What is the Best Bowflex Home Gym

Bowflex Max Trainer M8 in the test: The AI-supported fitness training for at home motivates

tl; dr:The Bowflex Max Trainer M8, a combination of stepper and cross trainer, shows that fitness training at home benefits from an app connection. Video support via the tablet makes individual training more effective, more varied and more motivating. But the costs are high.

Artificial intelligence has also played an increasingly important role in the field of fitness in recent years. After professionals have initially improved their training with AI-supported apps, more and more functions and options are also being used in fitness equipment for at home. ComputerBase therefore takes a look at what is already possible within your own four walls and is testing the Bowflex Max Trainer M8, for which the manufacturer "artificial intelligence for home fitness“Promises. The Bowflex M8, a combination of stepper and cross trainer, should not only burn calories, but is digitally networked and should constantly learn how it should advance to become a fitness coach at home. In times of the corona crisis, in which all fitness studios had to close, corresponding devices for your own apartment are experiencing an upswing. But how much is behind the trend term AI in the Bowflex Max Trainer M8? And is a networked exercise bike even worthwhile? ComputerBase uses the Bowflex Max Trainer M8 to answer these two questions, which is really not a bargain with a recommended retail price of 2,499 euros.

Bowflex is the US market leader for home fitness, which has now also brought the Max Trainer M8 to Germany.

AI platform and details of the Max Trainer M8

The artificial intelligence platform that Bowflex uses in the M8 is called JRNY and uses artificial intelligence to provide tailor-made training units that automatically and individually adapt to the respective user. In this way, not only should the optimal training be provided for each user, but he should also be motivated to continue training on an individual basis.

The digital coach behind JRNY uses AI algorithms, data from an input assessment and tracking from previous workouts to create personalized daily workouts based on the user's self-set fitness goals. Improvements and previous performance will be taken into account for future training units. In addition, each training session can be changed depending on the user's current body feeling.

The platform also provides the user with real-time feedback and instructions from a virtual trainer, as well as rewards.

AI platform costs

However, the virtual assistant is not free. The JRNY AI platform relies on a subscription model in which you can choose a monthly or annual membership. This costs 15.99 euros per month or 159.99 euros per year. It can be used by up to four different users as long as they are linked to the machine. If you want to try the platform first, you can take advantage of a 60-day free trial membership after registration. This is automatically extended to the previously selected paid subscription if you do not cancel at least 48 hours before the end of the 60 days.

Small footprint for almost 70 kg

The Bowflex Max Trainer M8 is by no means the company's first Max Trainer. As the successor to the M7, it offers additional functions in addition to AI. For fat burning, the M8 relies on a combination of the whole-body movement of an elliptical trainer and the calorie-reducing power of a stepper. Whether the arms are always used is up to the user, because there are both dynamic and rigid handles on the M8. The model is comparatively compact. The required footprint of the trainer is only 121.5 × 78.2 cm. A training area of ​​200.2 × 243.6 cm is recommended for safe operation. It should be noted that the elevated training position also means that you have to have some upward freedom. The trainer itself is 165.6 cm high. The maximum pedal height added to the height of the user is 48.5 cm - 250 cm, the room in which the Max Trainer M8 is used should therefore be at least high. The exercise bike can also be pushed to the side via transport rollers on the front when it is not in use. To protect the floor, an exercise mat should be placed under the device, even if its surfaces are rubberized. The M8 can also be leveled using the feet so that slight unevenness in the floor can be leveled out.

Hand pulse sensors or Bluetooth heart rate belt

The fitness machine has sensors for hand pulse measurement, with which the heart rate signals of the user are sent to the console. The hand pulse sensors are the metal areas of the handles and both hands must cover the upper and lower area of ​​the sensors for a measurement. When the console detects four stable pulse signals, an initial heart rate is displayed.

After the heart rate has been recorded, the hands must remain in this position for 10 to 15 seconds. The console then measures the pulse. Since many factors such as the user's movement influence the measurement of the sensors, the heart rate displayed is only used as an approximation and reference value for fat consumption. As soon as the hands are removed from the surfaces, the heart rate is no longer displayed.

In addition to the hand pulse sensors, a Bluetooth heart rate belt can also be connected to the M8. This must be purchased separately by the user and is not included in the delivery. The Bowflex Max Trainer M8 can then use the signals from the Bluetooth heart rate belt instead of its own measurement.

Very good workmanship for up to 136 kg

The maximum user weight of the Bowflex Max Trainer M8 is 136 kg. The model is built correspondingly robust and weighs 67.1 kg. The workmanship is very good overall and the device is extremely stable. The bearings run smoothly and ensure that all movements on the M8 can be carried out evenly. Especially the moving parts, the body and the metal struts are very high quality. However, the buttons for setting the resistance and the top smartphone storage tray fall a little behind this very good look and feel. Even the transparent plastic cover over the display shows fine scratches after a simple wipe, which spoil the visual impression.

