The electric ab stimulator is making a big splash these days – but is it actually effective?
Over the centuries, millions of humans have tried thousands of shortcuts to get in shape the easy way. Everybody has always wanted that secret recipe, that super-special shortcut that would give us a quad-shredded, beefy leg up on the competition.
Women are famously bombarded with rumors and ads and gossip about all kinds of wild weight-loss and beauty products, and thus it has been for millennia.
However, we men don’t get let off the hook so easily. We’ve tried powders, pastes, potions and lotions of every description in an effort to give us those chiseled pecs and cut abs without having to put in the hard work.
And that’s just considering the ‘Lose 30 pounds in 30 days’ type of product – let’s also talk about devices.
(Okay, how about this: does anyone remember the Shake Weight but NOT as a parody, or laughing at the image of what appears to be someone wanking off a well-hung android?)
So, yeah none of that stuff works, in case you were wondering.
But one device that is getting a lot of play lately in this era of home workouts and more limited exercise opportunities is the ab belt, or the electric ab stimulator.
What is the electric ab stimulator?
The electric ab stimulator, or ab toning belt is designed to attack the problem of toning up around the middle directly, by creating an electric current through your abdomen that activates the muscles, causing them to contract.
The idea is that activating the muscles even when you’re not actually using them will help to tone them and get them in shape.
Again, the notion of getting fit exercise-free or at least with low physical investment is a tempting one. Just open any men’s or women’s magazine and you’ll come across an article or an ad purporting to have some miracle cure, procedure or program that will give you the body you want today!
Just send 12 easy payments of £99.95 and it can all be yours!! Why wait!?! ORDER NOW!!!
(Sorry, got a bit caught up there.)
But the thing about electric ab stimulators is they do actually work – just maybe not quite in the way you imagine they would. And certainly not in the way manufacturers try to portray them as working.
We’ll take a close look at what the ab stimulator does and doesn’t do, and delve into the question of are ab belts really effective, and whether it’s worth the investment.
But first we might want to ask…
How do ab stimulators work in the first place?
We’ve already touched on a very basic notion of what ab stimulator belts are and what they’re designed to do, but it’s important to get into this a bit deeper.
The concept of the ab electric belt as a consumer product to help people achieve that perfect beach bod comes from a very different background than the “powder and potion” fake fitness crowd.
So when you’re exploring the question of do ab stimulator belts work, or at least the technology behind them, you should know that the short answer is that yes indeed they do.
For proof, just ask the thousands of spinal column patients and other people with limited mobility who have used similar products to speed their way to recovery.
You see, the ab stimulator belt is a direct descendant of EMS or electric muscle stimulation devices that doctors and therapists have been using for years now to help stroke victims and victims of spinal injuries maintain some level of muscle tone in areas they are unable to activate themselves.
If you’ve ever been in a cast for good amount of time, you’ll get the concept right away: if only you could have somehow worked out during your six months of recovery, perhaps that skinny little toothpick of a left arm might more closely match your beefy right one.
And we all know why THAT is, Mr. Shake Weight…) when the cast finally comes off.
But how do ab belts work for getting in shape?
So, the idea is that after a long quarantine or other confinement marked by excess beer but not so much exercise, we can harness that electrical stimulation developed to help spinal column patients and use it to activate long-dormant gut muscles.
One hesitates to call them “abs” at this point, let’s be honest, and kick-start them into activity.
That’s because we’re talking broadly about the same thing: repeated muscle contractions and relaxations when done correctly and consistently over time lead to bigger, more toned muscles.
We know this for a fact because that’s exactly what working out is.
When we bench press or do crunches or squats or even 12-ounce curls, our bodies contract the muscles involved and relax them after. Do this enough times in the right way and you’ll end up with bigger, more toned muscles in the area in question.
With an electric ab stimulator, the machine does the contraction for us, theoretically leading to more toned core muscles, including your abdominals.
Ah, but if only that were all there is to the equation.
Unfortunately there’s more. For some of us, a whole lot more.
Do ab belts work to give you a six-pack?
The short answer to this question of can you get a six-pack using an ab stimulator, sadly, is no – at least not all on their own. The long answer is slightly more hopeful, but only just.
That’s because having a beach-ready six-pack isn’t just about the muscles, it’s about what you’re covering them up with.
That is to say, you should cheer up, because technically you’ve already got a six-pack – it just happens to be covered up with layers of pasta and beer and years of office work topped with too little exercise and too much cake.
