Bowflex Max Trainer M5 vs M3 (Which is Best?)

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The Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is considered one of the best Bowflex elliptical trainers around. It’s strongly in the middle of the Max Trainer series, so it’s not too expensive and comes with a wide variety of features and settings. However, the Bowflex Max Trainer M3 is nothing to brush off. It’s nearly as versatile and at a much better price point.

Today we’re going to compare Bowflex Max Trainer M5 vs M3 to show you which is the best for your buck. While we’re going to focus on these two, we’ll also throw in a small section near the bottom showing you how the Bowflex Max Trainer M7 and Bowflex Max Trainer M8 stack up.

Bowflex Max Trainer M3Bowflex Max Trainer M5
Bowflex M3 vs M5 Max Trainer

Workout Programs

Sometimes you want to just want to jump on the elliptical machine, do your cardio, and hop off. Other times you want a specific program that challenges you and helps you meet your goals of burning fat, interval training, improving cardio, and so on. That being said, how many workout programs do these Bowflex elliptical trainers have?

On paper the Max Trainer M3 has 2 and Max Trainer M5 has 8. We’ll show you the exact workout modes in a second, but we have to say that these numbers aren’t entirely accurate. It depends on how you’re looking at it.

One of the M3’s modes is manual mode. However, M5 doesn’t count manual mode as a workout program. If we consider manual a separate workout mode, then M5 really has 9 modes. If not, then that means M3 only has 1 mode. It’s safe to say who won this category, but let’s list the modes just to show you what they both offer.

Bowflex Max Trainer M5 modes:

  • Max Interval
  • Smart Max Interval
  • Calorie Burn
  • Fat Burn
  • Calorie Goal
  • Stairs
  • Steady State
  • Fitness Test

Bowflex Max Trainer M3 modes:

  • Max Interval
  • Manual

If you’re only going to use this manually, then this may not matter. But, if you want your elliptical machine to challenge you and help you burn more calories, then it’s clear that The Bowflex M5 Max Trainer wins this category.

Speaking of challenge, are you also curious about the Bowflex gyms? We compare every Bowflex home gym.

Bowflex Max Trainer M5


Adding resistance to any cardio activity makes you burn more calories in less time. If you were running, then you’d want a weighted vest for running. However, the Max Trainers make it easy by giving you different resistance levels. A higher resistance makes you work that much harder to get through your workout, making you sweat more and improving your fitness progress.

So, which Bowflex Max Trainer has the most resistance levels? Once again there’s a big difference between them. When it comes to Bowflex Max Trainer M5 vs M3, you’ll find that M3 has 8 resistance levels while M5 has 16.

Not only that, but switching between the resistance levels is a little different. The M3 has you do it manually by rotating the grip, similar to changing resistance on a bike. The M5 has you change resistance from the control panel. Just push a button and set the resistance.

Now, that being said, I don’t think the difference is as significant as with the workout modes. The 8 levels of resistance with M3 is pretty good and should keep most people satisfied with their workout. However, the M5’s 16 levels of resistance is more accurate and lets you get even more from your cardio session.

While The M5 Max Trainer wins this category, I don’t think it’s quite the landslide we saw in the previous section.

Bowflex Max Trainer M3

Ease of Use

You shouldn’t have to struggle with an elliptical machine. Their best benefit overall is the zero impact technology that allows you to work up a sweat without hurting your joints or ligaments. Which Bowflex Max Trainer is easier to use?

There are several ways to answer this. First, let’s start with the basics of simply walking or running. Honestly, both are simple to use and help you burn calories without hurting your knees or back. Their pedals keep your feet secure, and the grips ensure you stay in place. If we’re looking at the basics, then it’s a tie.

You may also want to use your tablet at the same time. This allows you to watch TV, movies, or turn on a training program to help make your workout more enjoyable or intense. Both M3 and M5 have a tray that holds your tablet, so once again, they’re equal.

Things change when we look at the control panel. Bowflex M5 Max Trainer has a backlit display that makes it easier to read numbers. The control panel is also a little easier to use. If the room has good lighting, then the M3’s display should look fine. However, the backlight still makes the M5’s display look better.

