Bowflex MAX Trainer Review: Details, Models, and Features

By Lydia Noyes
HighYa Staff
Updated on: May 26, 2020

The Bowflex Max Trainer is a series of high-intensity cardio machines from Nautilus, Inc that promise to get you in excellent shape with workouts that range from four to 30 minutes.

The machine looks like a combination of a stair-stepper and elliptical, and it’s designed to be compact enough for almost any living space.

Users can create their own workout programs, follow the pre-installed ones included with your chosen model, or subscribe to the exclusive BowFlex JRNY app to access hundreds of other workouts.

Currently, Bowflex sells three versions of its Max Trainer: the M6, M8, and Max Total. In this analysis, we’ll look at how these machines work, the key differences between the models, and whether better home cardio machines are available.

Pros
  • Workouts incorporate arms and legs for more efficient cardio exercise
  • You can decide whether to purchase a model with a built-in screen or use your own tablet
  • Numerous built-in workout programs
  • Integrated JRNY app gives more options for customized workouts
Cons
  • Machines may be considered expensive for performing one form of exercise
  • JRNY app is available only as a subscription
  • Some customer complaints that the machine broke quickly

How Does the BowFlex Max Trainer Work?

Regardless of your model choice, all Bowflex Max Trainers operate as a combo stair-stepper/elliptical. Each device comes with a range of resistance levels so that you can change the intensity as your abilities increase.

The Max Trainer’s goal is to give you a high-intensity workout quickly so that you stay in a fat-burning state for hours after. The machine incorporates both your arms and legs with every movement so that you work your full body at once to maximize effectiveness.

To use the Max Trainer, you’ll stand on the footplates like you would a standard elliptical and hold onto the handles at your preferred position.

Next, you’ll choose whether to follow a preset workout program or to simply set the resistance level and get started. This level can be adjusted at any time using the switch on the handles.

As the machine is designed to deliver an intense cardio workout, you may struggle to get through the entire session when you first begin. Many users shared in their customer reviews that they could only make it through five minutes at a time when they got started, but that they slowly worked up their stamina after several weeks.

Looking Closer at High-Intensity Interval Training

Bowflex’s workouts are based around the concept of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The idea is that you get a quality workout in quickly by changing the intensity of your actions every few minutes to keep your heart rate up and deliver maximum benefits within the shortest amount of time.

As one workout example on the product website, you can complete a 14-minute workout that includes a series of the following intervals:

  • 25 seconds high intensity
  • 80 seconds low intensity

In this case, you would complete the interval sequence a total of eight times.

Working out for just 14 minutes sounds appealing for the time-pressed, but are HIIT workouts actually an effective fitness strategy?

Research shows that alternating your workout’s intensity leads to a variety of benefits, including a higher rate of calorie burning per exercise minute and improved aerobic capacity. You’re also less likely to experience “workout fatigue” because interval training tends to switch up what you are doing every few minutes so it’s harder to get bored.

However, HIIT training isn’t for everyone—especially those who are new to exercise. Pushing your body to its upper limits can have negative consequences if you don’t already have an exercise habit, and it can put unwanted stress on your joints and muscles.

That’s one benefit of the Bowflex Max Trainer; these fitness machines make it possible to get in a low-impact workout at any intensity.

Models

BowFlex Max Trainer ModelsImage credit: bowflex.com

Not sure which Max Trainer model makes the most sense for you? Reference the following comparison chart to see what differs between them.

Max M6 Max M8 Max Total
Price $1,699 (or $95/month for 18 mon.) $2,299 (or $128/mon.) $2,799 (or $156/mon.)
Resistance Levels 16 20 20
Features Bowflex JRNY compatible, includes 5 workout programs, workout history tracking for two users, ergonomic handles with water bottle holder Bowflex JRNY compatible, includes 7 workout programs, workout history tracking for four users, dual-positioned handlebars with aero bar upgrade and water bottle holder Upper Body Power Measurement, includes 8 workout programs, workout history tracking for unlimited users, track heart rate with a built-in display, triple- positioned, sculpted handlebars with dual rail system and water bottle holder
Screen Bring your own device Bring your own device Built-in touchscreen
Warranty Frame and parts: 2 years Frame and parts: 3 years Frame and parts: 3 years

One of the most significant differences between Max Total and the other models is that it comes with a built-in touchscreen. That’s convenient for those who don’t want to use their own technology with their fitness equipment.

