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TABLE OF CONTENTS
On This Page
But First, Some Context
My Overall Rating: 8.1/10
How I Tested the Bowflex Max Total 16
Bowflex MT16: Features and Functions
Jrny App: How It Works
Delivery and Assembly
Bowflex Customer Service
Bowflex Max Total 16 Customer Reviews
Who Should Invest In the Bowflex MT16?
Who Shouldn’t Invest In the Bowflex MT16?
Is the Bowflex MT16 Worth It?
My Testing Methodology
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't heard of Bowflex. The brand is behind ingenious adjustable dumbbells and the trail-blazing home gyms that made Bowflex a recognizable name. Perhaps less well known, however, is the fact that Bowflex isn't all about strength training. The brand has developed multiple cardio machines over the years, and for the past two months, I've been using the newest model, the Bowflex Max Total 16 (aka the MT16), (Buy It, $2,799, bowflex.com) which is basically a combination of a stair stepper and elliptical machine. (Related: The Best Cardio Equipment for an At-Home Workout)
The following is my in-depth, honest review of the Bowflex MT16.
But First, Some Context
It has been 675 days since I stepped foot inside a gym.
Before the pandemic, my husband, Tom, and I developed a great habit of working out together three days a week. While I sampled nearly all of my fitness center's offerings, my favorite workout was spending 30 minutes on the stair stepper. I understand why it's not everyone's machine of choice, but I loved how the stair stepper left me feeling satisfyingly sore and drenched in sweat.
And, well, we all know what happened in March of 2020.
At first, home workouts were a fun challenge, but last year brought a new set of challenges for my little family: buying our first house and rescuing a 10-month-old puppy. I'm a huge fan of routine, and navigating the new worlds of homeownership and puppy parenthood disrupted my carefully planned workout schedule. I was in a workout slump, no longer motivated by home workouts yet not comfortable to return to a gym in person. Then I took the Bowflex MT16 for a test drive along with Bowflex's digital fitness platform, Jrny (Sign Up, 12-month free trial, bowflex.com).
My Overall Rating for the Bowflex Max Total 16 and Jrny App: 8.1/10
Machine is easy to use and operates quietly
Handles are well-placed for different heights
Offers full-body, low-impact workouts
Large, responsive touchscreen display with excellent clarity and audio
Includes a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor
Jrny tracks progress and tailors workouts for unlimited users under one account (each user has their own unique login)
Jrny offers a library of programs, streaming entertainment, virtual coaching, and stunning views from around the world to keep you engaged and motivated
Bowflex has excellent customer service
Fitness assessment can be confusing for first-time users
Resistance levels have to be adjusted manually (i.e. resistance is not an adaptive element)
Resistance knob doesn't easily indicate level changes
MT16 doesn't provide the most value unless you have a Jrny membership
How I Tested the Bowflex Max Total 16
A representative for Bowflex offered to send me a free sample of the MT16 to test. Since I finally have the space to build a home gym, I thought this would be a good start to hopefully get myself back into the habit of working out regularly. I asked my husband to test the machine as well to get another perspective. For context, I'm a 5'5" female weighing 135 pounds, and Tom is a 6'3" male weighing 200 pounds. We've also been testing the Jrny membership, which includes a variety of videos, on-demand classes, streaming options, and more. I'll expand on this later, but the TL;DR version is that you should plan on subscribing to Jrny if you want to invest in the MT16. The MT16 is on the pricier side of cardio machines, and you can still get an effective workout on a more economical machine if you're not someone who prioritizes all the bells and whistles.
Bowflex MT16: Features and Functions
The MT16 combines the best of both an elliptical and stair stepper to offer a low-impact cardio workout with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) options. I'm not a fan of elliptical machines, but I love traditional stair steppers and HIIT workouts. In my opinion, the MT16 improves on the stair stepper design by allowing you to engage your arms for a full-body workout. Biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core will all feel the burn if you maintain proper form. I also like the low-impact nature of the machine. When I've used stair steppers in the past, sometimes I would trip, especially as I got more fatigued. While I never got injured, it was always startling. I never have to lift my feet from the MT16's pedals, completely eliminating the tripping hazard. (Related: The Best Stair Stepper Machine, According to Customer Reviews)
Measurements: 49.3 x 30.8 x 65.7 inches
Weight: 155.4 pounds when fully assembled
Weight capacity: Up to 300 pounds
Screen size: 16 inches diagonally (Wi-Fi connection required)
Preset programs: Calorie burn, fat burn, stairs, manual
Resistance levels: 20
Metrics: Heart rate, calories, calorie burn rate, target burn rate, interval count, interval time, total workout time, resistance level, and RPM
Power source: Included AC adapter (Note: Keep the machine plugged in at all times for periodic software updates.)
