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My Honest Review of Using the Bowflex Max Total 16 Machine and Jrny Fitness Subscription for Two Months

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Bowflex. The brand is behind innovative adaptable dumbbells and the cutting-edge home gyms that made Bowflex a recognizable name. Perhaps less well known, however, is the fact that Bowflex isn’t solely focused on strength training. The brand has developed multiple cardiovascular machines over the years, and for the past two months, I’ve been using the latest model, the Bowflex Max Total 16 (also known as the MT16), (Purchase It, $2,499, bowflex.com) which is essentially a fusion of a stair climber and elliptical machine.

The following is my comprehensive, candid review of the Bowflex MT16.

However, Some Background Information First

It has been 675 days since I set foot inside a gym.

Before the pandemic, my spouse, Tom, and I established a fantastic routine of exercising together three days a week. While I tried almost all of the offerings at my fitness center, my preferred workout was spending 30 minutes on the stair climber. I understand why it’s not everyone’s machine of choice, but I adored how the stair climber left me feeling pleasantly achy and drenched in perspiration.

And, well, we all know what happened in March of 2020.

Initially, at-home workouts were an enjoyable challenge, but last year brought a new set of difficulties for my small family: purchasing our first house and adopting 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 fitness slump, no longer motivated by at-home workouts yet not comfortable enough to return to a gym in person. Then I took the Bowflex MT16 for a test drive alongside 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

Advantages

  • Device is simple to utilize and operates silently
  • Handles are well-positioned for various heights
  • Provides full-body, gentle on the joints exercises
  • Large, receptive touchscreen display with exceptional clarity and sound
  • Includes a heart rate monitor enabled with Bluetooth
  • Jrny tracks progress and customizes exercises for limitless users under one account (each user has their own unique login)
  • Jrny offers a collection of programs, streaming entertainment, virtual coaching, and breathtaking views from around the world to keep you engaged and motivated
  • Bowflex has outstanding customer service

Disadvantages

  • Assessing fitness may be perplexing for first-time users
  • Resistance levels must be adjusted manually (i.e., resistance is not an adaptable element)
  • Resistance knob does not easily indicate changes in level
  • MT16 does not provide the most value unless you have a Jrny membership

Bowflex

Purchase It: Bowflex Max Total 16, $2,499, was $2,799, bowflex.com

How I Tested the Bowflex Max Total 16

A representative for Bowflex offered to send me a complimentary sample of the MT16 to evaluate. Since I finally have the space to construct a home gym, I thought this would be a good beginning to hopefully get myself back into the habit of exercising regularly. I asked my spouse to test the machine as well to obtain 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 selection of videos, on-demand classes, streaming options, and more. I’ll elaborate 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 cardiovascular machines, and you can still get an effective workout on a more economical machine if you’re not someone who prioritizes all the additional features.

Bowflex MT16: Characteristics and Operations

The MT16 combines the best attributes of both an elliptical and stair stepper to offer a low-impact cardiovascular exercise with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) options

I am not a aficionado of elliptical machines, but I adore traditional stair climbers and HIIT exercises. From my perspective, the MT16 enhances the stair climber blueprint by enabling you to involve your upper limbs for a comprehensive workout. Biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, calves, and core will all experience the intense sensation if you sustain proper posture. The machine’s low-impact characteristic also appeals to me. When I’ve utilized stair climbers previously, occasionally I would stumble, particularly as I became more fatigued. Although I never incurred any injuries, it always caught me off guard. With the MT16’s pedals, I never have to raise my feet, entirely eliminating the risk of stumbling.

