Bowflex Max Total Review
The Bowflex Max Total was a top flight addition to the brand launched in August 2019 as an advance upon the M3, M6, and M8. Although recently discontinued, a number of great models remain available online and would make terrific additions to a home gym. A top quality cross between a stair stepper and an elliptical, all wrapped up in a compact design. In many respects it is similar to the Max Trainer M8, with a few key differences to keep in mind. First and foremost, the Bowflex Max Total is the first in the series to come with a built-in touchscreen display, rather than simply having space to use your own tablet for entertainment or for connecting to Bowflex JRNY training.
Max Trainers have been proving to be quite effective in providing efficient high-intensity cardio workouts, and with Bowflex JRNY you’ll be lead through a range of training options tailored specifically to your needs. Unlike iFit, Peloton, and other interactive training sessions, JRNY is AI-based, meaning that it crafts its workout specifications from your inputs into the machine. Running in a very Siri/Alexa sort of function, ‘Max’ is Bowflex’s virtual coach, who will push and encourage you as you work through each workout. Basic functionality with ‘Max’ is available with the free version of the JRNY app, however a paid monthly subscription opens up a slew of additional customized workouts. Also, the Bowflex Explore The World feature—a program that lets you follow real-world routes from around the globe—is also available by way of a JRNY subscription. As production of the Bowflex Max Total has been discontinued, purchase does not include a free subscription to JRNY, but the machine still works with it, as do many other Bowflex pieces, including bikes and treadmills. This is great for the home gym where a family might have two or three machines that can all share data from the same program.
Rating: 83/100. As a discontinued model, we figure shoppers will be looking at this as a used piece of equipment and hoping for a deal. Chances are they’ll be in luck as the Max Total has a lot going for it. The machine is built with a flat shelf for users to place phone, tablets, or other objects while working out, and it does have integrated transport wheels on front for easy rolling. With a total weight of only 148 lbs, it shouldn’t be difficult to move about the home. One potential downside is that this unit obviously does not fold up, and while quieter than a treadmill, it does produce a bit of a whirring noise. That much is to be expected with a trainer though, and we do like the triple position handlebars, which are needed for the assortment of targeted upper body workouts that Bowflex has added to this new top-spec unit.
Aesthetically speaking the unit does look more complete with its built-in panel, and said screen does have one great trick up its sleeve that sets it apart from just about every piece of other fitness equipment out there. For the first time we’re seeing a fitness brand get wise to the fact that many people like watching TV while working out, so the Bowflex Max Total actually has the ability to connect to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video directly from the HD console. Why this hasn’t been done previously is beyond us, but we’re happy to see a brand like Bowflex stepping up here.
The machine itself is exactly what we’ve come to love about the Bowflex Max trainer. The machine is fitted with sturdy athletic foot pedals that provide a solid grip, and can accommodate a wide range of foot sizes for various users. The dynamic grip handlebars offer multiple locations for hand placement and the ability to work the upper body in different ways. As with other models, the machine has touch sensors for heart rate monitoring, however the range-topping Max Total includes a wireless armband heart rate monitor. From a design and use perspective the console of the Max Total is quite a bit different than that of other Max Trainer models. First, a sturdy brushed steel control knob is placed front and center, allowing users to crank resistance up or down on the fly rather than using the more typical arrow buttons seen on other fitness equipment. Literally every last other bit of control takes place via the touchscreen console, leaving the machine looking especially clean and streamlined.
One of the bigger selling points of the Max Trainer lineup and the Max Total in particular is the AI-guided training delivered by the Bowflex JRNY (reads journey) subscription-based programming. Starting with an assessment program, JRNY leads users through a range of training sessions to push towards their fitness goals. It’s worth noting that though the Max Total comes at a steep sticker price, its cost of operation after the fact doesn’t sting quite as much as that of its competitors offering subscription-based training. Both NordicTrack’s iFit training and Peloton’s digital subscription services, for example, will set you back $39/month if you choose to pay for the subscription monthly, whereas JRNY subscriptions are only $19.99. I’ve long struggled with this monthly fee model in general, as the idea of bringing fitness into the home revolves around not having to deal with the impracticalities and costs of a conventional gym membership. The idea of carrying a $20 membership is a much easier pill to swallow in the long run.
Here are lists of top features on the Max Total and potential drawbacks.
