T Nation

Which Functional Trainer is Better?

If you had to choose to buy a smith machine/functional trainer or a dual arm functional trainer for a home gym, which would you choose?

I am looking for one that allows the cables to move in many positions so that I can do as many exercises as possible.

Smith machine/ functional trainer

Dual arm functions trainer

How would you find having the Smith machine beneficial, as opposed to not having the Smith machine?

I’m not sure if I need it.
The main thing I am interested in is the difference between the cable pulleys.

If money’s not the issue, get that smith machine one. There’s literally no other reason besides money to not get it.


I vote for the Smith machine too. In the furure your training may change and the first one is much more versatile.

Smith machine.

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I think it really just depends on whether you like robots or erector sets.

That second one looks like it might go crazy and start flailing, repeating “Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson!”.


Thanks a lot for the responses
So I guess smith machine it is!

Hi Low Cable Smith Machine

The Hi Low Smith Machine provides more versatility and it easier to work with. I am not sure what brand you posted. In the link below is the…

Inspire Fitness SCS Exercise Demonstration

The Hi Low Cables on this machine can be quick and easily adjusted.

The Smith Machine can be taken up to around 320 lbs.

The Smith Machine

The Smith Machine is often trashed by the Free Weight Community. However, it allows you to perform some exercises on that that you can’t with Free Weights.

The benefit of Inspire Hi Low Cable with the Smith on it and other brands, is has a Selectorized Weight Stack; it allows you to quickly adjust the weight on it.

Secondly, it allows you to adjust the Range of the Movement.

A Modified "Smith Machine Option"

For those who have a Power Rack, below are some demonstrations of what might be termed the “Scrape The Rack Smith Machine” exercises.

1) John Meadows Scrape The Rack Press

2) Quad Scrape The Rack

3) Scrape The Rack Bench Press

4) Dave Tate Scrape The Rack Seated Press

5) Dave Tate Swiss Bar with Chains Scrape The Bar Standing Press

6) Scrape The Rack For Growth

As Thibaudeau states, “Scrape The Rack Exercises” works the muscle involved in completely different way: “With scrape the rack presses, you’re actively pressing forward against the posts of the rack, not just upward.”

The above videos demonstrate some of the “Scrape The Rack Movements” that can be performed. The only limitation is your imagination. Deadlifts, Good Morning, Curls, etc can be performed, as well.

Free Motion Fitness

This appears to be the Free Motion Trainer. It is primarily used in Physical Therapy for various reasons. It an effective piece of equipment for that environment.

However, the down side is adjusting the each of the arm on it requires a bit more time; not that much time. However, after a while it a pain in the butt.


  1. Hi Low Cable Machine: This machine allows you to perform exercise that you can’t with Free Weights. For those who can afford it and have the space for it, it is an incredible machine.

  2. The Smith Machine Add On: This is a really nice add on piece; for someone who has the money.

The Smith Machine definitely has some benefits.

With that said, the “Scrape The Rack Smith Type Movement” allow you to do basically the same with a Power Rack.

  1. Dual Arm “Free Motion” Cable Machines

They are primarily used by Physical Therapist.

The main issue is that they require little more effort and a time to adjust compared to a Hi Low Cable Pulley System.

Personal Perspective

I work in Commercial Fitness Equipment Fitness Equipment Sales. We sell multiple brand of Fitness Equipment. That allows me to “Test Drive” various pieces of equipment.

I am a Powerlifter. I purchased a Hi Low Cable Pulley (Hoist MI6) 5 year ago. The Hi Low Cable Pulley System is one of the best investments that I have made.

Two years ago, we began selling the Inspire Hi Low Cable Smith Machine. I might have purchased it, if we’d have had it back then.

This bring us to your, "Do I really need it (The Smith).

Based on my “Scrape The Rack Power Training”, you can obtain the same Smith Training Effect with this method and a little more.

With that said, a lot of my “Strength Training Tools” are something that I did not needed but wanted to buy.

Kenny Croxdale

This is amazing.
I really appreciate your time in writing this response.
I was looking at the inspire fitness brand but I think the price is much higher than I wanted to purchase.
I am thinking of purchasing something like this:

The Inspire one is over $4k but it’s not only a Smith. The Smith bar can be locked at the top position by the pull up bar and the rack can be used as a standard rack. You’ll need a barbell but it’s a rack, Smith, and cable station in one. I wish I had one.

So the machine I posted has the same things I believe.

Close. It appears that the highest notch for the Smith bar is even with the pulley. That wouldn’t work for me. I’m tall. The Inspire one is designed to move the Smith bar out of the way. It goes to the very top of the rack so it’s as high as the pull up bar.

The Atlas might do that, but I can’t tell because the site only shows four pictures and has no written description. That alone is concerning.

I’ve seen the Inspire one in person so I know it checks all my boxes. The photos for the Atlas one show the Smith bar lower than I’d like in all the photos.

Can I ask why it’s a problem that the bar does not go all the way to the top?
If the bar is behind the pulleys, how does it interfere with any exercises?

If I will hit my head on it when I go to change the weights for the pulleys then it’s a problem.

Ohhh, I see what you mean.
I don’t think I’m so tall that that would be a problem
But I understand your input.

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The world wasn’t built for us, bro.

If you ever find yourself in Europe visiting a castle, you’ll be doubly thankful we weren’t born then - all the entrances are like 5 and a half feet and made of stone.

And commercial flights are AWFUL if you don’t get the emergency row.

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If I ever meet someone who thinks commercial flights are enjoyable I’ll want them moved far away from me.

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I can’t imagine them being enjoyable, but when your knees are touching the seat in front of you no matter what you do, it’s a special kind of torture.

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Haha I feel you man. I’m a bit shorter than you guys, but if the seat in front of me gets reclined I wind up in the same position. Animals I tell ya.