Bowflex Max Trainer M6 Review (2024): Too Basic or Right for the Price?

Scroll through social media and you’ll find endless promises of seven-minute total-body transformations. And while no one training session will be a body-changer, the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 is an elliptical designed for just that type of fast intensity. Like many of the best ellipticals, you can use it for any type of training, but the M6 mainly promises quick and dirty high-intensity interval training. It has 16 levels of resistance — the last of which is nearly impossible to use — and comes with a handful of 15-minute or fewer scorchers. It’s compact, fairly durable, and easy enough to assemble (with a bit of experience).

Our team of experts has tested over 30 ellipticals and stair steppers — because yes, the M6 definitely flirts with the line between elliptical and stair stepper. Certified personal trainer and BarBend editorial team member Kate Meier spent a month experimenting with various workouts on the M6 (after assembling it herself in her home) and thinks it would be best suited for athletes who are tight on space and want short and high-energy workouts. Keep reading for our full review of the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 to decide if it’s worth it for you (it was for Meier). We don’t promise you’ll have a total-body overhaul after seven minutes, but you will get a darn good workout.

Bowflex M6 Max Trainer

Bowflex M6 Max Trainer

Tight on space but still want to experience the low-impact benefits of elliptical training? The Bowflex M6 Max Trainer boasts a vertical orientation that shrinks the overall footprint to 8.31 square feet, yet the plane of motion can still be ideal for comfortable training with a heightened sense of muscle-boosting potential, especially across your posterior chain and legs.

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About Our Expert

This article has been reviewed by Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1, CSNC, a certified personal trainer and CrossFit Level-1 instructor. She gave us insights into what makes an elliptical desirable to help give clarity to our recommendations.

Main Takeaways

Anyone, including beginners, who can use an elliptical safely can likely use the Bowflex Max Trainer M6. However, it’s designed mainly for HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts.

It includes a limited selection of workouts and a 2-month free trial to JRNY, Bowflex’s workout streaming platform (compatible with all its products).

The M6 provides a more vertical stride, targeting the glutes and quads more than other ellipticals.

Bowflex Max Trainer M6 Highlights

Price: $1,299

Resistance Levels: 16

Display: Backlit LCD Screen

Weight Capacity: 300lbs

Product Dimensions: 46″ L x 26″ W x 64.2″ H

Product Weight: 136lbs

Warranty: 2-year frame, 2-year mechanical parts, 90-days labor

The first thing you’ll notice about the M6 is that the pedals are set more vertically than horizontally, something you’ll see sometimes in the best commercial ellipticals. This design makes it an elliptical-stair-stepper hybrid, rendering the machine more compact and more intense.

Overall, ellipticals provide a lower-impact cardio workout than running (which, if you’re going to do, we suggest running on one of the best treadmills). Stair steppers are still pretty low-impact, targeting your glutes and quads. The M6 hits the sweet spot, delivering a joint-friendly sweat session that targets your buns and thighs more intensely than a standard elliptical.

Compared to other ellipticals, the M6 (which does have moving arms) is a fairly compact and mobile machine. Friendly to a small home gym, it’s roughly 2 to 3 feet shorter than the ellipticals in your commercial gym and can accommodate people of almost any height. It weighs nearly 150 pounds, which is about average for an elliptical, but the front wheels make it easier to move from one spot to another. 

Our tester moving the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 into position for a workout

Bowflex designed an interesting display for the M6. Up top, there’s a meter that looks like a speedometer to tell you your calorie burn rate. One of our testers found the display aesthetically pleasing, but called out the basic LCD display right below the calorie burn count, saying it’s “super small and doesn’t display many metrics.”

The simple display works well for minimalists but may disappoint those who really want to stream their latest show without whipping out their tablet. The M9 model has a 10-inch touchscreen where you can directly stream on platforms like Netflix — but it comes in at around $500 more than the M6 and has a slightly bigger footprint.