So while regulatory bodies like the US Food and Drug Administration have approved the use of EMS devices like ab stimulator belts, they’ve only approved them in connection with rehab activities, not for weight loss.
They can help you strengthen and tone muscle, but they will not burn fat or reduce your waistline.
However, that doesn’t mean the answer to the question of do ab belts work is actually a firm no.
So why use ab stimulator belts?
While it’s true that the only true way to spot-reduce fat around your gut is a combination of increased calorie burn and reduced calorie intake – apart from the indignity of liposuction – the ab stimulator belt can still help.
But that’s only if you look at the ab stimulator as just one piece of the fitness puzzle and don’t think of it as an electric savior to your wayward, sinful gut.
Anyone who follows the ever-evolving arena of fitness advice knows that the importance of core strength is something that cannot be underestimated.
And there is solid clinical evidence that electrical core stimulation of the kind you get from a home-use ab stimulator does build abdominal strength and endurance.
One study published in the International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science showed that people who used high-intensity electrical stimulation devices five days a week over a six week period experienced a 29 percent increase in strength when compared to subjects who used low-intensity devices.
The bottom line: do ab stimulators work?
So, do ab belts work?
At the end of the day, yes, using an ab stimulator belt can give you a jump-start on getting your core muscles in better shape. Or, if you’re already on a fitness regimen, an ab stimulator can help to push your core muscles to the next level.
But understand, we’re not suggesting that if you sit around eating chocolate while wearing an ab stimulator you’ll end up with a ripped six-pack.
Rather, think of the ab stimulator as an additional tool that can help amp up – pun intended – your workout by adding an extra layer of activation to your core.
Finally, at long last, ad infinitum, we simply must accept the fact that when it comes to burning fat – and gents, that’s mostly what developing a six-pack is all about – there is no such thing as spot reducing.
There’s not a device in the world – again, aside from a liposuctionist’s nozzle – that can take away fat from specific parts of your body.
Your number one goal is and should remain eating a healthy, clean, natural diet that leans heavily on fruit and veg, legumes, fish, and nuts, and avoid added sugar and processed food.
In addition to that, developing a workout routine that you can stick with consistently over the long term will give you better results than any fad workout or radical diet plan.
Stay active, shoot for some cardio, along with plenty of strength training, and some high-intensity interval training, and you too can shake, shake shake your way to a slimmer you!
(Only without all that idiotic shaking, my man. Leave the cyborg dicks alone, please.)
1. Slendertone Abs8 Muscle Stimulation Belt
The Slendertone is a highly-ranked stim belt, with 85 percent of customers giving it either 4 or 5 stars. Right out of the box, you get a solid-feeling, durable belt that comes with extra pads so you can share with a partner. The Slendertone features a bright, easy to read LED screen, and is programmed with 10 pre-set programs that give you 150 intensity levels of EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) to help tone your abs. It’ll fit users with waists measuring from 24 – 42″ (61 – 107cm), and uses clinically proven muscle stimulation tech. Finally, this is a smart ab belt, as it features memory functionality so you can pick up with the last program you used, and it’s got a rechargeable controller that’s simple to understand. The Slendertone’s top-of-the-line reputation seems to be consistent with its price tag, which is £100 on Amazon.
2. Ab Flex Ab Toning Belt
If you’re looking for something a bit less steep but still worthy of a 4.5 overall rating from customers, look no further than the Ab Flex Ab Toning Belt. It also comes in a sleek, attractive velcro belt style, and packs away into a convenient carrying case. The EMS signals are directed to your middle at 99 fully controllable intensity levels that you can adjust on the fly. A nice added feature is that the remote stays with you no matter what, in a convenient carrying pouch that is built right into the Ab Flex’s design like a holster. One other innovation this belt offers users is a pad-free operating system. The Ab Flex belt itself is made of medical grade materials that are easily wiped down after use, so you don’t need pads. The physical therapist-recommended Ab Flex system comes with batteries included, and will deliver you flatter abs for a mid-range £64.99 on Amazon.
3. Matehom Abs Trainer
The Matehom Abs Trainer system is a bit different from the typical belt type of ab stimulator you might have come to expect. It works on the same EMS principles as the rest of them do, but instead of being attached to a velcro belt that you strap around your core, the Matehom consists of a series of connected pads that fits to your abdominals and stimulates your muscles via conductive gel and electrodes. It’s pre-programmed with 6 modes, and features a total of 8 pads that give you that core workout you want using an easy-to-understand remote. An added bonus for this mid-range priced system is that it comes with a set of EMS arm trainers as well. Comes in at a slim and trim £20.96 on Amazon.