Seven integrated training programs

The Bowflex Max Trainer M8 offers seven integrated programs regardless of the AI ​​platform. Because even those who decide against using the JRNY platform can use the device with the usual functions. A total of 20 resistance levels can be used in the training. They are set via a touch button on the console of the M8. Here, the fitness device uses a stepless, combined resistance made up of air and magnets, which prevents sudden braking. However, this also ensures that the test subject is not silent, but rather creates an audible air noise with every pedal press.

The trainings follow the principle of "High Intensity Interval Training" (HIIT). Recovery phases alternate with short phases of high stress. How long and how often these individual phases are varies from training to training.

In addition to training at a fixed pace, in which the intensity remains the same over the entire time, interval training programs can also be used on the M8. With interval training, the training intensity changes at different time intervals, so that the heart rate and the calorie consumption vary again and again due to sometimes extreme changes in intensity. In total, more calories can be burned than with standard training. The Bowflex Max Trainer M8 combines sprint and recovery segments into interval training. These include the programs MAX 7-minute interval, MAX 14-minute interval, MAX 21-minute interval with four, eight and twelve intervals as well as the programs calorie consumption, fat loss and levels with six segments each. With the manual program, on the other hand, the user can train indefinitely and set the resistance level himself at any time. It is then shown accordingly on the display.

Fast, easy set up

The construction of the Bowflex Max Trainer M8 is very simple and does not require any specific prior knowledge. Since the central element is already completely pre-assembled, the user only needs to assemble the floor element, the stabilizer, the central console with display, the pedals and the handles. This is done in around 30 minutes, as the instructions go into every single step in great detail and the screws are very well sorted. The tools required for assembly are included, but a socket wrench box makes assembly easier. A second person is also helpful, but with a little skill it is not absolutely necessary.

When placing the console with the display, the connection cable laid in the M8 must be connected to it. It is important to ensure that the cable does not fall into the device or be damaged when the cable tie that secures it for transport is cut.

Functions of the console in detail

The console with LCD has buttons for resistance control on the right and left side of the fixed handles. The program can be selected, started and paused using the buttons in the middle. The middle button for "MAX 14-minute interval" starts the 14-minute training, Bowflex recommends training three times a week. The training duration can be extended by 2.5 minutes using a button, except for interval programs. It is deactivated for manual programs.

In addition, the active user can be selected from a total of four users. A user must always be selected for a training session. To edit one, the user button must be pressed for three seconds - if you use the JRNY app, the user is created in the app and synchronized with the M8. The volume of the beeps on the console can be switched through using a volume button. The indicator lights represent the current settings: "Low" (1 LED), "Medium" (2 LEDs), "High" (3 LEDs), "Off" (no LEDs).

In the display there is a calorie consumption indicator, a total calorie indicator, LEDs for the target calorie consumption and a benefit zone indicator. In addition, the trained time, the target time, the current training segment and training profile, the programs, the heart rate and the connection status to the app are displayed.

The calorie consumption indicator

The calorie consumption indicator shows the amount of calories burned per minute. This consumption depends on the intensity, which is made up of the current value of the revolutions / minute (pedal speed) and the resistance level (1–20). If one of these values ​​is increased, the calorie consumption also increases.

LEDs for the target calorie consumption

The LEDs for the target calorie consumption are a training coach based on the settings of the selected user profile. Three LEDs light up during training. The first is recommended for beginners. With each additional LED, the demands on the trainee increase. They therefore indicate a recommended training level, which is why it is important that the user profile corresponds to the actual values ​​of the user so that the recommended consumption is calculated correctly. During an interval training, the sprint segments are indicated by red LEDs and the recovery segments by green LEDs. The orange LED for maximum consumption shows the maximum number of calories consumed during exercise.

The advantage zone display

In the advantage zone display, the target consumption zone suggested by the system is displayed, in which, according to the system, the user can make the most of the current training session. It is divided into the three stages “Fat Burn”, “Endurance” and “Performance”. "Fat Burn" includes programs for high calorie consumption, "Endurance" manual programs and "Performance" the staircase program.

The total calorie display

The total calorie display "Total Calories" shows how many calories were burned during exercise. This is an approximation based on calculations of user information and training. The maximum displayed value is 9,999.

The training segments

In addition to the two training segments "Sprint" and "Recover", which stand for a segment with high and low intensity, there is "Warm Up" and "Cool Down". "Warm Up" starts when the device is switched on and if no training has yet been started. This allows the user to warm up before training. The time display counts down the warm-up phase. “Cool Down”, on the other hand, starts when the training is finished and the device is still in use. Then the training results are also displayed on the console.

On the next page: The digital heart: The JRNY app

  • Frank HüberEmailTwitter
    ... has been writing about smart homes, monitors and new technologies since 2000. He completed his studies with a degree in engineering.