Multiple testers say working out on the M6 is an intense experience. This elliptical comes loaded with 16 resistance levels (the M9 has 20), all but guaranteeing a great workout across your lower body. Bowflex provides users free access to a limited selection of JRNY workouts. The company also offers a free two-month subscription to JRNY’s complete library. 

The downside? Meier says the trial was a pain to set up. “To get the two free months, you have to put in your credit card information — so you really can’t forget to cancel,” she cautioned. JRNY’s mobile-only package will cost you $11.99 per month or $99 per year. Getting confirmation of your account can take up to a full hour, so don’t expect to be able to hop on your machine and continue your fitness journey right away. 

The handles of the Bowflex Max Trainer M6

Bowflex seems to have lowered the price of the M6 from $1,699 to $1,299 since the last time we tested this machine. At the time, we thought the M6 was a touch expensive for what you got — lots of plastic parts and a so-so warranty (more on that below). A $400 reduction in price is nothing to scoff at. Still, if you want a cheaper elliptical, they’re certainly out there. Then again, you can also buy ellipticals that’ll cost you over $2,000.

Back to the warranty: The two-year frame warranty is short compared to other models our team has reviewed. The ProForm Pro HIIT H14 and NordicTrack AirGlide 14i both boast a 10-year frame warranty, and the Sole E25 comes with a lifetime warranty on the framework.


This elliptical is compact and mobile

The workout experience is solid

Bowflex dropped the price to $1,299

Assembly is fairly simple (especially with two people for a few steps)


After the 2-month trial, JRNY costs $11.99 monthly to use

The frame warranty is only 2 years

The LCD display is small and basics

Training With the Bowflex Max Trainer M6

BarBend’s team of certified personal trainers, CrossFit coaches, and gym owners has tested over 20 ellipticals, 10 steppers, and various vertical climbers. After working out on the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 over the course of a month, Meier utilized the BarBend equipment testing methodology to assign ratings of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) across about a dozen categories, including delivery and setup, durability, programming, footprint and portability, and more. 

Build Quality

Bowflex’s website doesn’t state the specific materials used or in what amount, but our testers noted that the M6 is made with a lot of plastic. The motor cover, pedals, and console cover are constructed with it. 

Plastic isn’t the most durable material, and the warranty covers frame damage only within two years, so we’re calling out Bowflex’s relatively heavy use of the material. That said, our testers didn’t notice any blemishes or broken parts upon delivery. After consistent use, Meier thinks the M6 should hold up just fine if you take care of it. Overall, she scores the M6 4.5 out of 5 for durability. 

The pedals of the Bowflex Max Trainer M6

There is a lot to like about this build. The oversized pedals with tread mean your feet have plenty of room and won’t slide around too aggressively during a workout. Both of our testers describes the M6 as feeling solid during use. “The floor stabilizers come in handy,” Meier says. “If it starts to rock during a particularly intense workout, it’s not a disaster — just make some quick adjustments with the stabilizers and you’ll be good to go again.”

The M6 also includes a magnetic tablet holder — which you’ll have to use to stream JRNY workouts on your mobile devices — a USB charging port, a water bottle holder, and a built-in heart rate monitor. 

Workout Intensity

Sure, you can train for as long as you’d like on the M6, but most pre-programmed workouts are geared toward high-intensity interval training (or HIIT). Meier says most of the workout programs available were fairly short — less than 15 minutes, for the most part. Bowflex’s Max trainer line is known for its 14-minute interval workout, which has the user sprint for 25 seconds and rest for 80 seconds. 

The consensus among team members who trained on the M6 is that it’ll kick your butt. “I work out a lot, and even the first level of resistance brought intensity to the workout. Crank the resistance up to level 16, and you’ll feel like you’re trying to move through quicksand,” one tester says. Meier added that the burn will definitely be intense, despite — or because of — how quickly you’ll power through each workout.

The testers found the speedometer-like calorie counter to be motivating. The harder you work, the farther the dial hand moves up, indicating that you’re burning more calories. “It lets you know when to pick up the pace (or turn it back a notch) during your workout,” Meier says. 

