Venture into any gym and ask fellow gym-goers if they’ve heard of Bowflex. Most people will say they have. It’s one of the most recognizable fitness brands out there, with a reputation for reliability and value. Even if you already own their adjustable dumbbells or iconic home gym, Bowflex has recently added smart exercise machines to its lineup, including the VeloCore spin bike that’s giving Peloton a run for its money.
One of its newest family members is the Max Total 16 (MT16), a combination full-body machine that’s a cross between a stair stepper and an elliptical.
Bowflex recently sent us a review unit. We’ve spent hours testing the machine and its virtual platform, JRNY. Our in-depth review covers the pros and cons. With a price tag of over $2,000, it’s a big investment for your home fitness. Is it worth the money? Read our hands-on Bowflex Max Total 16 review to find out!
What Is the Bowflex Max Total 16?
Are you interested in a rewarding home workout that’s fun, effective, and easy on the joints? If so, the Bowflex Max Total 16 could be for you. It’s the newest and most advanced member of the Max Trainer family. Between parenting, working, and other tasks that often limit our workouts, it makes “me time” satisfying and effective.
At the heart of this machine is a 16-inch HD touchscreen. It’s the biggest Max Trainer screen to date, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming. You can easily follow workout prompts and navigate the menu without getting lost. You can comfortably watch Netflix movies, travel the world via scenic routes, and be pushed to your limits by an instructor.
A cross between an elliptical and a stair stepper, this cardio machine whips you into shape with quick movements and a large library of interesting workouts. Unlike an elliptical or stair stepper, there are multiple handle grips. This helps isolate various body parts by engaging different muscle groups. It’s a true whole-body workout. Like a vertical climber, it’s tough because you can’t sit down when you need a break.
You’ll also find more hand positions than ever before. There are low, medium and high bars. At 5’3″, I found the low and mid handles most comfortable. But a taller user will appreciate the higher bars. Having multiple hand positions targets your core and upper body, which helps strengthen muscles and lose weight faster. It’s a big advantage of this machine’s unique design. The workouts are quick and effective, so there’s no excuse to skip a session, even if you only have 15 minutes to spare.
It might look intimidating, but the Max Trainer is for everyone. Even if you’re a beginner, a few quick sessions a couple of days each week can make you stronger and fitter. Prefer really intense workouts? The Max Trainer is also for you. There are 20 resistance levels to choose from (and I really felt the burn at level 10!).
JRNY Experience & Membership
Each purchase includes a one-year JRNY membership (a $149 value). That’s plenty of time to try out the platform without paying a monthly fee.
Without a similar machine for comparison, we can’t say whether you’d get more bang for your buck elsewhere. Generally, though, JRNY is one of the newer digital platforms out there. One of its greatest strengths is its versatility. You can listen to music while following voice coaching commands during a scenic world tour, for example. The workouts aren’t choreographed to music, but you can easily choose from a generous selection of genres. There’s Bluetooth technology, so you can also pair your AirPods or other workout headphones to avoid annoying others.
Besides the adaptive workouts, which get harder as you progress, you’ll find instructor-led and voice coaching programs. To be honest, the voice coaching wasn’t quite my style. However, if hearing frequent reassurances such as, “almost there…just 30 seconds longer!” pushes you harder, you’ll feel right at home. I really enjoyed the on-demand classes led by instructors, but as someone who often works out for at least 30 minutes, I would love to see more 30+ minute videos.
JRNY has lots to offer, but there’s definitely room to grow.
There are no live classes, for example. Another bummer is that there isn’t a leaderboard. That can dampen competitive spirits and make your workouts feel more solitary. If you’re craving a vibrant fitness community, you won’t find it here (at least for now). For that kind of solo workout experience, a smart spinning bike might be a better fit.
Another potential disadvantage is that this pricey machine is rendered nearly useless without a JRNY membership. It’s still usable without a membership, but you’ll miss most of the features that make the MT16 worth the investment. Besides the initial price of the cardio machine, you’ll need to consider the cost of the annual membership ($149).
Will the Max Total 16 Fit in My Apartment?
The small footprint of this machine, compared to other cardio machines for home workouts, is crucial for many buyers. The Max Total 16 is smaller than most ellipticals and small home treadmills. It measures 49.3″L x 30.8″W x 65.7″H.
The Max Total 16 fit nicely into my small home gym space. But even if you have enough space, it’s nice to have a machine that won’t take up more room than necessary. This trainer has built-in transport wheels and can be easily tipped back to maneuver as needed.
Can You Do More than 14 Minutes on the Bowflex Max Trainer?
Bowflex created the Max Trainer to help you achieve maximum results in the shortest amount of time. In doing so, it championed the 14-minute Bowflex Max workout as HIIT workouts became more popular. The 14-minute Bowflex workout remains highly effective, but now there are many more longer and shorter workouts available. You can definitely do more than 14 minutes on your Bowflex Max trainer.
As of this writing, the longest trainer-led video is around 30 minutes long. However, some workouts with voice coaching extend to at least 60 minutes. And if you’re working out without a coach, you can exercise for an unlimited amount of time.
