Functional trainers and barbell cages are both large pieces of equipment. Is it possible to combine the two and save some money and space? Let’s find out.
Combining a functional trainer and barbell cage is possible and will save money and space. Both training with barbells and cables has its own benefits and they complement each other well. It’s important to select the right piece of equipment that combines both types of training in the right way.
So let’s find out what the pros and cons of combining these pieces of equipment are and what the best options are.
- 1 Why combine a functional trainer with a power rack?
- 2 Best functional trainers with power rack
- 3 Alternatives
- 4 Best Cable Machine Accessories
Why combine a functional trainer with a power rack?
You might wonder if combining a functional trainer with a power rack is a good idea and if it’s even possible.
Let’s start with the why. That’s actually pretty easy to answer. Training with cables and barbells is quite different. To be clear, we are talking about completely free barbells here. Not the ones that are part of a machine and run on a rail (smith machine).
Barbells are great for lifting heavy weights with compound movements like squats, overhead presses, deadlifts, etc. That makes them great for building muscle and strength. This type of training is complemented really well by cable exercises though. The cables can be used for exercises a barbell isn’t suitable for and hits the muscles in a different way so you can get more from your workouts.
A separate functional trainer and power cage take up a lot of space and is more expensive in most cases. So trying to combine the two pieces of equipment makes a lot of sense. But is it possible?
It’s certainly possible and not even that difficult. A power cage usually has four upright posts. The front two posts have holes in them where you can attach spotter arms and J-cups (barbell holder).
A functional trainer also has four upright posts although laid out slightly differently. The two front posts also have holes in them to be able to adjust the pulley height. So some functional trainers have the two front posts designed in a way that you can adjust both the pulleys and J-cups in height.
While effective and very space efficient to combine a power cage and functional trainer, it does have a few drawbacks. The pulley height is limited in adjustment when the spotter arms and J-cups are in place so you’ll have to remove the barbell and accessories before you can fully adjust the pulley height. The pulleys are still usable with the barbell in place though.
One other big drawback is that with a power cage, you can lift inside the cage for extra safety. Most combos only allow you to use the barbell in front of the machine.
The combinations of functional trainer are also almost always larger than either a functional trainer or power rack. However, it’s smaller than if you’d get both pieces of equipment separately.
Pros of combining a functional trainer and power cage
- Space saving
- Cheaper in most cases
- Allows for more ways of training
Cons of combining a functional trainer and power cage
- Pulleys are not adjustable with barbell on the rack
- Combinations are larger than functional trainer or power cage (But of course smaller than both separates together)
- Limited choice
- Not the most elegant looking pieces of equipment
- You’ll still have to buy a barbell and weight plates separately
Best functional trainers with power rack
So what are the best options if this combo is the right choice for you? Here are the x best functional trainers with weight stacks and power rack.
This is actually a power cage first with the pulleys added on later. That means the layout is slightly different from a normal functional trainer but the functionality is the same. Actually they took advantage of the slightly different setup and increased the functionality.
The cool part of the power cage part is that you can use the inside of the rack for lifting barbells instead of only being able to use one in front. This increases the safety for people lifting heavy. This is possible because the weight stacks are located in the back and so the barbell can go down low on the sides.
Also, while the pulleys on the front posts are slightly limited in movement, (they don’t go all the way up and down). There are separate high pulleys and low pulleys in the rear of the machine so you still have those options.
All in all, this is the best implementation of the combination of power rack and functional trainer you can get.
A big piece of steel that looks a little bit like a porcupine but the best combination of a functional trainer and power cage. It costs a bit more than the RFT and doesn’t have the full rack possibilities and is a bit more expensive but does have another trick up it’s sleeve.
Besides the option to use a free barbell, it has a built in smith bar. This is a barbell that moves on rails. So you can load it with weight plates and lift heavy but you don’t have the instability of a free barbell. That instability is what gives the free barbell a lot of benefits but the smith bar is useful in it’s own way.
Pivot Fitness FSR400
For people in Europe and Asia reading this, this machine is a good option that’s only available in those places (at the moment). This isn’t only a functional trainer with 2 x 160 lbs. weight stacks but can also be used as a power cage. But it doesn’t end there. It also has a built in smith barbell. This means it’s one of the most multifunctional trainers around and if you get a set of dumbbells next to it, you can train in pretty much every way imaginable.
This machine is a little different. Instead of weight stacks, you use weight plates to load up the pulleys. This has some benefits and drawbacks. It’s more difficult to change weight on the pulleys because you have to change the plates instead of just putting the pin in a different hole.
The plates are changes on the back of the machine so you’ll have to keep some more space free behind the cage than for a functional trainer with weight stacks. Besides pulleys and barbell hooks, this machine also has a smith bar and all of them are loaded with the same weight plates. The weight plates are not included. The maximum load of all the parts of this machine are 300 lbs. For most people this is plenty but if you have plans to get really strong, this is not the one for you.
The pulleys are on a separate rail from the upright posts. That means you can adjust the pulley height without taking the barbell hooks off. The barbell itself still has to be taken off though.
On the other hand, if you want to work out with a barbell, you need a set of weight plates anyways. So if you can use those plates for both the barbell and pulleys, this is more efficient. It’s also cheaper. Weights are surprisingly expensive and a big chunk of the cost of a functional trainer is in the weight stacks. So using the same set of plates for both is quite a bit cheaper.
Don’t like any of the options mentioned above? There are some other alternatives that do things slightly differently but still allow you to train with a free barbell and cables in the same package.
This one is a bit sneaky because it doesn’t actually work with a real free barbell. However, it does have a built in barbell system that’s much better than the standard smith bar. A smith machine has a barbell that slides up and down on rails. This means it can’t move forwards and backwards which really doesn’t allow you to move your body in a natural pattern.
The XFT has a neat solution to this problem. It has a bar that slides up and down on rails but there are also rails that allow forwards and backwards motion. This means it feels very close to a free barbell, only side to side movement is constrained. It also provides up to 400 lbs. of resistance which is plenty for most people and you don’t need separate weight plates to do so.
A free barbell still has some other benefits like being able to take it off and using it elsewhere but the XFT is going to be versatile enough for most people.
If you’ve already got a power cage check if there is a pulley add-on for your specific model. Some popular models of power rack can be extended with cable pulleys. Usually this is a solution that takes up quite a bit of space since there’s just a piece of frame added to the rack but it’s still smaller and cheaper than a new functional trainer.
Some of these add-ons are much better than others. Some are a single pulley that just allows you to lift a few weight plates where others are proper add-ons that create a good cable crossover.
Check out some examples below.
Best Cable Machine Accessories
Make your cable trainer experience even better with these accessories.
- Attachments: No cable machine is complete with a good set of attachments. Click here to find the best set of attachments
- PlateMate: One or two platemates (Amazon link) can help you increase the weight more gradually on your weight stack. Just stick them onto your weight stack.
- Bench: A good adjustable weightlifting bench like the CAP Deluxe (Amazon) adds many exercise options to a cable machine like bench presses and shoulder presses.
Find the most complete functional trainer that includes most of these accessories by clicking here.