Bowflex Max Trainer M5 Review

The Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is an upgrade of the earlier M3 model, combining a stepping motion, resistance settings, and upper body muscle activation to burn more calories in a shorter time.

The entire design is based on creating a shorter and more efficient workout experience, by utilising upper and lower body muscle groups during high intensity interval programs. But just how affordably priced is it in comparison to traditional elliptical trainers?

In this review we’ll be taking a closer look at every aspect of the design, as well as the workout programs, assembly process, and console functions to help you decide if this is the best choice of machine for your own home workouts. We’ll also put together a quick guide to the Max Trainer app, which can be paired with the console to sync all your most important workout data.

Design and safety features

When it comes to fitness equipment design, Bowflex have never been a company to follow convention, which obviously pays off judging by their hugely successful range of home gyms.

For the Max Trainer M5 they’ve taken this innovative design approach and created a cardio machine that’s unlike anything else on the market. That being said, many of the most efficient calorie burning functions have still been included, such as the near-vertical stepping motion, and movement of the upper body grips.

In effect it feels like the designers have taken the lessons they learned from the success of their treadclimber collection, and created a more compact and affordable solution, albeit without the platforms that emulate the treadmill belt.

Efficient calorie burning
One of the things we often come across when reviewing fitness equipment is the claim that a particular machine enables you to burn more calories than the others, often using the treadmill as the benchmark.

This is one of the claims we found when reviewing the Maxiclimber, and we’re noticing similar results being quoted by Bowflex for the M5.

Bowflex claim that the Max Trainer was tested against treadmills, steppers, and ellipticals in an independent study, which measured the number of calories burned across a certain workout duration.

The results showed that during the workouts on the Max Trainer, users burned 1.6x more calories than on a treadmill, and 1.2x more calories than on a stepclimber. Unfortunately, while these numbers look good on paper, it’s proving difficult to locate a copy of the Bowflex Max Trainer® Independent University Study to determine the conditions of these tests.

The Bowflex Max Trainer makes some impressive claims for the potential number of calories burned

Making claims on the number of calories burned is nothing new in the fitness industry. Companies do it all the time, and it’s certainly not isolated to Bowflex.

With their Treadclimber they put out the claim that it burns up to 3.5x more calories than a treadmill, based on a study carried out by the University of Wisconsin in 2011. For this equipment Bowflex did actually put up a graphic that showed some basic settings used in the study, where the Treadclimber was set at a high intensity level, while the treadmill remained at 0% incline. Both were then set at belt speeds of 3mph.

The claim was that the treadclimber burned 612 calories in 30 minutes, while the treadmill burned just 165, which isn’t far fetched considering the difference in incline.

Unfortunately the Universities involved in these studies aren’t at liberty to disclose the final results of these studies as the data belongs to Bowflex, who themselves have a corporate policy not to disclose proprietary studies.

We’ve seen similar figures quoted by Nordictrack on their Incline Trainers, and there’s no shortage of scientific studies that show how much more effective it is to walk, jog, or run at an incline in terms of the number of calories burned per minute.

Full body workouts
When you combine this incline stepper style design with the high intensity interval training programs and upper body motion, the Max Trainer certainly seems to have all the features in place to create such efficient workouts.

You can even choose from 16 digital resistance levels, each of which offers an ultra-smooth, low-impact motion that protects your joints and ligaments.

While it’s difficult to substantiate the claim of ‘80% more upper body muscle activation’ for the reasons we mentioned earlier, the ergonomic design of the handles encourages a full body workout that engages your biceps, shoulders, back, and core, as well as your lower body muscle groups.

Entertainment features such as tablet support and inbuilt speakers have been sacrificed in favor of a more affordable price tag and higher quality build design. But you still get a workout fan built into the base to help keep you cool, as well as a water bottle holder to help keep you hydrated.

One final feature we wanted to mention before we look at the console features is the foot pedals. Ergonomically designed with a wide platform and narrow Q-Factor to encourage a more natural stepping motion, they’ve also been contoured to help improve grip and stability at higher intensity levels.

