Bowflex M3 vs M5 [2020] Which Bowflex Home Gym Should You Choose?

Differentiating between Bowflex’s elliptical and Max Trainer models can be quite difficult as both types of cardio machines offer a similar set of features. Bowflex M3 VS M5 debate boils down to which of these hybrid cardio machines has more to offer in terms of fat and calorie-burning capacities.

Each of Bowflex’s cardio machines from the Max Trainer series can do much more than just help you stay in shape, as they contain full-body workout programs that allow you to work on different groups of muscles every day.

In our Bowflex M3 VS M5 comparison, we are going to examine carefully all the features these cardio machines have to offer and help you determine which option is a good pick for you.

The Winner - Bowflex M5 Max Trainer Series

The Bowflex M5 is a clear winner between the two. It features 16 resistance levels and 8 workout programs, Bluetooth connectivity and is compatible with the Max Trainer App, whereas the M3 is an entry-level trainer with fewer features.

09/30/2020 01:28 pm

Main Differences Between Bowflex M3 vs Bowflex M5 

The main differences between Bowflex M3 vs Bowflex M5 are:

  • Bowflex M3 has 8 resistance levels, whereas Bowflex M5 has 16
  • Bowflex M3 is equipped with only 2 workout programs, whereas Bowflex M5 features 8 built-in workout programs
  • Bowflex M3 features a regular burn rate display, whereas Bowflex M5 has a backlit display
  • Bowflex M3 ships with chest strap heart rate monitor, whereas Bowflex M5 allow you to monitor the heart rate via contact grips or a chest strap
  • Bowflex M3 doesn’t have the Bluetooth connectivity option, whereas Bowflex M5 can be synced with iOS or Android version of the Max Trainer app via Bluetooth
  • Bowflex M3 comes with a one-year warranty, whereas Bowflex M5 models have a two-year warranty
  • Bowflex M3 allows you to change the resistance level with a mechanical dial, whereas Bowflex M5 let you change resistance levels directly from the console
  • Bowflex M3 is moderately priced, whereas Bowflex M5 is more expensive than most cardio machines on the market

A Closer Look at Bowflex M3 vs M5 Features

Bowflex M3

Bowflex M3 and M5 look virtually identical at first glance, but a brief look at their lists of features will reveal some major differences. The number of available resistance levels, connectivity options, or tracking features are some of the most important aspects that set these cardio machines apart.

Design and dimensions

All Bowflex’s models from the Max Trainer series have the same recognizable design that makes them different from all other cardio machines on the market. The M3 is the older of two models, which is the reason why it is a bit bulkier than the M5 model.

In addition, the M3 model has standard pedals that are not as durable and elegant as those you can find on the Bowflex M5. The same goes for the grips since the Bowflex M3 features only standard grips that cannot be used to monitor the heart rate.

Nonetheless, these two models still have quite a bit in common, as they both include a water bottle holder and the media trey. Moving Bowflex M3 or M5 around your home is easy because both cardio machines have transport wheels that enable you to store them quickly after a workout session.

The Bowflex M3 and M5 models are built from durable materials that can withstand years of heavy-duty usage. Click here to learn how to find the best elliptical.

The Console

All of the Max Trainer cardio machines are equipped with consoles that enable you to monitor your heart rate during a workout and adjust the resistance level. However, there are more than a few differences between the consoles on M3 and M5 models.

The Bowflex M3’s console features a calorie meter and it allows you to measure the heart rate using a chest strap. This cardio machine doesn’t have a backlit display which makes it a bit difficult to keep track of the EKG or the number of burnt calories.

The Bowflex M5 model brings improvements in this section as its backlit display makes all values clearly visible. Moreover, the M5’s grips are equipped with a hand sensor that measures your heart rate during a workout and displays it on the console’s screen.

Bluetooth connectivity is yet another major advantage M5 offers, since you can connect this cardio machine to a tablet or a smartphone in just a few quick taps.

Console Heart Rate

Resistance levels 

The maximum resistance level a cardio machine can offer determines how difficult your workouts can get. A larger spectrum of resistance levels allows you to increase the intensity of the workouts more gradually while offering more room for development at the same time.

One of the major shortcomings of the Bowflex M3 models is the fact that it has only eight resistance levels. This limits your capability to develop beyond a certain point and prevents you from performing high-intensity workouts.

The Bowflex M5 lets you choose from 16 different resistance levels which give you more versatility during workouts, as you can increase or decrease the resistance to match your current needs.

You can change the resistance level on a Bowflex M5 digitally, by pressing the buttons that are located on the cardio machine’s console. The M3 model doesn’t offer this option, as you can only change the resistance level using the mechanical dial.

Adjusting the resistance level in the middle of a workout on Bowflex M5 is easier than on the M3 model since you don’t have to interrupt an exercise in order to increase or decrease the device’s resistance.

