Bowflex Max Trainer vs. Elliptical – An in-depth review

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In this post, I want to walk through the Bowflex Max Trainer vs. Elliptical.  I have written reviews covering each of these products individually, and I wanted to take a closer look at how they compare.  If you are interested in a low impact workout, which yields high results, please stay tuned and keep reading.

The reason I have written the reviews on the Bowflex Max Trainer vs. Elliptical is this.  I have had back problems most of my adult life.  I am always looking for low impact ways to improve core strength as well as getting an overall full body workout.

You can read my story, but in a nutshell, I have been dealing with back problems since my late 20’s.  I had surgery in 1999 and have had issues over the years after my surgery.  The worst of my problems happened in late 2015.  I was doing things at the gym that a guy with a bad back should not be doing and I ended up with a sprained SI joint and a blown disc.

I did not want to have surgery again, so, I went to see a highly recommended chiropractor.  After months of treatment (I was a mess both from my new injury and never healing correctly from past injuries) I was finally able to workout again.  The first thing I worked out on was an elliptical machine.

So, given my history, these types of low impact machines are very high on my list.  They work critical muscles that support the spine. That is how I construct my workouts now (thanks to direction from my chiro), building and maintaining the muscles that support my spine.

With that in mind, I want to walk through the Max Trainer series as well as the ellipticals from Bowflex.  I will provide a summary of the machines, with a link to my complete review.  The review will give you in-depth detail and the option to purchase from

Bowflex Max Trainer series


There are three models in the Max Trainer series from Bowflex including the M3, M6, and M8.  These machines have the same basic function, but each model, of course, offers different features.

The Max Trainers are designed with an upright orientation that takes up less room than a traditional elliptical.  With the M series, Bowflex has taken a stepper and an elliptical and made a versatile and functional machine.

Each of the models shares one thing in common, and that is the 14-minute workout. This high-intensity workout consists of alternating periods of hard work and rest.  You work your butt off for 25 seconds and then rest, still moving slowly, for 80 seconds.  You do this for 14 minutes. It may not sound like much, but I can assure you this workout is fantastic.

Now, let’s take a look at each individual model.

Bowflex Max Trainer M3

Bowflex Max Trainer M3

This is the entry-level model in the series.

The M3 has the following features:

  • Eight levels of resistance
  • Two preset programs
  • Two user profile settings
  • Large, easy to read display
  • Fixed and moving handgrip options
  • One year warranty


Of course being the entry-level model, the price is budget-friendly, but you do not get as many options as the other two models.

Latest M3 Pricing & Promotions

Click here for the full Max Trainer M3 review


Bowflex Max Trainer M6

Max Trainer M6

The mid-tier model carries a heftier price tag, but also has more features than its entry-level counterpart the M3 offers.

The features include:

  • 16 resistance levels
  • Nine preset workouts
  • Two user profiles
  • Two-year warranty
  • Heart rate contact handgrips
  • Bluetooth connectivity

The M6 is the most popular model that Bowflex sells.  I can see why, with more features, including Bluetooth and more resistance levels.

Latest M6 Pricing & Promotions

Click here for the full Max Trainer M6 review


Bowflex Max Trainer M8

Max Trainer M8

The top of the line model in the Bowflex Max Trainer series offers a few more features than the M6 and a hefty price tag as well.

The features include:

  • 20 resistance levels
  • 11 preset workouts
  • Four user profiles
  • Three-year warranty
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Handgrip contacts for heart rate

The M8 offers a few more features than the M6 and quite a lot more than the M3.  I just don’t know if there are enough extras to justify the price increase.

Check Price

Latest M8 Pricing & Promotions

Click here for the full Max Trainer M8 review

In summary, the Max Trainers are a unique piece of equipment designed to give a high-intensity workout in a short amount of time.  You can adjust the resistance levels and the burst/rest periods within the 14-minute workout option.  So if you want a longer or shorter rest, you have the freedom to customize it.  You can also choose from a variety of different workouts with the M6 and M8.  The M3 is pretty bare bones, but will undoubtedly get the job done.