Beyond giving you direct access to the JRNY app and other workout statistics, you can use this screen to log into your accounts on streaming platforms like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime to entertain yourself as you exercise.

It’s up to you to decide whether this screen, along with a few other features like extra built-in programs and a different handle setup, is worth the additional $500 compared to the M8.

About Bowflex JRNY

To get the maximum benefit from your Bowflex Max Trainer, the company recommends that you sign up for a subscription to the JRNY app (all purchases will include a two-month free trial).

The app tracks your capabilities over time and creates customized workouts designed to challenge you and keep you improving. The time and intensity per session will increase with your fitness capabilities. You’ll be guided by “Max,” a virtual coach that will encourage you to keep pushing your abilities to reach new fitness milestones.

It’s also possible to follow trainer-led videos for workouts for extra motivation and guidance on form. While you work out, you can stream a variety of playlists from Bowflex Radio that themed around pop, rock, hip-hop, best of the decade, and other genres.

If you need a change of scenery, you can follow one of 19 scenic locations like Death Valley, the Swiss Alps, and more.

The JRNY app costs $149.99 for an annual membership or $19.99 per month. This subscription will automatically renew unless you cancel it at least 48 hours before the end of your current subscription period. You will retain access to your account throughout the rest of the subscription time.

Below are user comments from the JRNY App reviews on Google Play, where it averages 3.9 stars after 650 reviews:

  • Calorie counts might be inaccurate
  • Not always fully integrated with machines
  • Great extension of included workouts
  • Solid options for customizing workouts
  • Doesn’t support option to stream own music
  • A desire for more workouts over 21 minutes
  • Limited options to sync app data with other fitness services like MyFitnessPal or Google Fit

Purchasing Process and Satisfaction Guarantee

In most cases, the best way to purchase Bowflex Max Trainers is through the company website. They are also sold through a few online distributors like Amazon, but most models aren’t available in physical stores.

When scheduling delivery, you have the choice of whether to pay to have your Bowflex Max Trainer professionally assembled or to go the DIY route.

The machine will come with complete installation instructions, and there are supplemental assembly videos on the company website. Bowflex recommends that two people assemble it to ensure safety.

Processional in-home assembly can be purchased at the time of checkout, and the price will vary based on your location. Expect to pay around $170 for this service, on top of $150 for standard shipping.

All purchases from the company website come with a six-week satisfaction guarantee. This means that you can request a return at any point within this timeframe for a full refund, minus any return shipping costs, or in-home assembly costs. Note that the machine needs to be in original condition and preferably in original packaging.

You can contact the company to start initiating this process or get answers to any further questions at (800) 605-3369.

Also, it’s possible to receive a refund for an annual JRNY app subscription, but only if you purchase it directly through Nautilus, Inc (not through the Apple or Google App store, or other third parties.

You may qualify for this refund if you submit your request within six weeks of purchase by emailing the company at subscriptions@nautilus.com with your login email and cancelation request. Your access to the app will be restricted as soon as your request is processed.

Analysis of Customer Reviews

Here at HighYa, we have 44 reviews posted for the Bowflex Max Trainer Family. These average 3.4 stars. Below is a summary of some of the main comments.

Common Compliments:

  • Fun, habit-forming piece of fitness equipment
  • Led to significant weight loss for many users
  • Efficient, quality cardio workout
  • Space effective for exercise equipment

Common Complaints:

  • Some had poor customer service experiences when they needed replacement parts
  • For some, machine lasted fewer than 18 months before breaking
  • A few users experienced significant joint pain when the device was in use

Popular Alternatives to the Bowflex Max Trainer

Those interested in the Bowflex Max Trainer will likely consider other tech-enabled cardio machines as well. The following chart highlights some of the current industry-defining options available.

