Electronic Muscle Stimulators are a common fitness item on the market. They are sold in a variety of brands and some of them have been popular for a long time in various countries. Some of the more well known ones are the Flex Belt, the Slendertone products, and the Contour Abs Belt.
In this article I want to see whether Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) can really work as advertised and whether it’s something that can get you flat abs or are you better off sticking to abs programs such as Truth About Abs.
I’m not going to go into any specific model but take a more general perspective that will provide you with the information you need to know when you decide on whether or not to purchase a muscle stimulator for yourself.
Let me start this article by stating that many people have no faith in any of these machines. This doubt is based on past experience as there have been many false and scams with EMS fitness devices. In fact, the FTC has formerly charged 3 manufacturers of such devices for making false claims as can be read here: FTC Charges Electric ab belts manufacturers.
However, the abs are not the only thing these machines are supposed to work on. There are devices for arms, legs, thighs, and so on. The basic principle is all the same…
How do Electric Muscle Stimulators work?
All EMS devices work in the same way:
- You place them tight against your skin.
- You turn them on and they begin to vibrate against your skin, sending an electric pulse that goes through your skin.
- This pulse causes the muscles to contract involuntarily many times over.
- These contractions are supposed to help you get an effortless workout, build strength, and tone your muscles.
This is the principle. But does it work? Can they get you flat abs?
Manufacturers of Electric Muscle Stimulators claim that this is a technology that has long been in use and has been prove to work.
This is partly true as EMS is used by physiotherapists to treat injuries and accelerate rehabilitation. When a person is injured, the muscles may “forget” how to function properly. Then, EMS helps to “bring them back to life” and to increase their strength until more rigorous exercise can be done.
In addition, Electric Muscle Stimulation has been used in the Soviet Bloc in the past as part of their sport program, and has been claimed to be quite effective. However, the view in the Western World is a bit more skeptic.
Can you get Flat Abs with Electric Muscle Stimulators?
If we look at the false claims the FTC acted against, we can see the FTC does not believe that these machines can get you flat abs. The three claims the FTC deemed as false were:
- The ab devices cause fat loss and inch loss
- The ab devices will give users well-defined abdominal muscles (e.g., “rock hard,” “six pack” or “washboard” abs)
- Use of the ab devices is equivalent to or superior to conventional abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups or crunches.
I tend to believe that the FTC doesn’t want to curb business unless it is really certain that there is a case of clear false marketing and exaggerated promises.
If this isn’t enough, I had a look at the FDA webpage that is dedicated to Electric fitness belts and devices. in the United States, the FDA regulates such devices to make sure they’re safe for use.
There have been reported cases of burns, shocks, and other injuries and problems with such machines. The FDA tries to limit the extent of these cases through regulation.
When the FDA approves a certain Electric Abs Belt it does mean that it can get you flat abs. In fact, on the FDA’s website, it clearly stated that “While an EMS device may be able to temporarily strengthen, tone or firm a muscle, no EMS devices have been cleared at this time for weight loss, girth reduction, or for obtaining “rock hard” abs.”
Do you see what this mean?
An EMS device has never been shown to be able to get you to shed weight, lose inches off your waist, or get you rock hard abs (six pack abs). It is simply not proven.
In addition, you need to realize that the stronger you become the bigger the electric stimulation will need to be in order to get any improvement. With healthy muscles, this can quickly become quite painful. You may not be able to withstand the pulses needed. This is why many people who use these machines think they’re getting a workout when they’re really not.
What is proven is that these devices may be able to temporarily tone your muscles. But this cannot happen unless you also shed body and belly fat. Otherwise, the fat will just cover your muscle beneath, no matter how strong they are. The FDA has stated that using these machines will not “create a major change in your appearance without the addition of diet and regular exercise.”
If you want to get flat abs, no Electronic Muscle Stimulator will work for you. It may marginally strengthen your abs but not help you lose belly fat or strengthen your muscles to a great degree. While the prospect of effortless fitness may be nice to imagine, it is not likely to yield tremendous results.
Should You get an Electric Muscle Stimulation device?
While electronic ab belts do seem tempting, I’ve shown you how these devices cannot get you flat abs. At the most, they can help you temporarily strengthen your muscles.
As spot fat reduction is impossible to achieve (losing fat from a specific body part by exercising that body part), muscle stimulators can’t help you burn belly fat. They’re not really an intensive way to workout.
If you can’t stand doing any abs exercises you might find these machines worthwhile (although they can be expensive). However, if you’re fit, they may not provide enough stimulation to give you any benefit whatsoever. You should also make sure to buy FDA approved products to prevent nasty accidents.
If you stumble upon any advertisement for such a machine that claims to be able to help you shed weight, get six pack abs, or lose inches, you probably stumbled upon a scam. Avoid it.
As a whole, these machines are not the way to get flat abs. You need to combine full body workouts, intensive cardio exercises and an excellent fat burning diet plan to achieve a six pack. For that reason I recommend abs programs such as Your Six Pack Quest and Truth About Abs as the best way to flatten your stomach and tone it.