Bowflex Max Trainer Comparison

Bowflex Max Trainer comparison chart

Compare on


Bowflex ellipticals

Now let’s take a look at the Bowflex elliptical machines.  There are two models in this series, and again, the basics of the units are pretty much the same.  Both models employ a front flywheel design, which helps to save space and gives a very smooth ride.

Below, I will get into the different features of each model.

BXE116 EllipticalBowflex Elliptical BXE116

This is the entry-level model in the elliptical series.

The features include:

  • 25 resistance levels
  • 5-inch color backlit display
  • Nine preset workouts
  • Motorized incline
  • 30-pound flywheel
  • 22-inch stride length
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Max user weight 375 pounds
  • Heart rate grips and chest strap


This elliptical is an excellent option and offers a good value in my opinion.  I like the front flywheel and smaller footprint of this versus a rear flywheel elliptical.  There are plenty of options which will keep you engaged in your workout so you will not get bored.

Check Price

Latest BXE116 Prices & Promotions

Click here for the full BXE116 Elliptical review


BXE216 EllipticalBowflex Elliptical BXE216

The top of the line model has a few more bells and whistles than the entry-level model and a higher price tag as well.

The features include:

  • 25 resistance levels
  • 9-inch full-color display
  • 11 preset workout options
  • 35-pound flywheel
  • 22-inch stride length
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Max user weight 400 pounds
  • Heart rate grips and chest strap

The most significant difference between these two ellipticals is the display and the flywheel.

Check Price

Latest BXE216 Prices & Promotions

Click here for the full BXE216 Elliptical review

If I had to choose one of these two elliptical machines, I would lean toward the BXE116 because I just do not know if there are enough extra features to make it worth spending the money for the BXE216.

I can tell you from experience, using the Max Trainer is a different feel than exercising on an elliptical.  When I used the moving handgrips, this makes you lean your upper body forward more and really targets the quadriceps.

When I would lean back, using the fixed handgrips, I was able to my hamstrings and glutes.  The 14-minute workout is a great soaker I can tell you that!

Both the ellipticals and Max Trainers will give you a great overall, full body workout.  You can change your posture to target different areas of your body.  I like the fact that you can engage core muscles, and that really does help to support your spine.  These are low impact options, which I am very much in favor of.

Conclusion: Bowflex Max Trainer vs. Elliptical

All of these machines offer a great workout, and you can’t go wrong with whatever choice you make, but I will leave you with this.

My top recommendation is the Bowflex Max Trainer M6.  The M6 model has the Bowflex Max Intelligence functionality built, which the M3 does not, and yet it is less expensive than the Max Trainer M8.  The M6 has a ton of options ready to go for a great workout.  You will not be disappointed with this machine.

The M6 is a step up from the M3 and offers a lot of the same functionality as the M8, therefore it is my top pick. 

If you would like more information on the Max Trainer M6 or are ready to make a purchase, please click on the image below.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and if you are in the market check out my full reviews for more information.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this, and I hope you have gained some useful information.

Which model are you leaning toward?

Have you used a Bowflex Max Trainer or elliptical in the past?

38 thoughts on “Bowflex Max Trainer vs. Elliptical – An in-depth review”

  1. The Bowflex BXE116 elliptical looks great. I like doing my high intensity interval training so the fact is has a motorized incline is great! Plus it has Bluetooth which you can connect your tunes to so it gives you motivation while exercising!

    • I agree, there are a lot of features packed into this machine, it’s a top choice on my list as well. Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.

  2. I always see Bowflex machines on those late night infomercials, and sometimes in commercials on T.V. I always thought they had great designs and they look like they really get the job done. I love that they don’t take up a ton of space and they give you a pretty intense work out. You can get so much done in such a small amount of time, which makes it easier to stick to a work out routine. Everyone has at least 14 minutes to spare to get one of these work outs in. If I am ever in the market for a Bowflex, I will definitely check out all of your awesome reviews so I can make the best decision on which one to purchase for my work out needs.