The pedals on most ellipticals run back and forth horizontally to mimic running. But on the M6, the pedals are set more vertically so the user’s legs move up and down like they’re climbing stairs. Meier says she notices a lot of engagement in her quads, glutes, and calves, and that the intensity of the workouts made it feel like she could also build muscle in those areas in addition to torching calories. 

Our tester working out on the Bowflex Max Trainer M6

This is good news if you want high-intensity cardio without banging your joints around. “Ellipticals are a wonderful option for individuals who want to increase their cardio exercise volume but can’t handle a lot of impact,” says CrossFit L1-Trainer and personal trainer Amanda Capritto. “Compared to other forms of low-impact cardio, like cycling and rowing, ellipticals keep the user in the upright position, making them ideal for individuals who struggle with back pain, too.” Of all the best cardio machines, this kind of elliptical is one of the highest-intensity, lowest-impact options.

As for your upper body: The M6’s “four-grip handlebars” let you pump your arms in either back-and-forth or up-and-down motions. Grip the handles up top, and you’ll activate more of your back and biceps muscles as you push and pull them horizontally. Opt for the lower handlebars, and you’ll pump your arms vertically to target your triceps and shoulders.

Besides being low-impact, ellipticals (at least the ones with moving arms) provide a whole-body workout, so they’re an excellent option for people who need to maximize their exercise time,” adds Capritto. 

Compact Design

Most ellipticals in big box gyms are about 6 to 7 feet long and have pedals that run back and forth horizontally. It’s obviously more challenging to cram a 72- to 84-inch-long piece of machinery into your bedroom or garage. The vertical design of the M6 makes this machine more compact; it’s 46 inches long, 26 inches wide, and about 64 inches tall and requires a workout space of roughly 6 and a half feet by 8 feet. 

If you need an even smaller footprint for your machine, check out our list of the best compact ellipticals.

The flywheel on the Bowflex M6 Max Trainer.

Meier describes the M6 as “space-saving” because it’s got such a narrow design. One important note: Bowflex’s website states that the machine requires an additional 20.5 inches of vertical clearance. After digging through the Q&A section toward the bottom of the product page, we found a verified reply saying the M6 accommodates users between 4 feet 6 inches and 6 feet 6 inches tall. If your height falls out of that range, you may encounter issues while using the M6. 

At 136 pounds, the M6 is about the average weight for an elliptical based on our experience and research. If that sounds heavy, save the sweating for your workout; this model has wheels on the front to help you move the machine from A to B. “Overall, it can be a little awkward to shift around the floor,” Meier says. 

And even though our primary tester notes that the M6 is heavy, the front wheels prevent you from scooping up the entire weight each time you move it. Ultimately, Meier scores the M6 a respectable 4.5 out of 5 for portability.


The M6 isn’t the most tech-forward elliptical you’re going to find. The ProForm Pro HIIT H14, for example, boasts a 14-inch smart HD touchscreen that lets you interact with your workouts (albeit without entertainment streaming capabilities). 

Still, the M6 will do the job. Overall, our primary tester rates the tech on this machine a 4 out of 5 (which generally fits the price you’re paying). Meier likes the motivational elements of the simple odometer display, which visually responds to how hard you’re working — you’ll know when to kick your workout up a notch if the dial hand starts dipping. And with a media shelf and USB charging port, you can bring your own entertainment and charge it up during your sweat session.

The console of the Bowflex Max Trainer M6

An important point if you’re into monitoring your data: Meier wore a fitness tracker during one of her sessions and noticed some pretty intense differences between the heart rate reported through the integrated contact grips on the M6 and by her wearable. The Fitbit came in at a full 42 BPM lower than the reading on the M6 — a hefty difference! A chest strap should fix the discrepancy, though, because the M6 does have Bluetooth capabilities. (Note: Bowflex’s M9 model does include a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate armband that should help fix these discrepancies without purchasing an extra accessory.)