International award winning design

When you’re comparing workout programs and console functions, it’s easy to forget about the importance of great aesthetic and ergonomic design, which is something Bowflex as a company pay particular attention to.

As a result, the Max Trainer was awarded first place in the Outdoor and Exercise Equipment Category of the 2014 International Design Awards (IDA).

More recently, the Max Trainer received the 2015 Red Dot Award in the ‘Leisure, sport and games’ category for cardio machines, based on an innovative design which stood out from 4,928 other submissions. This featured alongside fitness innovations such as the Fitbit surge and the V650 cycle computer from Polar.

Widely recognized as one of the largest and most prestigious design awards in the world, Red Dot has been identifying exceptional design since 1950, judging thousands of entries from hundreds of companies and designers annually.

Bowflex Max Trainer M5

Bowflex Max Trainer M5 – Features Summary

  • 16 resistance levels
  • 8 preset workout programs
  • Sync workout data to the Max Trainer app
  • 2 user profiles
  • Cooling workout fan
  • Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity
  • In-home assembly service available
  • Compact 46″ (L) x 25″ (W) footprint

How it works

When Bowflex designed the Max Trainer, their main goal was to create a form of cardio that burned the highest number of calories in the shortest time.

In order for this to be successful, they needed to look at all aspects of the design, from the intensity of the workout programs through to the stability of the frame and ergonomics of the stride motion.

The result is a compact base frame which maintains enough width to guarantee stability, even with the higher center of gravity and during intense interval training workouts.

Bowflex Max Trainer M5

They also introduced a new workout metric called ‘Burn Rate’, which is used as an indicator for the rate of calorie expenditure. As you might expect, the higher the Burn Rate, the higher the number of calories you can expect to burn during a workout.

Although static grips are provided for isolating lower body muscle groups and measuring your heart rate with the touch sensors, the moveable handles are another of the unique features that helps increase the rate at which you burn calories.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen shorter handles on an elliptical style trainer, with Yowza Fitness basing their CardioCore collection around a unique counter-rotational system. But we have found this style to be more efficient for interval training compared to the longer range of motion found on most rear drive machines.

Display console design

The Max Trainer M5 continues its run of unique design features with the console, which includes a number of significant upgrades over the earlier M3 model.

Firstly, the display screen is now backlit, which was one of the issues highlighted in our review of the M3. This helps to protect against glare from the sun as well as with highlighting all your most important workout feedback in low light conditions.

You might have noticed that the screen size is considerably smaller than on most ellipticals, particularly those from Sole Fitness who specialize in large display screens. However, the LCD display is still large enough to provide accurate feedback for a range of workout stats and equipment settings.

Workout feedback includes:

  • Time
  • Active/Rest (Intervals)
  • RPM (pedal speed)
  • Current user profile
  • Heart rate
  • Resistance level
  • Workout program profile
  • Average heart rate level

Bowflex have also included a unique dial system for displaying the number of calories burned, aptly named the ‘Burn Rate Display’.

Because effective calorie burning featured so heavily in the design of the M5, this takes pride of place at the top of the console, and allows you to monitor several important calorie readings.

You do of course have the standard LED screen which indicates how many calories have been burned, but you can also determine the number of calories burned per minute based on the current RPM and resistance level.

There is also a Target Burn Rate LED Range, which functions in a similar way to the SmartRate heart rate scale we saw during our reviews of Precor’s Precision and Energy series ellipticals.

Bowflex Max Trainer M5

In this case there are five LEDs that activate during your workout, and are based on the currently selected user profile. They’re an indication of workout intensity, with the first LED designed for beginners, and the highest LED designed for more advanced levels of personal fitness.

If you’re looking for the display shelf for your tablet, a state-of-the-art sound system, or MP3 connectivity, we’ll save you time and say that none of these are features on the Max Trainer M5.

That’s because the entire machine has been designed around the goal of shorter workouts, where you burn the highest number of calories in the shortest time. This requires high resistance settings and a focus on maintaining a consistently high RPM, which aren’t things that can be easily achieved when you’re trying to keep up with your favorite movie or TV show.

