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The 5 Best Cable Machines (for a Total Body Workout)

The 5 Best Cable Machines (for a Total Body Workout)

Looking to expand your workout routine in order to make gains (or get out of a plateau)? Maybe you’re sick and tired of the same old free weight routine that you’ve been stuck on for months. Diversify your strength workout with a cable machine.

Cable machines are often overlooked when creating a well-rounded fitness space. What people do not realize, however, is that cable weight machines offer unique and complete workouts in their own right. In this article, we will discuss the mechanics behind cable weight exercises as well as what you can gain from having a home cable machine.

We will also lay out Fitnessator’s top picks in cable weight machines so that you have a short-list of the best cable fly machines on the market. These are by far the 5 best cable machines out there! Don’t have time to read through all of the reviews? No problem! Skip down to “The Rundown” section to glance over important product specs and compare the different models.

Once you order your home cable weight machine, be sure to check out our cable weight workout at the end of this article. You’ll be shredding muscles in no time and get out of any plateau that’s been holding you back.

Cable Machine Mechanics

While you may realize that cable weights offer a different type of workout than free weights and dumbbells, you may be unfamiliar as to why. We scraped the research on cable weights to give you an overview of cable weight workouts.

According to one study, they identified several differences between cable weight workouts and free weight workouts. Here’s a chart to break it down:

Cable Weight Workouts

Similarities

Free Weight Workouts

Workouts contain greater range of motion and freedom, which mimics real-life activities of daily living.

 

During exercise, joint angles (i.e. in a bicep curl) are increased, leading to greater elongation of the muscle and more work performed by the muscle.

 

Constant resistance and instability of a cable weight can train someone to practice using ancillary muscles for stabilization.

Can activate muscles for bulking up and endurance exercise.

 

Workouts can be isolated or use multiple muscle groups.

 

Provide both concentric (shortening the muscle) and eccentric (lengthening the muscle) resistance. In other words, both exercise types make you work during the contraction and “relaxation” phase.

 

Countless exercises are available in both types of resistance training.

 

Both can benefit from switching from one type of exercise to another.

Free weight rows activate the back muscle fibers more compared to cable weight rows (1).

 

Can be used to train someone on how to properly execute an exercise.

 

Free weight exercises can usually be performed with lots of weight. Cable weight workouts may be limited in regards to how much weight you can use.

 

As you can see, cable weight exercises offer a completely different type of workout while still giving you the fitness benefits you are looking for.

What can I gain from a cable machine?

Man Working Out In A Cable Weight MachineWith purchase of a cable machine, you will get countless new exercises that you can do regardless of your fitness goals. Also, since cable machines offer freedom of movement, you can even get creative with your cable workouts. Here are some things you can do on most cable machines:

  • Upper body workouts
  • Low-weight warmup routines
  • Chest presses and flys
  • Cable weight abdominal exercises
  • Cable squats and lunges
  • Exercises with a weight bench
  • Cardio and strength exercises using a step platform
  • Gluteal shaping workouts
  • Cable side plank exercises
  • Hip adduction and abduction workouts
  • Back workouts (especially effective if you have a seated cable row machine)

For a structured cable machine workout, jump down to our sample routine near the end of this article. Just follow the exercise and get ripped as soon as possible on your cable fly machine. No thinking required with this pre-structured regimen!

Choosing the Best Cable Machine

Now that you understand the specific benefits of a cable machine, check out Fitnessator’s top picks in the best cable machines. If you are ready to diversify your workout, improve your functional ability and/or get out of a plateau, it’s time to find the cable machine that is best suited for you!

Fitnessator’s Top Pick

BodyCraft HFT Functional Trainer– The Best Cable Machine for a Long-Term Investment

BodyCraft HFT Functional Trainer by Iron CompanyWhy We Love It:

The BodyCraft HFT cable machine is the classic heavy duty machine fit for those who want a long-lasting product. It offers 150 lbs per pulley and comes with a complete set of handles for countless exercises. This is a pricey machine, but it can give you mega gains in your home fitness space. 

The Research:

Cable weight abdominal exercises, such as those done on a classic cable machine like the BodyCraft HFT, can reliably measure abdominal endurance and strength among different people. In one study, researchers measured and compared maximum strength in the core and maximum endurance in the core on a cable machine. Cable weight core exercises like the wood chopper activate the core muscles and ancillary muscles to perform a movement that is functional for everyday life.

Details:
  • Allows for 31 adjustable pulley positions (allowing you to do low, middle and high-set cable workouts)
  • Contains a chin-up bar in the basic package
  • Able to add additional weight on each weight stack (not included in basic package)
  • Dimensions: 56in x 40in x 82in
  • Iron Company Website Price: $2199
Things to Consider:

While this cable machine may give you all you want in cable exercises, the price may deter many people! However, remember that cable machines can give you hundreds of unique exercises, so maybe this piece of equipment is worth the price. There are very few other types of equipment that are as diverse as a cable weight machine. 

Customer Reviews:

According to some customers, they found that this particular cable machine is actually a good deal compared to other similar models. It is a heavy duty and great quality machine that can be used by the whole family for the long term.