Bowflex

Purchase It: Bowflex Max Total 16, $2,499, was $2,799, bowflex.com

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 49.3 x 30.8 x 65.7 inches
  • Mass: 155.4 pounds when fully assembled
  • Weight capacity: Up to 300 pounds
  • Screen size: 16 inches diagonally (Wi-Fi connection required)
  • Pre-configured programs: Calorie burn, fat burn, stairs, manual
  • Levels of resistance: 20
  • Statistics: Heart rate, calories, rate of calorie burn, targeted burn rate, count of intervals, time of intervals, total exercise time, level of resistance, and RPM
  • Power source: Included AC adapter (Note: Always keep the machine connected for regular software updates.)
  • Heart rate monitor: Integrated contact grips and a Bluetooth-enabled armband
  • Additional features: Stand for phone, holder for water bottle, USB charging port

The slender profile of the MT16 is perfect for small areas. I intend to maintain my machine in the same location, but it is effortless to relocate if necessary. There are casters on the front of the machine, and I was able to tilt it towards me onto the casters and move it across a concrete floor without any problems. I was unable to test moving it on plush carpeting.

The machine operates smoothly and quietly. I have it installed in the basement, and if I am in my bedroom on the floor above it while my spouse is exercising, I can hear the soft whir of the machine, but it is not very loud or disruptive. Occasionally, I will catch the voice of the virtual coach if Tom doesn’t use his headphones, but it is not continuous and I do not find it bothersome.

I was not familiar with Bowflex’s Max Trainer series prior to trying the MT16, and one noteworthy difference between the latest model and the previous version, the Max Trainer 9 (M9), is the handlebars.

The MT16 boasts six handlebars, in contrast to the M9’s four. Although I have not personally experienced the M9, which would enable me to make a direct comparison between the two models, I am content with the fact that the MT16 presents choices for high, middle, and low grips. Due to the disparity in our heights, Tom and I possess distinct inclinations regarding handlebars: He favors the high and middle alternatives, whereas I utilize the middle and low handlebars.

Bowflex

Graphical User Interface

The touch panel is highly responsive, and the settings and programs are simple to navigate. There are buttons located at the rear of the display to adjust the volume, return to the main screen, and power off the device, but if I’m on the machine, I find them ineffective since I can’t discern which button I’m pressing. I prefer to exclusively use the touch panel. Furthermore, I don’t turn off the machine; I keep it plugged in, and when I finish my workout, the display eventually goes into sleep mode. It promptly awakens if I tap the touch panel or gently pedal to “awaken” it.

In the center of the machine, there is a dial to regulate the resistance. Turning it to the left decreases the resistance level, while turning it to the right increases it. Unfortunately, the resistance dial is the least favorable aspect of the MT16 for me. I am unable to physically sense the degree to which I am increasing or decreasing the resistance level, so instead, I have to observe the number change on the touch panel. Frequently, there is a delay in the display, causing me to surpass or fall short of the desired level. It’s not the most ideal user experience, but overall, I don’t view it as a deal breaker.

Bowflex

Purchase It: Bowflex Max Total 16, $2,499, previously $2,799, bowflex.com

Price and Guarantee

The initial cost of the Bowflex Max Total 16 is $2,499. This price does not include additional programs and streaming services, which can be accessed with a Jrny membership. The frame and components of the machine are covered by a three-year warranty, while labor is protected for 90 days. If you desire to extend the warranties, you have the option to purchase a Bowflex Protection Plan. For the MT16, an additional $199 will prolong the labor warranty up to three years, while $259 will extend coverage for parts and labor up to five years.

Admittedly, the MT16 falls on the pricier side of exercise equipment. If the cost is a deterrent but you still wish to invest in a Bowflex machine, I recommend consulting the Max Trainer comparison chart.

The M9 bears resemblance to the MT16, except for its 10-inch display and four-grip handlebars, and it has a price that is $500 lower. All the Max Trainers additionally provide various financing alternatives.

Jrny App: How It Operates

If you desire to avail yourself of the Bowflex MT16’s adaptable workout technology, stream shows and music from the machine’s touchscreen, monitor your progress, undergo virtual coaching, and more, obtaining a Jrny membership is a necessity. The positive news is that presently, with the acquisition of a Bowflex machine, you can acquire a complimentary 12-month trial. Post the initial year, a Jrny membership will cost you $20 each month, although significant savings can be realized when purchasing the annual subscription at a cost of $149 per year (equivalent to roughly $12.42 per month). In contrast to other subscription services that enforce user limitations per account, the MT16 facilitates an unrestricted number of users under a single Jrny membership. Users can still keep their profiles private by conceiving an exclusive login within the pre-existent Jrny account; you simply need to recollect to log out each time you conclude a workout.