There are other benefits to not having this technology built in, such as a reduced cost that puts the 16 resistance levels and 8 preset workout programs level with many standard elliptical trainers at this price point.

The console buttons have been upgraded since the M3, but they’re still fairly basic, with no quick select resistance or burn rate settings. Instead you have to rely on using the up and down arrows, which isn’t such a big deal if you take advantage of the profiles already created for you as part of the preset workout programs.

There’s also a ‘Max Interval’ button, which is one of the key selling points of the Max Trainer. This style of interval program even allows a certain level of customization before starting. This includes setting the duration of the ‘Active’ and ‘Rest’ times, as well as the ‘Burn Rates’ for the MAX workout that’s about to start.

It’s worth remembering that there isn’t a warmup to this program, so spending a couple of minutes at a low resistance level before pressing the button is certainly advised.

Heart rate monitoring
The Max Trainer M5 is also setup to support two forms of heart rate monitoring: touch and telemetry.

Contact Heart Rate (CHR) sensors are built into the handles which will read your heart rate and transmit a signal to the console after your grip is maintained for 10-15 seconds. Unfortunately there are many factors that can lead to a drop in connectivity and a lost reading at the console.

Instead we would tend to recommend the second method, which is to wear an uncoded heart rate chest strap transmitter(e.g. Polar Electro). Because it’s in constant contact with your body, you don’t have to worry so much about your grip position, leaving you free to adjust the resistance and Burn Rate when needed.

One final console feature worth mentioning is the Bluetooth Smart Connectivity. This is something that was missing from the earlier M3 model, and allows you to sync your workout performance to the Bowflex Max Trainer fitness app. We’ll be looking at this more closely later in our review when we discover how to sync workout data from Bowflex Connect to a MyFitnessPal profile.

Workout programs and user profiles

Although the Max Trainer M5 specializes in providing high intensity interval training workouts, you’re also getting several programs that are based around ‘steady state’ cardio. This is where you maintain a specific workload throughout your training session, without the fluctuating intensity that’s associated with interval workouts.

8 pre-programmed workouts:

  • Max Interval

    This is the program the Max Trainer was designed for, capable of producing excellent results in a relatively short space of time by switching between high intensity ‘ACTIVE’ and lower intensity ‘REST’ levels.

    As with the other workouts this is split into 16 segments, but with 8 for ACTIVE and 8 for REST, with one of each being included in each ‘cycle’.

    There’s no warm up with this program, and the very first segment starts right at the highest resistance level, so we would recommend taking a few minutes to elevate your heart rate with a low target Burn Rate to get started.

    Once the ‘MAX’ interval button is pushed on the console, the Burn Rate display will indicate a target level based on your user profile, which will also be highlighted by a series of LEDs. Essentially you’re basing your entire workout on your Burn Rate, where manual adjustments to the resistance are needed.

    If you’re looking for a high intensity interval program that uses Burn Rate targets and automatically adjusts the resistance, your best option will be the SMART MAX interval.

  • Calorie Burn

    The preset programs on the M5 are split into two categories: Standard and SMART, with Calorie Burn being the first of the Standard workouts.

    Split into 16 segments of equal duration, the profile includes a wider range of resistance levels than the Fat Burn or Stairs programs, with less variation than the interval programs mentioned above.

    The short spike in resistance at the start of the program is designed to increase your heart rate, followed by a short rest period and a consistent increase in resistance, helping to increase lower body muscle activation as well as the number of calories burned.

  • Fat Burn

    Most of the Fat Burn programs we see during our equipment reviews follow a very similar pattern, where the resistance builds to a preset level and follows more of a steady state profile at 70% of your maximum heart rate.

    The M5 Fat Burn program offers slightly more variation, with more of a ‘Rolling Hills’ style profile, with a longer high intensity section to finish. This is much more reminiscent of outdoor running conditions, and you can still adjust the resistance level manually during any of the segments if needed.

