Best Cable Machine and Pulley Machine Reviews
Cable machines and pulley machines mark the difference between a good and a great home gym. Pulleys will allow you to work your body from different angles, provide you with an unlimited range of exercises and allow you to do eccentric and isometric training.
Finding a quality cable and pulley machine for your home gym isn’t easy. In this article, we bring you the 10 best cable machines of 2020.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 17 hrs of research
Dual stacks included
Easy to adjust
350- pound weight capacity per cable
10 Best Cable and Pulley Machines
1. FreeMotion Dual Cable EXT Crossover
Dual stacks included
Easy to adjust
350- pound weight capacity per cable
Are you willing to spare no expense for the best of the best? This option from FreeMotion looks like it comes straight out of an invitation-only gym! This beefcake of a design has a centralized stack and arms that are able to move freely to find the perfect position to get the biggest burn.Read more
The best part about this design is that it boasts a dual weight stack. That allows you to workout with a friend, or use it alone and adjust the weights individually. By utilizing a dual-stack, you know exactly how much weight is on each arm, unlike designs that use a singular stack or plate set.
We also like that this design has two rotating arms that move on a swivel. Simply position the arms where you want them for your workout, and then lock them into place. The ability to move the cables wherever you want really helps to engage new muscle groups so that you never become bored with your workouts.
If you are in the market for something that will really take your home gym to a whole new level, this option from FreeMotion is a great choice. While it comes in at a pretty steep price point, we feel that it is worth every penny for the weights included and the versatility of the innovative design.
Aircraft quality cables
Easy to adjust
1,000-pound capacity storage
If you need something that has commercial gym functionality at a more approachable price point, this design from HulkFit is a great choice. It boasts a strong and sturdy frame that is able to accommodate a wide variety of workouts. Users also love that this design is compatible with other HulkFit machines for complex gym experience right at home.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this machine is that it uses plates instead of a weight stack. That allows you to make smaller adjustments as you see fit and makes this machine just a little more affordable than options that include weight stacks with purchase.
The best part about this design is that it has a strong and sturdy frame that is able to comfortably hold up to 1,000 pounds. As with all HulkFit products, the steel frame has a striking yellow powder-coated finish with black accents. The cables used on this design are nylon coated and aircraft quality, so you can feel confident that they won’t snap under the pressure!
If you are in the market for something that is strong and sturdy, this option from HulkFit is a great choice. We love that it is compatible with other machines in the HulkFit lineup, and it is incredibly easy to set up right out of the box.
3. X Mark Functional Trainer Cable Machine
2 x 200 lb weight stacks
19 pulley settings
2 inch by 3-inch heavy gauge steel framing
The X Mark functional trainer cable machine provides you with dual weight stacks which are each attached to cable pulleys.Read more
A very user-friendly exercise machine that is easy to set up and use in the garage or any comfortable room in the home. You will get a substantial range of exercise options for you to create a great daily training schedule.
The X Mark cable machine gym gives you dual weight stacks each one is which is connected to cable pulleys. You can work arms and legs separately. The stacks go up to 200 pounds.
The mainframe is made from heavy steel and has a powder-coated finish. It comes with strong pull-up bars and a convenient storage area.
4. PowerLine PCCO90X
Eight high resin pulleys
Friction-free cable movement
180-degree pulley swivel
No weight stack
The Powerline will help you exercise every major muscle in your body. It offers a wide variety of exercises which will enhance your balance and coordination.Read more
The large diameter pulleys give a smooth application and longer cable life. It comes with a sturdy frame that has plenty of high resin pulleys. Each pulley has sealed ball bearings that provide you an excellent smooth operation.
You can use the mainframe for chin-ups, and it comes with handles for this very reason. There are two handles and one ankle strap.
5. Bowflex Blaze
210 pounds of resistance
Multi cable and pulley positions
No negative resistance
The Bowflex offers over 60 exercises for a workout that will cover your whole body. It has 210 lbs of resistance, which is upgradable to 310 or 410 lbs. It also offers 7 workout regimens that come free with the machine.Read more
The Bowflex uses Bowflex’s great power rod resistance system to give you over 60 exercises that work all your muscles. You get plenty of resistance from this machine. The slide rail lets you perform all kinds of different activities.
