Last updated: November, 2018
A cable machine is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you could possibly buy for your home gym.
The cable crossover machine can be used for dozens of exercises, utilizing constant tension to get a great pump and build muscle effectively. A cable weight machine is also fantastic for developing lagging muscles or strengthening those hard-to-train areas like the rear delts and upper back.
Today, we’re going to look over why you should have a cable machine in your home and review some of the most popular models on the market. Stick around if you’re considering your own cable pulley machine and we’ll take you through how to get the most for your money!
- Cable Machine Comparison Table
- Why Your Home Gym Needs a Cable Machine
- What Makes a Great Cable Crossover Machine?
- Top Rated Cable Machine Reviews
Cable Machine Comparison Table
Last update on 2018-11-20 UTC -5 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API - Details
Why Your Home Gym Needs a Cable Machine
There’s a reason that the cable machine has been so popular with gyms – both home gyms and commercially – over the past few decades. It’s because these machines, with their ability to hold constant tension, fill a niche in your training that you might not have noticed.
To start with, the constant tension you get from a cable machine is a great way to train muscles and joints for greater strength. The challenge of movement on a cable pulley machine is relatively consistent, meaning you’re going to get a full-range exercise that comes with great pumps and the opportunity to do slow-eccentric training for better joint and muscle development.
Secondly, the design of the machine makes a whole variety of pulling motions possible to strengthen the often-neglected muscles around the shoulders and upper back. This means exercises like face pulls, external rotations, and different rowing varieties are all possible. With the right attachments, you can even use them to perform lat pulldowns and other common exercises.
The overall versatility of the cable machine is the big win. We already mentioned the lat pulldown, but with a variety of different attachments, the range of exercises you can perform is huge. This is important for a home gym, especially, where space is limited and you want to get as much use as possible from every piece of equipment you buy.
What Makes a Great Cable Crossover Machine?
With a product like the cable machine, it’s often hard to determine which products are going to be the best choice. There’s a great deal of similarity and the cable machine has been around for long enough for the design to be refined.
We’re going to work through a few key variables to figure out which product is best for your money:
This is crucial because of the amount of use a cable crossover machine is going to see, as well as the size of the purchase. A good home gym cable machine has a solid construction and isn’t just going to fall apart halfway through your workout.
This is probably less important than you think here, since a good cable machine will last forever with minor repairs, while a poor-quality one will need replacing. This piece of equipment is definitely an investment, but we’ll be discussing value-for-money and how it affects each product.
If you’re going to be using it for a dozen exercises a week with different attachments, and relying on it for your training, you need something that’s easy to use. This ranges from the “smoothness” of the cable to the grip quality and a dozen other things
The cable crossover machine is a well-known design but there are some great features out there, and a product that comes with a real, helpful feature can make a strong candidate for your cash. We’ll be looking through the best features – and how they’re integrated into the whole product – to see if they justify giving a product top-spot!
Top Rated Cable Machine Reviews
Bodycraft HFT Functional Trainer
An unbelievably solid product, the Bodycraft HFT cable machine is one of the larger products on this list and comes with a sense of durability and precision that makes it a great standard to start with.
We think this is a great product for anyone who has the cash and space to set it up. With dual pulleys, a rack to store attachments, and additional pull-up bar it makes for a well-rounded product. We’ve got all the key functions of a cable machine here, and it does them well.
The reviews on the product all bear this out: with every review at the maximum star-rating, the customer opinion on this product is clearly great. The only thing we’re skeptical about is charging extra to increase the weight stacks from 150lbs to 200lbs, which many would consider to be a ‘standard’ amount of weight.
However, with a cable machine, this isn’t usually a problem since there are very few exercises that you can expect to use the full stack on, especially since you can use both at once with various attachments for an overall weight of 300lbs. This is sufficient for most people for most exercises.
The obvious downsides you can expect here will be predictable for this entire list: it’s heavy and it takes some work to put together, as well as taking a while to be shipped. These aren’t really the fault of the supplier or the product itself but seem to be a logistical inevitability when you’re buying a full cable machine that weighs around 500lbs.