  • Stairs

    The resistance profile of the Stairs program doesn’t reach the same resistance level as the Calorie Burn or Fat Burn programs, but can still provide an effective lower body workout, particularly if you override the maximum resistance for a segment.

    By default you’re following a profile that’s similar to an interval program, with several sections of peak intensity followed by periods of recovery. The only difference is the build up to these higher resistance levels is much more gradual than on the Max or Smart Max programs, which helps develop endurance.

  • Calorie Goal

    This is the first of the Max Trainer’s SMART workouts, and as the name suggests, is a program based entirely around the number of calories burned.

    As with the other standard programs on the M5, Calorie Goal is split into 16 segments, each of which is assigned a number as a percentage of your goal. Until you reach the target number of calories burned for each segment, the workout doesn’t progress to the next.

    To achieve this target level the program follows no preset profile, and you’re free to change the resistance and Burn Rate at any point. If you do, the duration of each remaining segment will adapt accordingly. So setting a lower resistance will result in longer segments, whereas a high resistance and high Burn Rate will have you achieving your goal in a much shorter space of time.

  • Steady State

    As effective as interval training is for calorie burning, you’re still going to want to add variation to your routine to experience the best results.

    The Steady State program automatically adjusts the resistance level to keep you within a specific Burn Rate Range, adapting to any change in RPM. This means that as you increase your running pace the resistance level will drop because the RPM is increasing your workload. Likewise, if you start to decrease your RPM, the resistance level increases to maintain the intensity.

  • Fitness Test

    If you use the M5 on a regular basis, either as your sole source of fitness or part of a wider routine, you probably want to keep track of your progress in both the short and long term.

    This tends to be slightly easier if your goal is to lose weight, where the scales give a clear indication of how effective your workouts are from week to week. But what if you want to measure improvements in your overall fitness level?

    For this Bowflex have included a Fitness Test, which uses the age and weight values from your user profile to calculate a maximum heart rate, then measures this against your power output to determine a fitness score.

    We’ve seen fitness tests before on other ellipticals and treadmills we’ve reviewed, but they tend to be based around heart rate recovery, which is where you activate the test at the end of a workout and it measures how quickly your heart rate returns to normal.

    For the Max Trainer M5 the test is completely different, where you build up to a Target Burn Rate Range that keeps your heart rate at close to 75% of the calculated maximum. Once your reach this stage, the Burn Rate is maintained for 3 minutes, after which your score is displayed on screen.

    The idea is that as your fitness level increases, you will require a higher Burn Rate setting to reach the same 75% heart rate level, which results in a higher power output. You can then use this score as a benchmark to measure your improvement over time.

  • Smart MAX Interval

    This could be considered the most intense workout available on the M5, following a similar interval profile of ‘Active’ and ‘Rest’ phases as the standard MAX Interval program.

    So what’s the difference? The standard MAX program displays a target Burn Rate using a combination of the dial and 5 LEDs, which act as an indicator for different personal fitness levels.

    This Burn Rate is only a suggested target, and it’s down to you to either increase the RPM, resistance level, or both in order to maintain it. In contrast, the Smart MAX Interval program automatically adjusts the resistance to keep you within your Target Burn Rate Range.

    If you’ve ever used a heart rate control program, this works in a similar way. That is by increasing the resistance if you’re below your target, and increasing the resistance if you’re falling short of your goal. This results in less time spent at the console and more time focussing on the exercise.

  • Manual Mode

    This isn’t exactly a workout program, but stepping onto the M5 in Manual Mode means you can define your own workout plan without following one of the preset training profiles.

    Unfortunately this is the closest you get to a custom program, but it usually results in frequent adjustments to the resistance level and burn rate, which may be difficult to recreate during your next workout.

    Although the workout data can still be synced to your Bowflex Connect online training profile, this doesn’t include a breakdown of the burn rate and resistance level settings used during each segment. If Bowflex were to develop an upgrade to the console, this is certainly a feature we would like to see. Some way of selecting from your history of manual workouts, or the option to create a small number of custom programs.

