each limb independently. Place the cable pulley at shoulder height and attach the D-handle. Step back an arm’s length from the machine and then pull the handle towards you whilst keeping your core tight. Return it slowly back to the machine and repeat for desired number of reps.

cable single arm row exercise

Bridge Curl

Bridge curls target the core and biceps, yet not many people think to incorporate a functional trainer machine into the exercise. Position the pulleys at the lowest height and then lie on the floor facing the machine with your knees bent. Grasp a handle in each hand and curl them towards your shoulders as you lift your hips from the ground. Then return slowly to the starting position in a controlled manner. Repeat the desired number of reps and sets.

bridge curl on ground

Cable Crunch

Cable crunchies are popular with bodybuilders and an incredibly effective way to target the abdominals. Position the pulley at chest height and add the rope attachment. Kneel in front of it and grasp the rope behind your neck, then fold forwards towards the ground pulling the cable as you go. Return to the starting position and keep the core strong throughout.  This is one of those functiona trainer exercises that you’ve probably seen done a thousand times incorrectly.  Make sure to use lighter weights and slow down the repetition speed to ensure you are making the most out of the movement.

cable crunch exercise on functional trainer

Bonus Exercises That Don’t Require A Functional Trainer 

If your facility doesn’t have a cable unit, then here are a few alternative functional trainer exercises that you can try instead…

#1 Burpees – a favorite amongst PTs and Bootcamp instructors, burpees raise your heart rate fast and work all the major muscle groups. Crouch down and jump your legs out behind you into a plank position, then do a press up. Jump your legs forward so you return to a standing position and then jump explosively as high as you can. This is one rep – repeat as many as you can in one minute.

#2 Pistol Squats – an even more challenging version of the classic squat, these independent movements target your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Lift one leg in front of you and then lower yourself down into a squat position on the other leg. Since your entire body weight is supported on one leg instead of two, you’ll find it a lot more challenging. Repeat an equal number of reps on each side.

#3 Handstand – you might think of this as a playground move but fans of calisthenics swear by it for strengthening the upper body and improving stability. Try it against a wall to begin with until you can confidently hold your own weight upside down. Then move a little further from the wall until you no longer need it to balance.

Looking for more functional trainer exercises or workout ideas? Our team are industry veterans and can provide all the guidance you need – get in touch here.

Smith Machine Bench Press vs Barbell Bench Press

The smith machine bench press is a safe and secure way to progress your lifting capabilities. Bench presses are great exercise movements as they seriously work out your triceps, shoulders, and chest. It’s considered by some to be the most effective compound movement for a full upper-body workout. Depending on the variation and technique used, it can also activate your core, back, and legs for stabilization.

A lot of the appeal of a bench press is that the movements are simple. You just have to ease the bar down towards your chest and then press it back up. Although it’s a simple straight up and down movement, it produces excellent results. The decision for many people is whether they should do their bench press using a Smith machine or barbell.

There has been a long battle between whether a cable machine or free weights are better for bench presses. Each side greatly praises the benefits of each (and conveniently downplays the cons). For those who are unfamiliar, barbell bench presses involve Olympic flat benches and free weights, whereas the smith machine bench press used a bar that is attached to the machine.

The path of the bar is different for each bench press. With free weight barbell presses, you can move the weight in any direction – straight up and down, or side to side if need be. This means that move stabilization muscles are recruited to control the movement, however, it also allows for the possibility of injury if performed incorrectly.

man doing barbell bench press with no smith machine

For the Smith machine, the weight can only be moved up and down so there’s less scope for accidental misuse.  Users are also more able to fully isolate the target muscles (chest, anterior deltoid and triceps).

Safety

The safety of these two pieces of equipment is quite different due to the differing range of movement for each one. If you feel like you can’t complete an exercise on the Smith machine, you can just lock the bar into place by sliding the barbell into its hooks. When you’re struggling to complete a repetition with a free weight, you need a spotter there to help you.

Difference in Technique

For a regular bench press, your form goes in two directions. When the bar is lifted, your arms are straight and the bar should be directly over your shoulders. When you lower the bar, the bar is inched down your chest just a tad. It’s at this point in your movement that the bar should be touching the lower half of your chest. At the top of the movement, your arms are straight and the bar is directly over your shoulders. You repeat this movement for however many reps you see fit.

The Smith machine doesn’t allow you to move the bar backwards or forwards so you don’t have the motion of moving the bar to rest on your lower chest. While you can’t move the bar yourself, the bar still needs to land in that position so you have to move your body into the correct position so that the bar will touch your lower chest when it comes down. While you lose a little bit of power working on the machine’s fixed plane, you’re able to work your chest and shoulder muscles a little more. This machine also limits how much you can lose control with the movements as it is fixed. However the Olympic flat bench does not provide this stability, so you need extreme control when bench pressing with free weights to help minimize the risk of serious accident or injury.

