Working out with cables is great on its own or in combination with free weights. But most cable machines are huge and home gyms aren’t always the biggest space. Here are the best pulley systems that are small and wall mounted for a home gym.
The best wall mounted cable machine for a home gym is the Vanswe tower. It has a fully adjustable double pulley and a 250 lbs. load limit (plate loaded). This machine can be used for all the same cable exercises you would do in a commercial gym.
Find out below why that’s the best option and some of the best alternatives.
#1 Vanswe Wall Mounted Pulley Tower
The best option in this category. You know the cable crossover machine from your gym? This is half of that. One tower with fully height adjustable pulley. It’s a whole pulley tower but it has to be mounted to the wall for stability. So while most of the machine is actually on the floor, the needed floor space is only 24” by 25” so it’s very compact especially if you think about the plethora of exercise options this provides.
The pulley can be adjusted to 18 different heights so you can always find the right height for you. There are actually two pulleys on one tower. They are both connected to the same weight but it does give you much more exercise options than you would have with a single pulley. Two pulleys with two separate cables means you load the two sides of the body separately which helps prevent muscle imbalances. Of course you can also choose to use only one pulley at a time for unilateral (one arm) movements.
The resistance is created by loading weight plates onto the sled. The pegs on the sled are 1” in diameter so it can take standard weight plates without problems. If your plates have a 2” diameter hole, it’s a good idea to use an adapter sleeve to the plates aren’t too loose. The maximum amount of weight that can be loaded onto the sled is 250 lbs./113 kg.
Vanswe pulley tower features;
- Pulley is height adjustable to 18 positions
- Only 24” x 25” of floor space required
- Choice of using one or two pulleys which are attached to different cables but same weight.
- Should be attached to the wall at top and bottom
- Maximum load of 250 lbs.
- Height: 82.6”
If you look at the capabilities of this machine and the price, you’ll find this is a very good deal.
#2 Trendbox High/Low Pulley system
This is a pretty cool pulley system. It’s not adjustable or movable easily but it is the smallest usable pulley system you’re going to find. It consists of two parts you mount on the wall. The top part has two pulleys and there is a single one you can mount lower.
This might look similar to the other super simple pulley systems you see advertised but this one is a bit better. Because the weight stack sits between the two upper pulleys, it’s much more stable than the simpler versions. The weight moves up and down straight much better since it’s stabilized by two cables.
The set comes with quite a few attachments and good mounting hardware to get you started. Of course it’s a good idea to find a solid wall and mount this system the right way otherwise it can come crashing down pretty quickly. The load limit of this setup is 160 lbs. which is enough for most cable exercises.
It’s nowhere near as functional as the #1 Vanswe machine. Yes it takes up less space but unless you’re really, really short on space, the full tower is going to provide safer, and better workouts with more resistance.
#3 RAF Fitness Pulley System
Here’s something different. Two suction cups with a cable built into them. You can put them on any smooth surface so the adjustability is pretty much limitless. Ok this is not a single pulley but if you only want to use one cable, just use both cables with one attachment.
Don’t expect super heavy workouts from this, they are adjustable in three steps from 5.5 to 13 to 22 lbs. So combined it’s only 44 lbs. of resistance. That’s good enough for a lot of accessory exercises but not to build big muscle and strength.
What to look for in a pulley gym machine
The big machines are often the ones with two pulleys. Of course those have a lot of functionality and exercise options but often they just don’t fit. And for some reason they’re also more than twice as expensive as most single pulley machines.
Single pulley machines are less than half the size as a double version so they’re much easier to put in a compact home gym. And while you do give up some functionality, many exercises are possible to do with only one pulley. The biggest drawback is that with two pulleys, both sides of the body have their own resistance. This prevents large muscle imbalances between sides. With one pulley muscle imbalances are harder to detect and fix.
So if you’re short on space and money, get a single pulley, otherwise a double pulley machine is a more complete choice.
- Pulley adjustability: To get the most out of a cable trainer you want the pulley to be height adjustable. There are a few very simple pulley machines that only have a high and low pulley. But while that’s still useful, a fully height adjustable pulley is much more versatile.
- Weight limit: How much weight do you need to lift? The machine, cables and pulleys should all stand up to that amount of weight. The maximum load limit is pretty much always listed in the specs.
- Height: A pulley tower should be tall to give you the most adjustability options. But at the same time it should fit under your ceiling. If you’ve got low ceilings check how much height you have and which machine fits the best.
- Foot print: How much floor space does the machine take up? You need at least that amount of space to place the machine but don’t forget you need a decent chunk of space to actually do cable exercises as well.
- Quality: Of course overall quality is important as well. While pulley towers aren’t super expensive, you still want it to last and decent customer service if something were to go wrong.
Why wall mounted?
Why go for a wall mounted machine instead of a standalone one? Wall mounted pulley machines are attached to the wall for stability. That means they need smaller frames and therefore less space to stay upright. So wall mounted machines are going to be more compact than standalone ones.
The downside is of course that you need a wall and have to drill into it. It’s much more difficult to move the machine around when it’s attached to the wall after that but how often do you redecorate your home gym? Probably not that often.
Can’t find anything good above? Here are some alternatives you could use instead of a cable pulley tower.
Figured you need something better? A functional trainer is the best you’re going to get for your home gym. This is a machine with two weight stacks and fully adjustable pulleys. These things are big and heavy but provide a ton more exercise options than a single pulley and are usually higher quality as well. That higher quality does come with a price tag though. If you’ve got the space and money, a functional trainer is going to be better in almost every way than the equipment listed above.
Resistance bands allow you to do many of the same exercises as with a cable machine. Instead of cables, you just use big rubber bands. Resistance bands are cheap and very small so you can pretty much use them everywhere.
To mimic the movements you can do with a cable machine, you will need some anchor points though. If you can mount the resistance band at the same height you would put a pulley, you can do the same exercise. Find out which resistance bands are right for you here.
Resistance bands do feel a bit different to use of course. Cable machines provide the same resistance throughout the range of motion because the weight stack you’re lifting doesn’t magically get lighter or heavier. If a part of the range of motion feels easier or more difficult, that’s the result of biomechanics. Your body is just in a more advantageous position when it feels easier.
A resistance band provides more and more resistance when you stretch it. So the top of a movement will always be quite easy and it gets heavier from there. So it’s not a 1:1 analog for a cable machine but the movements can be very similar. You’ll need a band anchor to get all the exercise options though. Find out more about band anchors here.