Bowflex M5

Other noteworthy features 

Both M3 and M5 Max Trainer models feature the Burn-Rate Indicator that allows you to choose how many calories you are going to burn while performing an exercise. Each of these cardio machines has the Target-Zone Indicator that visualizes the heart rate and helps you keep the heart rate within a range you specified.

These two cardio machines combine the features of an elliptical and a power stepper, which means that they burn calories efficiently and boost your stamina while putting a minimal amount of pressure on your joints. The function of Burn-Rate and Target Zone indicators is to provide clear information about your current progress and inform you if your heart rate is above the normal.

These features enable you to perform high-intensity exercises while making sure that you are not putting too much strain on your body.

In regards to additional features, there is no difference between Bowflex M3 and M5 models because they offer standard heart rate and burn rate monitoring options.

The Winner - Bowflex M5 Max Trainer Series

The Bowflex M5 is a clear winner between the two. It features 16 resistance levels and 8 workout programs, Bluetooth connectivity and is compatible with the Max Trainer App, whereas the M3 is an entry-level trainer with fewer features.

09/30/2020 01:28 pm

Comparing the Bowflex M3’s and M5’s prices 

All Bowflex’s cardio machines from the Max Trainer Series, except the M3 model, are expensive. The Bowflex M3 is an entry-level cardio machine and its price reflects that, as you can purchase this model for a thousand dollars. The M5, M6, M7, and M8 models are much more expensive, as you have to spend more than two thousand dollars to get any of these cardio machines.

To make things worse, getting a new M5 model can be complicated since the manufacturer discontinued it a few years ago, and replaced it with an upgraded M6 model. Even so, some sellers offer the Bowflex M5 for approximately $2.500, which makes it more expensive than the M8 Max Trainer cardio machine that offers better features.

Bowflex M3 is a much more budget-friendly option for all homeowners who don’t want to spend a fortune on a cardio machine. Opting for an M7 or M8 model may be a better option for anyone who doesn’t mind investing a little extra into a Max Trainer model since the M5 model is no longer commercially available.

Examining the Bowflex M3’s and M5’s Workout Capabilities 

The number of built-in workout programs is perhaps one of the most important differences between the Bowflex Max Trainer M3 and M5 models. The Bowflex M3 has only two Manual and Max Interval modes, which means that you can either perform 14 minute HIIT exercises or design your own workout routine.

The Bluetooth connectivity option is unavailable on this cardio machine and you cannot use the M3 model with iOS or Android versions of the Max Trainer app. Even so, this hybrid cardio machine helps you burn fat or calories efficiently and target the group of muscles you want to strengthen.

The Bowflex M5 offers the following workout programs:

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

Each of these workout programs includes specific cardio exercises that enable you to reduce body fat and burn consistent amounts of calories. This Max Trainer model can be connected to a tablet or a Smartphone which enables you to use it with the free Max Trainer app.

The wider range of resistance levels, Bluetooth connectivity, and a better selection of workout programs make the Bowflex M5 model a better option for cardio exercises than the Bowflex M3.

Bowflex M3 vs M5

Pros and Cons

Bowflex M5 Pros

  • Offers 16 resistance levels
  • Equipped with 8 different workout modes
  • Features a backlit console
  • The grips have a hand sensor that measures the heart rate
  • Compatible with iOS and Android versions of the Max Trainer app
  • Computer-based resistance level adjustments
  • Lightweight and easily transportable
  • Comfortable and ergonomically designed pedals

Bowflex M5 Cons

  • The M5 model was discontinued by the manufacturer and replaced by the M6 model
  • No audio playback capabilities
  • 2-year warranty

Bowflex M3 Pros 

  • The most affordable Max Trainer model
  • Ships with a chest strap that measures the heart rate
  • Built from sturdy materials
  • Doesn’t require a lot of storage space
  • Features the Burn-Rate and Target-Zone Indicators
  • Transport wheels allow for easy relocation of the cardio machine
  • Features 8 resistance levels
  • Excellent body fat reduction capabilities

Bowflex M3 Cons

  • Poor tracking options
  • Offers only two training programs
  • No Bluetooth connectivity

The Best Alternatives to Bowflex M3 and M5 

Like all other Max Trainer models, the Bowflex M3 and M5 cardio machines offer a unique combination of steppers and elliptical trainers that is hard to find. You will have to opt for either a steeper or an elliptical if you are considering the alternatives to Bowflex M3 and M5.

Let’s take a look at some of the best available options:

Proform HIIT Trainer 

Proform HIIT Trainer

In case you are looking for a cardio machine that has the features of a stepper and an elliptical, then Proform HIIT Trainer is one of your best options. This cardio machine has steel construction and large cushioned pedals that provide all the comfort you need while exercising.