Difference in Barbell Weight

The weight of a standard bench press barbell is 45 pounds. The bar used in a Smith machine bench press is often lighter. The machine has been made to glide the bar easily up and down, so is sometimes considered easier to move.

The Olympic Bench Press

If you’ve ever been to a gym or seen a movie with a workout scene, then you’ve seen an Olympic bench press. If you love to workout, you’ve probably even used one before. It’s the movement that comes to mind when most people think about working out.

When you use the Olympic flat bench for exercise, you focus on your lower and mid pectoral muscles, the triceps, and the anterior deltoid.

Pros

  •   Stability. Compared to lifting other weights such as kettlebells and dumbbells. When you use those types of weights, you risk imbalance as you can raise and lower the weights at different speeds.

In the same vein, other machines and weights remove the use of quite a few stabilizer muscles. You want to activate these stabilizers as often as you can to build strength.

  •   Great capacity to hold and bear weights. It’s the purpose of the Olympic bench press existence. You can start off small and as you get stronger, you can put more weights on.

Cons

  •   The biggest drawback of using the barbell bench is the safety risk. You want to see results when you work out. You don’t want to risk any injury. The safety issue can be taken care of if you have a trusted spotter with you.
  •   You have to keep your form perfect. If your form is off by even a little, you become prone to injuries to your chest and rotator cuff.

Smith Machine Bench Press

What is a smith machine bench press? Its name doesn’t immediately conjure up a mental image, but you probably have seen it before. The Smith bench press machine has the same movement as the Olympic variation, but it also has a few differences related to how it engages your body. This machine can also be found in most gyms and takes only a few moments to learn how to use. They’re designed to allow you to lift heavy weights safely.

Pros

  •   Safety. While a regular bench press has safety as it’s number one concern, the Smith machine bench press puts safety first. It allows you to stop the bar way before an injury is possible. You don’t have to worry about it falling on top of you. You don’t need a spotter with this machine and can therefore work out more intensely.
  •   Stability. The machine provides a good stability and you don’t have to worry about form as much as with other workout equipment.

Cons

  •   Stability. While you don’t have to worry so much about form with the Smith machine, you’re not activating the other muscles that you need to. Without the use of these muscles, you’re not getting the most out of your exercise.
  •   A big investment. For those who are looking to build a home gym, the Smith machine requires a bigger investment, especially when compared a simple Olympian flat bench. If you’re willing to make the investment or plan to workout hard without a spotter, you’ll enjoy the Smith machine.

Which Option Should You Go For?

This honestly depends on your needs. They’re both very good at producing the results, but it comes down to how intense you want your workouts to be. You can find both options pretty easily in gyms, but if you’re looking to buy one these bench presses then call a representative at Muscle D Fitness to purchase directly from the manufacturer.

Ab Equipment – The Search For The Perfect Abdominal Crunch

Looking for the perfect piece of ab equipment that’ll actually get you results? With such a huge variety of fitness products to choose from, the search can sometimes feel overwhelming. So in this article we’ve summarized the best rated abdominal exercise equipment available, along with some training tips to help you get the most out of your purchase…

Different Types of Ab Equipment

Shopping channels and late-night TV are awash with different types fitness equipment that make bold statements. Many adverts claim to give you a sculpted stomach, melt away the fat, and improve your cardio fitness at the same time. But some are better than others, so how to you separate the ineffective products from ab machines that work?

In our experience, there are several different categories of equipment that effectively target the abdominals…

Sit Up Benches

These benches are basic tools that facilitate sit-ups and crunches. They’re standard ab equipment at the gym thanks to their ease of use and excellent results. Ab benches can be used by advanced exercisers or novices alike, but do require correct technique. Performing sit-ups improperly can place excessive strain on the back, so it’s important to use the right form.

Ab Wheels

Ab wheels are a simple yet effective way to work out your abs at home. They not only target your midsection but also work the muscles in your lower back. Ab wheels may appear easy to use, but they actually require a strong core to operate which can make them difficult for beginners to master.  The key to this piece of ab equipment is to not overextend and keep form tight while engaging your core the entire time.

Vertical Knee Raise (AKA Power Tower)

vertical knee raise power tower for abdominals

Engaging your lower body during ab exercises can really help with their development. A vertical knee raise station enables you to do this, as well as working out other parts of your body.  The key workout exercises include low knee raises which can be done with knees pulled in or extended as well as other exercises like dips that don’t target the abdominals specifically (triceps & chest).