The Bowflex Blaze comes with a helpful placard and triple hand grip and ankle cuffs. You also get a tower, squat bar, and horizontal bench press.
6. Merax LAT Pulldown
Easy to set up
Limited weight capacity
Cables may need replacing over time
What we loved most about this design from Merax is that it is affordable, strong, and easy to use. It is made from tough materials that hold up well over the years of continued use, and have a myriad of adjustable features to help you get the most out of your workouts. Plus, it boasts a smaller footprint, which is ideal for those working with limited space.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this option is that it is composed of heavy gauge steel with a sharp powder-coated finish that is easy to wipe down and rust-resistant. Users love the padded lat pulldown seat is able to be quickly adjusted for a wide variety of users.
There are two ways to use this machine that work your upper body as well as your core. The lat pulldown bar works a wide variety of muscles in your upper back and arms, and varying grips trigger different muscle groups. It also has a floor row cable that works your upper back as well as stabilization muscles in your core as well.
If you are in the market for something that is simple and affordable, this design from Merax is a great option. It is one of the most affordable designs out there on the market, and it doesn’t skimp on the quality of materials used in its construction.
7. Fitness Reality X-Class
Limited weight capacity
If you are shopping on a budget and find many of these designs are a little too expensive, you will want to check out this design from Fitness Reality. What we liked most about this design is that it clocks in at a super affordable price point without skimpy on the quality of materials used. Plus, it has a much smaller footprint when compared to similar designs, which makes it worth checking out.Read more
The very first thing that we notice about this design is that it boasts a very small footprint. It’s important to note that this design isn’t freestanding, it must be mounted to an existing power rack or some type of sturdy base. It boasts dual posts that accommodate Olympic size plates that are not included with purchase.
To use, simply sit on a padded seat and grab the lat pulldown bar to work your shoulder and upper back. By varying your grip on the bar, you can change up the muscle groups that are engaged to always challenge your body in new ways. It also has a floor row cable that allows you to engage in seated rows, which is great for your upper back as well as core stabilization.
While this design from Fitness Reality has a few shortcomings, users are often able to make adjustments for these shortcomings given the incredibly affordable price point. We like this design because it boasts a simple yet effective frame, and is incredibly easy to use and adjust.
8. XMark Heavy Duty LAT Pulldown
11-gauge steel frame
Low row cable
Weights not included
Difficult to assemble
XMark makes our list yet again with this highly effective and sturdy LAT Pulldown design. This simple frame is able to hit all of the muscle groups in your upper body and back without taking up all that much floor space. It has a simple design that is easy to set up, and also super easy to adjust.Read more
There are two ways to work out the muscles in your upper body with this design. By sitting in the set and using the lat pulldown bar, you will engage muscles in your traps, biceps, shoulders, and upper back. We love that it also has a low row machine that requires the users to sit on the ground and use the base cable to engage back and core muscles.
The frame is made from 11-gauge steel which will not bend or wobble when engaging in lifts. Unlike similar lat pulldown designs out there on the market, this design is plate loaded instead of using a central weight stack. This allows users to utilize their own supply of plates and makes smaller adjustments as needed.
This option from XMark is made from strong materials and boasts a design to hit a wide variety of muscle groups. Keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t include the weights in the final price tag, making this design rather expensive. If you have the weights at home and want something that is built to take over the years, this option is worth every penny.
9. Marcy Smith Cage
Comes in two colors
Made of all-steel construction
Has weight pegs to keep weights organized
Pulleys could be improved upon
Marcy Smith Cage is made to be used at home. It has a Smith machine, bearings, free weights, and a cable home gym pulley system.Read more
Marcy Smith made this workout system of heavy-duty steel. It also has a powder coat finish. The cables are sturdy aircraft type, and it is designed to stand up to intense use. It includes arms with a dual-action press which lets you perform a huge variety of exercises.
It also includes a dual-function leg developer with lots of padding. It helps you use a good body form during your workouts and allows you to target muscles. You have 6 weight pegs that are built right into the frame which lets you keep your weights organized. This design will enable you to do a complete workout.