Bowflex Max Trainer Tonal Peloton Cycle Mirror
Workout Target A high-intensity cardio workout that combines movements of an elliptical and a stair stepper All-in-one machine that mounts into your all for building strength through weight lifting Follow live and on-demand spin classes streamed from NYC and UK studios, members also get access to the Peloton Digital app that offers yoga, running, meditation, strength-training, stretching strength-training, boot camp, walking, and dance cardio workouts Lets you follow virtual cardio, yoga, boxing, and other fitness classes offered through an interactive mirror that blends in as décor when not on
Equipment Cost $1,699–$2,799 $2,995, plus $495 for Smart Accessories (handles, bar, rope, bench, mat, and roller) $2,245, plus about $150 for accessories like shoes, weights, and headphones $1,495
Shipping Cost $150, plus about $170 for professional assembly (optional) $250 Included with purchase $250
Monthly Subscription Cost $19.99/mon. or $149.99/yr. $49.99/mon. $39.99/mon. $39.99/mon.
Is Free Membership Available with Purchase? Two months available free No, all purchases require a 12-month subscription commitment No No, all purchases require a 12-month subscription commitment
Is a Subscription Necessary for Workout? No, the machine comes with built-in workouts and can be used in free mode. No, digital weight functionality is available without a subscription No, the machine comes with several built-in classes, and the screen will display cadence, resistance, and output information when freecycling. Yes

Regardless of which of these products you are most interested in, it’s important to note that you will pay a lot for the initial purchase—a minimum of $1,500 before accounting for any accessories or subscription fees.

All four of these machines are designed to be paired with their coordinating subscription service. However, only Mirror is rendered useless without it. The three other systems let you exercise in free mode without any extra guidance, though Bowflex Max Totals come with the most built-in workout programs.

From a time perspective, Bowflex workouts focus on giving you maximum benefits fast. The company claims you can fit in a quality workout in just 14 minutes, while the average length for most Peloton spin classes is 30-45 minutes. Both Tonal and Mirror fall in the longer range as well, though you have lots of flexibility to create your ideal workout session.

Cost-wise, the Bowflex’s JRNY monthly subscription costs half or less what you’ll pay for the other services, and it’s also the only company that offered an annual discount. This brings down the total price of the equipment compared to Tonal, where you’ll pay four times as much annually in subscription fees.

Choosing which system is best for you depends on your fitness preferences. Bowflex promises a quick workout and is slightly more cost-effective, but the machine essentially allows for only one type of exercise. You could argue the same for Peloton Cycle, but the subscription includes access to the Peloton Digital app with wider-ranging workout options. Both Tonal and Mirror, in contrast, are designed to accommodate a broader range of workouts.

If space is your biggest concern, Mirror is the easiest machine to match with your décor while the Peloton spin bike will stand out. Bowflex Max Trainers have a relatively smaller footprint, as they take up about four feet by 3.5 feet of floor space.

The Bottom Line: Is the Bowflex Max Trainer Worth It?

The Bowflex Max Trainer series promises to give you an intense cardio workout, and it will deliver, so long as you are willing to put in the work.

Customer reviews indicate that many users found this machine challenging, even when they thought they were in decent shape. For that reason, we suggest you expect to get winded on your first few attempts and plan to work your way up to full-length workouts over several weeks.

Speaking in terms of value, the Bowflex is priced similarly to other tech-enabled fitness equipment, but you’ll pay less for the related subscription service. This machine also seems the most functional of any we looked at if you decide not to go with the subscription.

We also appreciate that Bowflex offers models both with and without a built-in screen, so you don’t have to pay for that feature if you prefer to use a tablet. However, there are numerous reviews from disgruntled users who had their Max Trainer break down sooner than expected, but often right after the warranty had run out.

Overall, this machine makes sense for anyone who likes getting in quick, intense workouts, but it may be too much for those who are new to exercising. Either way, keep in mind that if you decide to try it, you will be out the $150 shipping fee if you request a return within the six-week window.


Customer Reviews

Start your review of Bowflex MAX Trainer:
  • 44 Customer Reviews
  • 59% Recommend This Product
3.4 out of 5
5 star: 50% 4 star: 6% 3 star: 4% 2 star: 9% 1 star: 29%

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We have a zero-tolerance policy for fake reviews, and companies cannot control or alter any reviews at any time.