Heart rate monitor: Built-in contact grips and a Bluetooth-enabled armband
Extras: Phone stand, water bottle holder, USB charging port
The slim profile of the MT16 is ideal for small spaces. I plan on keeping my machine in the same spot, but it's easy to move if needed. There are wheels on the front of the machine, and I was able to tip it toward me onto the wheels and move it around on a concrete floor with no issues. I wasn't able to test moving it on plush carpet.
The machine operates smoothly and quietly. I have it set up in the basement, and if I'm in my bedroom upstairs (directly above it) and my husband is working out, I can hear the machine's soft whir, but it's not very loud or distracting. Occasionally, I'll hear the virtual coach's voice if Tom doesn't use his headphones, but it's not constant and I don't find it annoying.
I wasn't familiar with Bowflex's Max Trainer series before trying the MT16, and one notable difference between the latest model and the previous version, the Max Trainer 9 (M9) is the handlebars. The MT16 has six handlebars, compared to the M9's four. While I haven't tried the M9 myself to directly compare the two models, I'm happy the MT16 has high, middle, and low grip options. Because of our height discrepancy, Tom and I have different grip preferences: He likes the high and middle options, while I use the middle and low handlebars.
The touchscreen is responsive, and the settings and programs are easy to navigate. There are buttons on the back of the screen to adjust volume, return to the home screen, and power off the device, but I don't find them useful if I'm on the machine because I can't tell which button I'm pressing. I prefer to use the touchscreen exclusively. I also don't power off the machine: I leave it plugged in, and when I'm done working out, the screen eventually goes to sleep. It quickly comes back on if I tap the screen or gently pedal to "wake" it up.
There's a knob in the center of the machine to adjust resistance. Turn it left to lower the resistance level and right to raise it. The resistance knob is my least favorite part of the MT16. I'm not able to feel how much I'm increasing or decreasing the resistance level, so instead I have to watch the number change on the touchscreen. Oftentimes, the screen lags and I end up over or undershooting the level I want. It's not a great user experience, but overall I don't consider it a deal breaker.
Price and Warranty
The base price of the Bowflex Max Total 16 is $2,799, but through the end of January, you can save $400, receive a free mat for the machine, and get free shipping. This price does not include additional programs and streaming services that are accessible with a Jrny membership. The machine's frame and parts are covered by a three-year warranty, and labor is covered by a 90-day warranty. If you want to extend the warranties, you can purchase a Bowflex Protection Plan. For the MT16, $199 will extend the labor warranty up to three years, and $259 will extend parts and labor up to five years.
Admittedly, the MT16 is on the expensive side of exercise equipment. If you find the price prohibitive but want to invest in a Bowflex machine, take a look at the Max Trainer comparison chart. The M9 is similar to the MT16, aside from its 10-inch screen and four-grip handlebars, and it costs $800 less. All the Max Trainers also have financing options.
Jrny App: How It Works
If you want to take advantage of the Bowflex MT16's adaptive workout technology, stream shows and music from the machine's touchscreen, track your progress, experience virtual coaching, and more, you'll need a Jrny membership. The good news is that right now you can get a free 12-month trial when you purchase a Bowflex machine. After the first year, a Jrny membership costs $20 per month, but you can save money if you pay for the annual membership, which is $149 a year (or about $12.42 per month). Unlike other subscription services that cap the number of users per account, the MT16 supports an unlimited number of users within a single Jrny membership. Users can still keep their profiles private by creating their own unique login within the existing Jrny account; you just need to remember to log out every time you've finished a workout.
Setup and Initial Fitness Assessment
If you purchase a machine through bowflex.com, your Jrny membership becomes active the first time you log into the platform, either on your machine or another smart device. After activating my account from my machine, I downloaded the Jrny app on my phone so I can review my workout history and track my progress without logging into the MT16 directly. There are also virtual classes that require little or no equipment that I can access from my phone to switch up my workouts.