  3. Hi there, I am really sorry to hear about your back problems. This is a subject close to my hear because my sister has been suffering for years with lower back issues and I’ve seen her literally banging her head against a wall with the pain of it. Really upsetting to watch and even worse for her of course!
    This is why I am interested in anything that could potentially help her and these Bowflex Max Trainers look great. And I also like the fact that you can do a workout in 14 mins, which would be great for her as she’s a busy mum. I’m going to send her this URL so she can take a look for herself.

    • Hi Stefanie, thank you for stopping by. Sorry to hear about your sister, I have been there myself. Working out again has been a big help in building core strength to help me out. I believe these machines from Bowflex will help people develop and maintain core strength. 14-minutes doesn’t seem like much, but my experience using the Max Trainer, it’s no joke.

  4. I’d say your background recovering from back problems entitles you to give a sound opinion on the best equipment, Steve. We can tell you’re being honest when you compare the Bowflex Max Trainer and the Elliptical.
    I appreciate that.
    I’ve never used the Max Trainer but ever since I read your review on it, I’m just waiting for the first chance to test it. I loved the upright orientation and the 14-minute workout.
    Thanks once again for such great info.

    • Thank you Eliane, I appreciate your comment. I definitely give you an honest opinion, I am glad you can see that. Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if you need any help in the future!

  5. Both Bowflex and elliptical are ideal solutions for not just back problems. I had a knee operation, and the elliptical trainer was a crucial part of my recovery program. It is the best home workout machine you can buy and I highly recommend it to everyone who is reading this. Thank you, Steve, for this great article. Whis you all the best.


    • Thanks Ivan, I appreciate your comment. Yes, I love ellipticals, they are great for people with back or joint pain. Please let me know if you have any questions, I am here to help.

  6. I really enjoyed reading your post Steve. I wanted to know which one of them would you recommend for a beginner like me. Because I want to start loosing weight. Thank you

  7. Steve,
    I always thought most of these elliptical machines were very much alike; thanks to you I can see although they may have different builds they also have different features to enable you to get more from a workout. I have back problems also and hate exercising so this just might be a viable option for me to try out.
    Thanks so much for the informative facts on all the elliptical’s you have on your site; hope to see if you have more in sight on them in the future.
    Susan 🙂

    • Thank you very much for your comment, I appreciate it.  Yes, there are a lot of different elliptical trainers on the market and it’s really tough to wade through all of them.  I like the options that Bowflex offers and I wanted to compare the different models in one place.  I love elliptical machines as a person who deals with back problems, so I am pretty passionate about them.  Thanks again for stopping by and let me know if you have any questions.

  8. The situation with your back makes makes me give a second thought to investing in exercise equipment.  Sorry you have been through so much, but it sounds like you are on the mend now.  

    Bowflex has always been the type of exercise equipment I would consider. They have been in business for many years and I remember the commercials!  Bowflex really has a wide variety of equipment to choose from, actually, I didn’t realize how many different models. 

    I think the elliptical BE116 sounds like more my speed and is the one I would consider most.  Do you know how long the warranty is on this model?  

    Thank you for sharing, I really needed to read this.  It’s time for me to get in shape. Awesome review, and the images were perfect.

    • Hi Patti, thank you for your comment!  The warranty on the Bowflex BE116 is 15 years on the frame, five years on mechanical part and electronics, and two years for labor.  I really feel like they provide a solid warranty.

      Yes, Bowflex is a leader in the fitness equipment industry and I really think the elliptical is a great choice.  Please let me know if you have any more questions, I am here to help.  Thanks again for your comment, I appreciate it.

  9. I recently started to have back pain too after sitting non stop working in my office. I really enjoy going to the gym but am just too busy these days. So, I have been looking for a machine that I can have at home.  This machine recommended by you seems good to strengthen the core. I like the M7 model, looks sleek. I should be able to fit this into my small living room. Thanks for the recommendation, I really appreciate it.

    • Hi Florence, thank you for the comment.  I really like the M7, and I don’t think you can go wrong with that model.  The upright orientation of the Max Trainer make it suitable for smaller spaces like you mentioned.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  Thanks again.

