A program that improves aerobic cardiovascular fitness is one of the best ways to get toned muscles and achieve a better overall sense of well-being. Everyone likes to stay in shape. Fitness builds confidence, increases productivity, and helps to drive away depression. But with increasing demands on time due to the obligations of work and family, few people are free to dedicate hours to the gym. High-quality home exercise equipment like the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 can help keep you fit while providing little disruption to an already busy schedule.

COMPARISON TABLE

Bowflex Max Trainer M5

Bowflex Max Trainer M5 University of Michigan

The Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is a hybrid stepper/elliptical that features the best qualities of both machines. It has the high-calorie burn of a stepper and features the smooth action of an elliptical that won't stress or fatigue joints. The mounted arm bars allow the user to activate the upper body in a motion similar to that of cross-country skiing. The machine activates the major muscle groups in the legs, chest, and abdomen and provides a full-body workout in a fraction of the time required from competing equipment.

Product Specs

Combining a stepper and elliptical action allows Bowflex to create a machine that is more vertical than a traditional stepper. The result is that the overall footprint of the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is much smaller than other machines on the market. This has the advantage that the machine can fit easily into a small apartment or house.

The unit is 46.1 inches long by 25 inches wide and stands at 62.9 inches high. The minimum ceiling height for this machine is the user height plus 15 inches. The machine weighs 143 pounds and has a maximum user weight of 300 pounds. The unit comes with an attractive interface that offers 9 workout programs.

Pricing  

Bowflex Max Trainer M5 University of Michigan

The Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is available on Amazon and at select local retailers that feature sports and fitness equipment for around $1,600.

How It Compares

We tested the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 on many factors including price, ease of use, assembly time, design quality, and warranty. We also made notes on our general impression and exercise enjoyment. Finally, we compared the unit to other similar exercise machines that are available. These included:

  • Bowflex TC100 TreadClimber
  • Nordic Track FreeStride Trainer FS7i iFit
  • Sole E55 Elliptical Trainer System

Bowflex Max Trainer M5 University of Michigan
  • Save time with the Breakthrough 14-minute max internal workout
  • Blue backlit display with Tachometer showing target & burn-rate zones
  • Bluetooth allows you to sync to the free max Trainer app
  • 9 program to keep you challenged
  • Compact design that fits most any space

Price $$

At $1,600 the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 represents a significant investment. Almost all the quality machines available on the market are within this price range.

Ease of Use

The Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is fun and efficient to use. The user climbs onto the non-slip pedals, grabs the handles, and begins. There is also the option to grab the integrated contact strips if the user wishes to get a static strength exercise for the upper body rather than a full-body aerobic workout. The contact strips offer a heart rate reading, and the unit also includes a chest strap. The programs were intuitive and challenging with a variety of intensity options. This is a fun and effective workout you can look forward to.

Assembly Time 

The main weight-bearing components of this unit come pre-assembled, so there is little for the user to do. Home assembly includes attaching various components with the bolts and tools provided. The instructions are easy to follow, and we don't recommend paying extra for home assembly. The unit goes together in about an hour. 

Design Quality 

The hybrid stepper/elliptical concept for the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is a technological breakthrough. Using a stepper rather than an elliptical action means that there is no need to make adjustments for stride length, and the result is a more comfortable workout. The unit has a high-quality construction built to last. The handle grips are comfortable and offer a variety of hand positions. The unit is equally comfortable for users of all heights.

Warranty

The unit comes with a better than average two-year warranty.

PROS

  • Hybrid stepper/elliptical action offers the best of all world results
  • The machine assembles easily
  • The machine has a good construction that will endure high-intensity workouts
  • The machine comes with great programs
  • Easy to read display that is also easy to operate

CONS

  • Significant cost at $1,600
  • The warranty is only two years

Bowflex TC100 TreadClimber
  • Combines the motions of a treadmill, a stepper, and an elliptical for an easy, low-impact workout with high-impact results - and all you do is walk
  • Just walk and Burn up to two and half times the calories of a treadmill at the same speed*
  • 4 Electronic Functions: Speed, Distance, Time and Calories
  • Speed range of .5 - 4 mph
  • Heart-Rate Monitor with integrated contact grips

The Bowflex TC100 TreadClimber is another innovative product from Bowflex. The unit features two treadmills which alternately rise to create a combination treadmill/stepper. The result is a high-calorie workout that produces a very intense exercise at a low perceived level of exertion. The maximum treadmill speed is only 4 miles per hour. It features an easy-to-read display which shows speed, distance, time and calories.

The Bowflex TC100 TreadClimber is a compact machine. It measures 57 inches long by 31.5 inches wide and stands at 59 inches height. The minimum ceiling height is 14.5 inches plus the height of the user. With the TreadClimber, Bowflex recommends a few more inches for clearance. The assembled machine weights 158 pounds and has integrated transport rollers for easy maneuverability after assembly. The maximum user weight is 300 pounds.

Price $$

This unit is available at Amazon and at select local retailers that feature fitness and sporting equipment for between $1,800 and $2,000.

Ease of Use

The combination stepper/treadmill concept of this machine creates an effective workout. The user always feels he or she is performing at a walking pace. However, the step action of the TreadClimber ensures a high-calorie burn. We liked the simplicity of the easy-to-read display. The unit offers no workout programs, and it is not as good at activating upper body muscle groups.

Assembly Time 

Assembly is mostly straightforward, but it required more time than the Bowflex Max Trainer M5. The weight-bearing components are pre-assembled, and home assembly requires attaching the rails and the display interface. We assembled the unit in under 2 hours. 