The first time I logged into the Jrny app from the MT16, I had to create a profile, inputting information such as my height, weight, age, and fitness goals. The Jrny platform uses this information to customize your workout experience, which can include the types of recommended workout videos that pop up on the screen, the interval and intensity levels within your session, and even the length of your workouts. (Note: I ran into a couple of hiccups the first time I attempted to activate my Jrny account. The issues were resolved promptly thanks to Bowflex Customer Service, but more on that later.)
Before you can fully access the MT16's Jrny benefits, you'll need to take a fitness assessment. This fitness assessment is what the machine uses as your baseline to tailor workouts specifically for you. It's important to find a resistance level that's comfortable for you — challenging but not too difficult — because the assessment will ask you to maintain certain targets for as long as possible. These targets are low-, moderate-, and high-intensity levels, and they're easily identifiable by a colored range on the screen that looks like a speedometer. As soon as your revolutions per minute (RPMs), also referred to as cadence, slow down to the point of falling below one of the targets, that portion of the assessment is over, and it moves on to the next level or the end of the assessment.
I admit that I was in a little bit of a hurry when doing my fitness assessment. I wasn't aware that it was an actual workout, and as a result, I think my adaptive workouts aren't as challenging as they could be. One thing I wish I did was get a feel for the machine before tapping the "start" button to begin the assessment. Instead, I was fiddling with the resistance level during the assessment, which caused me to slip out of some of the targets sooner than I should have. And as I mentioned before, I rushed it, so I don't think I pushed myself to stay in the target intensity range as long as I could have. Nevertheless, I'm still experiencing highly satisfying workouts, so I haven't felt the need to retake my fitness assessment yet.
A couple important notes to keep in mind for the fitness assessment:
Try your best to maintain a normal pace that's comfortable for you. If you push yourself too hard during the assessment, the recommended workouts will feel too challenging, and you may get discouraged. Likewise, going too easy won't result in workouts that will keep you engaged and progressing toward your goals.
Retake your assessment every six to 12 months. As you progress toward your fitness goals, your body will develop a new baseline. You should periodically retake your fitness assessment so the adaptive workouts evolve alongside you. And don't be afraid to retake your assessment even sooner if you aren't satisfied with your initial one.
Adaptive Workouts and Virtual Coaching
The adaptive nature of the workouts comes largely from your user profile and fitness assessment. My 18-minute fitness assessment produced workouts in the 15-to-25-minute range, though they've been progressively getting longer (to push me) the more I work out. Tom's assessment, on the other hand, lasted around 40 minutes, so he was served with 35-to-50-minute workouts. I've liked starting with shorter sessions and working my way up. Tom liked his longer workouts at first, but he found them difficult to maintain since he wasn't working out as much during the week as he'd hoped. He adjusted his fitness goals to include workouts in the 15-30-minute range, and the MT16 responded accordingly. Aside from the workout length, we noticed that our target intensity levels are different, so we're confident that we're getting personalized experiences.
After comparing notes, Tom and I agree that the Jrny app's virtual coaching is extremely helpful. I don't know if it senses your movements or has designated times to speak during your workout (I assume the latter), but either way, it feels as if I have an actual trainer at my side cheering me on. The virtual coach's reminders always come at the perfect time for me to ensure I maintain proper form. The tips I find most helpful are: tighten your core, drop your shoulders, and remember to push and pull the handlebars to engage your whole body. In addition to form checks, the virtual coach gives you a motivational push during high-intensity intervals and praise after each workout you complete. I didn't think I would care very much about the virtual coach, but after not stepping foot inside a gym for two years, I have to admit it's nice to have someone offer words of encouragement or a pat on the back for a job well done, even if it is totally virtual.
Workout Programs and Entertainment Options
My favorite thing about the Jrny platform is that I can choose to make every workout session unique. I've sampled quite a few of the app's workout programs in the two months I've used the platform, and I'm still discovering new favorites. (Speaking of favorites, you can "heart" the workouts you like best and return to them in your "favorites" catalog.) In addition to the program variety, I like that there's a layered element to my workouts, which allows me to diversify the sessions even more. I can layer world exploration or music on top of nearly any workout to make it more engaging. My one complaint about the programs is that none of them automatically adjust resistance levels; you always have to adjust it manually.
Aside from the Learn category, which helps you get a feel for the machine, there are four main programming categories to choose from: Just for You, Programs, Explore the World, and Videos.
Just for You
These programs vary in length and intensity. They're adaptive workouts, so they're not the same for each user. Each program includes virtual coaching. You can layer music, TV streaming, or world exploration options over these workouts.