If we consider the control panel and display, then M5 is the winner. But, they’re both pretty equal in this regard. You shouldn’t feel any pain in your joints, the modes are easy to select, and both control panels are effective. The M5 is just a little better.

Indicators and Sensors

You aren’t using an elliptical just to walk or run. Just like with a treadmill, you want to gather data about how well you’re doing. This shows you that you’re progressing and getting better. The more information, and the easier it is to gather, the better.

When it comes to Bowflex Max Trainer M3 vs Bowflex Max Trainer M5, they are both pretty close in this regard. However, one is a little better than the other.

The Bowflex M3 Max Trainer has a Target-Zone indicator to tell you the best calorie burning zone, and a Burn-Rate indicator that tells you how many calories you’re burning considering your speed, weight, and other factors. It also comes with a chest strap to monitor your heart rate during the cardio session.

That’s pretty good. While the Bowflex M5 Max Trainer didn’t make a tremendous leap in this regard, there is one addition I really liked. It has the same Target-Zone and Burn-Rate indicators. You also get the chest strap for your heart rate, but they decided to add contact grips as well. Simply hold the grips and it will read your heart rate through your hands, which is so much easier than a chest strap.

It’s a very close battle here as they are almost equal, but I’m not a huge fan of chest straps and having more is always better. The win goes to Bowflex Max Trainer M5.

Bowflex Max Trainer M3Bowflex Max Trainer M5

Bluetooth, App, and Profiles

We’re approaching the end of our Bowflex review on the Max Trainer M5 vs M3. So far M5 has been leading the entire way. This is M3’s last chance to catch up. Unfortunately, the short answer is that it slips and falls hard here.

Let’s start with profiles. Actually, both machines are equal here. Both of them have two profiles. This means the settings stay the same for both people, which is much easier than having to adjust the weight, mode, and other settings each time you get on.

What about Bluetooth and the Max Trainer app? The Bowflex Max M5 Trainer has these. It comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and uploads your results directly to the Bowflex Max Trainer app. Your distance, calories burned, and overall progress is ranked and recorded from the moment you finish. It’s simple, helps with your fitness journey, and ensures you don’t forget to mark your results.

What about the Bowflex Max M3 Trainer? It doesn’t have Bluetooth, and it doesn’t integrate with the Max Trainer app. That’s too bad.

It doesn’t even seem like a fair fight here, but this is another category that M5 Max Trainer takes by a landslide. However, if you didn’t intend on using the app, then this may not matter too much. Otherwise, M5 has shown its dominance throughout the elliptical review.

Comparison to Max Trainer M7 and M8

Before getting onto my final thoughts, I thought it would be best to show you what you’re getting with both the Bowflex Max Trainer M7 and Bowflex Max Trainer M8. This is just a snapshot of the two. We might do a full review in the future.

Bowflex Max Trainer M7Bowflex Max Trainer M8
Display:Dual Backlit LCDDual-Mode Backlit LCD
App:Max Trainer AppJRNY App
Workout Modes:117
Resistance Levels:2020
Heart Rate:Contact Grips, Chest StrapBluetooth Armband, Contact Grips
Media Shelf:YesMagnetic
Bowflex Max Trainer M7 vs M8

Both are fantastic and are better than both the M3 and M5. If you want the best of the best, then consider one of these. While the M8 Max Trainer has fewer workout programs than either the M5 or M7, it has a fantastic app, the Bluetooth armband is amazing, and the magnetic media shelf prevents your tablet from falling over. However, the M7 is a little more affordable and comes with the most workout programs.

Bowflex Max Trainer M3Bowflex Max Trainer M5

Final Thoughts

So, when it comes to Bowflex Max Trainer M5 vs M3, which is the winner? Clearly it’s M5. It has more workout modes, more resistance levels, a backlit display, Bluetooth and app integration, and it’s easier to change the resistance levels.

But, is it worth the extra cost? If you don’t care about the app and you prefer manually walking and running on an elliptical, then honestly, the Bowflex Max Trainer M3 might be better for you. It’s nearly the same experience if you’re using both in manual mode. You’re missing out on the extra resistance levels, but that’s about it. So, does cost matter more to you, or getting the most modes and best technology?

Personally, I like the M5 Max Trainer better and would suggest it. However, the M3 is perfectly suitable as well for your cardio sessions.

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