Abdominal Crunch

abdominal crunch motion done by man without ab equipment

The Abdominal Crunch is one of the best rated abdominal exercise equipment options on the market. It’s specifically designed to streamline the crunch movement and ensures that you’re using the right technique. This means you fully activate the muscles which will lead to greater results, whilst minimizing the likelihood of injury.

Abdominal Crunch Machine

Abdominal Crunch machines are extremely easy to use. They let users have a full range of motion that isn’t always possible without specialized equipment. The guided motion also ensures that your abs experience an adequate amount of resistance – it’s this stress that causes fatigue which then promotes muscle growth. Controlled muscular stress is the key to developing a killer six-pack, so it’s crucial that your workout equipment delivers it.

These units balance comfort with biomechanics, to ensure your body is perfectly positioned throughout the workout. Using an abdominal crunch machine (the staple piece of ab equipment) avoids placing stress on your neck, which is something often experienced when doing sit-ups on the floor. It also avoids the risk of unwanted lower back stress which abdominal benches can sometimes cause. An ab crunch machine ensures that each crunch is performed properly – every single time.

Pros

  •   It allows for proper muscle resistance with its anatomically correct cam.
  •   It’s precise which allows for smooth operation.
  •   The pads for your elbows and arms help to promote ab crunching action.
  •   The foot pads allow for maximize ab development as it locks the user in.

Cons

  •   The machine only focuses on ab workout.

If you’re looking to buy the Abdominal Crunch, you can call a representative at Muscle D Fitness to purchase directly from the manufacturer.

Using The Abdominal Crunch Machine (The Most Popular Ab Equipment)

To use the abdominal crunch machine, first select a light resistance or weight that you know you can handle easily.. Sit down on the machine and place your feet under the pads while grabbing onto the top handles. You want to make sure your arm is bent at a 90-degree angle, by resting your triceps on the pads that are
provided.

Begin by lifting your legs as you lift your upper torso. As you would do if you were lying on the ground, use slow and controlled movements while you focus on your breathing. After a moment, return to your starting position slowly and then repeat.

How to Do a Perfect Abdominal Crunch (With Or Without Equipment)

Crunches are a staple in the workout community and the go-to way to get ripped abs. The workout has been a mainstay is ab workouts for more than a few decades and for good reason. Crunches are a great way to specifically target your abs.

When you do crunches, you’re targeting the rectus abdominis located on the front of your torso. The rectus abdominis is what most of us refer to as the muscles that make up the six-pack. When you reduce belly fat enough, you’ll see your abs carved into the shape that many people crave.

While most people have done hundreds of crunches at one point or another, they’re probably doing them wrong. Whether it’s in school when we’re younger, or attempts to get fit when we’re older, crunchies are the go-to stomach exercise. They are deceptive in that they look easy to do, but doing them correctly is actually really hard. Most of us have probably been doing them wrong for so long that we don’t even notice.

Common mistakes that people make when doing crunches include straining their neck by pulling on it, crunching too high and too fast, and relaxing when they’re coming down to the ground.

To do the perfect crunch you want to lie on your back, bent at the knee, and hands either across your chest or behind your head. If you’re wary of pulling on your neck then go for the arms across the chest method. If you choose to put your hands behind your head, making sure your fingers are gently cradling your head. You want to support your head and neck without taking away from the contraction of your abs when you come up. Suck in your stomach, pulling your belly button towards your spine to prepare for your movement upwards.

Bring your shoulders an inch or two off the ground to contract your abdominals slowly. Breath out when you come up, keeping your neck straight and your chin up. Hold your position for a few moments before going back down. Remember, do not relax your movements while you’re doing this. Repeat these motions for 15-20 repetitions. Be mindful of whether you’re keeping the correct form.

Tips to Remember the Perfect Form

You want to keep your movements small. A crunch is not the same as a full sit up. Limiting your range of motion to just a small lift off the ground makes the exercise an excellent way to build endurance and strength in your abdominal muscles.

Remember that the quest for a six-pack of abs is a hard one. You’re not going to achieve your goal by just doing crunches alone. You also need to maintain a healthy diet that allows you to burn calories while you work out, and keep your fat percentage low.

There are derivations of the crunch that you can also use to get a good ab workout. You can enhance the intensity of your crunches through other exercise equipment like a Swiss ball or workout machinery.

Getting perfect abs isn’t as unobtainable as it may seem. It will take hard work but by combining proven training methods with effective ab equipment, you can achieve great results. For advice on the best exercise machines to meet your needs, contact us.