Looking for a Bowflex Max Trainer review that provides all the information you need to decide whether this line is for you? We’ve got you covered.
The Bowflex Max Trainer line combines the smooth, low-impact stride of a typical elliptical machine, with the calorie-burning benefits of the incline on a stair stepper to provide an effective weight loss workout in just 14 minutes. But can Bowflex’s newest cardio line live up to the success of their bestselling (now discontinued) TreadClimber collection?
We’ve tested the most popular Max Trainer models available in 2022 and compiled this guide to walk you through the top features to consider in every model. The guide includes comparisons between the M6, M9, and Total 16 to help you decide which is best for your own budget and fitness journey.
We also take a look at how these compare to older products of the same line.
Psst. If you’re not a fan of reading, here’s a quick snapshot comparison of how these Max Trainers shape up.
Does Bowflex Max Trainer Work?
Bowflex is a company that has already established itself as a household name in fitness. Their bestselling cardio and strength training equipment, including Bowflex home gyms, has been trusted by many for its quality.
But the Max Trainer takes this a step further and has been internationally recognized with two major awards for its design. The first was at the International Design Awards in 2013, where the Bowflex Max Trainer project earned first place in the Outdoor and Exercise Equipment category.
The product line that features the M3 and M5, and M8 was released in 2014, followed by an acknowledgment of the Max Trainer’s design and innovation in the 2015 Red Dot Design Awards.
Both the IDA and Red Dot awards winners are chosen by a panel of judges who base their decision on marking criteria that include innovation, functionality, ergonomics, and durability.
It’s their continued focus on innovation and making your workout experience more effective and efficient that shines through in the Max Trainers.
Bowflex claims that it engages the upper body 80 percent more than a traditional elliptical. So if you’re wondering whether this brand and range of products is worth it, we’d say the answer is a confident yes.
Bowflex Max Trainer Buying Guide
Which Bowflex elliptical you choose will depend on your budget and what you’re looking to get out of your workouts.
Although not the most affordable product out there, it’s possible to find a model that suits your budget.
Sitting around $1,500, the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 is the cheapest of the three and is perfect if you’re not too fussy about fancy tech. While this means compromising on resistance levels, streaming capabilities, and connectivity options, the machine will still put you through your paces.
In contrast with the older models (Max Trainers M3 and M5), the M6, M9, and Total 16 all have a reduced number of standard workout programs. The now-discontinued M8, on the other hand, comes with 7 workout programs, which is excellent if you’re looking for more variety. And you’ll still be able to find second-hand versions of this model online.
Interestingly, the M9 and Total 16 models completely forgo the Max 14-minute Interval training program. The idea of a “full-body workout in 14 minutes” was part of this trainer series’ claim to fame, so its omission was an interesting surprise.
Nonetheless, every version also has a manual mode, so you can tailor this product to perfectly suit your workout needs.
Heart rate monitoring
If you’re looking to keep track of your pulse during a fitness routine, it’s important to check that the equipment you’re buying offers either touch or telemetry heart rate monitoring through a chest strap or armband.
The M6 Max Trainer offers heart rate monitoring through integrated contact grips. The M9 and Total 16, on the other hand, also make use of a Bluetooth Enabled HR Armband.
Personally, we don’t tend to use touch sensors during a workout anyway, whether we’re using a treadmill, elliptical, exercise bike, or any other form of cardio equipment.
It comes down to personal preference, but if you think about how much you’re moving your hands during a workout, especially on something like the Max Trainers, you’re always going to get the most accurate reading from a chest strap or armband.
This also allows you to focus entirely on your workout performance and not worry about maintaining a certain grip position or taking too long to change the resistance.
If you’re looking for a machine on which you can enjoy your favorite show while sweating it out, the M9 and Total 16 Bowflex Max Trainers are the only models that support entertainment streaming.
However, the console on the M6 machine does feature a built-in magnetic media shelf which also serves as a tablet holder. We learned from experience that this isn’t always ideal for high-intensity workouts. But, with the media stand being magnetic, our devices seemed a bit more secure.
