Can You Bench Press On a Functional Trainer?

You like the barbell bench press but don’t have a barbell available, just a functional trainer. Is it possible to do the bench press with a cable machine?

While a functional trainer can’t be used to do the traditional bench press it’s a great piece of equipment to train the chest and many other body parts. Chest presses, flies, and cable crossovers and all their variations are very effective in building pec size without the need for a barbell.

Let’s get into the details of why the traditional bench press can’t be done on a cable trainer, how you can train your chest, and why it might be even more effective on a functional trainer.

Can You Bench Press On a Cable Machine?

A man barbell bench pressing

You can’t really do a barbell bench press on a cable machine. Even though a functional trainer offers various chest exercises, the traditional barbell bench press isn’t one of them.

Don’t worry, though; you can still work your chest muscles effectively using a functional trainer. Just remember, a functional trainer doesn’t have a barbell, and there’s no perfect substitute for it. While there’s a bar attachment available, it’s not ideal for bench pressing, as I’ll explain in a moment.

Double Sided Barbell Attachment

Functional trainers have a cable attachment that resembles a barbell. You can connect both ends of the bar to the two cables, creating a bar with resistance. But can this setup be used for bench pressing when you add a bench?

Cable Bar Attachment

This barbell attachment can be attached to both cables and used as a barbell.

Here’s the deal: Set the pulleys at the lowest point, place the bench in the middle, and attach the bar. Now, it might look somewhat similar to a barbell bench press, but there’s a crucial difference. In a regular bench press, the bar rests above you, making it easy to grab, lift, and press.

However, with the bar attachment on the cables, it’s always being pulled downward, making it impossible to position for an easy lift. When the weight is light, you might manage to lift the attachment, slide underneath, and press it. But as the weight gets heavier, it becomes downright unsafe.

I’ve tried this myself and nearly had a nasty accident involving the attachment nearly hitting my head. My advice: Please avoid trying this. These bar attachments are designed for pulling exercises, not pushing.

Functional Trainer & Smith Machine Combo

If you haven’t purchased a functional trainer and want the flexibility to use both a cable machine and perform a classic barbell bench press, consider looking for a functional trainer that comes with a Smith machine.

Inspire Fitness Functional Trainer with Smith Bar

This functional trainer is combined with a Smith bar which can be used for bench pressing.

While a Smith machine isn’t exactly the same as a traditional bench press, it’s a lot closer in feel compared to a cable machine. When you use a Smith machine, the barbell gives you a similar experience to a real one, although it doesn’t offer the same range of movement. There are benefits and drawbacks to this, making it a valuable addition to your workout routine that includes cable exercises. Be aware, though, that these machines tend to be pricier and take up more space.

How To Train Your Chest On a Functional Trainer

In the end, if you are interested in doing the bench press, you likely want to train your chest. So while the functional trainer isn’t great for the traditional bench press, there are plenty of other exercise options that train your pecs. The bench press also targets your triceps but that’s not the main target muscle when bench pressing.

Here is a list of great cable exercises that will grow and strengthen your chest.

  • Standing Chest Press
  • Incline Standing Chest Press
  • Decline Chest Press
  • Chest Fly (flat/low to high/high to low)
  • Cable Crossover
  • Seated Chest Press
  • Seated Incline Chest Press
  • Single Arm Rotational Chest Press

And that’s just a selection of the best options. There are quite a few more exercises and variations to train your chest on a cable machine.

The Benefits of Training Pecs On a Functional Trainer

Although a traditional barbell bench press isn’t doable with a functional trainer, there are excellent alternatives to achieve similar results, as shown above. Don’t feel too disappointed about missing out on the bench press because the exercises listed above come with some unique advantages over the traditional one.

  • Stability and Safety: Functional trainers are a safer, more stable, and less intimidating way of training the chest than a barbell is. This is great for individuals who may have concerns about lifting heavy weights with free weights. The use of cables and pulleys can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Constant Tension: Cable-based chest exercises on a functional trainer maintain constant tension on the muscles throughout the entire range of motion. This can lead to better muscle engagement and growth.
  • Reduced Strain on Joints: Most people feel less joint strain when using a functional trainer for chest exercises compared to traditional barbell bench presses. The adjustable angles and ability to use lighter weights while maintaining muscle engagement can be gentler on the joints.
  • Range of Motion: Without a barbell, you can move your hands further back without being stopped by the chest. This means a bigger stretch on the pecs and a longer range of motion both of which are great for increased muscle growth.
  • Variability: With a functional trainer, you have the flexibility to change resistance, angles, and exercise variations easily. This variability keeps your workouts fresh and prevents plateaus in muscle growth.
  • Dropsets: It’s super easy to drop the weight on a functional trainer. Just adjust two pins and you’re ready to continue your set to squeeze out some extra reps. With a barbell, you’d have to get up, take off the plates and

Drawbacks Of Using a Cable Machine To Train Chest

There are also a few drawbacks to using a cable station to replace a chest press.

  • Less Total Load: A barbell is unique because it allows for the highest loads. You won’t be pushing the same weight on a cable chest press as on a barbell. That means for developing peak strength, a barbell is superior. However, for building muscle size, total load is less important and a cable trainer can be very effective.
  • Not Specific: If you want to get better at bench pressing, cable exercises help but in the end, you’ll have to do the bench press to really get better at that. That only matters if you need to bench press for a certain competition though.
  • Cost: A functional trainer is more expensive than a barbell bench setup but at the same time, a functional trainer can be used for way more exercises.

In the end, if you own a cable trainer and aim to work on your chest muscles, there are numerous effective ways to achieve your goals. Unless performing a heavy bench press is a top priority for you, there’s no need for an additional bench press setup. A cable trainer, when used with appropriate weights, sets, and a well-planned workout routine, can help you attain the muscle gains you desire.

Best Benches For a Functional Trainer

Adding a bench to your functional trainer will help train your chest. The bench will stabilize the body which means you can isolate the chest more and put more focus into moving that muscle only. A bench also helps you to move more weight and so get better muscle and strength growth.

What kind of bench is best with a functional trainer? Most benches will work but if you want to get the most exercise options and really tailor your workout to your goals there are a few things you want to look out for in a bench;

  • Adjustable: The backrest should be adjustable. This allows you to use the bench for more different exercises and target muscles in different ways.
  • Heavy: You want the bench to be stable and weight is one of those things that helps a lot. The heavier the bench is, the less likely it is to slide around. A bench that’s sliding around isn’t very useful.  Of course, it should still be light enough so you can move it around.
  • Detachable leg lock: Some benches have foam pads that are detachable. This can help you keep yourself down on exercises where you’re pulling down and the weight is trying to lift you up. It should be detachable so you can easily take it off when necessary.
  • Solid build: Any bench should be well built, have a decent load limit, and just feel good when you sit/lay down on it. A bench with a backrest or seat that’s wobbling just distracts from your training.

The best bench I’ve found that combines all the characteristics above is the Fitness Reality X-Class, check it out.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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