Anna Knief

Register: Jrny App Subscription, $20/month or $149/year after the gratuitous trial, bowflex.com

Installation and Initial Fitness Evaluation

Should you purchase a machine via bowflex.com, your Jrny membership commences with your initial login onto the platform, be it through your machine or another intelligent device. Upon activating my account from the machine, I proceeded to download the Jrny app on my mobile phone, as this permits me to scrutinize my workout history and track my progress without directly logging onto the MT16.

There are additionally virtual sessions that necessitate minimal or zero gear that I can browse through my mobile device to vary my exercise routines.

The initial occasion I logged into the Jrny app from the MT16, I had to establish a profile, inputting details like my stature, mass, age, and fitness objectives. The Jrny platform utilizes this information to personalize your workout experience, which can incorporate the sorts of suggested workout videos that appear on the screen, the interval and intensity levels within your session, and even the duration of your workouts. (Note: I encountered a few glitches the first time I attempted to activate my Jrny account. The problems were resolved promptly thanks to Bowflex Customer Service, but more on that later.)

Before you can completely access the MT16’s Jrny benefits, you will need to undertake a fitness evaluation. This fitness evaluation is what the machine utilizes as your baseline to fashion workouts explicitly for you. It is important to discover a resistance level that is comfortable for you — challenging but not overly difficult — because the evaluation will request you to sustain specific targets for as long as possible. These targets are levels of low, moderate, and high intensity, and they can be easily identified by a colored range on the screen resembling a speedometer. As soon as your rotations per minute (RPMs), also known as cadence, decelerate to the point of dropping below one of the targets, that portion of the evaluation concludes, and it progresses to the subsequent level or the completion of the evaluation.

I concede that I was somewhat rushed when performing my fitness evaluation. I was unaware that it was an actual workout, and consequently, I believe my adaptive workouts are not as challenging as they could be. One thing I wish I had done was familiarize myself with the machine before pressing the “start” button to commence the evaluation. Instead, I was fiddling with the resistance level during the evaluation, which caused me to deviate from certain targets earlier than I should have. And as I previously mentioned, I rushed it, so I do not believe I exerted myself to remain in the target intensity range for as long as I could have. Nevertheless, I am still enjoying highly fulfilling workouts, so I have not felt the need to retake my fitness evaluation thus far.

A couple of important points to bear in mind for the fitness evaluation:

  • Strive to maintain a regular pace that is comfortable for you. If you exert yourself too vigorously during the evaluation, the suggested workouts will feel excessively challenging, and you may become disheartened. Similarly, if you take it too easy, you will not engage in workouts that will keep you interested and progressing towards your goals.
  • Reassess your evaluation every six to 12 months. As you advance towards your fitness goals, your body will establish a new baseline. Periodically retaking your fitness evaluation will ensure that the adaptive workouts adapt alongside you. Do not hesitate to retake your evaluation even sooner if you are dissatisfied with your initial one.

Anna Knief

Sign Up: Jrny App Subscription, $20/month or $149/year after free trial, bowflex.com

Customized Workouts and Virtual Guidance

The adaptable nature of the workouts primarily stems from your user profile and fitness evaluation. My 18-minute fitness evaluation generated workouts ranging from 15 to 25 minutes, but they gradually became longer (to challenge me) the more I exercised. On the other hand, Tom’s evaluation lasted approximately 40 minutes, so he received workouts spanning from 35 to 50 minutes. Personally, I enjoyed starting with shorter sessions and gradually increasing the duration. Initially, Tom liked his longer workouts, but he found it challenging to maintain them since he couldn’t exercise as much during the week as he had anticipated. Consequently, he adjusted his fitness goals to include workouts lasting between 15 and 30 minutes, and the MT16 adjusted accordingly. Apart from the duration of the workout, we noticed that our desired intensity levels differ, thus ensuring that we both receive personalized experiences.