XMark Functional Trainer Machine
The Xmark product provides a similar experience to the Bodycraft, though it seems far heavier in design and style. There are a few extra changes that you might not have noticed – such as extra handles for changing the height of the cable – but the differences are mostly aesthetic.
The Bodycraft is billed as ‘heavy duty’ and we’re inclined to agree: the design and size of the product are slightly larger and thicker than the Xmark. This comes with some predictable benefits to overall build-stability, but it also means more work setting up and a product that takes up more space. This may be a benefit or a problem, depending on the space you’re working with.
The concerns with stack weight are greater for the XMark. Despite the overall weight of the product being greater, the stack (where it counts) is lighter than the BodyCraft’s maximum weight.
This can be a problem for exercises like lat pulldowns which can rapidly get heavy and may max-out the weights. This can be a problem for bigger or stronger trainees and may mean another purchase in future.
Additionally, the movement of the stack on the pulley is a little rougher than we’ve seen with other products. It’s a relatively small change, but with the amount of time you’re going to be spending with this product – and the fact that its ever so slightly more expensive than the previous entry on this list – it seems like an unnecessary problem to deal with.
Powerline PCCO90X Cable Crossover Machine
The powerline is a totally different design to others on this list so far. Rather than being a simple cable weight machine, it’s a cable crossover – the weights are on opposite sides. This is also unique so far in being plate-loaded which comes with both benefits and drawbacks that we have to take into consideration.
The first thing to note is that the design of this product makes for a much larger space-demand. The product doesn’t come with the same sheer bulk as a normal cable machine, but it does take up a significant amount of space since the width is around 9 feet. This is much more space in any direction than a regular cable machine – which can be a real challenge for a home gym.
We have two real problems with the cable crossover machine: it’s less versatile than a regular cable crossover machine and the Powerline product is a real challenge in terms of usability and value.
To start with, the product may allow you to perform cable crossovers, but this is a single exercise (and not even a particularly good one at that). What it makes up for here, it loses in versatility: the design makes it impossible to perform lat pulldowns (a much better exercise) or any of the exercises that a dual cable machine is so good for enabling. This defeats the point of buying a cable machine.
Secondly, the Powerline product is plate-loaded. This isn’t a problem by itself, except that Powerline makes it clear that essential additions to this product – weights, collars, and the chin-up handles – are all sold separately. This means paying for other essential pieces of equipment on top of the $500 asking price.
This may not be a huge problem if you already have a weight set at home, but it may be a problem if you’re looking to start your home gym with a multi-purpose cable machine. However, with a total lack of attachments and other crucial parts that make the cable machine valuable for its versatility, this seems a real pain to deal with.
There are also serious concerns with the manufacturing and service associated with this product. Many reviews state that there are no instructions for building the equipment, Powerline seem to have incredibly poor customer service, and the product itself is often defective. This comes with a design-flaw of being incredibly light, unstable, and easily tipped.
Overall, we’re not impressed with this product. The value may be there compared to a full-size cable machine, but that’s no excuse for poor build quality, defective products, poor customer service, and other glaring flaws.
Freemotion Light Commercial Cable Crossover Machine
Another novel design, the FreeMotion cable crossover machine comes with dual-arms that can be adjusted to change the height of the resistance. Effectively, this product makes up for its small size (which is great for a home gym) with these adjustable arms rather than a full free-standing stack with dual pulleys.
The downside to this is that the value of the product – which you might expect to be better due to the smaller size and reduced versatility – is awful. The FreeMotion cable machine costs double what you’d be looking at for the BodyCraft stand (which we consider to be a superior product by itself).
The adjustable-arm design is a pretty cool way of making the most of space, but it is clearly designed for commercial use. The feature “allowing two people to work out at once” is both possible with a conventional cable pulley machine with two stacks and a non-issue for most home gyms.
Assembly for this product is also a real tribulation for even the handiest users. The crucial fixings and holes are often misaligned or difficult to fix into place, making for a significant time investment on top of the enormous price tag.
