Bowflex Max Total Trainer Review – 2020

Last Updated: June 12, 2020
The Bowflex Max Total Trainer is a full body stair stepper and elliptical trainer rolled into a compact piece of fitness equipment ideal for your home workout. The Max Total Trainer provides the fluid motion of an elliptical with the calorie torching benefits of a stair stepper. Upper body motion via multi position handlebars engages your arms, shoulders, back and core to provide a full body workout. The Max Total Trainer was introduced in 2019 as an upgrade to Bowflex’s M8 Trainer, but it provides several key features users will find especially valuable. The Max Total Trainer has a full color Samsung touchscreen in the console which not only provides workout data, it also has a computerized AI trainer, “Max” who responds to and encourages you during your workout. Goals and challenges are also customizable to fit the conditioning and needs of each user. Bowflex has designed the Max Total Trainer to be the premier answer to your full body training. The Max Total Trainer is expensive, but you get a lot of bang for your buck here, so it’s definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a low-impact trainer that will strengthen and condition all your major muscle groups.
Bowflex Max Trainer Review

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Who it’s For: Those who want the fluidity of an elliptical trainer on a compact stair stepper machine with multi-position handlebars for upper body training

  • Low impact movement still provides high-intensity training with power incline and 20 levels of digital resistance!
  • Compact footprint is surprisingly small compared to ellipticals and will fit in most rooms or home gyms
  • Moving handlebars allow users to train upper body muscles as well
  • Full color Samsung tablet display in the console
  • “Max” the trainer will customize your workout per your conditioning needs and encourages you throughout
  • Tablet screen supports Netflix, Hulu, and Prime video so you can watch your favorite programs during your workout
Pros
  • Fluid motion of an elliptical trainer rolled into a compact stair stepper machine
  • Multi-position handlebars for both a stationary grip and active motion when desired
  • Full color touchscreen integrated with apps for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime (you must have your own existing account to access these apps)
  • JRNY for two months free which includes customized training plans and Max the virtual trainer
  • Preloaded programs that don’t require a subscription
  • 20 Resistance levels for targeted goals and varied resistance levels
  • Compact footprint with enhanced functionality
Cons
  • Max Total Trainer is at the top of the price range for home use stair steppers and ellipticals
  • JRNY app requires a subscription ($20/mo) after the first two month free trial
  • The Max Total Trainer can be very noisy when in use — may not be ideal for working out in a bedroom if others are sleeping
  • 3-year warranty is at the low end of coverage for a machine in this price range


FeaturesSpecifications
  • Compact Footprint: 49.2” L x 30.5” W x 65.1” H
    • The Bowflex Max Total trainer is a relatively compact machine for all its provided functionality. It is only 2.5 feet wide, 4 deep and stands 5.4 feet tall.
  • Product weight: 148lbs and Max User weight: 300lbs
    • The Max Total trainer weighs 148 pounds, so it has a stable base, but it will support up to 300 pounds, which makes it an excellent training tool for many users.
  • Oversized pedals
    • The oversized pedals have a textured surface to hold your foot in securely. The pedals are wide and should accommodate any athletic shoe.
  • Multi-position handlebars
    • There are both stationary and moving handlebars so you can hold your arms still while working your lower body, or really engage your arms and shoulder via the moving handlebars. Handlebar motion is correlated with the pedal motion for a fluid feeling overall.
  • Full color Samsung touchscreen display
    • This upgraded full color touchscreen displays your currently selected workout with time, intervals, calories, burn rate, heart rate, RPM and resistance level. The touchscreen is also compatible with Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, so you can watch your favorite program using your personal log in (you must already have an account with each app).
  • Resistance Control Knob with 20 Resistance Levels
    • Crank up your calorie burn by increasing your resistance using the control knob on the console. Your resistance level is displayed on the screen at all times so you know how hard you are working.
  • Bowflex JRNY™ free 2-month subscription
    • The JRNY (pronounced “journey”) app is Bowflex’s proprietary fitness app with customizable training. You get real time feedback, tracking and rewards.
  • “Max” the Trainer virtual coach
    • JRNY also includes “Max” the virtual trainer who helps you establish your fitness level and set goals that are tailored for you. Max also gives you feedback during your workout and encourages you when the resistance gets challenging.