Design Quality 

This is a highly innovative concept. The idea to combine the best features of a treadmill and a stepper creates an easy and efficient workout. This machine is better for low-intensity workouts than high-intensity workouts. The slow speeds mean that joint stress is minimal, but there is still more potential for impact than you would get on an elliptical. Static strength exercise is the only way to activate the upper body on this machine.

Warranty

The unit comes with a two-year warranty that covers the entire machine.

PROS

  • Hybrid treadmill/stepper exercise action
  • Low perceived level of effort
  • High-calorie burn

CONS

  • More expensive than the Bowflex Max Trainer M5
  • Better suited for low-intensity workouts
  • Limited potential for activating the upper body

There was a time when the Nordic Track offered one of the best home workout machines. The Nordic Track FreeStride Trainer FS7i is an improvement over earlier Nordic Track machines, but it is not in the class of the Bowflex units we've tested. The FreeStride's footprint is 58.5 inches long by 29.5 inches wide and stands at 74 inches tall. However, the action of the machine requires additional space in front and back of the machine when in use. The unit weighs 320 pounds and can support a maximum user weight of 375 pounds.

The Nordic Track is a 3-in-1 unit that works as a stepper, elliptical, or treadmill. It features integrated handle controls and a 7-inch smart HD touchscreen display. The unit also has a power adjustable incline to increase the difficulty of your workouts. The action is smooth and silent and there is a water bottle holder to help you stay hydrated.

Price $$

The unit is available at the Nordic Track web page and at select local retailers for around $1,800.

Ease of Use

We were excited about the 7-inch, full-color, smart screen display until we found out it could only show still images. We preferred the Bowflex model of combining the best elements of steppers, treadmills, and ellipticals rather than this unit which tries to be all three. Bowflex's approach resulted in a better machine. The Nordic Track approach results in a machine that tries to be everything and fails. We also didn't like the handles which were large and uncomfortable.

Assembly Time 

The FreeStride advertises snap assembly, but the unit is so large and heavy it was difficult to put together. The pieces are awkward and we took close to 3 hours to assemble it.

Design Quality 

The FreeStride is an ugly machine that is too big and takes up too much space. We didn't like how it performed as an elliptical, stepper, or treadmill. The display takes up so much space that you can't watch TV while using this unit.

Warranty

The FreeStride comes with a good warranty. The frame has a lifetime warranty. The parts have a 5-year warranty. The labor has a 2-year warranty.

PROS

  • A maximum user weight capacity of 375 pounds
  • Large display
  • Can function as a stepper, treadmill or elliptical
  • Good Warranty

CONS

  • Heavy, large, and ugly machine
  • Does not work well as a stepper, treadmill, or elliptical
  • Expensive

Sole E55 Elliptical Trainer System
  • Reviewed as a best buy in its price range
  • Includes Bluetooth functionality allowing users to transfer workout data from the fitness equipment to a Smart device
  • Smooth resistance coupled with incline and dual wheel design
  • Large 9.0 inch LCD display console
  • 5 yrs parts & electronics 2 yr Labor

The Sole E55 Elliptical Trainer System is a classical elliptical with articulated handlebars to work the upper body. The unit comes with a large, easy-to-read display which allows you to transfer your fitness data to a smart device. The footprint of the machine is 71 inches long by 27 inches wide and stands at 64 inches tall. Item weight is 214 pounds. Maximum stride length is 20 inches. Maximum user weight is 375 pounds.

Price $$

The unit is available at select local retailers for between $1,400 and $1,500.

Ease of Use

The unit is difficult to mount, and it puts the user high in the air in an uncomfortable position. The maximum stride length is 20 inches which is too short for some users. The action is choppy, and the display is difficult to read and to operate.

Assembly Time 

The unit is large and overly complex. The instructions were not clear. We took over 3 hours to assemble the unit.

Design Quality 

This machine is an elliptical only. The machine takes up a large amount of space, and the platform is not stable. The user operates the machine from high in the air making the workout uncomfortable. 

Warranty

No warranty information is available on the frame. The parts have a 5-year warranty. The labor has a 2-year warranty. 

PROS

  • The unit has a maximum user weight of 375 pounds

CONS

  • The unit is ugly and takes up a large amount of space
  • The stride length is only 20 inches
  • The unit is difficult to mount and feels 
  • There is no information on the frame warranty

CONCLUSION

Quality home fitness equipment represents a considerable investment to the user. A good piece of exercise equipment must have several key features. The machine must be compact enough to fit into the limited space of a home or apartment. The machine must provide a good, efficient workout in a short time. The machine must be fun and easy for the user to operate. Above all, a piece of home exercise equipment must relieve stress rather than be a source of stress.

Of the equipment we tested, the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 provided the most efficient workout in the most compact design at a very competitive price. The hybrid stepper/elliptical created a high intensity, high-calorie-burn workout, while also featuring the low joint stress of an elliptical. The machine activated major muscle groups in the arms, legs, and chest, and the workouts were fun.

The Bowflex TC100 TreadClimber was another highly innovative machine that combined the actions of a stepper with those of a treadmill. However, the TreadClimber did not activate muscle groups in the chest, and its low treadmill speed makes it unsuitable for high-intensity workouts. The Nordic Track FreeStride Trainer FS7i attempts to offer multi-functional use as a treadmill, stepper, and elliptical. However, we did not like how the FreeStride operated in any mode. We found the Sole E55 Elliptical Trainer System limited and unstable as an elliptical.

The Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is a highly versatile machine suitable for all fitness goals. The compact size makes it easy to add to your home or apartment. The innovative hybrid stepper/elliptical design offers the most efficient workout of all the units we tested. No matter what your fitness goals, the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is the perfect machine to put you on the path to fitness, self-confidence, and overall well-being. It receives our highest recommendation.

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