Any gym in the world will have a few weightlifting benches and they’re always being used. Your functional trainer didn’t come with one, are you missing out? Let’s find out.
A functional trainer can be used for a full body workout without a bench. Adding a bench to a functional trainer adds extra exercise options but more importantly; a way to isolate muscles. Standing exercises integrate the movement into the whole body while isolation strengthens the targeted muscle.
Below you can see which exercise options you open up by having a bench and what the best benches are to add to your functional trainers are.
Do You Need a Bench With a Functional Trainer?
A functional trainer is a machine with two pulleys that are height adjustable. By itself, it’s already a very flexible piece of gym equipment that can provide a full body workout and target almost every muscle in the human body.
While there are tons of exercises you can do without a bench, here are some other exercises a bench can add to that already long list;
- Cable chest press
- Incline cable press
- Lat pulldown
- Cable fly
- Cable pullover
- Seated overhead press
- Low Row
And those are just some of the exercises that having a bench can unlock in combination with a functional trainer. But even without the functional trainer, or some other gym equipment, a bench helps really opens up a lot more exercise options.
That said, with a functional trainer, you can find standing or kneeling alternatives to the exercises named above. A functional trainer is built to be able to train almost any muscle while standing on your feet. And you can train your chest, back, shoulders and more without using a bench.
However, there is a difference in how you train when using a bench compared to standing or kneeling.
The benefit of doing exercises standing up is that you’re on your feet. You have to use your whole body to stabilize yourself so you don’t fall over. This involves more muscle at the same time and integrates the movement into your whole body. The downside of this is that you’re often limited to how much weight you can move because at some point, your body weight just isn’t enough to keep you from getting moved around by the weight.
Now when you do the same movement but on a bench, you’ll be stabilized by the bench. Especially with exercises where you’re on your back. This isolates the muscles you actually want to train. You don’t have to use your legs and much less of your core and can therefore focus much more on a few muscles. You isolate those muscles and therefore are able to get more out of your trainer for those muscles specifically.
Also, when using a bench you’ll probably be able to use more weight and therefore cause more muscle/strength growth. This comes at the expense of the integration into your whole body that training on your feet brings.
So for that reason it’s great to do both. With a bench you’re able to isolate some muscles you want to target specifically. Maybe those muscles are weak compared to others and you want to bring them up to par with the rest of your body or maybe you want to focus on that part of your physique. And then integrate your new strength into your whole body with some standing exercises.
So a bench and a functional trainer complement each other quite well.
Best benches for a functional trainer
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.
Best functional trainers with bench
Some functional trainers have a bench as an option. Usually these are just separate benches like described above while there are some that have the option to physically attach the bench to the frame of the functional trainer.
Yes, you have to pay a little extra but it’s easy since you just have to buy one package and everything you want is included. You can also be sure it all works together although buying a separate bench also works perfectly fine. It only costs extra money if you would buy a cheap bench otherwise. Because the difference in price is often around $300 for a package with bench. A good bench bought separately will cost about the same.
Also, when bought together, the design of the bench and functional trainer usually match. This just looks better and gives a cleaner, more professional look to your gym.
There is one great functional trainer that attaches the bench to the frame, the Inspire Fitness FT2. The biggest benefit of a bench that physically attached to the frame of a functional trainer has no way to move anywhere. You can lift as heavy as you want and it won’t slide or move around.
The bench is disconnected by pulling out a pin so it’s really easy to do. The FT2 is a really cool piece of equipment and one that comes really close to being a complete package that does everything in the home gym.
There aren’t only two pulleys on the sides but there is much more;
- Low pulleys in the middle of the machine.
- Dedicated Lat pull-down pulley and bar
- Built in smith barbell (with 460 lbs. max resistance)
Fully loaded version (+$500);
- Detachable bench. Bench is adjustable backrest and seat.
- Preacher curl attachment
- Leg extension attachment.
The leg extension attachment can actually be used for;
- Leg extensions
- Glute ham raises
- As leg lockdown for pull downs
While it’s not cheap and takes up quite a bit of space, it is a very complete package and even has built in cup holders!
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.