As you may imagine with a big heavy machine such as this one, assembly was tough for many consumers. Several customers suggested paying for the expert assembly since there are many parts and heavy pieces.

Who Should Purchase This Product:

Those who are willing to invest a significant chunk of change for exceptional fitness would love this product. Also, if you have an active family, this product would get a lot of use for a long time. This is a great investment piece for your home fitness space.  

Fitnessator’s Runner Up 

XM-7626.1 Functional Trainer– The Best Cable Machine for Serious Weight Lifters

XM-7626.1 Functional Trainer by XMark FitnessWhy We Love It:

The XM-7626.1 cable machine offers a whopping 200 lbs per weight stack in the basic package, so if you’re a serious weight lifter, this may be the best machine that fits your strength needs.

Details:
  • Allows for 19 adjustable pulley positions
  • Basic package contains several handle types
  • Comes with a split grip pull-up bar
  • Total product weight is 827 lbs. Dimensions: 35.5in x 71in x 84in
  • XMark Fitness Website Price: $2418
Things to Consider:

The installation of this machine extreme. With over 800 lbs of equipment coming to your door, make sure you have a plan and a team of experts (or your friends) to help you assemble the XMark cable machine. Also, per some shipping policies, the shipping company may not be able to bring the equipment through your front door! 

Customer Reviews:

With the XMark cable machine, a high price comes with high quality. Many customers rave about the smoothness and good quality frame of this machine.

Some customers complained that assembly was really tough. Aside from having many parts, customers said that the parts were mislabeled, making assembly take way longer than it should. 

Who Should Purchase This Product:

This machine has 200 lbs per weight stack. If you are a mega heavy weight lifter, this will be one of the best products for you to choose from. The XMark cable machine won’t hold you back from bulking up.

Fitnessator’s Honorable Mention

BD-62 Wall Mount Cable StationThe Best Compact Cable Machine

BD-62 Wall Mount Cable Station by Valor FitnessWhy We Love It:

If you want a cable machine without forking over tons of cash, the BD-62 wall mount cable machine is for you! This basic and compact cable machine can fit with small budgets and small home fitness spaces.

Details:
  • Allows for 17 adjustable pulley positions
  • Since the cables are close to each other, this would be great as a cable fly machine
  • Mounted to the wall for stability
  • Total product weight is 62 lbs. Dimensions: 80in x 5in x 4in
  • Valor Fitness Website Price: $238.34 (this may be a temporary deal)
Things to Consider:

While you may like the cheap and small footprint that the BD-62 provides, it is important to note that this particular machine does not come with weight for resistance. This machine uses weight plates to create resistance, which may be an extra purchase if you currently do not have weight plates in your home. If you are in need of a good weight set, click here.

Customer Reviews:

Many people like that this machine attaches to the wall, which provides stability and security during use. Some heavy weight lifters with complete home gyms like that this little machine can withstand up to 250 lbs of weight.

That being said, however, some customers wish that this machine was compatible with Olympic weight plates. Since this machine is set up to use standard plates, you may need to either buy standard plates or purchase adapters.

Who Should Purchase This Product:

It is probably a no-brainer that the people who would benefit most from the BD-62 would be those with a tight budget and/or those with a small home fitness area. This is cheapest and smallest cable machine on the list.

FT2 Functional Trainer– The Total Body Cable Machine

FT2 Functional Trainer by InspireWhy We Love It:

The FT2 Smith cable machine is a total body workout machine that can constitute as the one and only large piece of exercise equipment in your home fitness space. At this high price, you probably need this to be a complete workout machine! 

Details:
  • Contains several non-cable attachments (i.e. leg extension, weight bench, preacher curl extension)
  • “Fully Loaded Option” means that this set comes with the basic cable frame, weight bench, leg extension attachment and leg converter kit
  • Contains several cable weight handles to diversify your workouts
  • Dimensions (with a weight bench): 61in x 89in x 83in. Total product weight is 825 lbs
  • Johnson Fitness Website Price: $4499 
Things to Consider:

Depending on where you purchase this product, the package may or may not come with a weight bench. As with any big purchase, read the fine print and make sure you know exactly what you are getting.

Customer Reviews:

Many customers have had this machine for several years. Besides the durability and longevity they get from this cable machine, customers rave about the heavy duty design and smooth mechanics. This is definitely a good investment for the long term.

One suggestion from customers would be to place gym mats underneath this machine. In some cases, this heavy machine can cause minor damage to your floor if there is no protection. Also, people claim that the red bench bar that comes with this machine does not work well due to its positioning on the machine.

Who Should Purchase This Product:

If you are a home workout beginner who is trying to create a usable home fitness space, consider the FT2 machine. This machine provides several non-cable attachments can that take of place of buying other large pieces of equipment like a leg press machine.

Powerline Cable Machine– The Best Cable Machine for Existing Home Gyms 

Powerline Cable Crossover Machine PCC090X by Body SolidWhy We Love It:

The Powerline cable machine is one of cheaper cable weight machines on this list. It does not come with weight stacks, but rather uses weight plates that you may already have in your home fitness space.

