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Functional Trainer vs Smith Machine: The Full Comparison

Functional Trainer vs Smith Machine

Your home gym is incomplete without the right set of gym equipments. Today we look at two popular home gym machines: the functional trainer vs the smith machine, with a comprehensive breakdown of their main differences.

For instance, the functional trainer is a cable machine that excels at providing versatility to your exercise regiment. The cable systems can help mimic natural daily movements with various exercises targeting multiple muscle groups, specific muscles, and isolated exercises with a wide range of motion. It is, for most fitness enthusiasts, the one-stop piece of equipment for a dynamic, full-body workout. 

Smith machines, most popular in a commercial gym, offer a more focused exercise style with controlled lifting that includes built-in safety created to mimic free weights. The upright have vertical rods that guide the movement and have features like hooks and clips for you to adjust the barbell’s starting position while allowing you to load it like a free weight barbell.

Don't feel like reading? Here's a quick summarization:

A functional trainer is a versatile cable machine that can provide you with workout options to target your entire body. while a smith machine is a essentially a power rack with a built in barbell and safeties. The barbell moves in a single plane to help mimic free weight exercises with relatively low risk to the user.

Now we’ll get right into it:

Functional Trainer vs Smith Machine: What are They?

Functional trainers and Smith machines are both great additions to your home gym setup because they provide multiple workout options for varied fitness goals. 

We have listed the main differences between them so you can make an informed decision on which is best for you.  

Functional Trainer vs Smith Machine: TKO Commercial Functional Trainer - Black 9050-BK

What is a Functional Trainer?

Most fitness enthusiasts in the fitness industry consider the functional trainer to be the jack-of-all trades, versatile piece of equipment. It features adjustable pulleys and cable systems that let you target different muscle groups over a wide range of motion and even isolated exercises. 

Beginners and advanced trainers find the functional trainer easy to use for functional training because you can learn proper form without the need to balance a free weight or weight stacks. Functional trainers are compact and as such, an ideal choice for small spaces in home gyms.  

Functional Training Focus

Functional trainers offer both versatility for real-life movement and the freedom to target specific muscles through a wide range of exercises. Some of these exercises include: 

  • Bicep Curl: Standing or seated bicep curls closely resemble free weight curls, while lying down variations add diversity. Experimenting with grips and isolation techniques targets different arm muscles effectively.

  • Tricep Extension: A cable machine is typically used for tricep extensions with a straight handlebar or rope attachment. Begin with arms bent and hands close to your chest, facing the machine. Pull the handlebar or rope downward until your arms are fully extended beside you. This targets the triceps, located at the back of your arms.

  • Lat Pulldown: While seated on the bench facing the machine, you will grip a long bar at shoulder width and start extending your arms in a V-shape. 

We have compiled a list of popular functional trainer exercises that will help you achieve your fitness goals. 

Functional Trainer vs Smith Machine: Body-Solid GS348Q

What is a Smith Machine?

A Smith machine is like having a built-in spotter for your free weight exercises. The barbell is attached to a power rack, half rack, or squat rack like structure, providing stability for heavy lifting and for trainers to protect themselves from injuries. It excels in exercises like squats and bench presses, where proper form is crucial.

Smith Machine Focus

  • Controlled Movements: Ideal for weightlifting trainers who prioritize controlled movements.
  • Strength Gains with Extra Security: With the Smith machine, you can load the bar with more weight plates, and you keep yourself safe by twisting the bar to secure it in place. 

Something like the Body-Solid Series 7 Smith Machine would be a solid fit, if this section is speaking to you. 

Smith Machine vs Functional Trainer: Detailed Comparison 

Choosing between a functional trainer and a Smith machine can be difficult. Both provide distinct advantages but cater to different needs. Let's break it down into three key areas:

Exercise Variety and Space Efficiency

A functional trainer is the undisputed champion of versatility. Its adjustable cables and pulleys allow for a variety of exercises targeting various muscle groups. You can mimic real-life movements, improving coordination and core strength. Functional trainers are also space-savers, making them ideal for your home gym setup.

While a smith machine offers a decent range of exercises, the fixed barbell path limits its versatility. Squats, lunges, and bench presses are its forte. However, it occupies less space than a full free weight setup. So that’s a plus for it. 

A functional trainer probably wins out on this category for the sheer exercise variety. A Smith Machine is a great option for those prioritizing space and free weight barbell style workouts with a lower level of risk.

Safety Features and User-Friendliness

Beginners will benefit from the controlled movements cable machines like the functional trainer offer. The adjustable weight stacks allow for gradual progression, minimizing injury risk. However, proper form is crucial to maximize results and avoid muscle imbalances.

The fixed barbell path of a smith machine provides built-in support, making it ideal for beginners or those lifting heavy weights alone. It eliminates the risk of the barbell wobbling and minimizes the chance of injury.

Smith machines and functional trainers are both relatively low risk pieces of equipment. There's only winners here. With proper instruction and guidance, they're both safe and user friendly. 

Cost Analysis and Long-Term Durability

Functional trainers are typically more expensive than smith machines. One of the reasons is the built in weight stacks. Manufacturing and shipping just the plates increases the cost!

The versatility, however, can replace the need for multiple free weight machines, making it potentially cost-effective in the long run. Durability depends on the brand and quality level, so choose wisely. Look for something with a lifetime in-home warranty, like a Body-Solid functional trainer.

A smith machine is generally a more affordable option for a home gym because there are decent residential use machines available, such as the Powerline PSM200. Finding a quality functional trainer at that price point would prove to be a harrowing task.

However, the limited exercise range of a smith machine might necessitate purchasing additional equipment later on. A good quality smith machine can last for years with proper maintenance.