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  • Too hard to use

    I'm 60 and in pretty good shape but I could not go for more than 3 minutes. My wife (53) couldn't do more than 2 minutes and it hurt her back enough so that I had to take her to the chiropractor. My athletic grandson did the best but even he had a hard time, so I sent it back. But get this, that cost me $360!. Free shipping refers to one way, there to you. Buyer beware.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Piece of junk

    • By Ronnie,
    • Texas,
    • Nov 13, 2015
    • Verified Reviewer

    It started off great then after a couple of months it started squeaking. I tightened loose screws and it worked again for about a week then got loose. I called customer service and they suggested we use tight lock to secure it. Did that and it continues to get loose. Six months later we are paying for a piece of junk that sounds like it's fixing to fall apart. What a rip off!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Junk

    I originally purchased the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 5 in October 2014 had the Machine for a month and started having problems. The belt slipped off the internal drive and cut into the plastic cover. I called customer service and they sent a new belt. However, that was not the problem so they finally sent a tech out and he had no idea how to fix machine. After fighting with them for two months, they eventually sent out a new machine. The replacement took two months to arrive. I used the machine for another month and the control Panel stopped working. They sent a new one and it went bad a month later again. I figured out that my sweat was dripping in and out of the control panel.

    Well needless to say, after getting three replacements I now put a towel over it so that I don't sweat on it. Last week the internal nut fell completely off the machine and I began tightening it every workout. I called customer service to get a new part and they sent it two weeks later. Apparently I need some special tool to replace that part. Every bolt and screw on this machine starts to rust and strip out if you attempt to tighten it.

    If you are looking for a serious machine and not a place where you can just hang your cloths, I don't recommend the Bowflex Max Trainer. By the way, I have had a Nordictrack elliptical Audio Strider 900 machine for seven years and is a serious machine. They took very good care of any problems which were minimal and cost half of what the M5 does. You might want to look at that machine. I know I will be using mine because the M5 is always broken.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Makes a Horrible Grinding Noise

    We received our Max Trainer at the beginning of December. After we put it together, it made a horrible grinding noise, and the speedometer was not working. After 3 hours on the phone with technical support, they shipped out new parts and scheduled a service call in 2 weeks. On December 28th the repair guy came and said the frame was bent, and he would immediately order what was needed, and get our machine fixed ASAP. I've been calling to get an update, and nothing. I paid $1,700 for a machine, and have yet to be able to workout on it. Their after sale customer service is horrible.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Poor Quality

    • By Michael Camp,
    • Florence, AL,
    • Jul 4, 2016
    • Verified Reviewer

    Well I have had the M7 for almost three weeks and I still do not have matching handlebars. First they sent a new left side bar, then two handlebar assemblies, and now I am waiting on a new right side handlebar. Meanwhile a couple days ago my M7 started making a thumping noise and yesterday started squeaking. The concept of this machine is great if they could manufacture matching parts. Also the heart monitor is not very accurate when it does engage with machine.

    Looks like I will return it. It's just too loud for a house with the thumping and squeaking, even if I had matching handlebars.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Injurious Machine and Abusively Disrespectful Customer Service

    • By Jonathan,
    • Torrance, CA,
    • Aug 25, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    Max Trainer M7: I Initially loved the M7 and was fit enough to immediately enjoy its 14 minute interval workout, along with increasing the resistance to level 6 within a month. However, I also developed problems with the balls of my feet as a result, due to the way the machine forces the user to put unnatural pressure onto this area of the foot. I do wear orthodics, but have never had an issue like this since I started wearing them over 10 years ago, unless I was, e.g., crouching down on the balls of my feet for an extended period to do something. I even purchased a new prescription pair of orthotics, with more cushioning for $375, just to make sure my older pair wasn't the issue. No help!

    My Girlfriend started having knee & similar foot problems too, so it was definitely the machine. I never had problems on the Precor EFX 546 machine I owned previously, regardless of the incline, nor cycling or power walking. However, after using the M7 for a month, I even had pain in the arches of my feet while cycling. Very weird, so everyone should beware how it may affect you over time, especially with increased resistance.