Being able to track your progress has become an incredibly important part of modern-day fitness routines, as seen by the explosive growth in the sale of personal fitness trackers.
This is why the entire Bowflex Max Trainer series allow for Bluetooth connectivity to their Bowflex JRNY® app. This syncs your results between the console and an app on your smartphone after each workout. This is a large leap from the original M3 model which had no Bluetooth compatibility.
By traditional fitness equipment standards, neither warranty is particularly outstanding, with 2 years of coverage on the M6, and 3 years for the M9 and Total 16.
We found this quite disappointing compared to the lifetime warranty that’s provided as standard on many treadmills and elliptical frames, as well as 5 to 7 years on parts and a year or two of labor.
Although we would have preferred something similar for the Max Trainers, Bowflex has an excellent track record for customer service. They’ve also created several bestselling fitness equipment lines with a high level of build quality. These include their TreadClimber and 1090 SelectTech dumbbells, which do give us more confidence.
Top Bowflex Max Trainer Reviews
We take a deep dive into the things we loved (and disliked) about the Bowflex Max Trainers M6, M9, and Total 16. We also compare these models to each other and past models like the M3, M5, and M8.
Bowflex Max Trainer M6 review
The Bowflex Max Trainer M6 is based around the same award-winning design as the M5, with a wide base frame for improved stability, large pedals for natural foot placement, and 4-grip handlebars to accommodate various hand placements.
The maximum user weight remains the same at 300 lbs, as well as the wireless heart rate monitoring, the innovative Burn Rate display dial, and the Max Interval workout program.
Just like the M5 Max Trainer, the M6 also features a backlit display for greater visibility of workout feedback, which we find especially handy for darker gym spaces like garages.
This display naturally isn’t as impressive as the M9’s 10” or the Total 16’s 16” HD touchscreen. But, if you’re just wanting to view your metrics, the M6 does the job.
The M6 has one stand-out feature that the M9 and Total 16 lack, which is the 14-minute interval workout. This involves 25-second sprints followed by 80-second rests. We loved that the automated workout gave us the option of just stepping up and getting the heart rate going.
This interval workout is quite challenging, even for the fittest among us, which is why we quite appreciated the reduced 7-minute interval option in the discontinued M8 model.
When it comes to resistance levels, the M6 only has 16, compared to the M9 and Total 16’s 20 resistance levels. The more resistance levels available, the more opportunity you have to increase how challenging your workout is. But, unless you have thighs of steel, you’re unlikely to need more than 16 levels, to begin with.
We found the transitions between the fan-based resistance levels to be buttery smooth, which makes a difference in the overall user experience.
Overall, we found the M6 to be an impressive, fat-burn machine that offers all the features necessary to get the heart rate going. It may not possess the luxuries of a touch screen or Wi-Fi streaming, but it certainly doesn’t lack the features that matter.
Resistance levels: 16
Display: Backlit LCD
Weight capacity: 300 lbs
Warranty: 2 years
User profiles: 2
Heart rate monitoring: Touch and Bluetooth
Workout programs: 5
Dimensions: 46″ (L) x 26″ (W) x 64.2″ (H)
Bowflex Max Trainer M9 review
In many ways we found the Max Trainer M9 to merely be a “smarter” version of the M6. With its 10” HD touchscreen display, steel, 20-level resistance dial, and built-in Bluetooth speakers, the M9 offers a much-more impressive user experience.
The M9 allows for Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can stream your favorite shows while breaking a sweat. However, we weren’t too concerned with streaming series while doing high-intensity workouts. We found the screen and connectivity to be most helpful for using the JRNY® app, which offers on-demand workout class streaming and personalized workouts.
While there is a media mount on the M6 that allows you to use the app on your tablet or phone, we appreciated being able to use it directly on the machine. We also found the touch-screen to be slightly more user-friendly and refined compared to the buttons on the M6.
The M9, like the Total 16, has a slightly larger footprint than the M6, with about three extra inches added to the length and width. This is still comparatively smaller than the average elliptical machine. And, with its oversized, textured pedals, we found the extra few inches justified to match the larger proportions.
This larger footprint also ensures extra stability, although we never found the M6 to be particularly wobbly.