Several of these workout programs are customizable, such as the duration of the Calorie Burn, Fat Burn, and Stairs programs. You can also set a target for the Calorie Goal program to be higher or lower than the default 300 calories. The computer will then store these new settings in memory for future workouts.

Comparison with the Max Trainer M3

If you’re on a strict budget, the $600 price difference between the M3 and M5 Max Trainers could be enough to influence your decision towards the entry level design. But does the M5 actually have enough high quality features to make it the better option in terms of value for money?

It’s certainly popular enough, with more than twice the number of reviews than the M3 model at the time of writing. But what about the workout programs, warranty, and design?

As you might expect for the lower priced machine, warranty coverage is half that of the M5, with parts and frame covered for just one year. When you compare this to other ellipticals at a similar price level, this is well below average, but doesn’t seem to be indicative of poor quality components, based on the high average review rating.

Workout programs
Whereas the M5 features a combination of steady state cardio and high intensity interval programs, the M3 is based almost entirely around Bowflex’s MAX Interval workout.

This means by choosing the M3 you’ll spend much more time at the console making manual adjustments to the incline and Burn Rate, as there will be fewer preset resistance profiles to follow.

Bowflex Max Trainer M3 vs. Max Trainer M5

You’re also missing out on the fitness test that comes as standard with the M5, which prompts you to workout at a certain level for a short amount of time. You’re then given a fitness score which can be used to monitor how quickly you’re achieving your fitness goals.

Unfortunately workout performance tracking seems to be missing entirely from the M3. There’s no Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity like there is with the later M5 model, which means there’s no way to connect your machine to the Max Trainer fitness app or Bowflex Connect service.

Size and strength
In terms of the footprint and weight capacity, the two machines are almost identical. However, the M5 also gives you twice the number of resistance levels (16), as well as a backlit display screen to make it easier to track workout stats in low light.

To summarise, it really comes down to how much you value the upgrades, and whether you feel they will have a big enough impact on the quality of your workouts to warrant the $600 price difference.

For us, despite the occasional connectivity issue with the app, being able to maintain an accurate historical log of your workouts and sync data to other fitness profiles is the most noteworthy difference. But you also have to take into account the longer warranty, more resistance levels, more workout programs, fitness test, and the integrated contact grips for measuring your heart rate.

Sync workout data with the Max Trainer app

One of the developing trends to come out of cardio equipment in recent years is the ability to sync your workout data to an external device, whether that’s your smartphone or an online profile.

Several companies have already developed fully functional cloud-based systems, including the myLiveLight app from Yowza Fitness, and the Preva app from Precor.

But this level of workout app integration doesn’t come cheap, and each company only includes this as a feature on their top-of-the-line ellipticals, which is why we were excited to hear about the Bowflex Max Trainer app.

Maintaining an accurate workout history
Although the M5 does have a built in fitness test that provides you with an overall fitness score, there’s no way of recording this or logging it against your user profile. This makes it difficult to use in comparisons over time unless you create and maintain your own training log.

What Bowflex set out to do was create an app that could connect to the M5 via Bluetooth and effortlessly sync all your important workout data, including time, watts, calories burned, and average heart rate.

Unfortunately, based on the numerous reviews from the 10,000+ people who have already downloaded the app, connecting via Bluetooth isn’t as reliable as you would hope.

But as well as syncing your workout data from the M5 console to the Max Trainer app, you can also sync to your MyFitnessPal profile, as well as the Google Fit app and Apple’s Health app. Based on the popularity of MyFitnessPal alone, this can be incredibly useful.

M5 workout data can sync to a range of fitness apps, including Max Trainer, Google Fit, and Apple Health

If you’ve already built up a fitness and nutrition history with any of the apps shown above, the Max Trainer allows you to automatically update your profile with full details of your workout to measure your progress over time.