This is where you can select traditional workout programs like calorie burn, fat burn, stairs, or manual mode, but this section has a slew of other presets that are organized by workout length. The workouts are adaptive, and many include virtual coaching.
Explore the World
If you'd rather be in nature or sightseeing while you work out, this will likely be your favorite feature. As the name suggests, you can choose gorgeous scenery from various locations around the world. The visual on the screen looks as if you're viewing a GoPro camera: As you pedal, you move through the location. If you stop to rest, the screen also pauses. The picture clarity, while not perfect, is still impressive and gives you as immersive an experience as possible without actually being there physically. I've used this feature once to pretend I was strolling through Sequoia National Forest, and while I find other features more engaging, I think I'll revisit this program soon.
These are instructor-led virtual classes that are organized by beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. There's obviously no one right way to use the Jrny platform, but looking back, I wish I would have started here. The instructors give you a lot of good tips to maintain proper form and explain how different hand or hip placements can work different parts of your body. Had I started with the videos, I think I could have gotten even more out of my earlier workouts. But that's the beauty of this platform: You never stop learning and progressing.
As for the entertainment options, I enjoy watching sitcoms on Netflix that are about the same length as my typical workout (it beats watching the same thing from the couch). You can stream Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+ from the machine, but you'll need a separate subscription for each service. Metrics are displayed on an unobtrusive bar at the bottom of the screen (or wherever I choose to move it) so I can still enjoy a show while keeping tabs on my workout. If I'm doing a program that has different intensity levels, a series of audio tones alerts me to get ready to ramp up or slow down, which is helpful. The audio tones don't detract from the show I'm watching, and I like that I can adjust the volume for the audio tones and streaming services separately.
As for music, I've also listened to Jrny radio while working out, and it's not bad. There are a handful of genres to choose from, including pop, hip-hop, and '90s (my personal favorite), just to name a few. But if you prefer your own playlist or a music streaming service like Spotify, you can connect your phone via Bluetooth and listen to your own beats through the machine's speakers or headphones.
Delivery and Assembly: Fast and Worth the Expert Fee
The machine arrived sooner than expected in two large, heavy boxes. Tip: You'll need a buddy to move them; there's even an icon on the outside of each box indicating that two people should lift it. I was home alone when the machine was delivered, so I scooted each box into my garage and waited for Tom to get home from work so we could carry them inside together.
While Bowflex offers instructional videos to assemble equipment yourself, and many people have successfully done so (more on that later), I recommend the expert assembly service, which is currently $169. Bowflex partners with a third-party company that called me two days after my machine arrived, which is when I scheduled a date and time frame for assembly. Because I wanted the machine in my basement, I notified the scheduler that the technician would need to move both boxes down a flight of stairs, which the scheduler confirmed wasn't a problem. Later that same day, I learned via text message that I was assigned a technician named Joe. Joe confirmed an exact time for arrival, which I appreciated rather than waiting during a four-hour window.
On assembly day, Joe arrived on time and was polite and professional. I was a little surprised that he arrived by himself, knowing that at least two people should move the boxes. Joe brought equipment to help him carry the boxes safely down the stairs himself, but since my husband happened to be home, he agreed to help Joe carry them down. We showed Joe the area we wanted the machine set up, and he got to work. (Note: The machine needs to be near an outlet.)
Joe assembled the MT16 in less than an hour, and I imagine that it would have taken my husband and me much longer had we attempted to set it up ourselves. Once he was finished, Joe pointed out some basic parts and features, and he set the owner's manual and spare parts on a table in our basement for us to refer to later.
Overall, I was very pleased with delivery and the expert assembly service. Tom and I aren't afraid to dig in and assemble things ourselves (it's actually something we enjoy doing together since becoming homeowners), but with a machine this expensive and having never put anything like it together before, we figured it was best to leave assembly to the pros. I wouldn't hesitate to use this service again should I order another Bowflex machine in the future.
Bowflex Customer Service: Kind, Patient, and Professional
I have a confession to make: I have yet to read the owner's manual for my MT16. I, like many people (I assume), was so excited to jump right in and start using it. I'm no stranger to cardio machines, and this one is pretty intuitive, which is why I've enjoyed every workout so far and still haven't opened the manual. But when I tried logging in with my Jrny account for the first time, that's when I ran into issues.