The winner? It depends on your budget and long-term goals. A functional trainer can potentially save money in the long run due to its versatility. And Smith machines offer a cost-effective option for those with specific strength training goals to get started.

The Final Verdict

There's no clear winner because we don't know what your goals are! We hope this section educates you on the differences between these machines and provides you with enough information to make a decision on what is right for you gym and your or your clients' goals. 

Functional Trainer vs Smith Machine: Insights and Recommendations

There are a few things to note about the design, functionality, and space considerations for functional trainers vs smith machines. We’ve broken them down simply: 

Design and Functionality Considerations

These versatile machines, functional trainers, offer a wide range of motion thanks to their adjustable pulleys and cable systems for cable-based exercises. This allows for targeting various muscle groups through pulling, pushing, and rotational exercises.

One of the best functional trainers on the market: Body-Solid Pro Clubline GFT 100 has dual 160lb weight stack and comes with a full accessory park. If you will require multiple weight attachments and movement variations, they may require more space than a Smith machine.

The compact design with a fixed barbell path of a smith machine makes them ideal for small spaces. They don't really take up any more room than the actual footprint of the machine.

While this offers a controlled workout environment, it may limit exercise variety compared to functional trainers. But if you pair your Smith machine with a high-quality workout bench, you can also do all your press work safely. This includes squats, military presses, barbell shrugs, and the whole nine-yards. 

We recommend the Body-Solid Series 7 Smith Machine for a full, comprehensive workout piece of equipment from the convenience of your home.  

Optimal Space Utilization Tips

Choose a multi-functional trainer with integrated components like a pull-up bar and accessory storage can really help pack a punch and save space. Wall-mounted  functional trainers can maximize floor space in your home gym.

The design of a smith machine is not inherently compact. So it can take up quite a bit of room in your space. We recommend looking for combination machines that incorporate a Smith machine with features like a lat pulldown / low row or j-cups and safeties (like a regular power rack) for added functionality without sacrificing much space.

The MDM-DPSM Dual Adjustable Pulley and Smith Machine Combo provides all the features of a functional trainer and a Smith machine in one unit. It is extremely versatile and space saving. 


Functional Trainer and Smith Machine Combo Units  

Imagine having a complete gym packed into one machine. That's the magic of a functional trainer and smith machine combo.

This 2-in-1 powerhouse combines the versatility of a functional trainer with the controlled movements of a smith machine, offering a one-stop shop for all your strength training needs.

Unlike commercial gyms, home gym owners worry about their space, which is why these machines combo would be a great addition. They have a compact footprint, freeing up valuable floor space for other equipment or workout activities.

Functional Trainer vs Smith Machine: BodyKore MX1162 Universal Trainer All in One Training System

Functional Trainer Smith Machine Combo Features

Adjustable Pulleys and Cable Systems

Just like a standalone functional trainer, these combos offer adjustable pulleys and cable systems. This allows for a vast array of exercises targeting various muscle groups through pulling, pushing, and rotational movements. You can mimic real-life activities for improved functional strength and core stability.

Fixed Barbell Path

The integrated Smith machine section provides a guided barbell track for exercises like squats, lunges, and bench presses. This controlled environment is ideal for beginners, weightlifting enthusiasts prioritizing form, or those working out solo.

Multi-Grip Pull-Up Bars

Many combo units come with integrated pull-up bars featuring various grip positions. This allows you to target different back muscles and arm strength with exercises like chin-ups and pull-ups. 

Weight Stack or Plate Load Options

Choose between combo units with built-in weight stacks for convenient weight selection or plate-loaded options for heavier lifting preferences.  

The Space-Saving and Cost-Effective Advantage

Let's face it, equipping a home gym can get expensive and space-consuming. A functional trainer and Smith machine combo offers a compelling solution on both fronts:

Space Optimization: Buying a single unit eliminates the need for two separate machines, freeing up valuable floor space in your home gym.

Cost Efficiency: While the initial investment might be slightly higher than a single machine, combo units offer significant long-term savings. You're getting two essential pieces of equipment in one package, so there is no need to buy them separately.

A functional trainer and Smith machine combo is a fantastic option for home gym owners seeking a versatile and space-saving solution. It provides a comprehensive workout experience, combining both functional training and weight lifting.  

If you're looking to maximize your home gym's potential, explore a high quality combo unit like the, check out some of our favorite all-in-one combination functional trainers and smith machines: 


Functional Trainers vs Smith Machine: Conclusion 

No matter your choice between functional trainers, Smith machines, or a space-saving combo unit, remember that the best equipment is the one you'll use consistently. Invest in high-quality equipment that suits your goals and motivates you to train.

For gym owners or a personal trainer seeking a wide range of exercises that mimic real-world movement, functional and strength training, the functional trainer is probably your go-to

If controlled movements and heavy lifting without the risk of true free weights - is  your priority - definitely do more research into a quality Smith Machine.

What if you have limited space and still need that versatility? 

Explore a combo unit like the BobyKore MX1162 Universal Trainer; it can be your one-stop shop for a complete home gym or personal training experience.

Considering these factors and your fitness goals, you're well on your way to building the perfect setup and achieving your fitness goals. 



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About the Author: Joe Serrao, Owner of Strength Warehouse

Joe leverages over 20 years of intense workout experience and six years in the fitness industry. As a former collegiate football player, Joe knows what it takes to stay in peak physical condition. He's dedicated to providing straightforward, expert advice on setting up home gyms, personal training spaces, and commercial facilities. Balancing his passion for fitness with being a devoted family man, Joe’s rigorous full-body and metcon workouts exemplify his commitment to staying strong and being a role model for his kids and customers alike.

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