However, if you do plan on taking advantage of this feature, there are five things you should know before you attempt a data sync:

  • 1. In order to sync from the Max app to MyFitnessPal, you need to have a MyFitnessPal account and be logged in during your workout
  • 2. The Max console must have ended the current workout and returned to the ‘Welcome’ screen before the data will sync. Sometimes this can take a few minutes.
  • 3. The workout dates that get synced to the app are based off the time clock on the console. Make sure this is accurate before stepping on the machine if you want to compare workout performance across a range of dates.
  • 4. The M5 pairs with the Max app using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, which means it doesn’t pair with the Bluetooth settings of your phone.
  • 5. Not every smart device will pair with the Max Trainer M5, so it’s worth checking Bowflex’s list of compatible devices if this is a feature that’s important to you.

The Max Trainer data sync is currently available for Apple iOS and Android devices (Android version 4.3 or higher, iOS version 8.0 or newer).

Overall we do really like the look of the app, and the way the dial on the screen uses a similar design as the Burn Rate display on the LCD screen of the console. Feedback is clear and easy to read, and the option to view workout details for specific dates is a quick way to set goals for your current session.

YouTube video showing the Max Trainer app:

Despite the issues some people have mentioned in the app reviews, Bowflex do seem to be listening to the concerns and bringing out fixes quite quickly.

The option to sync data to other fitness apps and health profiles is also an attractive feature, and allows you to combine the workout results from the M5 with activities from a wider fitness routine. You can even transfer data to a Bowflex Connect profile for graphing your workout results in a weekly, monthly, or yearly comparison review.

In-home assembly service

When you buy a new piece of fitness equipment, the first thing you want to do is start enjoying your new workout routine. Unfortunately before this can begin, you need to follow the assembly process to setup the equipment once it’s delivered.

But in recent years we’ve noticed a definite trend towards simplifying the steps involved, with more of the machine arriving pre-assembled and diagrams being used alongside clearly written instructions in the user manual.

Some companies have even developed systems specifically to reduce the time it takes to setup the equipment, such as NordicTrack’s SNAP assembly, which they use on many of their top ellipticals and treadmills.

However, even with improvements in the quality of user manual instructions and a reduction in the number of steps involved, it’s reassuring to know that a professional in-home assembly service is still an option.

For the Bowflex M5, this includes full assembly by a qualified technician, as well as calibration and testing to ensure everything is in working order. They will even remove any packaging, with a total cost of around $159.

When we reviewed some of NordicTrack’s ellipticals we noticed that they too offered a professional in-home assembly service, but across a limited region. Although we didn’t come across similar limitations with the M5, if this is a service you’re interested in, it could be worth contacting Bowflex to check if they cover your location.

User manual instructions

The Max Trainer user manual features clearly written instructions and parts diagrams

Whether it features a rear drive, front drive, or center drive design, elliptical trainers are traditionally quite heavy pieces of equipment, with some weighing in excess of 400 lbs.

The M5 features an almost vertical stride that’s more reminiscent of a center drive machine, but because of the way it’s been designed, at 143 lbs it’s one of the lightest we’ve reviewed.

When you combine this with the fact that most of the frame and drive system arrive pre-assembled, you have a machine that’s actually quite simple to assemble.

This is helped by the quality of instructions in the user manual, which is something we’ve noticed from Bowflex ever since we first reviewed their PR series of home gyms.

That being said, the pre-assembled frame makes up the majority of the 143 lb weight, and is one of the reasons why the user manual recommends having a second person help with getting this into position. Because it’s quite bulky, this will also help when you have to lift it off the shipping plate and onto the stabilizer assembly.

The instructions themselves are clear enough, with exploded drawings and written explanations throughout. The only improvement we would like to see is a small reference grid at the end of each page, detailing the parts required for that step. Although you do have the parts reference in the diagram, you’ll find yourself switching between pages trying to match the corresponding part to the reference letter.

This is really only a minor issue, and doesn’t add too much to the assembly time, but we would still recommend setting aside at least 60 minutes to get everything put together. You’ll also want a small amount of time to get used to the actual motion, which is probably going to be different to what you’ve experienced on the machines at the gym.

Transport options
At 143 lbs you might not want to attempt moving the Bowflex M5 far without assistance, but there are front-mounted transport wheels to make this a little easier.