After comparing our experiences, Tom and I are in agreement that the virtual coaching feature of the Jrny app is tremendously beneficial. I am unsure if it detects your movements or has specific times to provide guidance during your workout (I assume the latter), but either way, it feels as though I have a real trainer by my side, motivating me. The virtual coach’s reminders always come at the perfect moment, helping me maintain proper form. The advice I find most valuable includes tightening my core, lowering my shoulders, and utilizing the handlebars to engage my entire body by pushing and pulling. In addition to form checks, the virtual coach provides motivating cues during high-intensity intervals and offers praise after each completed workout. Initially, I didn’t think I would place much importance on the virtual coach, but after not setting foot in a gym for two years, I must admit that it’s pleasant to have someone offer words of encouragement or acknowledge my accomplishments, even if it is entirely virtual.

Anna Knief

Sign Up: Jrny App Subscription, $20/month or $149/year after free trial, bowflex.com

Exercise Programs and Entertainment Choices

The aspect that I enjoy the most about the Jrny platform is the ability to make each workout session unique. During the two months I’ve used the platform, I have tried several workout programs and continue to discover new favorites. (Speaking of favorites, you can “heart” the workouts you particularly enjoy and access them easily in your “favorites” collection.) In addition to the variety of programs, I appreciate the layered feature that allows me to further diversify my workouts. I can overlay elements such as exploring different parts of the world or incorporating music to make my sessions more engaging. However, my one complaint about the programs is that none of them automatically adjust the resistance levels; it is always necessary to manually make adjustments.

Aside from the Learn category, which assists you in acquiring a sense for the machine, there are four primary programming categories to select from: Just for You, Programs, Explore the World, and Videos.

Just for You

These programs differ in duration and intensity. They are adaptable exercises, so they are not identical for every user. Each program incorporates virtual coaching. You have the option to overlay music, TV streaming, or world exploration choices onto these workouts.

Programs

This is the section where you can choose traditional workout programs such as calorie burn, fat burn, stairs, or manual mode. However, this section also offers a plethora of other pre-set options that are categorized by workout duration. The workouts are adaptable, and many include virtual coaching.

Explore the World

If you prefer to be surrounded by nature or sightseeing while you exercise, this feature will likely be your favorite. As the name implies, you can select stunning scenery from various locations worldwide. The visual on the screen resembles that of a GoPro camera: while pedaling, you traverse the location. If you pause to rest, the screen also pauses. Though the image clarity is not flawless, it remains impressive and provides an immersive experience without physically being there. I once used this feature to imagine myself strolling through Sequoia National Forest. While I find other features more captivating, I believe I will revisit this program soon.

Videos

These are instructor-led virtual classes organized into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. There is evidently no singular correct way to utilize the Jrny platform. However, in hindsight, I wish I had started with this feature. The instructors provide numerous helpful tips for maintaining proper form and explain how different hand or hip positions can engage different parts of your body. If I had begun with the videos, I believe I could have gained even more from my earlier workouts. Yet, that is the beauty of this platform: you never cease learning and progressing.

Anna Knief

Sign Up: Jrny App Subscription, $20/month or $149/year after free trial, bowflex.com

Regarding entertainment options, I take pleasure in watching sitcoms on Netflix that have a similar duration to my usual workout (it surpasses watching the same content from the sofa). You can stream Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney from the machine, but you will require separate subscriptions for each service. Metrics are presented on an inconspicuous bar at the bottom of the screen (or wherever I opt to position it), allowing me to enjoy a show while keeping track of my workout.

If I’m carrying out a program that has various levels of intensity, a sequence of sound tones notifies me to prepare myself to increase or decrease, which is beneficial. The sound tones do not take away from the show I am viewing, and I appreciate that I can modify the volume for the sound tones and streaming services individually.

As for music, I’ve also listened to Jrny radio while exercising, and it’s not terrible. There are a few different styles to choose from, including popular music, rap, and ’90s tunes (which I personally love), just to mention a few. However, if you prefer making your own playlist or using a music streaming service like Spotify, you can connect your phone via Bluetooth and listen to your own music through the machine’s speakers or headphones.