My first mistake, it turns out, was tapping the "log in" button on the touchscreen the first time I attempted to use the machine. I entered my username and password, but I received an error that the credentials weren't recognized. I tried the "forgot password" troubleshooting process, but I never received an email to reset it. After a few more attempts to troubleshoot with no success, and consulting the FAQ page, I contacted customer service.
I spoke to a representative named Lawrence, and he was incredibly kind and patient throughout our 23-minute phone call. I explained the situation, and that's when he politely informed me that the first time you log into the machine, you have to tap "create profile." Fun fact: Each new user under the same Jrny account must tap "create profile" the first time they use the machine. After that, they can use the "log in" button. I probably could have figured this out for myself had I opened the owner's manual that was literally a foot away from me, and I apologized to Lawrence for wasting his time. Ever professional, Lawrence insisted on waiting on the phone with me to make sure I was able to log in successfully, and it was a good thing he did because I encountered another problem.
While the machine recognized my Jrny account, it was stuck in an endless loading loop and never pulled up the home screen. Lawrence recommended unplugging the machine and plugging it back in, and when that didn't work, he helped walk me through a more sophisticated troubleshooting process. It turns out that the time zone on the machine defaulted to Eastern Time, and because I live in Central Time, that caused the system to get "stuck." Once I updated the machine to the correct time zone, I was able to access my account and haven't had any problems since.
Admittedly, part of my issue was user error, but Lawrence never made me feel bad about contacting customer service before reading the manual, and he was so helpful and patient during our interaction. If all Bowflex customer service agents are like Lawrence, then I give them an 11 out of 10.
Bowflex Max Total 16 Customer Reviews
The Bowflex MT16 launched early November of 2021, so there aren't many reviews on the Bowflex website (only 18 at the time of this writing). That said, all 18 reviewers gave the machine a five-star rating. It's important to note that some of the reviews appeared to have been submitted as part of a sweepstakes.
Unlike me, multiple users said that they assembled the machine themselves, and most importantly, it went smoothly. One customer from Ohio said, "It was easy to put together by myself as an older female and is much like the pedal StairMasters (which I happened to like), but better." Another user from Massachusetts agreed that setup was easy, though they did enlist some help from their spouse to stabilize the handles while putting the screws in. In total, they said it took two hours to assemble, noting that they took their time and double-checked all the parts.
For now, my body can withstand high-impact workouts without much trouble, but I like the low-impact nature of the MT16 to ease the strain on my joints. Another user who had surgery agreed. Connie from Oregon said, "You work every part of your body, but it is low impact so it doesn't bother the plates and screws on my leg and foot."
Like any piece of exercise equipment, the MT16 is an investment. One mom from Georgia noted that her family wanted a sturdy machine with the same quality you'd find in a gym. "My husband, 15-year-old athlete son, and I have been enjoying our Max Total 16," she said. "We can all get a good workout even though we are at different levels of activity."
Finally, the review I found most inspiring was written by Jen from California. She said, "This machine has made me into a daily workout person. I absolutely love everything about it. It has inspired me to be a better version of myself."
Who Should Invest In the Bowflex MT16?
Those who subscribe to Jrny and like the platform's benefits (tracking progress, streaming options, virtual coaching, on-demand classes, etc.)
Those who enjoy low-impact, full-body cardio and HIIT workouts
Those who live in multi-person households
Those who may have limited space for home gym equipment
Those who own other Bowflex equipment and want to expand their home gym
Those with varying degrees of activity (i.e. It's great for novices and gym rats alike.)
Who Shouldn't Invest In the Bowflex MT16?
Those who do not want to pay for a subscription in addition to an exercise machine
Those who find virtual coaching or streaming entertainment options distracting instead of helpful
Those who prefer high-impact workouts
Is the Bowflex MT16 Worth It?
That depends. If you have no interest in fitness subscription services, the MT16 is not for you. Considering the price, there simply aren't enough features that come with the base machine, and you can get a great workout with more affordable options.
If, however, you love full-body cardio workouts that leave you dripping buckets of sweat and you don't mind (eventually) paying for a fitness subscription to unlock even more benefits, then the MT16 is absolutely worth it. I like it so much better than standard stair steppers, and I'm enjoying the Jrny membership more than I thought I would. In the two months I've used the machine and membership, I've been working out more (at least three times a week, which is what I was doing pre-pandemic), and I've noticed a significant improvement in my mental health.
My Testing Methodology
My rankings factor in that users will need a Jrny membership to access many of the Bowflex MT16's benefits.