How Does The Bowflex Max Trainer Compare To A Typical Elliptical Machine?

4.5 out of 5 stars

We were asked recently for a Bowflex Max Trainer review as many of our readers were intrigued by this relatively new exercise machine from the makers of the TreadClimber, Select Tech dumbbells and of course, the eponymous home gyms.

How does it compare to an elliptical? Is it better? Is it worse? Is it worth the $1299+ price tag? Please Guru, break it down for us!

OK OK, you don’t have to twist my arm. Here is my take on the Max Trainer, which is currently available in four models: the M6, the new SE, the more jazzed up M9 and the new Max Total 16.

So basically these new machines are half stepper/climber and half elliptical trainer. There is a trend now towards hybrid machines, and many different companies are offering some sort of multi use machines, like ProForm with their elliptical hybrid trainers and Cybex with their Arc Trainers.
Bowflex Max Trainer Reviews - 2023 M6 Mid Range Model

(UPDATE: MAX TRAINER SALES ARE GOING STRONG: Bowflex is currently offering free shipping on new Max Trainer models.)

Check out the special limited time sale here for the best savings of the year!

It sort of brings you the best of both worlds, or in the case of the Arc Trainer, three worlds: a skier, a stepper and an elliptical.

The problem is that although you can target more muscles on these hybrid machines, more often than not they are of less quality than the single-use machines. But that makes sense because the prices are usually comparable, so you can’t expect to get an awesome three-in-one elliptical hybrid for the same price as a traditional elliptical trainer.

That said, as time goes on and the technology improves, there may be a day when these hybrid machines are just as good as the originals.

Getting back to the Bowflex Max Trainer review, let me start off by saying this machine looks really cool. They don’t have them in my gym but a friend of mine ordered one for his family so naturally I went over to his house and made a bee line for his basement to check this thing out.

The Max Trainer has a very slick, modern look to it, unlike many of the other residential and commercial trainers that look a bit intimidating and, for lack of a better word, machine-like.

This thing is silver and black with fire red accents…kind of looks like a jet ski or motorcycle or something like that. My friend has the Max Trainer M6, which is the new entry level model (replacing the previous M3), but the new M9 and Max Total 16 look just as cool. The SE, which debuted in 2023, is a completely revamped machine…all black with the inner workings covered, as opposed to the other models which have the flywheel exposed.

Let me start off with what I liked about the machine, and then I’ll delve into what I didn’t like so much. I can say there were many more positives than negatives overall.

Bowflex Max Trainer Review – The Pros

I already told you how cool these machines look, so that’s the first plus. They are visually stunning. They also don’t take up a lot of room at all which is great.

My friend has a half-basement, with about 400 or so square feet, so a small footprint was key for him, and for most people.

The entry level M6, new M9 and top of the line Max Total 16 are only 49″ long, which is significantly shorter than most ellipticals, and even shorter than most compact models. (The new SE is even shorter at 46.9″) It’s only 30″ wide. It is tall however at 65″, so with a very low ceiling it might not be ideal.

How’s the workout? I have to say the workout was very good. It did take me a while to get used to the elliptical/climber motion as I am more of a straight elliptical guy, but once I got into the groove it was quite intense.

As we mentioned there are four Max Trainer models to choose from, the M6, SE, M9 and Max Total 16.

The M6 that we worked out on has more workout programs, resistance levels and other added features that the previous M3 had, so it’s a nice upgrade for an entry level model.

The new SE is a step up from the M6 and looks completely different than the other models.The Bowflex Max Trainer M9 is a more advanced model, with an upgraded 10″ touch screen console, streaming capability and more resistance levels than the M6, plus enhanced design and comfort features. It also has the ability to track unlimited user workouts…the M6 can only track 2. So if it’s something the whole family will be using you might want to opt for the M9 or Max Total 16.

The Max Total 16 is the upper end model in the series, and improves upon the M9 with a unique feature that none of the other Max Trainers have: upper body power training. This is a guided program to help you build strength and burn fat. It also has 6 grip handlebars as opposed to 4 on the others.