What to Consider Before Buying the Bowflex Max Trainer M6

Besides the pedals being more vertically set than you may be used to — hello, stair stepper land — there’s nothing too unusual about this elliptical. You should make four key considerations before clicking “check out” on the M6. 

Your Available Space

We’ve written the word “compact” seven times in this article (so far) because, well, the M6 is smaller compared to other ellipticals we’ve tested. Understand that “compact” is relative; even though we think the M6 is space-friendly compared to competitors, you still need about eight square feet to store it. 

The front wheels make moving the M6 easier, but it’s still a 136-pound machine. Chances are wherever you place it is where it’ll stay. Keep all that in mind before you purchase the M6; it will take up space in your apartment or house, and it’s a chore to move compared to most of the furniture in your home.

User Weight Capacity

Most ellipticals, including the M6, safely support users weighing up to 300 pounds. Users at a higher weight might need to invest in a sturdier machine. To find the right match, check out our list of the best ellipticals for heavy people.

Training Style

If you’re reading a review about an elliptical, then it’s safe to assume you’re into cardio training (or…trying to get into it). You probably know — and we’ve got your back if you don’t — that there are different types of cardio. The extremes are low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio, where you can sustain a more casual effort for a long period of time, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio, where your workout is tough enough to only be able to last a short period.

The best cardio machines support both training styles — accommodating all your fitness goals — which isn’t hard to do since the differences between LISS and HIIT workouts lie in how fast you move and for how long. And considering you can adjust the speed and time on virtually any cardio equipment, it’s disingenuous to market a machine for HIIT vs. LISS

That said, it is fair to say that the Max Trainer M6 is designed primarily for HIIT. Most of the free workouts you get with the machine are high-intensity sweat sessions that get you on and off the machine in less than 15 minutes. The resistance levels are noticeably tough — even for our seasoned testers — and a complete novice may find this machine difficult to use. 

Our tester operating the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 center console

A calorie counter in a speedometer style encourages you to move as quickly as possible to burn the most calories you can. This may be motivating and even fun for some users, while others who are trying to avoid calorie counting may want to steer clear of this feature.

Overall, the M6 will technically accommodate people at any fitness level, but this is an intense machine designed to facilitate intense workouts. If you’re making your first foray into working out or intense cardio training, a less go-get-’em machine might be a better match.

Your Budget

We’ve tested the best ellipticals under $1,000 and we’ve tested machines running upward of $2,000. The M6 sits in the middle of that range at $1,299. Regardless of your income, we realize that’s not cheap — but we think it’s a fair price for the M6’s quality and offerings.

We originally scored the M6 a 3.5 out of 5 for value but are adding half a point since Bowflex shaved $400 off the price since we last tested it. Our new value score is 4 out of 5. We also like that they now offer a free version of JRNY, so folks don’t have to opt into the 2-month free trial and then get stuck with a recurring $11.99 charge (unless they cancel their subscription).

Bowflex Max Trainer M6 Vs. The Competition

The Max Trainer M6 doesn’t swing too far one way on the spectrum for any category. It’s moderately priced, a little heavy but still light enough to move, and takes up some space — but far less than a commercial elliptical. There’s nothing extreme about the M6, so we considered other middle-of-the-road options when grading it against all of the machines we’ve tested. 

Of all the ellipticals in the chart above, the M6 is closest to the ProForm Pro HIIT H14. The H14 is slightly larger — 8 inches longer, 3 inches wider, and 2 inches taller — and 89 pounds heavier than the M6. If size and mobility matter to you, go with the M6 since it’s the smallest and lightest option on our list. The M6 and H14 are both vertical elliptical machines, with pedals that move up and down instead of back and forth. Compared to the M6, however, the H14 is more vertical, making the machine even more like a stair climber than an elliptical.

The NordicTrack FS10i FreeStride Trainer is in the elliptical category, but its unique design allows it to be used like an elliptical, treadmill, or stairstepper. It also has a built-in screen, so you don’t need to provide your own tablet to stream workouts. Overall, the FS10i is a far more versatile machine than the M6. But it’s also a lot clunkier, weighing 150 pounds more than the M6 and measuring 12 inches longer and 10 inches taller. You can learn more about the FS10i’s unique design by watching our video review below:

NordicTrack FS10i Freestride Trainer Review (2022) — Three In One?