Swift and Valuable Delivery and Assembly

The machine arrived earlier than expected in two large, weighty boxes. Tip: You’ll need a partner to move them; there’s even a symbol on the outside of each box indicating that two people should lift it. I was alone at home when the machine was delivered, so I pushed each box into my garage and waited for Tom to come home from work so we could carry them inside together.

Anna Knief

While Bowflex provides educational videos to assemble equipment yourself, and many individuals have successfully done so (more on that later), I suggest the specialist assembly service, which presently costs $169. Bowflex collaborates with a third-party company that contacted me two days after my machine arrived, which is when I scheduled a date and time frame for assembly. Since I wanted the machine in my basement, I informed the scheduler that the technician would need to move both boxes downstairs, which the scheduler confirmed was not an issue. Later that same day, I received a text message informing me that a technician named Joe was assigned to me. Joe confirmed an exact arrival time, which I appreciated instead of waiting within a four-hour period.

On the day of assembly, Joe arrived punctually and was courteous and professional. I was slightly surprised that he arrived alone, considering that at least two people should move the boxes. Joe brought equipment to assist him in a safe descent of the stairs with the boxes, but since my husband happened to be home, he agreed to help Joe carry them down. We showed Joe the area where we wanted the machine to be set up, and he began working. (Note: The machine needs to be close to a power outlet.)

Joe assembled the MT16 in under an hour, and I assume that my husband and I would have taken much longer if we had attempted to set it up ourselves. Once he finished, Joe pointed out some basic components and features, and he placed the owner’s manual and spare parts on a table in our basement for us to consult later.

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with the delivery and the specialist assembly service. Tom and I are not afraid to tackle assembly tasks ourselves (in fact, it’s something we enjoy doing together since becoming homeowners), but with a machine of this cost and no prior experience assembling anything similar, we felt it was best to leave the assembly to the professionals.

I would not hesitate to utilize this service once more if I were to purchase another Bowflex apparatus subsequently.

Bowflex Customer Support: Friendly, Patient, and Professional

I must confess: I haven’t yet gone through the user manual for my MT16. Like many others, I was too eager to start using it. I’m no stranger to cardio machines, and this one is quite intuitive, which is why I’ve enjoyed every workout without needing the manual. However, when I tried logging in with my Jrny account for the first time, I encountered some problems.

It turns out my initial mistake was pressing the “log in” button on the touchscreen when I first tried using the machine. I entered my username and password, but received an error message stating that the credentials were not recognized. I attempted the “forgot password” troubleshooting process, but I never received an email to reset it. After several unsuccessful attempts to troubleshoot the issue and consulting the FAQ page, I reached out to customer support.

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 for the first log in, I needed to tap “create profile.” Interesting fact: Every new user under the same Jrny account must tap “create profile” on their first use of the machine. Afterwards, they can use the “log in” button. I probably could have figured this out if I had just opened the owner’s manual, which was right next to me, and I apologized to Lawrence for wasting his time. Ever the professional, Lawrence insisted on staying on the line to ensure that I could log in successfully, and thankfully he did because I encountered another issue.

Although the machine recognized my Jrny account, it got stuck in an endless loading loop and never displayed the home screen. Lawrence suggested unplugging and plugging the machine back in, and when that didn’t work, he guided me through a more advanced troubleshooting process. It turned out that the machine’s default time zone was set to Eastern Time, but since I live in Central Time, this caused the system to get “stuck.” Once I adjusted the machine to the correct time zone, I was able to access my account without any further problems.

I admit that part of the issue was my own mistake, but Lawrence never made me feel guilty for reaching out to customer support before reading the manual. He was incredibly helpful and patient throughout our interaction. If all Bowflex customer support agents are as great as Lawrence, then I would rate them 11 out of 10.

Bowflex

Purchase It: Bowflex Max Total 16, $2,499, was $2,799, bowflex.com

Bowflex Max Total 16 Customer Feedback

The Bowflex MT16 was released in early November of 2021, so there aren’t many evaluations on the Bowflex website. Nonetheless, the users have assigned the machine a 4.8-star rating. It’s vital to take note that certain evaluations seem to have been submitted as part of a sweepstakes.