Details:
  • Comes with a 10-year Powerline warranty
  • Equipped with high and low pulleys (non-adjustable)
  • Pulleys form a straight 180-degree angle from one another (great for lateral exercises)
  • Total product weight is 121 lbs. Dimensions: 112in x 39in x 82in
  • Body Solid Website Price: Price varies by location, however, average price is about $479
Things to Consider:

This cable weight machine requires weight plates to create resistance. Also, since this machine offers 2 cable weights across from one another, the Powerline machine takes up a lot of floor space. Make sure you have an open area that is at least 112 inches long. 

Customer Reviews:

Per happy customers, they liked how this machine could fit seamlessly into their existing fitness space (all for under $500). Also, people say assembly is very easy and straightforward. 

One of the important notes from customers is that this cable fly machine sometimes wobbles during use. This can be quite dangerous! While some customers remedy this defect by placing weights and sandbags to stabilize the machine, this may be an extra cost and extra effort you might want to avoid. 

Who Should Purchase This Product:

If you already have a home fitness space complete with weight plates, consider the Powerline. Not only is it moderately priced, but you also are not paying for heavy weight stacks that come automatic with other cable machines. For those who have already invested in weight plates for their home gym, you don’t have to pay for more poundage!

The Rundown on Cable Weight Machines

After reviewing the Fitnessator’s top picks in cable machines, here’s a breakdown to help you compare these products:

Product

Less than $500

Less than $1000

Includes non-cable exercise attachments?

Total weight per weight stack

BodyCraft HFT (Top Pick) No 150 lbs
XMark Trainer Cable (Runner Up) No 200 lbs
BD-62 Wall Mount Cable (Honorable Mention) X X No Weight plates required
FT2 Smith Station Yes 165 lbs
Body Solid Cable Crossover X X No Weight plates required

 

Sample Cable Weight Workout

Woman Working Out In A Cable Weight MachineTry this sample workout routine on your new cable weight machine. Not only will you get a great calorie burn, but you will also start isolating and shredding muscles in no time! For each exercise, we designate the specific target muscle areas so that you know you’re getting a full body cable machine workout. As always, be sure to discuss your personalized exercise recommendations with your healthcare team.

Exercise

Notes

Target Area(s)

Sets

Repetitions

Standing cable wood chopper
This exercise consists of an abdominal twisting motion to activate all muscles in the core. Stand with the cable weight at your side, twist your trunk and grab the high cable weight. Pull and twist down to your opposite hip. Do this exercise on both sides and with the cable weight at a high and low setting to activate the muscles differently. Core 3 15
Cable reverse lunge
Use a rope attachment on the cable. Face away from the cable. Drape the cable weight over your shoulders. Stand with feet hip width apart. Then, do a reverse lunge towards the cable machine. Using your legs and glutes, push yourself back up to the standing position. The cable will resist you as you stand up and away. Repeat on both sides. Legs, glutes 3 10
Single-arm cable chest press
Set the cable weight so it’s the same height as your chest. Facing away from the cable with a sturdy stance, take the cable in one hand and press straight forward. Repeat on both sides. For more awesome chest exercises, click here. Chest, core 3 10
Squatting cable row
This is a cable rowing machine-type of exercise. Use a D handle for this exercise. Set the cable weight in line with your hips. Face the cable machine and grasp the D handle with both hands. Squat down so that your knees are at a 90-degree angle. In this position, pull the D handle towards you to work your back muscles. Back, legs 3 10
Kneeling cable triceps extension
You can do this either with or without a weight bench. Set the cable weight to a middle or high setting. Get on your knees and face away from the machine. Grab the cable from up and over your head. Activate the core as you pull the cable from above to extend your triceps out in front of you. Return arms to starting position. If you want to work on your biceps, check out our intense bicep workout. Triceps, core 3 12

 

Before You Purchase

Now that we’ve reviewed the best cable machines available, which one will you choose? As you can see, there are cable machines that are best suited for beginners looking for total body gyms, whereas other machines can be squeezed into an already packed home gym.

Before you purchase your home cable machine, make sure you take into account several factors. One would be space. Since these machines can be really big, make sure it will fit in your home. Measure your floor space, wall space, open space in the room and ceiling height. You don’t want to have to ship these large machines back because you didn’t measure correctly. Also, don’t forget that when using these machines, you may need more space than the exact dimensions of the equipment.

Another factor to consider is pricing. Do a cost-benefit analysis that weighs the price you are paying against several aspects:

  • Number of workouts you can on the machine
  • Types of workouts on the machine
  • Desired workouts you want to do consistently
  • Types of workouts necessary to meet your goals

A cost-benefit analysis sounds really complicated, but it can simply be your thoughts about spending a certain amount of money for what you are really getting. You probably already do this often in your life! Regardless of which cable machine you choose, you can definitely benefit from the diverse workouts they provide.

Do you like cable weight exercises? What types of exercises do you like to do on a cable machine instead of with free weights? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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