How to Get a Full-Body Workout on a Cable Machine/Functional Trainer

Walk into any commercial gym, or even a hotel fitness center, and you’ll probably see a cable machine and/or a functional trainer.

A cable machine features two weight stacks connected by a cross-beam. The weights in each stack can be adjusted by the user and are lifted through a system of pulleys and cables that travel up and down a track.

A functional trainer sports a similar system, but is more compact in design, with the weight stacks sitting closer together. Most functional trainers also have a pull-up bar between the two weight stacks.

Cable machines/functional trainers are pretty dang versatile. While a downside of weight-training machines is that they lock you into one position, a cable machine allows for movements that are more dynamic and exercise your balance and stability more than other machines. And with one machine, you can do multiple strength-training exercises and use movements that effectively isolate muscle groups and work them from a variety of angles. It’s possible to use cable machines/functional trainers to get an effective full-body workout.

This advantage is particularly beneficial when you’re traveling. Most hotel gyms are pretty basic: it’s typically a small, poorly lit room with limited equipment. But they do often offer a functional trainer, which means you can get in a good all-around strength training session while you’re on the road.

To learn a full-body cable workout that can be used either at regular or hotel gyms, I turned to Chris Contois, my physical therapist at Vitality Therapy and Performance here in Tulsa, OK. He’s also a competitive bodybuilder and has been doing some bodybuilding programming for me the past year.

Chris created a simple upper body/lower body split that can be done with a cable machine or a functional trainer. He noted that in the last two hotels he’s stayed in, the functional trainer had fixed handles; you couldn’t swap out attachments and put on a rope handle, for example. So he designed this functional trainer workout assuming you might only have fixed handles available.

Also, one of the downsides of functional trainers is that they’re not great for training legs. While you can do some leg exercises with a functional trainer, your options are limited. If you feel like you need a bit more lower body work, Chris recommends adding some plyos or some bodyweight movements, like air squats.

Upper Body/Lower Body Cable Workout

For a full-body workout, do all the exercises for both the upper and lower body, resting 90 seconds to two minutes in between each set.

Upper Body

Lower Body

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