Bowflex Max Total Review
The Bowflex Max Total is the latest addition to the brand’s Max Trainer lineup—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. Surprisingly, the Bowflex Explore The World feature—a program that lets you follow real-world routes from around the globe—is not available on the Max Total. Unlike the M8 where your first two months of subscription are included, the Max Total’s purchase price includes a full year’s subscription to the service.
|Resistance||Automatic 20 Levels|
|Heart Rate||Contact Grips (and wireless armband)|
|Max Weight||300 lbs|
|Dimensions||49.2" L x 30.5" W x 65.1" H|
|Syncs with App|
|Premium Grips||Upgraded Ergonomic Grips|
|Best Deal||Visit Site|
Rating: 92/100. Though the Max Total has a lot going for it, the jump in price over the M8 leaves us with a slightly lower rating than its sibling. This primarily comes down to pricing. There’s roughly a $500 difference between the two machines depending on whether or not there are any sales or promotions going on, and the added features for that price are limited. Sure, you get a year’s subscription to JRNY rather than two months, but that amounts to $200 ($19.99/monthly). The balance of that cost is attributed to the machine’s built-in touchscreen, which is about the same size and resolution as you’d get from placing your tablet in the tablet holder on the M8. It also adds 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
- 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
- Very steep price of entry compared to other fitness equipment
- 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.
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.
While we weren’t able to get a firm count from Bowflex, we do know that there are a significant volume of training programs available through JRNY.
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 that we appreciate about its design and construction. Bowflex is getting smart in terms of what features the market wants, and aside from a lackluster warranty (seriously, you guys) there’s a lot going on to justify its $2,799 sticker price. If you’re looking for something compact and effective to help you along your fitness journey, the Bowflex Max Total is definitely worth a second look.