Besides that, we found the water bottle holder a handy addition. While bottle holders can always be bought separately, we’d expect a cardio machine to have that as a standard attachment.
Resistance levels: 20
Display: 10” HD Touchscreen
Weight capacity: 300 lbs
Warranty: 3 years
User profiles: Unlimited
Heart rate monitoring: Contact grips + Bluetooth-enabled HR armband
Workout programs: 4
Dimensions: 49.2″ (L) x 30.5″ (W) x 65.1″ (H)
Bowflex Max Total 16 review
As the refined older sibling of the extensive Max Trainer series, the new Bowflex Max Total 16 features a larger 16” HD touchscreen, redesigned pedals, and 6-grip handlebars.
We didn’t expect the 6-grip handlebars to make that much of a difference. But, after having a team of people test it, we concluded that it makes the machine more accommodating to people of different heights. This is especially important if you’re sharing the machine with a household of people.
The upgraded 16” touchscreen was also a beautiful addition, as the 10” screen on the M9 felt a tad too small to fully appreciate the virtual destinations and workouts. We also loved that it was adjustable, so we could adjust the screen to match our height.
In terms of resistance, workout programs, and dimensions, the Total 16 is the same as the M9. We would’ve loved to see a comeback of the 14-minute interval training workout, but, with the many workouts available on the JRNY® app, its absence isn’t a dealbreaker.
If you’ve got the money to splurge, and you’re looking for something with a high-end feel and excellent user experience, the MT 16 is your best pick. But, if you find workout videos and busy interfaces more distracting than helpful, you’ll do fine buying the cheaper M6 or M9 trainers.
Resistance levels: 20
Display: 16” HD Touchscreen
Weight capacity: 300 lbs
Warranty: 3 years
User profiles: Unlimited
Heart rate monitoring: Contact grips + Bluetooth-enabled HR armband
Workout programs: 4
Dimensions: 49.3″ (L) x 30.8″ (W) x 65.7″ (H)
Bowflex Max Trainer Calories Burned
This is one of the most popular questions asked of any cardio equipment and is something that’s often used as a comparison between machines as a measure of their effectiveness.
The Max Trainer is no different and claims to burn up to 2.5 calories per minute more than a treadmill, elliptical, or step climber during workouts at the same pace and intensity. This was based on results from the Bowflex Max Trainer® Independent University Study carried out in 2013.
Bowflex also reports that the Max Trainer calories burned can reach up to 600 calories in a 30-minute session. However, we were unable to find actual details of the exact workout program or intensity settings used. We’ve reached out to Bowflex to find out more and will update this guide if we discover any new information.
It’s important to remember that these 600 calories aren’t necessarily something you can achieve every workout, and it’s worth quickly summarizing what influences the rate of calorie burn.
How calories are burned
A calorie is defined as the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C. This means that ‘burning’ calories is essentially the release of this energy, the rate of which is usually defined by two factors: basal metabolic rate (BMR) and your activity level.
BMR is the amount of energy expended while at rest, which is only usually enough to cover basic bodily functions needed for survival, such as the function of the vital organs and recovery of the nervous system.
Your BMR is something that will vary based on age, gender, height, and weight, with an increase in muscle mass associated with an increase in BMR.
If you don’t know what yours is, there are several useful online calculators you can use.
Bowflex Max Trainer calories burned accuracy
With your Basal Metabolic Rate calculated, you can then combine this with the number of Max Trainer calories burned while exercising to get a more accurate figure.
But finding how many calories you burn during a particular exercise isn’t an exact science, and will vary based on several physiological factors, such as height, weight, and gender.
There are hundreds of online calculators that claim to consider this. But in our experience, it’s best only to use the ‘calories burned’ data in comparisons against the same machine.
So you need to be certain that the underlying calculation and assumptions (knowledge of your body weight) are the same between, for example, the treadmill at your local gym and the Max Trainer. If you can’t be sure, then at least you know the calculation Bowflex use in their console remains constant, and will provide accurate comparisons between workouts.
Max Trainer Workout Programs
A look into the different workout program options available on the various models will help you find the one that best suits your fitness level.
