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Comparing Trainers

Comparing the Benefits of Home Gyms, Functional Trainers, and Hybrids

Home gyms strive to offer consumers one machine with all the strength training exercises you can get at the club. In order to accomplish this, home gyms must combine many exercise stations in one compact and affordable gym. Historically, home gyms offer a set of fixed path exercises combined with a few pulley stations. A fixed path machine guides your motion through a proper range of motion typically in a single plane. While traditional home gyms offer many guided exercises, the pulley stations on any machine require the user to control the motion.

There are several benefits of guided motion exercises, the type of exercises found on traditional home gyms. Because a guided motion exercise ensures you follow a fixed path there is much less risk of performing the exercise improperly making these units great for exercise beginners who lack the knowledge of proper biomechanics. This also greatly reduces the risk of injury from performing the exercise incorrectly.

Another benefit of traditional home gyms is the ability to isolate muscle groups, motions and joints using strength training. For example a home gym with a leg extension station offers a guided simple exercise from a single pivot point. This exercise isolates the quad muscles and the knee joint ensuring this area is getting the maximum benefit of the movement. Isolating muscles and joints can be very beneficial for users who are trying to rehab an area or users who are trying to maximize load to an area. Traditional home gyms are great for users with limited exercise knowledge and for households where users have varied exercise levels. Traditional home gyms are also beneficial to users looking to isolate exercises. Knowing this, all traditional home gyms are not created equal. They vary in price, size, configurations and quality. The quality of the components will directly relate to the overall feel and durability of a unit. Outside of the quality of the components is the quality of the design. Well-designed units will offer several adjustments to fit many size users. Well-designed units also offer biomechanically correct exercises. Finally, there is a wide variety of home gyms on the market that offer multiple station configurations for countless exercise options.

Functional Trainers offer consumers the most bang for the buck. Pound for pound, inch for inch, these types of gyms offer a virtually unlimited exercise palette. The principle of functional training is to provide the user control of advanced biomechanics and compound exercises involving multiple muscle groups. Another key component is requiring the user to balance and recruit other areas to stabilize their body while they perform the exercise. Functional Trainers are built using handled straps attached to cables that move on swiveling pulleys. The result of this attachment point is an ‘unstable’ connection between the user and the weight lifted. This connection point is the key to functional training. There are several benefits to this type of training. Due to the ‘unstable’ connection, users are forced to work in multiple planes of motion, utilize assisting muscle groups, compensate for balance issues, key in both sides of the body – both left and right, as well as concentrate on more functional or work / sport / play types of movements. Users are able to create their own unique exercise experience tailored to their individual movement pattern.

Another benefit of the functional trainer is efficiency of space and design. Essentially this type of gym incorporates either 1 or 2 weight stacks connected to two adjustable pulleys, one for each arm in an open design. The typical trainer occupies much less space than the traditional home gym while multiplying the number of exercise. With the wide open design, the user is free to incorporate other manipulatives into their workouts, from benches, to stability balls, to cable attachments, etc. The user can also adjust each pulley vertically as well as their positioning in relation to the gym. Functional training equals unlimited exercise potential.

Functional trainers are perfect for the educated user from intermediate to advanced experience. Key questions in this category include price, weight ratio, dimensions – typically smaller than that of the traditional gym, add on sales (benches, stability balls, cable accessories, attachment bars, etc.), weight stack size, etc. For the functional trainer buyer, imagination and know how is key.  The newest class of hybrid home gyms incorporate aspects of both traditional and true functional training gyms. Hybrid home gyms do well with multiple home users with different exercise needs and abilities. They are also ideal for users who want the flexibility of a true functional trainer but still want or need the option of a defined exercise movements.

Home Gym Benefits
• Single-Plane guided motion
• Better for beginner to intermediate exercise levels
• Better for rehab and deconditioned exercises
• Quick learning curve
• Multiple station configuration and attachment options
• Perfect for circuit training (see exercise

Functional Trainer Benefits
• Multi-Plane motion
• Better long term exercise benefits
• Virtually unlimited exercise potential
• Better for intermediate to advanced exercises
• Wide variety of attachments, accessories and options
• Small footprint

Hybrid Benefits
• Single-Plane guided and Multi-Plane motion
• Offers widest range of beginner to advanced exercises
• Multiple station configuration and attachment options
• Wide variety of attachments, accessories and options
• Small footprint