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Daniel Mesa

10 Functional Trainer Exercises For Strength (With Free PDF)

functional trainer exercises

The functional trainer, or cable crossover machine, is one of the most useful tools that you can find in any commercial gym or home gym. Thanks to the endless number of attachments and configurations, you can basically work any muscle across any plane with relative ease.

In this guide, we will go over some of the best functional trainer exercises you can do for both strength and muscle gain. With just this guide, you will be able to work every muscle in your body using just a functional trainer.

Functional Trainer Exercises PDF

Just click download can you get the free PDF, perfect for printing out and taking to the gym.

Top Functional Trainer Exercises

Here are some of our favorite functional trainer exercises that we recommend for people of all experience levels:

Cable Chest Fly

cable chest fly

The cable chest fly is the classic functional trainer exercise. It not only strengthens your pecs, but it also allows you to target different parts of your muscle depending on how you set up your functional trainer. In general, the higher you set the handles, the more upper chest you will activate, and vice versa.

How To Do The The Cable Chest Fly

  1. Set the handles to your preferred height

  2. Grasp both handles and take a step forward. Assume a split stance so one foot is slightly in front of the other.

  3. Put a slight bend in your elbows and make sure the rest of your body is nice and tight.

  4. Pull your hands toward each other until they touch. Hold your hands at the end of the rep for a second and squeeze your pecs as hard as you can.

  5. Slowly allow the cables to stretch your pecs out again before doing another rep

Cable Squats

Most people do not know the full extent to which you can train your legs by using a functional trainer. The truth is that you can build a pair of serious legs by doing some cable squats and a few other exercises on this list.

How To Do Cable Squats

  1. Adjust the handles of the functional trainer so they are slightly greater than shoulder-width apart or as close as you can get them. Grab the long straight bar attachment and secure each end to the handles.

  2. Once secured, pull the bar up and place it on your back as you would with a regular barbell squat.

  3. Squat down until your legs are parallel to the floor.

  4. Repeat for reps.

Cable Bicep Curls

cable bicep curl

Functional trainers are some of the best tools for training arms since you can pack in a lot of volumes and easily do high-intensity techniques like drop sets. Also, due to the number of attachments you can attack different areas of your bicep as well. For example, you can use the rope to do hammer bicep curls or just use the straight or EZ bar for more traditional bicep curls.

How To Do Cable Bicep Curls

  1. Place one handle on the lowest setting possible and connect your attachment of choice.

  2. Pick the attachment up and curl the cable all the way up toward your chest. Hold tension at the top of the rep to get a good contraction on your biceps.

  3. Slowly lower the weight down toward the floor.

  4. Repeat for reps.

Cable Overhead Tricep Extension

cable overhead tricep extension

Although the biceps are front and center, the muscle that makes up most of the upper arm and really gives you that thick arm look is the triceps. Within the tricep itself, it is the long head that accounts for the most mass.

The best way to train the long head is with any exercise that involves being your elbows and extending your arm overhead. These are most commonly done with a tricep rope but you could also do them with a straight bar, v attachment, or single-handed with just the cable.

How To Do Cable Overhead Tricep Extensions

  1. Set the handle up so that it is just above your waist. Connect your attachment of choice.

  2. Grab the attachment and place it behind your back.

  3. Extend your arms overhead until your arms are fully locked.

  4. Slowly lower the weight back down until your arms cannot bend anymore.

  5. Repeat for reps.

Cable Lateral Raise

cable lateral raise

The cable lateral raise, or Egyptian lateral raise, is one of the best ways to keep your lateral delt training honest. With dumbbells, it becomes very easy to cheat and jerk the way up. On the other hand, you cannot do the same with the cable machine and will be forced to use a lighter weight. If you really want to feel a burn in your delts, be sure to give these a try.

How To Do Cable Lateral Raises

  1. Set the handles to their lowest setting and attach a single handle.

  2. Reach across your body and grab the handle.

  3. With a slight bend in your elbow, pull the handle across your body and raise your arm laterally. Hold your arm at the top of the rep for a second and squeeze your delt.

  4. Slowly lower the handle back down.

  5. Repeat for reps.

Cable Romanian Deadlifts

Cable Romanian Deadlifts are a great way to grow your entire posterior chain. Expect to see serious gains in your glutes, hamstring, and spinal erectors if you start to include these in your workout.

How To Do Cable Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Set the handle to the lowest setting and attach a straight bar.

  2. Bend over and grab the bar shoulder-width apart.

  3. Your back should be neutral, your knees slightly bent, and your core tight.

  4. Pull the weight up by extending your hips forward.

  5. Slowly lower the weight back down.

  6. Repeat for reps.

Cable Standing Row

cable standing row

Standing cable rows are a great way to build your back while also challenging your core. Since there is no back support, you have to fully rely on your core to stabilize your torse and provide a solid base for pulling with your back muscles.

How To Do Cable Standing Rows

  1. Connect two handle attachments to the same clip of your functional trainer

  2. Take a few steps back until there is tension on the cable.

  3. Position yourself so that your feet are hip-width apart, knee bent, chest up, and shoulders blade back, and row the weight by pulling from your elbows until they are behind your body.

  4. At their farthest point backward, squeeze your back muscles, especially your lats, to get a good squeeze.

  5. Slowly extend your arms forward while keeping your body in the same tight position.

  6. Repeat for reps.

Cable Pull Aparts

cable pull aparts

The rear delts are one of the most neglected muscles by weightlifters. Despite the rear delts being crucial for shoulder health and pressing stability, most people do not isolate them as often as they should. Thankfully, cable pull aparts provide an easy solution to this issue.

How To Do Cable Pull Aparts

  1. Position the handles so that they are just above shoulder height.

  2. With each arm, grab the handle that is across from it diagonally. Your arms should now be in an X pattern.

  3. With your elbows slightly bent and chest up, pull your arms across your body until your elbows are slightly behind you.

  4. Slowly allow your arms to be pulled forward until you return to the same X position.

  5. Repeat for reps.

Cable Shrugs

The traps are muscles that respond best to high volume and lots of weighted stretching. Cables are the easiest solution to this as you can load each side individually and quickly move up in weight.

How To Do Cable Shrugs

  1. Set the handles up so that they are around shoulder width apart. Attach the handle attachments.

  2. Grab one handle in each hand and allow your arms to hand loose to get a full stretch in your traps.

  3. Shrug each handle all the way up, Hold the rep at the top, and squeeze your traps.

  4. Slowly lower the weight until your traps are fully stretched again.

Multigrip Bar Pull Ups

While the cables may be the central feature of a functional trainer, another great benefit to owning one is that most come with a multi-grip pull-up bar. Thanks to the numerous grip variations, you can target different portions of your back and keep your training fresh.

How To Do Multigrip Bar Pull Ups

  1. Pick your grip and pull-up style of choice and grab onto the bar.

  2. Pull yourself up using your back until your chin is just above the bar.

  3. Slowly lower yourself back down.

  4. Repeat for reps.

Functional Trainer Exercises Video Guide

Bottom Line

A functional trainer will be a great addition to any home. Since you can do so many different exercises and variations, there are few other pieces of equipment that will provide you with that much value.

What if I cannot afford a functional trainer?

If you cannot afford a functional trainer, check out our DIY Pulley System for a home gym guide.