A functional trainer is an amazingly versatile piece of gym equipment that combines a ton of exercise options into one machine. They are expensive though so you don’t want to buy something that’s going to break in a few months no matter how useful it is. How long does a functional trainer last and is it worth the investment? Let’s find out.
In general, high quality functional trainers will last at least 15-20 years if it is maintained properly. The frame and weight stack don’t wear and corrosion is the only vulnerability which can be prevented. Cables, pulleys and attachments are considered wear items and should be replaced regularly.
Below you can find which parts are most likely to fail, how big of a deal that is and if it’s worthwhile to get a functional trainer for your home gym.
Looking for a high quality functional trainer that doesn’t break the bank and is backed up by a lifetime warranty? Click here to find it.
How long do functional trainers last?
That’s a bit like asking; how big is a balloon. It depends. It depends on the quality of the machine you began with, the customer service of the company you bought it from (parts availability), where it’s put, how often it’s used and how well you maintain it.
Yes, that’s a lot of different factors. However, functional trainers are generally built to last. Manufacturers know they’re expensive and brand image is important just like in other industries.
In general, functional trainers will last at least 15-20 years if the machine was of good quality to begin with and is maintained properly. The frame and weight stack really don’t wear and corrosion is the only vulnerability which can be prevented. Cables, pulleys and attachments are considered wear items and have to be replaced regularly. The frame and weight stack can last longer than that but after so long, the parts availability will become a problem.
I am talking about residential use here. For commercial use, the considerations are different.
The frames of functional trainers are very unlikely to wear out or break in any amount of time. They are made from thick steel tubing. And the different parts are connected with big bolts. The tubing is usually powdercoated to prevent corrosion and of course to make it look nice.
There really isn’t anything that can go wrong with this as long as the machine is treated with some care. Corrosion is going to be the biggest enemy here. As long as it’s placed in a location with limited moisture exposure and dried if it got wet (more on prevention below).
Don’t put a functional trainer outside and limit the exposure to UV light since this can quickly degrade the coating but also the ‘softer’ parts like cables, plastics and rubber parts.
So if maintained properly, the frame can last a very long time. Most good brands give 10 years up to a lifetime warranty on the frames of functional trainers.
The weight stack is similar to the frame. They’re steel plates, usually they’re coated with some durable layer or even rubberized. Over time the coating can wear of and then they become vulnerable to corrosion. This takes a long time and mainly depends on how often you change weights and how precise you are with putting the pin in the hole…
The most common place to see the coating wear off the plates is just around the hole to put the pin in to choose the weight. If this starts happening, consider taking out the weight stack and putting on a coat of hammertone or similar protection. Although,
Another way the weight stack of a functional trainer or any cable machine could be damaged is just by abuse. Dropping the weight stack down uncontrolled from high. Try to always control the weights down as smoothly as possible. Controlling the weight on the way down is better for muscle growth anyways.
Dropping the weights incidentally shouldn’t be a problem but if you do this multiple times a workout, over time the plates can start getting stress fractures and possibly even break. It’s rare but not impossible, especially with lower quality stacks.
When treated right, weight stacks should last just as long as the frame.
Then we get to the other parts. There are things like cables, pulleys, shrouds, rubber parts, etc.
Cables are the part that’ll require the most maintenance on a functional trainer. They can stretch a little so they’ll have to be adjusted over time. This isn’t a big deal once you do it a few times.
The cables can also just wear out. They almost never outright snap unless you let it go too far. The cables on gym machines have a nylon coating around a metal core. The core consists of many different strands. When the nylon coating starts to wear, gets loose, starts exposing the metal it’s time to replace.
This isn’t too difficult but a bit of a pain especially the first time. The cables are what make a functional trainer what it is though and the cables have to be replaced at some point. Again, they have to be replaced when the nylon coating starts to fail. How long does this take before it happens? That all depends on how often and how heavy you train and the quality of the cable.
In general the cables on a functional trainer should last at least a year with heavy use. With normal use it’s longer.
The bearings in the pulleys can wear out over time. It will take a long time and they should last much longer than the cables. The pulley wheel will very rarely break but it is possible. The whole pulley and bearing is usually replaced as one piece anyways.
Pulleys should last for years without problems. Sometimes the cable can jump and get stuck next to the pulley wheel. If this is the case, this can really damage both the cable and pulley. Try to take as much weight off the cable as possible (maybe wedge something under the weights if the stack is elevated), and carefully release the cable and put it back into its normal path. The cable jumping out of the pulley is a sign that the cable has too much slack in it and should be adjusted or you should slow down your movements a little bit.
Rubber and plastic
Rubber and plastics can break down over time. UV light is a big factor here so keep your functional trainer out of the sunlight. However, they also just become hard and brittle with age. On a functional trainer the stack shroud is usually some type of plastic. It will last many years without issues and even if it did break, it doesn’t really impact the functioning of the machine.
