Side-by-Side Comparison: Which Vertical Elliptical is Best for You?
Let’s take a closer look at the Bowflex Max Trainers and ProForm SMART HIIT Trainers (formerly known as the CardioHIIT Trainers or plain HIIT Trainers.) Both machines use a vertical elliptical / stair-climber motion to allow the user to burn more calories in less time. There are some significant differences between the models that might help you choose which will work best for your body and budget.
Ways They Are Similar
- Space Saving Design – Both of these machines are much smaller than typical ellipticals. In fact, they take up about ½ of space and are perfect options for smaller homes or offices.
- HIIT Training Platform – The marketing draw for the Max Trainers and SMART HIIT Trainers is that they offer very high intensity interval workouts that can deliver major results with minimal time commitments. Bowflex even states that only a fourteen minute workout three times a week will be enough for jaw-dropping results. We are skeptical of this particular claim and recognize that diet and lifestyle are going to play a huge role in the results you see. Still, you can’t deny that HIIT (high intensity interval training) is used by top athletes and provides real results!
- Easy to Mount/Dismount – Both of these machines are easy to mount and dismount especially compared to rear-drive ellipticals. There is no need to step over any part of the machine mechanics.
- Upper Body Workout – Both machines have multi-grip handlebars that allow you to get a great workout on your upper body, core and back muscles along with your lower body.
Ways They Differ: Who Wins Each Category?
- Elliptical Pattern – The pattern on the Bowflex models is like an upright oval. It feels a bit like pedaling on a bicycle while standing up. In contrast, the pattern on the ProForm model is a bit more up-and-down with a 10” vertical and only 5” horizontal path.
Winner- Tie! (Which kind of motion do you think you’d prefer?)
- Resistance System – The following levels of resistance are included on each model: Max Trainer M7 (20 levels), M5 (16 levels), M3 (8 levels), SMART HIIT Trainer Pro (26 levels), and SMART HIIT Trainer (24 levels).
Winner – ProForm has way more resistance levels!
- Fitness Tracking – The ProForm machines have iFit Live which allows you to run virtual courses synced to GoogleMaps, set your goals, and track your results online. You can customize your own fitness programs and keep track of four different user profiles on each machine. The downside to iFit is that it requires an annual subscription. A 2-year membership costs around $216, 1-year is around $144, and lifetime membership is $599. This ongoing cost needs to be factored into the machine’s price. NOTE: You can get your first year of iFit membership for FREE with your purchase. The SMART HIIT Trainer Pro lets you use these features directly on your machine console while the basic SMART HIIT Trainer requires you to link your own smart device via Bluetooth. The Bowflex machines can connect to a free Max Trainer App that lets you link to your existing fitness apps like MapMyFitness, GoogleFit, or Apple Health. The app automatically tracks and stores each workout session. Again, you can link the smart device via Bluetooth. The iFit Live likely provides more benefits but the cost makes us view this category as a tie.
Winner – Tie! (If you’ll use iFit, it may be worth the extra price. If you only want a little bit of occasional workout tracking, then the Bowflex has adequate capability here. If you’re not interested in workout tracking at all, then the ProForm machines will give you more machine for less money.)
Workout Programs – The following programs are available on these machines: Bowflex Max Trainer M7 (11 programs), M5 (9 programs), M3 (2 programs), ProForm HIIT Trainer Pro (34 programs), and HIIT Trainer (32 programs.)
Winner- ProForm has many more programs!
- Machine Stability – The Bowflex machines weight 143 lbs. (tested for users up to 300 lbs.) and the ProForm machines weigh 180 lbs. (tested for users up to 350 lbs.), so the ProForm machines have a slight edge on stability. A Bowflex representative said that if you do experience any sort of wobbling on their Max Trainers, it is likely that the feet or levelers need to be adjusted.
Winner – ProForm is a heavier machine that offers higher stability.
- Flywheel / Braking System – The Bowflex Max Trainer machines do not have listed flywheel weights and use classic eddy current braking systems. In contrast, the ProForm HIIT Trainer and Trainer Pro have effective flywheel weights of 28 lbs. and 30 lbs. respectively. The ProForm machines use patented Silent Magnetic Resistance systems for a smoother ride.
Winner – ProForm
Display Type – The following displays are available: Bowflex Max Trainers (dual backlit LCD/LED display), ProForm SMART HIIT Trainer Pro (10” Smart HD Touchscreen), and ProForm SMART HIIT Trainer (7” backlit display.)
Winner – ProForm SMART HIIT Trainer Pro has a 10” Color Touchscreen for around $1,499! However, if you are considering the SMART HIIT Trainer (only 7” backlit LCD) vs. a Bowflex, then we’d say that the Bowflex has a slight edge with its dual LCD/LED display.
- Tablet Holder – All of these models have tablet holders, although we should mention one thing with the Bowflex models. The M3 and M5 have a tablet holder that blocks part of the display. On the M7, the tablet location was moved so it doesn’t block any of the display features.
Winner – Tie! (Be aware of the view blockage on the M3 and M5 models)
- Warranty – The following warranties are available: Bowflex Max Trainer M7 (3 years), M5 (2 years), M3 (1 year), ProForm SMART HIIT Trainer Pro (Lifetime Frame, 5 years parts, 2 years labor), SMART HIIT Trainer (Lifetime Frame, 3 years parts, 1 year labor)
Winner – ProForm offers longer warranties.
Price – The machines have the following pricing: Bowflex Max Trainer M7 ($2,199), M5 ($1,599), M3 ($999), ProForm SMART HIIT Trainer Pro ($1,499), SMART HIIT Trainer ($999)
Winner – At first glance, the ProForm looks like a better deal, but remember that their iFit program requires an annual subscription. Comparing the M3 and M5, we are going to declare Bowflex the winners on price. The price on the M7 is less attractive to us considering you can get a 10” touchscreen on the ProForm machine for $700 less.
- High Customer Ratings – The Bowflex Max Trainers have a long history of very high customer satisfaction. This says a lot about the quality of the products. The customer service department is excellent and will take any time necessary to answer questions that you have about the product. For comparison, the ProForm SMART HIIT Trainers were only released on fall of 2016, so there is less of a review history to draw from. We have found a few reviews sprinkled throughout the Internet and they have been very positive.
Winner – Bowflex has a longer history of customer satisfaction. We’ll watch ProForm carefully to see how customers like the SMART HIIT Trainers!
Final Thoughts: Bowflex Max Trainers vs. ProForm SMART HIIT Trainers
These machines are very similar and directed at the same market. In fact, the SMART HIIT Trainers were developed specifically to compete with the Max Trainers. Let us know in the comments section below what you decide about each machine. Time will tell which one is better received by the public.
Read our full reviews here:
ProForm SMART HIIT Trainer – *Best Buy
ProForm SMART HIIT Trainer Pro
Bowflex Max Trainer M3
Bowflex Max Trainer M5 – *Best Buy
Bowflex Max Trainer M7