Proform HIT Trainer also has more resistance levels than Bowflex M3 and M5 models, and you can switch between different resistance levels directly from the cardio machine’s console.

The multi-functional handle-bars are perfectly suited for elliptical exercises, while the pedals allow you to move your lower body the same way you would if you were working out on a stepper.

In addition, you can keep track of your progress if you get the iFit membership and even attend workout sessions that are led by professional trainers. Proform HIIT Trainer is much cheaper than the Bowflex M5 model, and it offers much more than the similarly priced M3 model, which makes it a perfect alternative to the Max Trainer’s cardio machines.

Body Rider Fan Elliptical Trainer 

body rider

Even though you can’t target particular groups of muscles during workouts, the Body Rider Fan Elliptical Trainer can still help you burn calories efficiently, as it allows you to use both lower and upper body while exercising.

This elliptical trainer features only a small LCD that allows you to monitor how many calories you’ve burnt, your movement, and the amount of time you’ve spent exercising.

However, you will have to use a third-party app to monitor your heart rate and you won’t have access to different workout programs. The instructional video that ships with this elliptical trainer offer support to first-time users.

The Body Rider Fan Elliptical is perfectly suited for small spaces, as it is easily foldable. The elliptical is equipped with transportation wheels so that you can easily move it to the storage space after the workout. This is a budget-friendly solution for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on a cardio machine.

Sole SC200 Stepper 

sole fitness sc200

Despite being marketed as a stepper, Sole SC200 offers a combination of elliptical and stepper features, just like Bowflex M3 and M5 models.

Scole SC200 lets you choose between ten workout modes that are designed for different types of cardio exercises. You can switch between twenty resistance levels directly from the Sole SC200’s console, where you can also monitor your heart rate.

You don’t need a chest strap to monitor the heart rate because the stepper’s handles feature hand grip heart rate monitors. Sole SC200 is equipped with a tablet holder that enables you to connect this stepper to the device and monitor all your statistics from the Sole Fitness app.

This cardio machine also has a sound system that supports MP3 players, which allows you to listen to music throughout the entire workout session. Sole SC200 offers more features than Bowflex M3 and it is less expensive than this Max Trainer model.

The Verdict: Is Bowflex M3 Better Than Bowflex M5? 

Max Trainer models offer a unique combination of stepping and elliptical features that allows their users to perform full-body exercises and target particular groups of muscles.

Bowflex M3 is an entry-level cardio trainer that has only eight resistance levels and just two workout programs. The lack of Bluetooth connectivity options renders it impossible to pair the Bowflex M3 model with the Max Trainer app, which makes monitoring your statistics more difficult.

The Bowflex M5 has 16 resistance levels, 8 workout programs and it is compatible with all versions of the Max Trainer app. That is why Bowflex M5 is clearly a better option than the Bowflex M3, however, you should keep in mind that this model was discontinued by the manufacturer.

Finding a new Bowflex M5 can be both time-consuming and expensive, and you should consider getting the Bowflex M6 model or some of the other alternatives.

Bowflex M3 is an affordable cardio machine for homeowners who want to perform HIIT and other full-body exercises that are best suited for recreational users. Click here to read our Bowflex home gym guide or follow this link to read our Bowflex HVT review.

FAQs About Bowflex M3 vs M5 Cardio Machines 

How durable are Bowflex M3 and M5 Max Trainer models? 

Both of these cardio machines are made out of durable materials that can withstand years of active cardio workouts. However, you will only get a 2-year warranty if you purchase the Bowflex M5 model or a one-year warranty if you opt for the Bowflex M3.

Which Max Trainer model is the least expensive? 

The Bowflex M3 is the least expensive Max Trainer model, and it costs a thousand dollars. All other Max Trainer models cost more than two thousand dollars.

Do Bowflex M3 and M5 have different workout programs? 

The Bowflex M3 has just one workout program next to the Manual program, while the Bowflex M5 model has eight different workout programs.

Do Bowflex M3 and M5 support audio playback? 

No, neither of these cardio machines have audio playback devices. You cannot connect an MP3 player or a smartphone to them if you want to listen to music.


Bowflex M3 and M5 models are designed to help their users reduce body fat and burn calories through exercises that activate all large groups of muscles.

Moreover, either of these models from the Max Trainer series lets you monitor your heart rate during a workout and adjust your own pace.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with all the information you need to decide which of these cardio machines is the better option for you. Leave a comment and let us know which of these Max Trainer models you are going to choose or click here to read more about stationary bikes.

The Winner - Bowflex M5 Max Trainer Series

The Bowflex M5 is a clear winner between the two. It features 16 resistance levels and 8 workout programs, Bluetooth connectivity and is compatible with the Max Trainer App, whereas the M3 is an entry-level trainer with fewer features.

09/30/2020 01:28 pm

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