Short on time? You can find workouts that last just 5 minutes or less. If you have some extra time but don’t want to feel bored, try stacking shorter workouts to mix things up.
Regardless of how long or short the workout is, you’ll want to hit that sweet spot. In other words, a level that’s taxing yet sustainable for the entire session. Once your fitness improves you can play with the variables by increasing the time or resistance or stacking programs to vary your training.
Another fun home workout machine is the CLMBR interactive vertical climbing machine. It’s a great way to work your upper and lower body and emphasizes quick and effective HIIT workouts. There’s also a thriving social community to keep you motivated and on track. Check out our in-depth CLMBR machine review for more information if you’re interested.
Can You Lose Weight with the Bowflex Max Trainer?
The Bowflex Max Trainer is an awesome choice if you want to lose weight. You can exercise manually or select one of the available programs. Most JRNY videos emphasize HIIT training.
During these intense intervals, you’re pushing your body to the limit for a short amount of time. Most explosive intervals last anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 or 2 minutes. Then, your body is forced to adapt and recover quickly, which ultimately makes you a stronger and fitter athlete. It also burns tons of calories.
Short on time? Most HIIT workouts last just 30 minutes or less, according to one New York City-area trainer. Your weight loss journey doesn’t end as soon as you’re workout is done, as you’ll keep burning calories for hours. In comparison, a traditional cardio workout such as running or swimming can take nearly twice as long to burn the same amount of calories.
Want more ways to stay fit at home? We tried out the Bowflex VeloCore 22 and several other spin bikes for your home and instructor-led classes. An increasing number of platforms offer HIIT-based workouts on the bike so you can burn more calories in less time.
Another option is a vibration plate, which can help you lose weight when combined with proven exercises, such as HIIT workouts. Plus, it’s a great way to loosen up after a tough workout. We tested the Lifepro Waver Mini for an in-depth review.
Is the Bowflex Max Trainer Hard on Your Knees?
Bowflex Max trainers are naturally low-impact, which makes them easier on your knees. They’re also a great choice if you want to protect your back and joints. Even though the stepping motion is quick and intense, your joints aren’t bearing the brunt of the impact.
As with traditional ellipticals, the Max Trainers shouldn’t cause knee pain when used correctly. It’s a worthy alternative to high-impact activities such as running, especially if you have arthritis or are prone to joint pain.
Eager to give your aching knees a break? On days when you want to focus on your upper body, the Alexa-enabled dumbbells from NordicTrack will help keep you in shape. With these smart dumbbells, you can simply ask Alexa to change the weight for you to stay focused on your fitness.
Bowflex Max Total 16 Vs M9: Which Is Better?
Until the Max Total 16 arrived, the Max Trainer M9 was the most advanced trainer from Bowflex. I haven’t tried out the M9 myself for an honest comparison. This Bowflex Max trainer review focuses on the features of each machine.
However, both cardio machines have a lot in common, including built-in HD touchscreens and access to the JRNY platform with many different classes. You can stream entertainment, including Netflix and Bowflex Radio, on both.
The Max Total 16 has 6-grip handlebars and the Max Trainer M9 has 4-grip handlebars. That means you have an extra position on the Max Total 16. Those extra handles can provide more stability and work slightly different muscles compared to the Max Trainer M9. The screen on the MT16 is six inches larger, making it easier to watch movies and view your data.
We’ll break down each machine’s features to help you decide which is better.
Max Trainer M9 ($1,999)
Max Total 16 ($2,499)
How Much Is the Bowflex Max Total?
The prices we’ve listed are subject to change, and we’ll do our best to keep them updated. As of this writing, Bowflex is selling the Max Total 16 for $2,499.
The price includes a free mat and free shipping when you order from the Bowflex website. You’ll also receive a 1-year JRNY membership with your purchase, which is a $149 value. If you prefer to leave the assembly to the professionals, you’ll pay an extra $169 for the in-home assembly.
Although the standard warranty includes 3 years for the frame and parts plus 90 days for labor, you can pay extra for extended protection plans. The 3-year plan costs $199 and the 5-year plan costs $259.
In total, you can spend up to $2,927 for the Max Total 16 and extra add-ons.
Is the Bowflex Max Total 16 worth It?
Is the Bowflex Max Total 16 worth it? Our TL;DR answer is “yes!”. Here’s why. After spending several months of testing, I can honestly say that this is a heavy-duty machine with a lot going for it.
Yes, it’s expensive. And yes, the membership fees aren’t cheap (but remember the generous 1-year trial with your purchase). For that reason, you’ll probably get the most bang for your buck if you already love working out and want a fun cardio machine to mix up your routine. That’s not to say it’s not for you if you loathe cardio or haven’t worked out in years. You can certainly climb the fitness ladder (and fast)!
The biggest disadvantage is the high price tag, but if it’s within your budget and you want to treat yourself to a rewarding home workout experience, you probably won’t regret this big-ticket purchase. I’m still using it 3 to 4 days a week for up to 60 minutes at a time, and haven’t experienced any mechanical or streaming issues to date (I’ll update this review if that changes).