    Customer Service: As they say, you never really know someone until you break up with them. Clearly, Bowflex has no real respect for its customers, based on how they handle returns. Because of the issues described below, they literally tried to insist I had to leave the FedEx Office I was calling from, and transport the two (2) 100 lb. return boxes back home and up the stairs into my apt., then bring them back the next day. Why? Well, first, prior to purchase, they grossly underestimated return shipping at approx. $200, if I decided to return the item. (Note, this wouldn't even be an issue if they provided return shipping labels like many other large & small retailers alike.) From Los Angeles to Ohio, UPS wanted $463. Bowflex's carrier FedEx wanted $311. Since these prices were much greater than I was first told, I called Bowflex and asked if I could use their FedEx account to utilize their discounts, so as to match the $200 estimate they originally gave. They said that was impossible. After much insistence, they agreed to send me shipping labels for $199, but said it could take 24 hours to receive. They cared not that I was already at FedEx with the two 100 lb. boxes and stated repeatedly it was impossible to provide them any sooner. Undeterred from experience, I remained firm, telling them they'd better get an executive on the line with FedEx to facilitate it, if necessary, or they'd have a huge problem on their hands. I received the labels within 15 min. Amazing what "impossibilities" a merchant can really do when a customer insists on not being abused.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Do bot buy, cheaply made product. Flimsy. RUN!

    • By Mac Mac,
    • Washington DC,
    • Apr 22, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    As far as training goes, it does everything it says it does. However, we have had problems with our machine. Noisy and grinding sounds that cannot be fixed. We called Bowflex and paid $140 to have someone come out and assess, and well, that person was useless; was not able to fix the problem and said we needed a new part that would cost about $600 to repair. We are literally two months out of warranty. The machine needs to be junked, which means I have to pay to have it taken away. Customer service is terrible, they just read off of a script, when you call and the moment it gets difficult for them, they defer you to a third party for resolution. Cheaply made product, RUN!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Crap

    • By Mary N.,
    • South Carolina,
    • Jul 22, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    Buyer beware. I got my MAX Trainer on 6/7/18, it broke on 6/12/18 and has been broken ever since. Two technicians have been out and were unable to fix it. Right now Bowflex is parting me to death when they should just change out the tower. Now I have the third new part but have to wait three weeks for a technician to come out to fix it. Run, don't walk from this company.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Thanks for nothing

    • By Michael B.,
    • Houston, TX,
    • Oct 15, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    My MAX Trainer M5 stopped working. It is out of warranty, but wasn’t used all that much. I was told by the customer service rep that it was the keypad. So I ordered a replacement. That it would quit working, with little use, is an obvious indication of poor workmanship, design, parts, or a combination. Instructions were simple with regard to disassembly, except there is no easy way to disconnect the “plug” connection. I am concerned about breaking it, and called to ask if there was a secret to disconnect it. Customer service is closed.

    My biggest regret is that on the answered survey regarding my initial call, I gave them a good score, because at the time I thought the rep was knowledgeable and helpful. I would like to revoke that endorsement, both for the representative and for the company. I am revoking it for the rep for not telling what I was in for, and I am revoking it from nautilus for designing this piece of trash, and not having someone available to answer questions at 3 pm Central Standard Time. Thanks for nothing.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Mechanical faults, manufactural defects

    • By Lester L.,
    • Frankfort, IL,
    • Jan 27, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I recently bought the Bowflex Max 3 and I am very disappointed with the product. After two months of use, I have a large knocking sound. I called Nautilus and they told me that even with my extended warranty they I would have to fix the problem myself. They said it was a maintenance problem. After looking on YouTube, many of the people called this and many similar other types of problems manufactural defects. This should certainly be covered by the warranty. I wish I could get my money back, but it is over 40 days.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Junk

    • By Erika C.,
    • Maine,
    • Jul 27, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have bought many exercise machines over the past 15 years and the Bowflex MAX Trainer is one of the most expensive and unreliable pieces of equipment I have ever owned. Within two months after using it about 2-3 times a week, the computer would not turn on. The company sent me a replacement only after they made me completely disassemble the entire thing to see if I could find a loose wire in which I didn’t. After 3 months of using the new replacement, I am again having the same issues. I would never buy another Bowflex again.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


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