How would you like a cable machine that lets you train from a variety of angles?
They also allow a smooth, even feel throughout the range of motion.
Competitive bodybuilders need something like this to etch in the detail it takes to look great on stage.
Fitness trainers need something like this to get the most out of their training.
Beginners can get off to a great start using one.
In this guide, we will review the best cable machines available. Ready to train? Let’s jump right in!
In a Hurry? Here is our top pick:
Best Cable Machine
- Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer & Smith Machine – Best Overall Cable Machine
- Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station – Best Cable Machine For Bodybuilding
- XMark Cable Machine Functional Trainer – Best Cable Machine For Fitness
- Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Functional Trainer Cable Machine – Best Budget Cable Machine
- Valor Fitness BD-62 Wall Mount Cable Station – Best Compact Cable Machine
- IRON COMPANY BodyCraft HFT Functional Trainer – Best Beginner
- HulkFit Cable Crossover – Best Cable Machine For A Power Cage
- Powerline PCCO90X – The Best Cable Crossover Machine
Reviews – The Best Cable Machines
Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer & Smith Machine – Best Overall Cable Machine
The Inspire Fitness FT2 is a self-contained combo cable and Smith machine.
The dual 165lb cable stacks feature 32 height adjustments. The ratio, in this case, is 1:2, which means every lb loaded equals 2 lbs.
This unit is made using steel construction.
It includes the FT2 unit, a bench, assorted cable handles, the Smith bar, 2 water bottles, and an exercise book.
Additional extra-cost options include another 50lbs per stack, a preacher curl pad, and a leg extension unit.
All of these features combine to create a complete home gym. There are also 2 weeks of free smartphone streaming workouts.
- All-In-One Home Gym
- Dual 165lb Stacks With 1:2 Ratio For Double Resistance
- Cable Stacks Feature 32 Height Adjustments
- May Be Hard To Assemble
Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station – Best Cable Machine For Bodybuilding
The Valor Fitness BD-61 Cable Crossover Station is manufactured using durable steel construction and can be floor-mounted for optimal stability.
There are 16 adjustable heights and two D-handle straps that attach to a single plate-loaded cable system.
The stack takes either standard or Olympic plates, and there’s a low-pulley, high-pulley, a lat bar, and a dual-handle pull-up station.
The BD-61 has a 1:1 stack to user ratio, which means that you feel 1 lb for every lb lifted.
The BD-61 has a maximum load capacity of 200lbs and allows users to perform a complete upper body workout.
The features and resistance ratio make this the best choice for bodybuilding.
- Features 16 Positions
- The Pulley Handles Are Adjustable
- 200lb Max Load
- May Take A Long Time To Assemble
XMark Cable Machine Functional Trainer – Best Cable Machine For Fitness
The XMark Cable Machine Functional Trainer is a versatile cable machine that’s manufactured using 11-gauge steel construction.
It comes with two weight stacks at 200lbs each and a 2:1 ratio. This means that every 2lbs lifted will equal 1 lb. This translates to true muscle isolation.
There’s an adjustable bench, and two pulleys with 19 height settings. Two D-handles are standard.
Included accessories include a triceps rope, long bar, pull-up bar, short bar, two 8” hand straps, a leg strap. There’s also an attached pull-up bar.
You can work your entire upper body and perform leg isolation exercises.
The downside is that you cannot perform compound exercises such as squats for your legs.
Additionally, it’s a big unit so your space should be big enough to hold it.
The versatility, even resistance, and the fact that the weight is lighter make this the best choice for fitness training.
- Includes An Adjustable Bench
- Features Two 200lb Weight Stacks
- There Are 19 Position Adjustments
- With Two Stacks, This Unit Takes Up Alot Of Space
Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Functional Trainer Cable Machine – Best Budget Cable Machine
Here’s a cable machine that features two 160lb weight stacks that can be upgraded to 210lbs each.
The Body-Solid Powerline PFT100 Functional Trainer has two pivoting cables with D-handles included.
There’s also a straight bar across the top for pull-ups. The cables are height adjustable with 20 positions.
As with all cable machines, you can effectively work your entire upper body. You can also perform numerous lower body exercises.
If there’s a downside to this unit, it’s that there are no accessories included. An adjustable bench or other bar attachments are extra.
Still, the quality, features, and price point make this the best budget cable machine.