- 20 resistance levels
- Samsung-built HD touchscreen display
- 8 built-in workout programs
- Sleek design
- New additional hand grips for improved ergonomics
- Bowflex AI-based training capability
- Armband heart rate monitor included with purchase
- Bluetooth-compatible soundbar belew screen
- Compact dimensions — 49.2″ L x 30.5″ W x 65.1″ H
- Low monthly subscription fee for JRNY training app ($19.99month) that will unlock archive of training content and more individualized programming
- Allows users to get a great workout in a shorter amount of time
- Substandard warranty — compared to other pieces of equipment, the Max Total’s warranty (3 years Frame & Parts / 90 days Labor) is very short, especially given the cost of the machine
- As a discontinued unit, the Max Totals on the market are used and going forward parts might be difficult to source.
- No cooling fan in console
Max Total Overview
The description of any Max Trainer often boils down to it being a unique mashup of a stepper and an elliptical. While this may seem confusing to some at first glance, it’s really not that complicated. Its stepping motion is more fluid than what you’ll experience on a traditional stepper, as its pedals follow the required workout motion (like an elliptical). There is a slight rotation to the motion, but it’s very much more of a stepping experience, coupled with the alternating forward pushing motion for your upper body. Given the different grip positions, you are able to target your shoulders as well as your biceps and triceps—the latter by using the downward grip configuration.
This combination of workouts is precisely why it has become a bit of a fan favorite to many. It’s more intense than a conventional elliptical, and rolls in the upper body training that is lacking in a stepper. As an added bonus, the machine is quite compact, meaning you’ll burn up less floor space in your home gym while you burn those calories.
The other key selling point that carries over from the elliptical design influence is the fact that Max Trainer workouts are low impact, and thus preferred by those suffering from or recovering from past strains or injuries to their knees/hips/etc. The Max Trainer beats out treadmills and stair climbers by a significant margin in that regard. As always it is recommended to consult your physician before engaging in any sort of strenuous activity.
Max Total Trainer Features
Bowflex JRNY ‘Artificial Intelligence’ Training: While other machines take the approach of offering interactive or live training sessions, Bowflex’s new JRNY personal training takes things in a slightly different direction. You can think of ‘Max’ the same way you would Siri or Alexa. He’ll pipe up during your workout to add encouragement, and take note of your pacing to in order to determine the required resistance level and timing of your next workout.
Built-in Workouts: Even without any apps, the machine has 8 pre-programmed workout routines which should be sufficient for users of any level.
20 Resistance Levels:This range will work for beginners as well as the most advanced exerciser. In fact, it would probably be more than enough for serious athletes. The resistance levels increase the intensity of a workout. This is why you are able to work out more efficiently but effectively – working your whole body and burning more calories.
Multi-grip Handles:As your resistance levels and intensity increases and decreases your hand positions will change and adapt. The multi-grip makes it comfortable and safe as you transition from level to level.
Free Armband Wireless Heart Rate Monitor: Unlike many other machines that offer a wireless monitor at an additional cost, Bowflex includes it with the Max Total.
Compact Size:The Bowflex Max Total packs a lot of power for such a small size. All the better to fit in small or big spaces in your home gym.
The Bowflex Max Total has 8 built-in programs which all provide individualized performance metrics on the display. Machine workouts range from 4 to 30 minutes and vary in degrees of intensity sufficient users of any level can be satisfied. So whether or not one wants to pay the ongoing subscription of an app, they can certainly get their workout on with this machine.
But for those that do like interactive exercise, there’s no question the machine was designed to work in conjunct with the Bowflex JRNY system, which offers trainer-led videos as well as customized programming for users at all levels. With the JRNY system, dynamic coaching is made available by way of the Max talking you through directly and motivating you through the workouts. The virtual library of trainer-led videos is augmented by streaming partnerships with Netflix, Hulu, and other entertainment platforms, as well as more than 50 virtual locations around the world through which users can stroll at their own pace.
- How heavy is the Bowflex Max Total? The machine weighs 148 lbs.
- When did the Bowflex Max Total first release? The machine was launched in August of 2019.
- Can I watch Netflix on my Bowflex Max Total? Through the JRNY Fitness Platform, users can watch Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and a number of other entertainment programs.
- What is the minimum ceiling height required to use a Bowflex Max Total? With this model, figure at least 15″ plus the height of the user. This means a user 72″ tall should figure an 87″ ceiling.
- What extra features comes with the JRNY subscription? In addition to premium trainer-led workout videos, the program tracks user performance and coaches them toward achievement of individual goals.
Warranty & Guarantee
The warranty covers three years on frame and parts, and 90 days on labor.
Though it’s at the top end of the price spectrum for home fitness equipment, the more we dug into the Bowflex Max Total the more we found to appreciate its design and construction. Bowflex is getting smart in terms of what features the market wants, aside from a lackluster warranty (seriously, you guys). If you’re looking for something compact and effective to help you along your fitness journey, and a used model is acceptable, the Bowflex Max Total is definitely worth a second look.