  10. My boyfriend and I are currently looking for a Bowflex. This is a tough decision between the elliptical or Max Trainer.  I love the 14-minute workout option on the Max Trainers, but I am so used to a traditional elliptical machine.  We do have a smaller space in our home where we will use the machine, so can you tell me which one would fit better?  Thanks! 

    • Hi Courtney, thanks for stopping by.  If you are working with a small space, I would definitely recommend one of the Max Trainers, as the upright orientation doesn’t take up as much room.  I think the M5 is well priced and extremely functional machine so you may wan to take a look at that one specifically.  You can view it here.  Please let me know if you have any more questions.  Thanks again for your comment.

  11. Wow this is an awesome review. I must commend you for taking your time to share this information because you must have done a lot of research. I enjoyed reading this but both trainers are convincing so I’m in a diemma of which one best suite me . My question is I’m a beginner which one will you recommend for me as a beginner?. I will be looking forward to your reply.

    • Thanks for stopping by.  I think for a beginner, I will stick with my top recommendation, the Max Trainer M6.  This machine will not only give you a great workout now but will allow you to grow into the machine.  This way, you won’t be shopping for another machine in the near future.  You will have enough features and programs to keep you engaged as a beginner or more advanced user. 

      Thanks for stopping by and please let me know if you have any more questions.

  12. Hi Steve

    This is a motivating post. I am so sorry about your back poblem. My Aunt has a similar problem that she has been battling for the past months. I hate seeing her in pain. But I am glad to have come across this post. This is the reason why I am interested in this post. This Bowflex Trainer looks great. The Max trainer M8 will really give the solution to her problems.Thank you for this info

    • I appreciate your comment, thank you.  Yes, I have dealt with my share of back problems over the years and low impact exercise is a great way to deal with it.  I love the Max Trainer series as these machines offer a lot of features, and you can get a great full body workout in a short amount of time.  Glad to hear you enjoyed my post.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

  13. Great comparisons and excellent writeup. According to my experience, Bowflex Max as a standard exercise machine, the Trainer burns more than twice as many calories, and you can lose weight twice as quickly using it. With the Bowflex Max Trainer, users report losses of 10 to 30 pounds in ten weeks, in other words, it gives you a better whole – body workout overall. Also, the machine Bowflex Max takes up less space than a standard elliptical trainer, making it a great choice for smaller workout areas such as condos or apartments.

    • Hi Ayodeji, thanks for stopping by.  You certainly know your stuff when it comes to Bowflex Max Trainers!  I do love the fact that these trainers are more compact and can fit in smaller spaces, like an apartment.  You can get a fantastic full body workout in a pretty short amount of time.  Thanks for the great comment, I really appreciate your feedback!

  14. Steve, thanks for an informative article. You make reference to the “hefty price tag” of the upmarket models, but I beg to differ. The prices for the Bowflex products are relatively cheap considering the benefits. An average treadmill, with all its cons, can easily reach $400-$500. Besides they have little resale value in the second hand market these days. Also keep in mind that some people who want to stay fit do not have a choice because of health issues, and the Bowflex still is an affordable option.

    Mine works exceptionally well. The whole family uses it often! Arie

    • Thanks Arie.  Your points are valid and I am very glad you see the benefit of a machine that will last a very long time.  In general, the health benefits of working out considerably outweigh the price of the equipment.  These Bowflex machines offer a lot of features that other models don’t. 

      I am glad to hear that you love your Bowflex and it sounds like you get a lot of use out of it which is awesome.  Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it.

  15. Steve

    I have been looking for a low impact work out for a while now but for different reasons from you. My issues stem from my knees and years of playing catcher. I have had difficulty finding a work out that doesn’t strain the joint and lead to more pain than gain.

    Are these both easy on the knees? Any insight would be greatly appreciated



    • Hi Nate, thanks for your comment.  For me, low impact cardio is where it’s at since I have back problems.  You face similar issues with your knees.  

      I love using an elliptical personally, and these machines are very easy on the knees.  As I get older, I understand the value of low impact exercise. I have always been pretty hard on my body, just like you with catching.  For you, I would recommend the BXE 116 elliptical.  I think this would be a solid option for you.  If you want a bit more of a challenge, try the Max Trainer M6.  