Construction:

  • Footprint: 49.2” L x 30.5” W x 65.1” H
  • Samsung Touchscreen display
  • Upgraded Ergonomic Grips
  • Wheels under frame
  • Step up height: 15”
  • Product weight: 148lbs
  • Max User weight: 300lbs
  • Four adjustable levelers under the frame
  • Oversized pedals
  • Multi-position handlebars

Console:

  • Full color Samsung touchscreen display
  • Resistance Control Knob with 20 Resistance Levels
  • Bowflex JRNY™ free 2-month subscription
  • Real-time feedback, tracking, and rewards
  • Stream shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu right on the display screen
  • “Max” the Trainer virtual coach
  • Bluetooth® enabled for smart devices and heart rate monitors
  • Pre-programmed and individualized workouts
  • Workouts range from 4 to 30 minutes

Functionality:

  • Elliptical motion on a stair stepper machine
  • Low impact, high intensity
  • Workouts are customizable for each individual
  • Armband heart rate monitor included — HR tracking and targeted training on screen
  • Bluetooth soundbar below screen will play music from your phone
  • Additional hand grips allow you to target different muscles in your back and arms
  • Touch sensors on handlebars for HR tracking

Warranty:

  • 3 Year Parts Warranty
  • 90 Days Labor Warranty

In-depth Review of Bowflex Max Total Trainer


Construction

Frame

Bowflex Max Trainer frame
The Max Total Trainer sits on two stabilizers (front and rear) and two center beams that hold the frame securely. There are four adjustable levelers — two under each stabilizer — which can be adjusted as needed so your Trainer sits firmly on the floor without rocking. There are also two wheels on the front of the machine so you can tilt and roll it as needed. The legs attach to the frame assembly and move inline with the handlebars. The right and left legs are connected via the frame assembly, so when one moves the other does as well. The pedals lock into the leg assembly and slide up and down smoothly along the track. Foot pads attach to the pedals for added stability and comfort. These have a wide rim so your shoe doesn’t slide forward or shift side to side while stepping. There is also a textured surface for stability and traction. Since the pedals move in conjunction with each other and the handlebars, this creates a very coordinated feel while in use.
There is some noise when using the Max Total Trainer, so this is something to be aware of. This isn’t as quiet as other ellipticals/stair steppers. But the frame does feel stable with minimal rocking.
Handlebar involvement can be static, light, or quite challenging, depending on where you choose to hold and how much you use your arms. You can really pull and push on the handlebars which targets the deltoids, lats, biceps and triceps. But if you want to just walk and focus on your lower body muscles, you can accentuate pedal motion as well.

Geometry

The Bowflex Max Total Trainer has a vertical design, so most of the frame sits upright rather than under you. This keeps the footprint smaller. The stair stepper pedal motion also makes it so your feet move up and down rather than forward and back, reducing the amount of floor area and open space required surrounding your Trainer. Bowflex recommends a maximum ceiling clearance of: user height + 19”. The Trainer should be placed on a firm, level surface. Bowflex recommends a dedicated workout area that is 78.5” wide and 97” long around the Trainer.
Bowflex Max Trainer Geometry

Pedals

  • The foot pedals are extra-wide and designed to work with any size shoe. There is a slight ledge around the perimeter that holds your foot on the pedal. The surface is textured so your shoe doesn’t slip.
  • The pedal is also oversized and glides easily up and down the track. The fluid motion of the Max Total Trainer makes it so even though you are working hard, lifting and pressing down with each step, the pedal supports your foot throughout the motion. This reduces any impact or discomfort that may emerge when exercising on the Max Total Trainer. The supportive pedal motion makes this feel more like an elliptical even though the motion is that of a stepper.