- Includes Two 160lbs Stacks With The Option To Upgrade Each Stack To 210lbs
- There Are 20 cable Height Adjustments
- Good Price Point
- No Accessories Included
Valor Fitness BD-62 Wall Mount Cable Station – Best Compact Cable Machine
The Valor Fitness BD-62 Wall Mount Cable Station looks a lot like a lat machine instead of a functional trainer.
This is due to a design that saves so much space over other units it’s our best compact cable machine.
This is a wall-mounted unit that features two pulleys and 16 height positions. It’s plate loaded and can hold either standard or Olympic plates.
The total load capacity is 200lbs with a 1:1 ratio. You can work your upper body with the BD-62, as well as perform leg isolation work.
There’s an extra-cost accessory bundle that adds a V-bar, triceps rope, and triangle bar for more versatility.
- Compact Design – Wall Mounted For Stability
- Features Dual Pulley System
- Holds 200lbs Maximum Load
- The Olympic Sleeve Is An Extra-Cost Option
IRON COMPANY BodyCraft HFT Functional Trainer – Best Beginner
If you’re a beginner and have decided to buy a cable machine, this is the best choice.
The Bodycraft HFT is manufactured using 11-gauge steel tubing as well as steel plating. Two 150lb weight stacks can be upgraded to 200lbs each.
The stacks use a 2:1 ratio which means that each stack provides 75 lbs of resistance. This ratio is meant to provide smooth resistance and an improved range of motion.
The dual pulley columns feature 31 height adjustments and the pulleys themselves rotate 180 degrees. There’s a complete accessory package that includes an exercise book and assorted handles.
Finally, there’s an attached multi-grip pull-up bar. This machine allows beginners to work their entire body.
The exercise book helps them get off to a good start by showing how the exercises should be done.
- Features Heavy-Duty Steel Construction
- Dual Upgradeable Stacks With 31 Height Adjustments
- Includes A Complete Accessory Package
- Assembly May Be Difficult For Some Users
HulkFit Cable Crossover – Best Cable Machine For A Power Cage
The HulkFit Cable Crossover unit is an extra-cost option for any HulkFit Power Cage.
This is a dual plate-loaded unit that opens wide enough to not interfere with the power cage. The suggested load capacity of this unit is 500lbs.
It features a height-adjustable, pivoting pulley system, which makes this a good option for multiple upper body exercises.
If you’re someone that already has a power rack, chances are you’re an experienced trainer. This unit allows users to do numerous additional upper body exercises.
The downsides to this unit are that it requires 10 feet of open space to open up completely, Additionally, there’s no listing of the total number of height adjustments.
Still, the features and ease of use make this the best power rack-based cable machine.
- Convenient Power Rack Attachment
- Dual Plated Loaded Pulleys – Holds 500lbs
- The Cables Are Tested For 1000lbs
- While The Unit Is Compact, You’ll Need A lot Of Space To Spread Out Each Side & Use It
- There’s No Option For Standard Plates
Powerline PCCO90X – The Best Cable Crossover Machine
The Powerline PCCO90X is a pure cable crossover unit.
Powerline is the economy brand made by Body-Solid. That doesn’t mean this is not a well-built unit.
It features sturdy steel construction and patented nylon bushing technology.
It also has 8 sealed ball bearings for smooth movement.
There are two plate-loaded pulley stacks with a high and low pulley on each stack. It can take both standard and Olympic plates.
The Olympic sleeves are an extra-cost option.
Another extra-cost option is a pull-up bar that attaches to the top beam. Even though it was designed for cable crossovers, it can be used for as many as 37 exercises.
Still, the PCCO90X is the best cable crossover machine.
- Features Two 190lbs Plate-Loaded Stacks
- Takes Standard Or Olympic Plates
- There Are 37 Available Exercises
- This Is A Wide Machine That Takes Up A Lot Of Space – Make Sure You Have Enough Space
Buying Guide – How To Choose The Best Cable Machine?
What Is A Cable Machine
It’s an exercise machine that uses a cable and pulley system for resistance. There are two main types of cable machines:
Functional Trainer – This is usually a dual-stack machine, although there are single stack versions. A functional trainer provides quite a bit of exercise versatility. The pulleys are height adjustable and pivot, so you can perform exercises for the entire body.
However, leg exercises are limited to primarily a few isolation movements. Still, you can effectively work your upper body with a variety of exercises.
Cable Crossover – This is specifically designed to perform cable crossovers, but can be used for other exercises. They may not be as compact or as versatile as a functional trainer.
