When you’re ready for some serious results but don’t have a huge window of time to exercise each day, the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is the perfect choice. Burn 280 calories in only 14 minutes and start/end your day feeling really good about that convenient accomplishment. You can, of course, push it to a whole 30 minutes and more than double that amount.
The M5 combines the physical challenge of resistance, stepping motion and an upper body workout that directs the movement from the handlebars. Athletes and personal trainers have long understood the importance of this winning combination, and now with the M5’s decent price and in-home comfort, you can benefit from it, too.
The treadmill was born of man’s desire to keep his lazy carcass in shape when the elements won’t permit. Then came the stair-stepper and elliptical, machines born of man’s desire to keep from ripping his knees to shreds on the treadmill.
The Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is about 70 percent stair-stepper, 25 percent elliptical, and five percent torture—but mostly in a good way. It’s definitely one of the most attractive home-exercise machines you’ll ever see, and there’s no question it can give you a solid workout. Plus, it’s smartphone-savvy, syncing your workouts to a tracking app or Apple’s Health Kit. But certain aspects of the design will leave you wondering if anyone at Bowflex actually tested the machine before sending the CAD files to the factory.
It’s definitely a beaut, a monolithic slab of arms and pistons decked out with striking red trim and what looks like a jet turbine at its base. Turns out it’s a fan—one that produces less noise than a jet, but definitely drowns out the TV as you pedal faster.
That’s once you get it assembled, of course. Conveniently labeled parts and a well-written manual make for a fairly painless build, but it’s gonna take an hour, minimum. When you’re done, you can stick it nearly anywhere thanks to its measly 46-inch-long footprint. But you’ll have to hug a wall unless you run an extension cord to the M5’s annoyingly short power cord.
Climbing atop the machine feels like, well, climbing atop a machine. At either pedal’s apex, you’re a good 15 inches from the floor. Bowflex supplies admirably large steppers, but I found the machine difficult to get started unless I leaned heavily on the outer edge of the highest one. Motors control the resistance, but not the motion, so there’s no startup assist.
The M5’s control panel sits front and center, as you’d expect, but its digital display-cum-speedometer resides behind it. There’s a cup-holder, but it’s even further back—in other words, way out toward the front of the machine. That makes for an awkward reach. Meanwhile, the display has a protruding lip for resting a tablet, but doing so blocks all the information you need to see during your workout.
Perhaps this arrangement was a necessary concession to the M5’s svelte footprint, but why didn’t Bowflex combine the control panel and display into a single unit? That would have left room for a dedicated tablet stand that wouldn’t obscure the display.
On the other hand, the M5’s claim to fame is its 14-minute workout, which Bowflex claims will burn 2.5 times the calories of an elliptical and roughly 1.5 times what you’re burning on a treadmill. So if you’re on the thing for just 14 minutes, who needs a tablet anyway? (Even the water bottle feels optional.)
The machine can sync your workout stats to Bowflex’s Max Trainer app. It presents a summary of your overall accomplishments and breaks down individual workouts with data like average heart rate and calories burned.
Good news: That 14-minute workout feels great. It’s really nothing more than your average Insanity-style interval training, in which you pump hard for nearly half a minute, then slow up for around 90 seconds. Wash, rinse, repeat until it’s over. And it’s kind of fun chasing the analog speedometer, which uses LEDs to indicate your speed relative to the needle.
My only objection is the workout forces you to start at top speed, instead of giving you even a minute of warmup. Guess you can do that yourself before pressing the MAX button, which is all it takes to launch the 14-minute session, but you won’t get “credit” for it, calorie-wise.
The M5 offers seven other workout options as well, along with a manual mode. It has 16 resistance levels, meaning it caters nicely to the woefully out-of-shape and the fitness-mag cover model alike. However, for such a seemingly simple machine, the controls are a bit unintuitive for customizing various aspects of your workout (like session time).
For those interested in the quantified self, the machine can sync your workout stats via Bluetooth to Bowflex’s Max Trainer app, which is available for Android and iOS. It presents a nice summary of your overall accomplishments and breaks down individual workouts with data like average heart rate and calories burned. Late-model iPhone owners can also sync with Apple’s Health app—nice if you want to mix your M5 activities into your big-picture data. Unfortunately, the machine supports only two user profiles, so tough luck if you’re hoping to quantify everyone in the family.
See A Video Overview of the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 Below!
Summary of the Bowflex Max Trainer M5
• 16 levels of resistance keeps things challenging for all users.
• Opportunity to truly build upper arm strength while also focusing on cardio.
• Heart rate grips monitor your bpms without requiring a cumbersome chest strap.
• Bluetooth 4.0 compatible display to sync your personal data to a free mobile app.
• Impressive display console that tracks your workout intensity, amount of calories burned and more.
Least Favorite Features
A few downsides to the Bowflex Max Trainer M5:
• This is a mid to high-end machine, so the price is reasonable for all you get, but certainly not cheap.
• The warranty isn’t too great – but this is true of most fitness units.
The Bottom Line
Bowflex is a pioneer into the fitness world with this piece of equipment designed to accomplish multiple physical goals simultaneously. Choose between many different fitness modes, including steady state, stairs, calorie goal, fat burn and more. For the maximum amount of calories, try the Interval Training modes: max interval and smart max. Instead of constantly switching modes, its recommended to find 2-3 that work for you, and be consistent with those as you enjoy great results.
While the M5 certainly does not promise an easy workout, there are still plenty of resistance levels and preset programs for beginners. While Bowflex machines have often caused purchasers to merely fall prey to hype that comes with an expensive price tag, the M5 really is worth its weight in gold. Durable, challenging and dynamic, you will be pleased with the M5 and how it will easily customize to every member of the family. It also has a small footprint, meaning anyone can add it to their home gym without inconvenience. There is a less expensive model, the Max Trainer M3 also available if you’re preferring to stay under $1000.
The two-year warranty is a bit stingy for sure, but when you really notice how many great perks come with a machine as jam-packed with features and proven results as the M5, it’s tough to argue that it’s not worth the investment. When you’re ready for the ultimate workout experience with the quickest potential results available, give the Max Trainer M5 a try – your physical appearance will show its gratitude.
The Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is a beautiful exercise machine marred by some questionable design decisions—not the least of which is the noise it produces during its highly touted 14-minute workout. But a workout you will get, and with none of the impact of treadmill.