Handles

  • There are four handles on the Total Trainer. One pair of stationary handles attach to the console and do not move. There are EKG grips on the stationary handles. If you plan to do a workout that emphasizes the lower body, you could use the stationary handles and then really focus on working your quads, glutes, and hamstrings as you push against heavy resistance.
  • There is also a pair of moving handles with three different extensions so you can find the right grip. Two of the moving handle extensions angle vertically in front of the console providing an upright grip. The forward handles are slightly shorter and the rear set extend up further in front of the console. These provide a symmetrical grip so you can keep your wrists, elbows and shoulders in alignment while in use. The upward grips challenge your shoulders, chest and lats. Another extension of the moving handlebars angle downward toward the user’s ribs. These are better when you want to target triceps as you press and biceps as you pull. A spongy grip material adds a bit of cushion to the handlebars.
  • Handles work in conjunction with the pedals so motion is streamlined between hands and feet.

Resistance

Bowflex Max Trainer tension knob

  • 20 resistance levels are digitally set to be precise and consistent. Whether you use a JRNY program, follow a preloaded routine, or just adjust the resistance yourself, you can always find the same level of resistance. A sturdy brushed steel resistance knob sits at the base of the console, within easy reach. Using the knob, users can increase or decrease resistance levels as needed. Resistance level is displayed on the screen in the lower right corner. There are not displayed metrics on the knob itself.
  • It is very helpful to have preset resistance levels on an exercise machine. Many machines with resistance knobs use friction resistance and do not have set levels. This makes it harder to quantify the resistance and find the same level each time. The Bowflex Max Total Trainer uses a resistance knob, but thankfully there are preset levels so whenever you turn the knob, you know what level you are on.

Console

Bowflex Max Trainer landscape screen
One of the biggest upgrades from the M8 is the full color touchscreen on the Max Total Trainer. This machine was first introduced in 2019 and while many of the frame features are the same, the Max has upgraded functionality due to the newer tech-enhanced screen.

Screen

  • Full Color Samsung Touchscreen
    • The full color touchscreen displays your currently selected workout
    • It also displays your target burn zone, which is determined by your current level of fitness and personal goals.
  • Metric Display
  • The screen provides the following stats:
    • Time
    • Intervals
    • Calories
    • Burn rate
    • Heart rate
    • RPM
    • Resistance level
  • Multiple Workout Display Screens
    • There are multiple screens you can toggle through to see graphs and outlines of your program and stats.
  • Hulu, Netflix, Prime video apps
    Bowflex Max Trainer landscape screen

    • As mentioned above, the Max Total Trainer screen will support your personal subscription to Hulu, Netflix or Prime video so you can watch your favorite program during your workout. You must already have a subscription to one of these services, with your own login and password. A Hulu, Netflix or Prime video subscription is not included with the Max Total Trainer. But if you already have a subscription, you can login and watch it right on the screen.

Layout

  • Buttons
    • There are very few buttons on the Max console. Most of the functionality of the trainer is incorporated into the touchscreen, which cleans up the console nicely.
  • Storage
    • There is a flat shelf to hold a phone or other small object just below the console. This is easy to see, so placing your phone here would enable the user to see and respond to it when needed.
  • Water Bottle Holder
    • One large water bottle cup sits just below the phone storage area. It is oversized, so it should hold most water bottles. The cup is within easy reach of the handlebars.
  • Fans
    • Unfortunately, there is no fan on the Max Total Trainer. Fans are a nice addition to cardio equipment since users tend to get quite sweaty when exercising. We’d love to see Bowflex add a fan in the future.

Noise Level

  • The Max Total Trainer has a moderate decibel level. It is not as quiet as magnetic resistance bikes (which are virtually silent), but it is certainly quieter than a treadmill. However, as you pedal and move the handlebars, there is a bit of impact and movement noise that may be loud enough to be noticeable to those around you.

Storage / Folding

  • The Total Trainer does not fold. It has wheels under the front stabilizer that allow you to roll it as needed, but it is a good sized piece of equipment that is a bit cumbersome and heavy to move. We recommend finding a good spot for it in your home where you can use it without having to move it regularly.

JRNY and Onboard workouts

  • 8 Pre-programmed workouts
    • There are 8 pre-programmed workouts on the machine that will guide you through various intensities and resistance. The onboard workouts are sufficient to keep you active and provide plenty of training variables. This is a perfect exercise machine for users who want targeted training and extensive metric readouts. You get a lot of information with the Bowflex Max trainer. Even if you don’t pay for the JRNY subscription, there are classes and content that can be used on the machine.
    • Workouts range from 4 minutes up to 30 minutes and provide targeted goal training for users at different conditioning levels.