Rubber is sometimes located on the pull up handles. This can start moving and tearing up after a few years if you do pull ups regularly. This doesn’t look great and is less comfortable for your hands but doesn’t really impact any functionality. If you’re worried about this, getting a machine that just has a metal pull up bar is better.
The accessories you attach to the cable ends are also subject to some wear. They aren’t really part of the functional trainer but they are necessary to use it. These are the parts you touch all the time and so are subject to the most wear. They have to deal with sweaty hands and constant tension. This makes them wear a bit quicker than other parts although it does depend on the material.
Any nylon or rubber parts will wear over the course of a few years. These are pretty cheap and easy to replace though.
Attachemnts that are completely made from metal will get a weathered look but the functionality won’t be impacted. In some cases there is a bushing to allow the attachment to rotate individually from the cable. That pivot point can start feeling notchy or sticky and prevent smooth rotation. A bit of grease in there will fix that really quickly though. Besides that, you’re not going to wear through a metal attachment in a lifetime.
To recap, the frame, weight stack and other metal parts will last a very long time. If maintained properly they should last at least 15 years but probably longer. Cables have to be adjusted and replaced most regularly but they should last at least a year or longer with normal use. Pulley bearings can wear out over time but it takes quite a few years and probably several cable replacements for that to happen. Plastic and rubber parts can wear or break but usually aren’t really impacting the functionality of the machine. Finally, rubber and nylon parts of cable attachments will have to be replaced every few years but metal ones can last a very long time with minimal maintenance.
A functional trainer should last at least about 15 years and longer with proper maintenance and replacement of wear items. The frame and weight stack can last longer and if you just care about functionality they can last for decades. At some point getting parts will become difficult though.
Is a functional trainer worth the investment?
Of course a piece of gym equipment isn’t an investment in the traditional sense where you put in a certain amount of money and expect/hope to get back more in the future. However, you can see it as an investment in your health and well-being. Working out can help you stay healthy and out of the hospital for longer. Nobody wants to deal with health problems and hospital bills are expensive.
How much do functional trainers cost?
So now we know how long a functional trainer should last, we have to know how much you have to pay for one to find out if it’s worth the money.
Luckily I’ve already done the research for that for another post. Here is the summary;
Functional trainers can cost anywhere from $1100 to $7000+. The average price of a functional trainer is about $3750. It’s possible to buy a high quality but basic functional trainer that can provide a great workout with plenty of resistance for $2000 – $3000https://homegymresource.com/how-much-does-a-functional-trainer-cable-home-gym-cost/
So you can expect to pay about $2000 to $3000 for a good functional trainer without any special features. Want to find a good functional trainer in that price range that’s in this price range, is high quality, made by a good brand and backed up by a lifetime warranty? Click here to find it.
Are functional trainers worth the money?
If something is worth the money they’re asking for it is a different question than if it’s worth the investment.
In my opion, while functional trainers are expensive, they are absolutely worth the money, especially if you’re getting a good one that costs around $2500. They just have so much functionality that is very hard to beat in one single piece of equipment.
Sure for the same money you can buy a very nice power rack, barbell and weights but while that setup is great for people that want to get really strong and big, most people just want to get in shape and are a bit intimidated by free weights. A functional trainer actually has more exercise option than a barbell setup. You would have to add a full set of dumbbells to get to a similar level of functionality.
Of course free weights have their own benefits but a functional trainer is much simpler since you only need one piece of equipment and you’re set. A functional trainer is also much more approachable for most people than free weights.
If you don’t have any home gym equipment yet and are not interested in free weights, a functional trainer is absolutely worth the money.
Worth it for you?
If a functional trainer is worth the investment for you is a different question. It depends on your personal situation, what you already have and what your training goals are.
If you already have a barbell and dumbbell setup, you can do most of the exercises already, however, a cable machine does load up the muscles differently so you can get extra training benefits. In this situation I would consider adding a functional trainer if you want to take your training to the next level or maybe make your home gym more accessible for a spouse, children or other family members that are scared of barbells.
If you’re starting with an empty home gym it depends on your training goals, budget and space. A functional trainer is useful for everyone that wants to work out their muscles, no matter if you want to get bigger, smaller or stay the same.
If you want to get very big and strong, a barbell setup is a better choice since barbells can be used to lift much more weight. Also, if you want to focus on deadlifts and squats a barbell setup is better. Even if your goal is to get as big as possible, a functional trainer has added value next to a barbell setup but since most people are constrained by money and space, the barbell setup should get priority.
If your goal is to get moderate muscle growth and want to focus more on general fitness, a functional trainer is a better place to start. I’m personally a big fan of free weights but I also think that a functional trainer is much more accessible and therefore is going to help more people to get into a better state of fitness.
- Already have a barbell/dumbbell setup: A functional trainer has enough added benefits to get one if you’ve got the money and space.
- Don’t have a home gym yet and want to get big/strong: Get a barbell setup first.
- Don’t have a home gym yet and want to focus on general fitness: Get a functional trainer first.