10. Body Solid Dual
Twin 160-pound weight stacks
Fully adjustable pulleys
2,000 aircraft quality cabling
The Body-Solid column is extra tough and tear-resistant. It comes with dual double stacks and it can work in a very small area. It is an example of design and engineering. It can be set up to do over 100 exercises.Read more
The Body-Solid gives you two 160 pound weight stacks attached to cables. It is made of solid steel and is very compact. The pulleys are adjustable.
The cables and pulleys on this machine are aircraft quality. This gives you a nice smooth and quiet workout. You can perform over 100 different exercises on this machine.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Ease of Use
If it’s not easy to use, you have just purchased a very expensive coat rack!
One reason that machines often get pushed to the bottom of the list is that they are too tedious to use for an effective workout. When the music is pumping and energy is high, the last thing you want to do is tinker with finicky adjustments. There were a few things that we considered to ensure that these machines were easy to use.
Weight stacks are one of the more popular features of cable machines. While they come in at a much higher price point and limit the ability to adjust weights down to 2.5-pound increments, they are perfect for drop sets. To change up the weight on stacks, all users need to do is pull out a pin and place it on the desired weight.
Seat adjustments are another important feature to keep in mind. We made sure that we selected a design that not only allowed the users to adjust the height of the seat but that it was incredibly easy. When working out with a partner, it can become incredibly time-consuming to adjust a difficult seat every time it is your turn to complete your set.
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is if you can effectively gain more muscle while using your machine.
While there isn’t any type of barometer that measures how quickly a machine can build muscle, there are a few things to take into consideration. We wanted to dive into all of the features that make a machine effective.
One of the most important features is the ability to make adjustments as needed. Features such as seat adjustments or cable adjustments allow you to personalize your workout. If you cannot make the machine bend to your size, you run the risk of injuring yourself by engaging in a motion that does not feel natural to your body.
Another thing that is important to consider is weight capacity. Depending on your ultimate results, this is something important to keep in mind. If you want to really increase your strength, opt for designs that have a max capacity of at least 350 pounds. While it may not seem like a lot, keep in mind that these weights are suspended by cables and not steel bars.
Home gym equipment can get quite expensive, but we wanted to make sure that we selected products that are built for all types of budgets.
The machines making our list are all composed of strong and durable materials that hold well over time, The most expensive models boast a higher price point due to the availability of advanced features and a higher weight capacity.
If you want to save a little bit of money, a simple design such as the Merax Lat Pulldown is a great option. This machine is fairly simple in its design but is made to hold quite a bit of weight. Designs that omit weight stacks in favor of plates (not included) is another great way to save on money.
Higher-end machines, such as the FreeMotion Dual Cable, boast a steep price point that rivals a used car. While this price tag may seem intimidating, it’s commercial-grade components and dual weight stacks make it a great value. By pairing this option with a bench, you may find that additional free weights, plates, and other expensive equipment are not needed, which makes it an excellent value.
Durability is incredibly important because you need something that will hold up over the years.
Cable machines are great because you can use them for high-intensity workouts, or as a machine to use on off days to increase flexibility. Due to its versatile design, you need something that will be able to hold up to daily use. There are a few things we looked at to ensure these machines are built to last.
Steel frames are the toughest material out there on the market. We make sure to select designs that use high-grade steel with expertly welded pieces that can hold up over daily use. A powder-coated finish not only gives the frame a sleek and glossy finish, but it also makes it rust-resistant and a cinch to wipe down as needed.
It’s important to also investigate the quality of the cables. The last thing that you want is a cable to snap in the middle of a set! We made sure to select machines that utilized at least one pulley that works to limit the intense tension on the line so you are able to use your machine long before you need to shop around for replacement cables. Even on the toughest machines, these cables cannot last forever!
We love extra features because they help to keep your workouts new and exciting.
If you only engage in bench presses and nothing else, your muscles will adapt to the same motion and that’s where frustrating plateaus occur. By selecting a cable machine with advanced features, you can work in new and unique motions to keep your muscles engaged over the years.
It may seem simple, but one of our favorite features of these machines are varied grips. By positioning your hands at different angles either far apart or close together, you can trigger different muscle groups. We love lat pulldown machines that offer grips that are angled at the ends (which is great for chest engagement) and close grips (perfect for bi and triceps).