We can’t see where the additional costs go with this product, other than towards the fiddly adjustable arms that don’t really add much value to the experience. Having extensive experience with both types of cable machines, the dual-arm seems to add no value but cost twice as much. The value for money equation here just doesn’t add up and we suggest saving your time and money.
Valor Fitness BD62 Mount Station
We actually really like the idea behind this product: a light-weight, wall-mounted cable machine makes total sense for a home gym. With a plate-loaded mechanism and the minimum possible space-demand, this is a fantastically convenient product that can really make the most of a small home gym.
The plate-loading can be a problem if you don’t own a barbell and plates, as you’d have to buy them new since they don’t come with the product. However, if you already have your own plates and clips, this product can be a great way to save money and still get a fantastic cable machine experience.
With a dual-attachment build, the Valor fitness cable machine attempts to get around the challenges of only having a single cable. This means that it is more useful for single-arm cable exercises like curls and rows, but can double up with different types of vertical pulling. The lack of attachment support is a challenge for exercises like lat pulldowns, however.
The only concerns we have with this product are the weight-ratio for the pulley (which isn’t described) and the fact that it does lose some of the versatility that we value so strongly in the normal cable machine. This is offset by the usability and space-saving design. While we’d prefer a stack-loaded design and conventional pulleys, this product still has real benefits.
We recommend finding a way to floor-mount this product as well as bracing it against the wall. This makes it far more stable. You should also expect a less-than-commercial “smoothness” to the cable. This is the result of the build quality and the fact that it’s plate-loaded. You’ll definitely need clips for this product or a way of adjusting to a 2” diameter plate, but this shouldn’t be a huge problem.
BodySolid Functional Cable Training Center
The BodySolid functional cable machine is initially unimpressive. While there’s nothing wrong with the product at the outset, the design and overall presentation isn’t quite up to par with the BodyCraft or XMark product – despite a comparable price.
There are a few features missing – such as pegs for storing attachments – that make for a slightly less usable product, too. The design could be called minimalist, but at the same time we feel like it simply looks a little improvised: there are no guards on the weight stack and the overall appearance is a little “untidy” compared to those products mentioned above.
The function of this product is generally good, but there are some limitations to that. The design mentioned above is a problem where light or “flimsy” construction can make use more difficult. Design problems continue with neglected aspects of design – such as stoppers – that make for a less satisfying workout.
On top of this, the assembly of the product is a challenge as even the most positive reviews on this product note that they require 3 people for proper construction. The various fixings and smaller parts are also unlabelled, and instructions are notoriously poorly presented, making the product a hassle to even start using.
This isn’t a bad product, it just appears to be easily out-done by others on the market with a comparable price, but better features and usability.
Valor Fitness BD61 Crossover Station
Valor comes to the market with yet another unusual design – a freestanding crossover station with a regular cable machine attached to the back – like a giant metal fitness-scorpion.
To start with, this design makes for a real pain in any home gym. While the previous Valor fitness entry to this list was a space-saving wonder, this one is the exact opposite. Given that you need to use both sides, you’re going to have to find some serious space for this gargantuan design-monstrosity. It’s definitely ugly.
The second problem is that the plate-loading system is similar to the one mentioned in the wall-mounted version. This comes with the same predictable problems: you’re either going to have to have plates already or buy them to load your new cable pulley station with.
The cable smoothness issue doesn’t seem to have been resolved either, according to the reviews of this product. With around 20% one-star reviews, there are clear issues with this – as well as the carriage itself not tracking well with the cable, a key design problem.
To finish our critique of this product, there are many reports of defective products and poor machining on the holes/fixings. As if the construction of this giant gains-scorpion wasn’t already going to be a pain in the ass, now you’re going to have to deal with holes that aren’t well-aligned or poorly-constructed parts.
Overall, this product seems to be a cable machine that doesn’t really function as well as the full models, but doesn’t really save space either. The only thing it has going for it is value, but that is before we consider the enormous time-spend that comes with constructing a poorly-built product, and then the fact that you’ve already paid for the weight plates or have to shell out again.
We’re just not sure what the purpose of this product is. We can’t see when it would be a superior choice to any of the other products mentioned on this list!