      Thanks again.  Let me know if you have any more questions.

  16. I’m glad I came across this, because I’ve been wanting a max trainer for quite a while. I have a nordic track elliptical right now and I do plan to keep it, but from the time I first saw a max trainer on tv, I knew I had to have one. Unfortunately, I don’t quite have the funds yet, so it’s been on the back burner. What I like about them is that they’re like an elliptical on steroids. I’ve always preferred the elliptical to running, because I get really bad shin splints and I can’t take the impact for long. A max trainer is like having an elliptical and stair climber put together, which is pretty darn hard to beat. Thanks for sharing! I’m going to save this link for reference in the future.

    • Thanks Mark!  I agree with you on so many points.  The Max Trainer is a great machine and like you said, a hybrid of an elliptical and a stair machine.  I love the upright orientation, as this takes up less space than a traditional elliptical, but yet gives you an incredible workout. With my back problems, I definitely appreciate the low impact nature of either an elliptical or the Max Trainer.  

      If you have any questions, please let me know, I would love to help you get into a Max Trainer and start realizing results.

  17. It is like we both share a similar challenge. I do a lot of work on the system, and on an average, I sit for 10 to 12 hours daily. This has affected my back, and grateful is an understatement for the information you have provided within this post. I have checked your review on the Bowflex Max Trainer M8 Performance pack. I prefer this, though quite expensive; however, it many excellent features compensates for this.  

    • Hi Tolu, thanks for your comment.  I agree with you, sitting a lot during the day can be painful and exercise is a great way to compensate.  I am glad you found the link to the Max Trainer M8 Performance Pack, that is a wonderful machine with a lot of great features.  If you have any questions, please let me know, I am happy to help!

  18. Hi! Thanks for sharing your information. I fell & broke my leg in 4 places this past May. My doctor recommended I sell my treadmill & buy an elliptical, because of the low impact. I’ve been looking at them, but am very attracted to the max trainer. Do you feel that it’s as low of impact as the elliptical?

    • Hi Kelly, I am so sorry to hear about your injury and I wish you a speedy recovery 🙂

      As for the Max Trainer vs. an elliptical, the Max Trainer offers the same low impact as an elliptical. The biggest difference is that the elliptical provides that front to back motion and the Max Trainer is more of an up and down motion similar to a stepper but without the impact.

      I suggest showing your doctor the Max Trainer to see if he or she thinks it would be a nice fit for you. The awesome thing about both machines is that you’re going to receive an upper body strength workout by moving your arms in addition to the cardio you’re receiving by moving your legs.

      I wish you all the best with your recovery. Thanks again for stopping by today.

  19. Hi! Would the Max trainer sculpt better the body? After watching their video looks like you end up with very toned and Shapley arms etc. Would you get less results with the elliptical? I would love to have a more toned and sculpt body, I am just afraid that the Max trainer would required more effort than the elliptical. I am not very fit but I enjoy the elliptical at the gym (I find the stepper harder ), specially since I can watch the trail videos on the screen. Would either of them have those videos?
    Thanks so much

    • Hi Gemma,
      Good questions. The Bowflex Max Trainer has a couple things that are different from a standard elliptical. Depending on what type of elliptical you use, it most likely doesn’t challenge the upper body as much as the Max Trainer, because the Max has multiple handles and angles and you are most likely going to be working at a higher rep per minute rate.

      As far as difficulty, both the elliptical and Max Trainer allow you to go at your own pace, but you can most likely burn more calories on a Max Trainer than you would on an elliptical. That said, it’s going to depend on your own level of intensity when using either machine.

      The Bowflex Max Trainer does have instructor led videos but I believe that only the M8 has a touch screen on it, while the other two models require your own mobile device.

      Lastly, to address your question of sculpting and toning, that is going to be a combination of building fitness level as well as diet. Typically, you will look more toned as your body fat percentage decreases and/or your muscle mass increases (this is true even without “bulky” muscles). The Max Trainer will probably give you more of a full body workout than other machines, but becoming toned or sculpted will also depend on diet and fitness consistency. I hope this helps!


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