Plate loaded functional trainers are an interesting alternative to the normal functional trainers with weight stacks. What are the pros and cons of plate loaded functional trainers and what are the best choices? Let’s find out.
Plate loaded functional trainers have the same functionality as a trainer with weight stacks while also being cheaper and lighter. They allow you to efficiently use the weight plates you already have. However, plate loaded versions do need more floor space and the weight is more difficult to change.
To find the best plate loaded functional trainer and an in-depth explanation of the pros and cons, keep reading.
Why choose a plate loaded functional trainer?
The vast majority of functional trainers have built in weight stacks. Plate loaded versions are actually pretty rare. There are some reasons to choose for a plate loaded on though.
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons and go into a bit more depth after that.
Pros of plate loaded functional trainers
- Smaller (but you need more space around it)
- Same functionality as a functional trainer with weight stack
- Efficient use of weight plates you already have
The big difference between plate loaded and weight stack functional trainers is the way the resistance is created. Instead of one or two weight stacks the cables are attached to, there are one or two sleds you can put weight plates on. Not a huge difference but an important one nonetheless.
The lack of weight stacks means that these machines are a bit smaller and lighter. The smaller physical size doesn’t mean you can use it in less space though. Because the place to put the plates on is usually accessed from the rear and the plates stick out. That means you need more space behind the machine than with a weight stack because you actually need space to move and load the sleds.
Plate loaded machines are lighter and the weight is easily removed so they’re easier to move around which is a benefit if you expect this to be necessary.
The biggest reason for many people to choose a plate loaded functional trainer is because it’s cheaper. And they are quite a bit cheaper. The weight stacks are one of the most expensive parts of a functional trainer so removing them is going to save quite a chunk of change. However, you do have to factor in a set of weight plates if you don’t have one yet. If you already have weight plates in your home gym, this is a good way to save money.
The most important thing is the functionality. And in the end, if both pulleys are fully adjustable and you can load up the cables to the same resistance, there is no difference in functionality and what you can train with a plate loaded versus a weight stack functional trainer.
Cons of plate loaded functional trainers
- Takes longer to change resistance
- Need more space behind the machine
- Weight plates need to be bought separately
- Usually simpler designs
- Very limited choice
The biggest drawback of a plate loaded machine is that it’s more difficult to change the resistance. A weight stack has a pin in, you simply pull the pin out and put it in another hole to change the weight.
With weight plates it takes more time to add up the weight of all the plates, takes more effort to put them on. And since the sleds are usually located on the back of the machine, you need space to actually walk there and change the plates. A weight stack is adjusted from the front of the machine so you can put the machine against the wall. A plate loaded one needs quite a bit of free space behind it.
While a plate loaded machine is cheaper, if you don’t have a set of weight plates yet, you need to buy one. A set of weight plates will cost a few hundred dollars so in the end the price difference might not be as big as you think.
Plate loaded functional trainers
There aren’t actually many choices if you want one of these plate loaded functional trainers. Only two real choices appear and they can be a bit difficult to get as well.
Titan Fitness Plate Loaded Functional Trainer
Titan Fitness is a great brand for simple but solid gym equipment. This functional trainer is no exception. It’s complete, does everything a functional trainer should do and even a bit more.
The pulleys are fully adjustable like they should be. Besides one pulley on both sides, there is a cable end in the middle for exercises like a low pull. There is also a central pulley on the top to make lat pulldowns easy.
The load limit is 220 lbs. per handle which should be plenty for most people. It’s not the best looking machine but for the price, you’re not going to find anything that comes even remotely close in functionality and quality.
Powertec Streamline Functional Trainer
A more upmarket alternative is the Powertec Streamline. It’s simpler than the Titan since the Powertec only has two pulleys and is missing the low pulley and lat pulldown. And on top of that, it’s more expensive as well!
For that extra money you do get a better looking and finished machine. It looks really good and not like a budget choice (because it isn’t). It also has a 500 lbs. load limit. However, for the price, I feel it’s not worth it. Its price is too close to functional trainer with weight stacks which is of similar quality. It’s worth a look but if you’re willing to spend this amount of money, look into more traditional functional trainers.
Of course the obvious alternative is a functional trainer with a weight stack. However, if you’re here, you probably don’t want one of those. So what other options do you have?
If you want to keep things cheap, consider combining two single pulley towers. These are usually plate loaded and fully height adjustable. Just get two and put them next to each other. There is one thing to keep in mind though. These single pulley towers are often designed to be loaded from the front. In a functional trainer setup you would load them from the sides which can cause them to topple over.
Get wall mounted single pulley machines to prevent this. Read up here on single pulley machines.