At 74 inches long, the Horizon EX-59 Elliptical has a horizontal stride for a more traditional elliptical feel. It’s also $699, making it the cheapest option here by a long shot. And at 145 pounds, it’s only nine pounds heavier than the M6. Check out our review of the Horizon EX-59 Elliptical, and you’ll notice that the EX-59 has very few features compared to the M6. 

Places to Buy the Bowflex Max Trainer M6

You can buy the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 on Bowflex’s website and Dick’s Sporting Goods. 

Customer Experience

Our primary tester received the M6 in two boxes — one for the foot pedals, the other for everything else — and the machine arrived bolted to a piece of wood to protect the frame during shipping. Bowflex supplied all the required tools, including a small wrench and three Allen wrenches.

Meier says that assembling the M6 was easy but took her an hour and a half on her own (but if you’re not experienced with this kind of build, note that Meier has assembled more than a few of cardio machines across her career). She says the build went smoothly solo, but it would have been nice to have an extra pair of hands when attaching the console, the arms, and the main body to the footer. Overall, she scores the delivery and setup 4.3 out of 5.

Our tester grips the moving handles of the Bowflex Max Trainer M6

You can purchase in-home assembly from Bowflex for an additional $169. “If you don’t have someone to help you, aren’t familiar with how to use the tools provided, or aren’t confident, it may be worth it,” Meier advises. 


Bowflex offers a two-year warranty on the frame and mechanical parts and a 90-day warranty for labor. One tester describes this warranty as “not up to snuff compared to other ellipticals at this price point.” Overall, the M6 earned a 3.5 out of 5 for its warranty. 

Company Information

Bowflex was established in 1986 and has since gained a reputation for producing versatile at-home workout equipment. They’re probably most well-known for manufacturing some of the best adjustable dumbbells, like the SelectTech 552s. They also make cardio machines, barbells, kettlebells, and produce the JRNY workout platform.

You can call Bowflex’s customer service at 1(800) 618-8853 or visit their customer service page, which has assembly videos, product manuals, and more numbers to reach specific departments. We score Bowflex’s customer service 4 out of 5.

In Conclusion

The Bowflex M6 gives off a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none vibe. It’s cheap, but not the cheapest piece of fitness equipment out there. It functions like a stair climber, but not as much as the ProForm H14. The M6 has some nice (if basic) bells and whistles, but it has the weakest warranty of our comparisons. That said, after many tests, our team does like the M6. 

You will get a hardcore workout on this machine (which is what you’re after, right?), and the compact design makes the M6 an apartment-friendly option for most. And if you don’t want to pay for JRNY after your free trial, you don’t have to — the M6 does come with a small selection of workouts for you to power through. You get a lot for your dollar with the M6. It’s not going to blow your mind, but it’ll give you the heart-pumping, muscle-burning workouts you’re looking for. 

Bowflex Max Trainer M6 FAQs

Is the Bowflex Max Trainer worth buying?

Yes. For what you get, we think the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 is a solid machine. It features a space-friendly design, our testers think the workouts kicked butt, and even though the frame warrant is only two years, the machine seems to hold up very well over time.

Is the Bowflex M6 a stair climber?

Technically no, but the vertical orientation of the pedals makes it more like a stair climber than a traditional elliptical. As a result, you’ll work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings more intensely than a typical elliptical.

Is the Bowflex M6 hard on the knees?

No. In fact, ellipticals are praised for providing a tough workout with minimal impact on your joints. “For those who need low-impact workout options, ellipticals sit near the top of the list,” says personal trainer and CrossFit L1-Trainer Amanda Capritto. “These cardio machines provide a full-body workout without putting undue stress on the joints.”

The post Bowflex Max Trainer M6 Review (2024): Too Basic or Right for the Price? appeared first on BarBend.


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