Bowflex Max Trainer M3 Reviewed and Rated

8.0 score
[Editors rating (8.0)] = (Garage Gym Ideas - Ultimate Home Gym Design) score (8.0)/10

Editor rating: 8.0 / 10
User's rating: based on 0 user ratings
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Bowflex Max Trainer M3 Reviewed and Rated Review Facts

If you visit the Bowflex Max Trainer M3 product page, on the official Bowflex, you will find at least 2715 reviews. At the time of this writing, the product had an average of 4.5 out of 5-star rating. It is true that Bowflex has a vested interest in sharing positive reviews, but that figure also means nearly 3,000 unpaid writers thought highly enough of their expensive purchase that they provided the company with their honest opinion and experience.

What about you? If you are considering purchasing one of these futuristic-looking units, which boasts a small footprint and an onboard chest strap heart monitor, you will want to know as much as you can before you make a purchase decision. We analyzed hundreds of consumer and commercial reviews to bring you the features, pros and cons, and performance factors of the Max Trainer M3. Though not as expensive as some competing products, the Max Trainer M3 is not cheap. Bowflex offers in-house financing alongside its standard yearlong warranty.

The great advantage of the M3 and the whole Max Trainer line is the ability to get a gym-quality elliptical style workout without going to a gym and without losing space in your home gym. Read on to learn more.

Editor's Pros & Cons

Innovative design combines a stair stepper with an elliptical on a single frame

Quickly burns calories with heart rate training; also tones muscles all over the body

Although it provides intensity, the M3 is low impact and easy on achy joints

Change resistance easily by twisting the handlebar

A stable platform that won't shake or vibrate even at highest resistance levels

Stripped down, the almost retro monitor is easy to learn and non-distracting

The chest strap is more accurate than grip sensors for heart rate--few home trainers come with a strap


8 resistance levels may not be enough for some

The monitor does not let you make profiles, upload data, stream music--simple and streamlined unit

No built-in speakers like you often find on higher-end cardio equipment

The Rundown

Bowflex plays up the fact that the M3 is the original hybrid trainer of their product line. The series is now up to Max Total, after reaching M8 some years after the birth of the M3.

What happened to M1 and M2? We do not know. But each successive release adds real value. Bowflex listens to customer feedback and adjusts accordingly. This is part of the reason for their longevity. Bowflex is not in the business of adding bling or gimmicks to their machines--every new gen represents a more efficient and user-friendly product.

This is not to say that the M3 lacks features or will not give you an effective workout. It offers a lot of bang for your buck, especially since you can almost always find it at a deep discount. You will spend less money than you would have when the M3 was new, and will also save significantly versus buying any Max Trainer M7, M8, or Total unit.

Now, about that sweet compact footprint that makes the Max Trainer M3 ideal for tiny home gyms and apartment living. Bowflex engineered the M3 as a tower, so it gives you a motion similar to an elliptical orbit but also lets you simulate climbing floors, like a stair stepper. That means the foundation is substantially smaller than you would get with a traditional elliptical (unless you went for one of the less fully featured folding elliptical machines). If you are after something that will save you space, the M3 delivers. The footprint is 49 by 26 by 65 inches (L/W/H). To use the machine, your ceiling needs to be your height plus 15 inches.

Doing the math, that means a user of 6 feet 2 inches would need 89 inches from floor to the ceiling in order to install and use the M3. That breaks down to about 7 and a half feet. Your typical residential ceiling is 8 feet, so anyone over about 6'2" is going to have problems.

But if you can deal with the ceiling issue--perhaps you have a foyer with a high ceiling--you do not need extra space on the sides. Many, many times, we have broken down user manuals and found that a "small footprint" machine actually required an extra 2 feet or so of open space on the sides for safe operation. Because the M3 has the horizontal tower design, the footprint you see in the ad copy is really what you get.


The user's manual strongly suggests that you use Bowflex's machine mat, a piece of rubber flooring matched to the size of the M3 platform. The mat will protect your floor, ensure the M3 has enough room to operate, and also protect against electrostatic discharge that could damage the machine. Although you do not have to get it from Bowflex, we also suggest you use a mat and definitely only install the M3 on a hard floor--no carpet, as there is no means of keeping the M3 level if you do that. As it is, a four-cornered bolt together single piece stabilizer provides leveling. The stabilizer frame has a front and back piece, with rubber feet, running parallel to each other. There is a way to fine-tune or dial in the leveling, but you should still make sure the floor where you wish to install the Bowflex Max Trainer M3 is flat and free of irregularities. The levelers use adjusting locking nuts for each of the feet,

Assembly is from the ground up. The frame, which contains the flywheels, pedal inner assemblies, and cooling fans, is already assembled. You have to wire the LCD monitor in, but that is simple with a connector and no soldering. There is no danger of electric shock because the actual AC power cord installs and plugs in last when all the other components are safe and secure. For assembly, you will need an included Allen wrench and box wrench along with a box cutter and scissors which are not included. Bowflex recommends having a friend help you with assembly, or you can spend $200 or so for professional assembly.

Once assembled, the machine can be moved with a back handle (part of the fixed handlebars) and wheels installed on the bottom frame. The Max Trainer M3 weighs 143 pounds, so not quite as portable as units that fold. You may need more than one person when it is time to move the unit, and it is better suited to being placed somewhere permanently, not stowed in a closet or up against a wall.

The console has something we have never seen before, a calorie burn meter. It is a dial with numbers and a moving pointer, which shows you how many calories you are burning per minute. Calorie counts are never accurate, but this seems like a fun and different way to get immediate feedback and keep your heart rate on track. Calories burned are partially a function of how hard you pedal and climb, and of course, your heart rate goes up with all that effort. The console also tracks total workout time, hard/easy HIIT interval times, and heart rate thanks to sensors in the handles. Though you can't build and save your own workouts, you are able to make and save user profiles with height, weight, and aggregate workout time for each person who uses the trainer. For a more accurate heart rate, you can use a chest monitor (not included). Polar brand chest straps are the only ones compatible with the M3.

The manual provides some helpful warm-up and cool-down stretches, as well as some suggested interval routines and definitions. You also get a paper workout log. It is a bit quaint, and the information is all stuff you can easily find on your own, but workout plans and the like are staples of the Bowflex way.

What Makes It Different?

Not all home cardio machines, especially in this price range, will have chest strap heart rate capability. The calorie burn meter, too, is different and is a simple way to challenge yourself. Since it is a tower-style machine, the M3 Trainer has a smaller footprint with both a stepper and an elliptical attached.

2 things we always consider, in our reviews: Is the machine effective? Will our readers actually use it? We can say with confidence that the Bowflex Max Trainer M3 will tone your muscles, give you increased energy and balance throughout the day, and also improve your heart health when you use it consistently and as part of an overall training regimen. The machine is easy enough to use and easy enough on your joints, that we also think you will keep using it several times a week.

The Final Word

The Bowflex Max Trainer M3 is an early version of the Total Max, with fewer features and a more stripped-down design. You can get it at a discount, even from the Bowflex website; the trainer was not available on Amazon when we checked. With the M3, you can get a quick, effective, safe cardio workout with muscle toning in your legs, arms, and trunk. You won't build a Mr. Atlas physique or become a more effective powerlifter, but for overall health and quality of life, in a durable package, the Max Trainer series is hard to beat. Plus, every unit Bowflex sells is backed by their warranty and highly rated customer service department.