Types Of Resistance
The types of resistance are limited to:
Plate-Loaded – Most of these have the option of standard or Olympic plates.
Stack – Most of the cable machines of this type use dual weight stacks. Single stack units are available but not as common.
What Does Ratio Mean?
The first thing to understand about the resistance is that cables provide even resistance throughout the range of motion. Secondly, there’s a predetermined ratio with cable machines. Here’s how it breaks down:
1:1 Ratio – This means that every pound you lift will equal one pound.
2:1 Ratio – This means that every two pounds you lift will equal one pound.
1:2 Ratio – This is not as common, but means every pound you lift will equal two pounds.
This helps explain why one machine may feel different than another, even when using the same weight.
Most cable machines have a maximum load capacity of 200-220lbs. Many of the stack-style units come with dual weight stacks of 150-165lbs each and are upgradeable to 200-210lbs.
Plate loaded versions can usually take standard or Olympic plates up to 200-220lbs per side. Most of the movements you will be doing are mainly isolation exercises, so using heavy weight may not be that important.
Still, regardless of intended use, you should always have a machine that provides a buffer. This might mean buying a machine that can handle 50-75lbs more per side than you plan to use.
What Muscles Does A Cable Machine Work?
It should be noted that a cable machine is not intended for powerlifting or pure strength training. It’s better suited for bodybuilding, fitness, sport-specific training, and general conditioning.
As noted, you can work your entire upper body, and perform such exercises as cable crossovers, cable flyers, and cable presses for the chest. For the back, it should be noted that most cable machines include an attached pull-up bar. You can also do high or low cable rows and lat pulldowns for the back.
For shoulders, you can do any type of lateral and front raises. Arm work will include close-grip chins, cable curls, and cable versions of bicep dumbbell work. Tricep work includes cable extensions and pressdowns. You can also perform ab work and by using the ankle cuffs, leg raises, and single-leg lunges. This is by no means a complete list but is instead meant to give users an idea of what can be done on a cable machine.
A bench and additional bars add more exercise variety. Your fitness or athletic background can also add even more variety. For beginners, many of the options in this guide include an exercise book for guidance.
Intended Use & Budget
What is your intended use?
If you intend this unit to be your main machine, you will want to make sure it has everything you are looking for at a good price point. Certainly, you can spend a lot on one of these. You will also need a bench and a good assortment of attachments.
If you plan to use it as a machine for specific exercises, you will need to pay more attention to the size. You may also be able to buy one that attaches to your current power rack, as is the case with the HulkFit Cable Crossover unit for example. A unit of this type will be more budget-friendly than a stand-alone cable machine.
If you have limited space and are thinking in terms of portable exercise equipment, a cable machine is not the best choice for you.
Even the most compact units are designed to stay in one place. Indeed, the most compact cable machine in this guide, the Valor Fitness BD-62, mounts to the wall.
Still, a cable machine combined with a power rack could make a great combination for almost any training need.
If you have reasonable space for a home gym, it’s important to measure and make sure you have the room, especially enough height.
While most cable machines will come with two D-handles, some of them will also include several other types of bars. This may include a lat bar, a short bar, a V-handle, a triceps rope, and an ankle cuff. Still, others will include a bench and even a preacher curl pad along with a leg extension/curl unit.
A cable machine is one of the best investments you can make for your home gym. If you are a little cramped for space, the Inspire Fitness FT2 Functional Trainer & Smith Machine is our best overall. It’s also specifically designed for smaller home gyms. This is because the FT2 is a self-contained Smith machine and functional trainer in one unit. This includes a bench, two 165lb stacks, an attached Smith bar, and assorted attachments. The ratio is 1:2, which means for every pound you lift it equals two.
If you’re a beginner, the IRON COMPANY BodyCraft HFT Functional Trainer is the best choice. There are two 150lb weight stacks but it’s a ratio of 2:1, so the actual resistance is 75lbs for each stack. That makes it the perfect place for a beginner to start.
If fitness training is your priority, the XMark Cable Machine Functional Trainer is the best choice. It features two 200lb stacks with a 2:1 ratio along with various attachments. The features make it a good choice for fitness training because you have the versatility and do not have a weight that may be too heavy. At the same time, the feel is smooth and even. Whether you’re looking for your next piece of equipment or your first, a cable machine is a great way to go. Use this guide and choose the best one for your needs.