Unlike me, several users mentioned that they constructed the machine themselves, and most notably, it proceeded without difficulties. One customer from Ohio stated, “It was simple to assemble independently as an older female and resembles the pedal StairMasters (which I happened to appreciate), but superior.” Another user from Massachusetts agreed that setup was straightforward, although they did recruit some assistance from their spouse to stabilize the handles while inserting the screws. In total, they mentioned it took two hours to assemble, highlighting that they took their time and thoroughly checked all the components.

Currently, my body can endure high-impact workouts without much difficulty, but I appreciate the low-impact nature of the MT16 to alleviate the stress on my joints. Another user who underwent surgery concurred. Connie from Oregon expressed, “You engage every part of your body, but it is low impact, so it doesn’t distress the plates and screws on my leg and foot.”

Similar to any exercise equipment, the MT16 is an investment. One mother from Georgia remarked that her family desired a durable machine with the same quality one would find in a gym. “My husband, 15-year-old athletic son, and I have been enjoying our Max Total 16,” she said. “We can all achieve a beneficial workout even though we are at different levels of physical activity.”

Lastly, the review that struck me as most inspiring was penned by Jen from California.

She stated, “This apparatus has transformed me into a daily exercise individual. I completely adore all aspects of it. It has motivated me to become an improved rendition of myself.

Who Should Invest In the Bowflex MT16?

  • Those who subscribe to Jrny and appreciate the platform’s advantages (monitoring progress, streaming choices, virtual coaching, on-demand classes, etc.)
  • Those who enjoy low-impact, whole-body cardiovascular and HIIT workouts
  • Those who reside in multi-person households
  • Those who may have restricted space for home gym equipment
  • Those who possess other Bowflex equipment and desire to expand their home gym
  • Those with varying levels of activity (i.e. It’s excellent for beginners and fitness enthusiasts alike.)

Who Shouldn’t Invest In the Bowflex MT16?

  • Those who do not wish to pay for a subscription in addition to an exercise machine
  • Those who find virtual coaching or streaming entertainment options distracting rather than 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 suitable for you. Considering the price, there simply aren’t enough features that come with the base machine, and you can achieve a great workout with more affordable alternatives.

If, however, you adore whole-body cardiovascular workouts that leave you perspiring profusely and you don’t mind (eventually) paying for a fitness subscription to unlock even more benefits, then the MT16 is unquestionably worthwhile. I prefer it much more than ordinary stair steppers, and I’m enjoying the Jrny membership more than I anticipated. In the two months I’ve utilized the machine and membership, I’ve been exercising more (at least three times a week, which is what I was doing before the pandemic), and I’ve noticed a significant enhancement in my mental well-being.

Bowflex

Buy It: Bowflex Max Total 16, $2,499, was $2,799, bowflex.com

My Testing Methodology

My rankings take into account that users will need a Jrny membership to access many of the Bowflex MT16’s advantages.

Factors Significance
Effectiveness of workouts How well the workouts yield results
Comfort Level of comfort experienced while using the machine
Space requirements Amount of space needed for the equipment
Quality and durability Overall craftsmanship and long-lastingness of the machine
Price Cost of the machine
Ordinal ranking (1-10) Design The machine is sturdy, ergonomic, and operates smoothly and silently. 9 Connectivity The machine provides the capability to connect to Bluetooth and other devices. 9 Workouts The machine possesses a variety of pre-installed exercises at a range of levels to accomplish fitness objectives and achieve targeted zones. Workouts can be tailored. 7 Technology The display and interface exhibit high quality and are user-friendly. Body measurements are precise. 8 Customization Multiple users can utilize and customize the machine’s settings. The machine offers individualized performance insights. 7 Value The price of the machine is reasonable considering the quality and performance it delivers. 6.5 Customer Service The customer service is supportive and promptly addresses inquiries. The website is effortless to navigate. 10