Note that the Max Trainer M6, SE, M9 and Max Total 16 give you access to the new JRNY Platform (previously called Max Intelligence), a subscription based program similar to NordicTrack and ProForm’s iFit and Peloton’s app. It gives you personal trainer designed programs, customized workouts, Run Social maps, awards and milestone achievements, among other cool features.

What else did I like? They have a dial so you can see exactly how hard you are training. Watching the dial move up is pretty cool.

It has nice wide, comfortable pedals and the machine can sync with their free app on your mobile device to check your workout stats and track your progress.

The M9 and Total Max Trainers come with a wireless chest strap so you can measure your heart rate more accurately…that’s always a nice touch that is much appreciated. The M6 just has grips, so you can’t get as accurate a measurement.

Bowflex Max Trainer Review – The Cons

Although overall I enjoyed the experience, I’ll point out some negatives that I came across as well as some that other users might notice.

For starters, it’s not the easiest workout so if you are just getting started, this might not be the best choice for you, although you can use Manual Mode and build your way up.

The resistance levels, especially during the interval training, are pretty intense. So I would say the Bowflex Max Trainer is probably best suited for someone who is in decent shape and uses some kind of cardio equipment regularly.

It is a little noisy and wobbly at times, but that’s mainly due to its small footprint and the way it is designed. It also does feel like more of a stepper/climber than an elliptical so I can see how that might be a concern for some people.

The interface on the Max Trainer (besides the touch screen on the M9 and Max Total 16), although it is cool to watch the dial, is rather basic, especially compared to what you find on comparably priced elliptical machines. In that regard I think they could make that more interesting, perhaps with a few more readouts/features/capabilities, etc.

However, with the new Bowflex JRNY on the M6, M9 and Max Total 16 you can use your own tablet (or touch screen on the M9 and Max Total 16) to access a suite of great fitness tools that will make you forget about the simplicity of the console. You can also stream Netflix and Prime on the touch screen models which is cool.

Another negative is the warranty which is only 3 years on the M9 and Max Total, 2 years on the Max Trainer M6. This is an issue on with their popular TreadClimbers as well. Comparable machines typically have at least 5-10 years of coverage on the frame and at least 1 year and labor. However, the new Max Trainer SE has a 10 year frame warranty and 1 year labor warranty, which is a step in the right direction.

Some small complaints…the water bottle holder is kind of in a weird spot and hard to access, and when you use a tablet it covers the readout so you can’t see what you’re doing. Not a total deal breaker though and not the case on the M9 or Max Total.

What’s the bottom line on the Max Trainers?

Should you buy a Bowflex Max Trainer? We would say yes. It’s compact, it’s effective and it can help you get into shape fast.

Bowflex claims that you can burn 2.5 X as many calories with the Max Trainer than your typical elliptical…up to 600 calories + in half an hour. It’s purportedly better on the joints and provides a more complete workout in less time.

Is all of that true? It might be, but what it comes down to is whether or not you enjoy using the machine.

Some people absolutely love it and the fact that they can get a pretty solid workout in just 14 minutes (now 7 minutes on the Max Total). Other people find the motion a bit awkward, especially very tall people. Still others find that it is a bit too intense, and they have trouble lasting even a few minutes on it.

We recommend the M9 as our top choice, followed by the Max Total 16, as both of those models have enhanced capabilities and more functionality than the base M6, including the new Bowflex JRNY program right on the touch screen and streaming capability, so you can watch your favorite Netflix or Prime shows. That’s a really nice feature that makes the workouts more enjoyable.

However, if you’re on a budget, Max Trainer M6 is a perfectly good choice for your home gym.

Your best bet is to try and test one of these things out if you can. They don’t have them in most gyms…they are more of a residential exercise machine…so you’ll have to try it out as I did in someone else’s house.

If that’s not an option, you can always pick up the Bowflex Max Trainer on sale now and return it if you’re not happy.

Bowflex typically offers free shipping and a six week, so when you ordermax trainer there’s a 100% satisfaction return policy. So you really have nothing to lose, except excess weight that is. 🙂