Because the footprint is smaller than most treadmills, ellipticals, and rowing machines, you’ve got more choice over where it’s positioned in your home. But you’ll have to make sure that it’s close to a power outlet.

There have been a number of negative comments in some of the M5 reviews that highlight the shortcomings of having such a short power cord. Of course there are always going to be ways around this, such as extension cable to extend the length of the AC Adapter cord, so for us it wasn’t a deal breaker.

Wherever you decide to position the M5, levellers have been fitted to the base to help compensate for any slightly uneven ground, improving stability and ensuring a safe workout experience.

Customer reviews

If you’re unable to experience the M5 before you buy, one of the best ways to gauge the overall build quality, customer service, and effectiveness of the workout programs is to look at aggregated reviews.

The reason we like to include this section in our own review is because it can be useful to highlight the most important pros and cons, particularly when the equipment you’re interested in has thousands of reviews, as the Bowflex Max does.

Unfortunately not everything is available on Amazon, and the best source we found for customer feedback was Nautilus’ own reviews section.

Each review that we came across had been written by a verified buyer, with their pros and cons accompanied by a brief summary of their experience with the Max Trainer.

To save you having to read through thousands of reviews with similar feedback, we put together the following lists of pros and cons as a summary of the points mentioned most frequently.


  • Combination of the upper body workout, incline stepping motion, and resistance levels burn a large number of calories in a short period of time
  • Wide range of resistance levels for all fitness abilities
  • Motivational display readout
  • Varied set of pre-programmed workouts
  • Compact footprint
  • Low impact on knees and lower back


  • Awkward reach for the water bottle holder
  • Only supports 2 user profiles
  • Button layout isn’t particularly intuitive
  • Warranty is shorter than most ellipticals at this price point
  • Limited range of entertainment features, with no speakers or MP3 connection
  • Some reports of rollers squeaking after prolonged use, but this is usually resolved with the application of a silicone lubricant

What’s covered by the warranty?

  • Frame and parts: 2 years
  • Labor: 90 days

We have to say we’re a little surprised at the short duration of the warranty coverage, especially after reviewing ellipticals from the likes of Sole Fitness and Yowza Fitness, who both offer lifetime guarantees on the frame.

The price point is virtually the same as many of the Sole designs, so we would probably expect something a little more impressive for $1500. However, Bowflex is one of several household names managed under the Nautilus, Inc. brand, which has been manufacturing high quality fitness products for more than 30 years.

Bowflex Elliptical Trainer Guide

Review Overview

Overall Review Rating

4.5 / 5

So after reviewing the Max Trainer M5, would we recommend it for your home workouts?

Because this machine features such an innovative design, it's difficult to make clear comparisons with other ellipticals or stairclimbers in the industry. That being said, the warranty isn't as long as we would like, and doesn't fare too well compared to the coverage offered by Yowza Fitness, Sole, and NordicTrack.

But in terms of the actual design, Bowflex have managed to take the best features from some of the most efficient types of cardio equipment and combine them into a machine with an incredibly compact footprint.

Not only that, but it also provides a host of challenging workout programs that cater for a wide range of personal fitness levels and exercise preferences. Don't feel like interval training today? Then you still have the steady state program, and the controls on the console are always within easy reach if you decide to take the Manual option.

Entertainment options are lacking, but on a machine that's designed around shorter, more efficient workouts, we can't say this really mattered to us. You still have a media shelf on the console, but by not including any speakers or MP3 compatibility Bowflex have been able to keep the price down and focus more on perfecting the stride motion.

Although it's received mixed reviews, we also appreciate having the option to sync workout data to our profiles on other health and fitness apps, allowing you to monitor your performance over time.

Overall, we feel the Max Trainer M5 deserves its reputation for delivering short, intense, effective workouts, and the thousands of reviews on ecommerce sites seem to agree. If you're looking for an elliptical trainer for close to $1500 but have a very limited amount of time to dedicate to fitness each day, we would certainly recommend the M5.

Product dimensions: 46" (L) x 25" (W) x 63" (H) Product weight: 143 lbs Weight capacity: 300 lbs