Manual (Quick Start) program
If you’re looking for a custom workout but don’t want to spend time adjusting the resistance at each segment during a preset program, ‘Manual’ is probably going to be your best option.
It’s very similar to the ‘Steady State’ cardio program of the older Bowflex M5. It has an open-ended profile that tracks your total workout time and illuminated LEDs to highlight your target Burn Rate, based on the current user profile settings.
The only downside to this program is that it’s down to you to make the required changes manually. This isn’t always easy if you’re monitoring your heart rate at the same time, but we loved that it gave us more control over our workout.
MAX Interval Programs
This is one of the Max Trainer’s most innovative features, combining interval training with their unique Burn Rate display to create a workout that’s both motivational and effective. Unfortunately, the interval workouts can only be found on the M6.
The profile is made up of 8 rounds, each of which features an equal number of ‘ACTIVE’ and ‘REST’ phases. ‘ACTIVE’ for when the target Burn Rate increases, and ‘REST’ for when it drops, allowing a certain level of recovery before the next round begins.
We found the indication provided by the Burn Rate needle more motivational than simply setting a resistance level, where the intensity level you need to achieve is tailored to your current user profile.
This category features a collection of 3 workout programs with varying resistance profiles and includes the Calorie Burn, Stairs, and Fat Burn workouts.
The resistance profile is preset, and the machine will automatically adjust the level to match the current workout segment. You can also adjust the resistance level for a segment via the console if you’re not happy with the intensity.
‘Stairs’ follows a typical rolling hills style program, with more intensity peaks but using a lower maximum resistance level.
This is compared to the Calorie Burn program, which features a challenging warm-up followed by an endurance-style profile that reaches the highest resistance level the Max Trainer has to offer.
Max Trainer Heart Rate Monitoring
Whether you’re taking advantage of the Max Trainer interval program or starting with some steady-state cardio, it’s useful to be able to keep track of your heart rate.
Contact Heart Rate (CHR) sensors are one of the most common ways to achieve this and have been built into the static handles of both models.
But there’s a major problem with touch sensors that makes them unreliable for longer workouts, which is that you need to maintain constant contact for a signal to be transmitted to the console.
There are even warnings about this in the user manual, where Bowflex report that slight hand movements, the proximity of other electronic machines, and even hand lotion can reduce signal strength and interfere with pulse detection.
Fortunately, the M9 and Total 16 also support a Bluetooth-enabled HR armband. We’ve found this to be a much more practical solution to heart rate monitoring, particularly during high-intensity workouts, where your grip frequently changes to different positions on the handles.
Although this machine does support a variety of fitness goals, there’s no specific heart rate control program that automatically adjusts the resistance to keep you within a target range. However, it is used in the initial Fitness Test to help determine a Fitness Score, which can then be used to measure your progress over time.
Customer Bowflex Max Trainers Reviews
The official Bowflex website is the best place to find out about other people’s experiences with the Max Trainers. There, you’ll find useful insights on ease of assembly, durability, and user experience.
Below are a few of the most commonly mentioned pros and cons across devices.
- Low impact on knees
- Intense, full-body workout in a short amount of time
- Variety of workout options through JRNY® app
- JRNY® app required a subscription after 1-year free trial
- Having to log into JRNY® app before every workout
Bowflex Max Trainer Alternatives
Looking for more cardio machines worth considering? Have a look at our guide to the best air bikes, for more resistance exercise equipment. We’re also fans of the electricity-free curved treadmills, which burn more calories, as you have to propel the belt yourself.
And if you’re looking for a more traditional elliptical, be sure to have a look at our review of the best elliptical trainers.
USA Home Gym gives in-depth insights into gym equipment, supplements, and fitness training methods. The motivation behind USA Home Gym is to provide you with information that goes beyond what you can find in any user manual, customer review, or other online review sites.
We go to great lengths to ensure that our reviews are completely comprehensive, usually covering everything from the design features to the warranty coverage and exercise options. This is all to help guide you towards the home gym equipment that’s best suited to your goals and budget, whilst also being the highest quality option in your chosen price range.