JRNY Subscription $20/month (after the 2-month free trial)

Bowflex Max Trainer tablet
The Bowflex JRNY™ App includes Max, the virtual trainer, who provides:

  • Dynamic Coaching
    • Max speaks directly to you, coaching and motivating you through personalized workouts.
    • Max creates customized workouts based off of your prior workout history. The goal of these workouts is to help you burn the most calories and improve your fitness, all while staying within your personal capabilities. By adjusting the difficulty (target burn rate) and length (time) of each workout, Max can provide a tailored program that is perfect for you.
    • For users who may not be achieving their calorie-burn targets, Max provides instructions to slow down or speed up to ensure that you’re staying on target. Of course, there are lots of awards and accomplishments you can earn along the way.
  • Customized Workouts
    • Based on the results of your personal Fitness Assessment, Max provides customized workouts that are appropriate for your conditioning level.
    • According to Bowflex, this is accomplished via “a complex algorithm based on your previous calorie-burn history.” Max measures how many calories are burned and how quickly they are burned, then uses this data to create workouts tailored to each user’s fitness level.
  • Premium Video Workouts
    • Max offers a library of instructional, trainer-led videos recommended to you based on where you are in your fitness journey.
  • Download the JRNY app on your phone
    • UThe Bowflex JRNY™ App is compatible with Apple devices on iOS 12.0 or greater and most Android devices with version 6.0 or greater.The app will sync your workout metrics in real time to the app.
  • Within the JRNY app, there are several screens for different features and content
    • Channel Screen displays video-led workout programming and entertainment content. This content is designed to help you enjoy your workout.
    • Home Screen displays your customized workouts and featured content.
    • Workouts Screen allows users to choose from the pre-programmed (non-customized) workouts
    • Journal Screen displays users’ workout history along with awards and other accomplishments.

Bottom Line:

The Max Total Trainer is the premier elliptical/stepper machine in Bowflex’s Trainer lineup. Beginning with M6, moving up to M7 and then M8, Bowflex provides several Trainer iterations. However, the Max Total Trainer is the top of the line model and includes all the bells and whistles including upper body power measurement, 8 workout programs, workout history tracking for unlimited users, heart rate tracking with a built-in display, triple-position handlebars with dual rail system and a water bottle holder. The Max Total Trainer has touch sensors on the stationary handles for heart rate monitoring, and it also includes a wireless armband heart rate monitor. The Max Total Trainer is a step up from Bowflex’s M6-M8 Trainers with an upgraded touchscreen, simplified console, and brushed steel resistance knob. This allows users to quickly and easily access the 20 resistance levels with the turn of the dial rather than using the more typical arrow buttons seen on other fitness equipment.
One unique feature in Bowflex’s Trainer lineup is the JRNY app which features AI guided training. This subscription based program features Max, the virtual trainer, who uses your personal metrics to create a targeted workout plan individualized for each user. JRNY uses a fitness assessment program to determine your conditioning level and then Max guides users through a range of training sessions designed to propel you towards your fitness goals. This personalized system is a step up from baseline comparable models that have a more one-size-fits-all method of training.
The Max Total Trainer is heavy and it does not fold up, so you will need a dedicated workout space. But it does have a surprisingly compact footprint for such a functional machine. There is a bit of noise while in operation, so be aware of noise output if that’s an issue for you. The warranty is underwhelming and the price tag is pretty steep – so there are a few things to consider with the Max Total Trainer. However, if you are looking for an interactive, personalized training program with full body activation and both strength and cardio conditioning, the Bowflex Max Total Trainer is a good option. It is excellent for anyone looking for high intensity, low impact training as it is easy on your spine and joints with smooth, elliptical-like motion and stair stepping action. The JRNY app costs $20/month after the two month free trial, which is less than comparable subscription programs and the Samsung touchscreen makes the machine enjoyable and easy to use.

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