Weight stacks are another great feature worth checking out. While they may come in at a higher price point, they are well worth it for those that love their drop sets. These stacks provide a pull pin that allows users to drop or increase the weight in mere seconds. Adjustable seats are another great feature that ensures that your range of motion is catered to your height to really engage your muscles and reduce the risk of injury.
The best part about these workout systems is that a simple switch-up in grip activates completely different muscle groups. When using a lat pulldown, an overhand grip activates your chest, upper back, lats, and even a little triceps. By simply swapping your grip to underhanded, you are suddenly working your biceps and shoulders. Experiment with different grips to find one that really gets your muscles humming!
Generally, cable work is a lot safer than free weights. For instance, there is zero chance of failing out on a set and knocking out your teeth like you could with heavy dumbbells! Also, due to the fact that the weights slide along a track, it also forces you into a better overall form when compared to free weights.
As with any workout routine, it is always best to play it safe. While it may be tempting to jerk the line in an attempt at super heavyweight, this jerking motion can do some serious damage. Make sure that you are always in control of your motion. If it is too heavy, know when to drop weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Is using cables the same as lifting free weights?
Cable pull machines and dumbbells are different, but one is not better than the other. In many training programs, building muscle happens by utilizing push and pull weighted exercises. A bench press, for instance, is a push exercise. Anything using cables is considered to be a pull exercise.
To ensure that you get the most out of your workouts, we recommend focusing 50 percent of your equipment on pulling, and 50 percent on pushing. If you can’t quite afford an expensive cable machine, simple band sets are a great way to engage those pulling muscles without draining your bank account or taking up too much room in your home gym.
q: What muscle groups do cable machines work?
These machines target the muscles in your upper body, which includes your shoulders, chest, upper back, biceps, and triceps. Engaging in exercises such as flys, and standing chest press actually engages more muscle groups than standard dumbbells weights. Cable machines keep muscles under constant tension, which helps to generate that classic muscle burn that you are after!
q: What are some benefits of using a cable machine?
Unlike free weights or barbell lifts, cable machines work on a fixed pathway. How does a fixed pathway help benefit you? The biggest benefit is to eliminate the chance of hurting yourself. May injuries in the gym occur when you aren’t engaging in proper form. For free weights, proper form is sometimes a real challenge.
Lifting along a fixed pathway forces your muscles to contract in a safe motion, and limits the change of potential injuries. If you have already hurt yourself and need to take some time off, cable machines are also a great tool for rest days and physical therapy to allow your joints to move and stretch.
q: Are stack weights or plate weights better?
The answer to this question all depends upon what you are working with at home If you already have an established home gym with plenty of plate weights, the pated option will save you a little bit of money. The downside to plated options is that to adjust the weight, you need to manually take off the plates (which can really slow down your drop sets).
q: Are cable machines good for powerlifting?
These machines are a bit limited in their weight capacity, with some of the higher-end designs only able to accommodate about 350 pounds. So, is it worth the investment for powerlifting? The short answer is yes.
Powerlifters train in three main lifts: deadlifts, squats, and bench presses. However, to ensure that you don’t hit a plateau, it’s important to vary your workouts. Cable training is insanely helpful for powerlifting because it engages pulling muscles that are often neglected in the standard pushing exercises (such as the bench press).
While the siren call of the squat rack or bench press may be calling out to you, be sure to also give the cable machine some love as well!
q: Can I use a cable machine for my lower body?
While these machines are designed to target arms, upper body, and upper back, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative! Many users like to fashion the standard standing cable machines and hook the handles to their legs to engage hamstrings, glutes, and those hard-to-engage calves! It’s also worth noting that many of the standing machines are also a great way to engage core muscles as well.
q: How do I care for my cable machine?
Unlike free weights or benches, cable machines require a bit of annual maintenance. To ensure that your machines work smoothly over the years, it is important that you take proper care of your cables. Friction is what breaks down the cable over time, so it is important that you wipe down your cables a few times a year.
If you find that your machine is a tad noisy, any type of lubricant will help keep things running smoothly. WD-40 is fine and will work in a pinch, but there are other brands that are catered specifically for cable machines that will be gentle on your gear.