Functional Trainer Exercise List: Full Body Or Isolation?

A functional trainer is a big and expensive piece of equipment. But which exercises can you actually use it for? Can you do full body exercises or just isolate muscles on a functional trainer? Let’s find out.

A functional trainer can be used to work out almost all muscles in the body. The amount of functional trainer exercises is almost limitless since you can vary; pulley height, body position and cable attachment. Functional trainer exercises use the whole body if performed standing on your feet.

Below you can find a list of some of the best exercises on a functional trainer for each body part.

Functional trainer exercise list

Below you can find a list of the best exercises on a functional trainer that focus on a specific body part. Performing these exercises on your feet will involve your whole body but the main driver of the exercise will still be targeted the most. Find more about full body vs. isolation exercises at the bottom.

Suggested: Which muscles can a functional trainer work?

This is by no means an exhaustive list. A functional trainer allows you to change so many variables that it would be impossible to list all variations. The biggest variables you can change are; pulley height, body position, cable attachment.

Click the name of the exercise to find a video showing exactly how to do it.

Functional trainer exercise list

Muscle groupExercise options (Click link for video)Single or double pulleyBest cable attachment
LegsCable squat 2Cable barbell, D handles
Cable lunges1D handles
Ankle strap front/back/side lunge1Ankle strap
Straight leg raise1Ankle strap
Single leg squat2D handles
Hamstring Cable Curl1Ankle strap
Calf raise2Cable barbell, D handles
Donkey kickback1 or 2Cable barbell, D handles, ankle strap
Pull Through1Triceps rope
CoreKneeling Cable Crunch1Triceps rope
Hanging leg raise0Pull up bar
Standing Cable Pallof Press1D handle
Standing cable crunch1Triceps rope
Kneeling Oblique Cable Twists1Triceps rope
Reverse cable crunch1Strap
Plank cable row1D handle
Wood chop1D handle
BackLat pulldown1 or 2Straight/bent bar
Standing row1 or 2Straight bar/ D handles
Seated row1 or 2Straight bar/ D handles
Single arm row2D handle
Straight arm pushdown1 or 2Straight bar
Reverse cable fly2D handle
Face pull1Triceps rope
ShouldersLateral raise2D handles
Front Delt Raise2D handles
Rear delt fly2D handles
Leaning Single-Arm Lateral Raises1D handles
Shoulder press2D handles
Upright row1Straight bar
Rear delt crossover2D handles
Cable shrug2D handles
ChestCable crossover2D handles
Cable fly2D handles
Low cable fly2D handles
Unilateral cable press1D handles
Bench cable press2Cable barbell, D handles
Incline cable press2Cable barbell, D handles
Cable iron cross2D handles
BicepsStanding curls1 or 2Ez bar, straight bar, D handles
Cable preacher curl1Ez bar, straight bar, D handles
Cable hammer curl1Tricep rope, Single grip tricep rope
Incline bench cable curl2D handles
Overhead cable curl2D handles
Reverse EZ bar curl2EZ bar
TricepsTriceps pushdown1Triceps rope, straight bar
Cable overhead extension1Triceps rope, straight bar
Horizontal tricep extension1D handle
High pulley overhead extensions1Triceps rope
Triceps kickback1Single grip triceps rope, D handles
Reverse tricep pushdown1Straight bar

Click here to find the 5 cable attachments you need for a full body workout

Can a Functional Trainer Provide a Full Body Workout?

Can a functional trainer be used for a full body workout?

The whole reason a functional trainer is called ‘functional’ is because it provides a workout where you’re standing on your feet. That means if your arms do something, your whole body has to work together to properly do the movement because the only way to stabilize yourself is by contracting all the muscle mass. This way of training incorporates a certain movement into your whole body and doesn’t just grow strengthen a certain muscle.

Working out on your feet creates real world strength and athleticism. You strengthen your body in a way that is functional in the real world. So pretty much all exercises on a functional trainer which are performed standing are full body exercises.

Suggested: How much does a functional trainer cost?

Man working out on a functional trainer
Man using a functional trainer

Can a Functional Trainer Isolate Muscles?

So if a functional trainer uses a lot of muscles for a single exercise, it is actually possible to focus on one muscle?

In most cases, it’s quite difficult to completely isolate a single muscle even with very specific gym machines. You’ll almost always use some other surrounding muscles to perform an exercise. With a functional trainer, you can make exercises more isolated but you’ll need to be a bit creative and probably a weightlifting bench.

Suggested: Should you add a weightlifting bench to your functional trainer?

Because the force of the resistance has to go to the floor, on most standing exercises, you’ll use the whole kinetic chain of muscles from your arms to the floor. If you want to cut this chain short, the best way is to find seated or laying down alternatives for the exercises you want to do.

For example, to train your chest on a functional trainer, you will probably do some variation of a standing cable press or cable crossover. You stand on your feet and push both cables forward. That does use your chest and triceps the most but, you also have to engage your core, glutes and legs to efficiently transfer the resistance to the floor, otherwise your body would move and not the weights.

One of the best functional trainers with built in muscle isolation options is the Inspire Fitness FT2. Check it out here.

By adding a weightlifting bench to a functional trainer, it becomes easier to isolate muscles. Take the chest example: By laying down on the bench and then doing the same press with your arms and chest, you take all the muscles below the chest almost completely out of the exercise. That means those muscles are isolated.

Man using a functional trainer to work out.
A functional trainer can be use for both isolation and compound exercises.

Benefits of isolation exercises on a functional trainer

The benefits of doing isolation exercises is that you can grow and strengthen muscles more specifically. You can focus on some muscles you want to grow or strengthen.

Isolating muscles can be great for a few reasons;

  • You can focus on one specific muscle and get more results because of that focus.
  • A certain muscle is lagging behind others and isolation is a good way to bring them up.
  • You want to accentuate a certain muscle more in your physique
  • It can help with rehabilitation if a certain full body exercise is not an option
  • Doing an isolation exercise is much easier to recover from

Of course the downside is that isolating a certain muscle and growing it out of proportion is not going to make you much stronger in the real world.

In the end doing both full body and isolation exercises will get you the best rounded strength and physique. This way you can use isolation exercise to gain strength and size in certain muscles and then use the full body exercises to integrate that strength into your whole body.

Want to find a good functional trainer for your home gym? Click here to find the 5 best compact functional trainers.

Best Cable Machine Accessories

Make your cable trainer experience even better with these accessories.

  • 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.

Find the most complete functional trainer that includes most of these accessories by clicking here.


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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