Bowflex has devised two ways to get maximum results from just one machine: the Max Trainer 5 and the M3. The following article will compare these machines, but know from the start that both of them are excellent products, highly rated by customers, and expensive at about $1,800 and $1,100 respectively. Various sites offer lower prices and expect 2015 to see some wonderful sales, but neither one will be cheap.

Bowflex Max Trainer M3What is a Max Trainer?

The Bowflex Max Trainer is two workouts in one: an elliptical and upper body trainer. You use it the same way you would use an elliptical machine but put more effort into working your arm, chest, back, and shoulder muscles.

If calorie burning is your raison d’etre, you won’t do better than the Max Trainer which is said to help you burn more than double the amount of calories you blast with elliptical training so you get the same results in half the time. Cut back on exercise time or get double the benefits without doubling the duration.

Resistance Levels

M3 is the Bowflex original Max Trainer and gives you 8 levels of resistance. Resistance has to do with how hard you have to push or pull the handles and pedals, a bit like changing bike gears.

With the M5 there are 16 levels of resistance. If you’re working out for half an hour, 8 levels will give you plenty of benefits. But as you become fitter, you might miss those extra levels that add more challenge to a longer workout.

Fitness Programs

Elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, and treadmills usually feature some kind of computer console which lets you pick a workout program. This program automatically changes resistance over a period of time you select or a pre-programmed duration.

These changes will often move up and down, not in a step-wise motion. There are just two options with the M3: Manual and Max Interval (interval training keeps muscles guessing). The M5 features 9 programs: the first two plus 7 others like Fitness Test, Calorie Goal, or Stairs.


Shared Features

Each of these machines is made with a media shelf so you can read a book or use a tablet to watch films or listen to music (that is, unless you are planted in front of the TV.) A water bottle holder keeps hydration close by. Their dimensions are the same: 46″ x 25″ x 63″.

This is a compact machine designed for household use and storage. Fitness experts always promote machines like these for people with arthritis, bone disease, and individuals who are new to fitness but in their middle years. There is zero impact in an elliptical workout, so no strain on bones and less strain on the joints.

Heart Rate Monitoring

You can monitor your heart rate with both machines and each one comes with a chest strap. Wrap this around your chest and connect with the computer. It will read your heart rate and display this on the screen. Alternately, use grips on the M5 to get a reading on your heart rate.

On the Bowflex website, they indicate that there is a backlit screen on the M5 but not on the M3, but each one features an interface and display. There is also a Bluetooth function on the M5 which is not part of the M3.


Although I love the fact that you get a few more programs and features with the M3, both of them provide dual hand grips/bars so you can change the way your arms work during training. Work lateral or shoulder muscles or switch to biceps. The grips on an M5 are “Premium,” so expect it to be more comfortable.

Other Specifications

You can start up a fitness program in the safety of your home while weighing 300 lbs. That’s one of the desirable aspects of home workouts: the privacy you need before you shed pounds and gain confidence.