Muscle Sport Magazine

Why Abdominal Belts Are a Scam When It Comes to Fat Loss

By Matthew Denos

With spring break right around the corner, many people have the same thought running through their head in one way or another. I need to up my sex appeal. When this thought occurs, most people think of a few certain muscle groups. The biceps, the chest, maybe having those buns of steel, and abs. Yet, as Americans many of us simply do not have the time to workout enough to achieve the body we desire. Or we are just plain lazy. Either way, when this time of the year rolls around many individuals are looking for a quick fix, a gimmick to achieve their fitness goals. Thus, when someone is looking to tone their abdominals and get that chiseled six pack they have always dreamed of, many turn to one device. The ab belt. If one is looking for a quick fix to get their abdominals into shape the ab belt is the popular choice. Yet, is this the right choice? Well if you believe ab belt marketing claims, most definitely. Who doesn’t want to slim down without breaking a sweat, while getting the abs you always wanted?


Yet, like all fitness fads if the claim seems too good to be true, it probably is. Regardless of what the marketers for “Ab-Energizer”, “Fast Abs”, and “Ab-Tronic” want you to believe about ab belts, the truth differs quite a bit. Still, ab belts are flying off the shelf and selling many models. This is because gimmicks sell. Everybody and their mama wants a quick fix for a flabby body. Everybody wants to be able to get a six pack while at the office or watching television. And if these claims had some truth to them, we would probably all look like Adonis. Yet, we don’t.


Electro-Muscle Stimulation


Ab belts claim to do wondrous things to the abs, yet the science behind them falls fat. Ab belts work by using EMS. EMS, or electrical muscle stimulation, is a proven technique that makes muscles contract, thus causing them to get a workout without exercise. The belts have electrodes in them that press against the bare skin. Then the electrodes send electrical pulses to the abdomen. As well, EMS is used for a variety of things, not just for ab belts. Two of the main uses include rehabilitation and a strength training tool. EMS is perhaps most prevalent in the world of rehabilitation, where it is used on immobile patients to preserve muscle mass and function during periods of prolonged reduced muscle use. In strength training, EMS can be used on healthy subjects to induce neuromuscular adaptations similar to voluntary strength training.


Ab Belts Won’t Give You a 6-Pack


Sounds great so far, huh. But do they actually give you that six pack you have always wanted? Well, EMS has been studied numerous times over the past decade. The results of a study on the effects of EMS on strength enhancement is as follows: Under certain conditions, EMS is effective at developing physical performance. This conclusion was reached by analyzing data from 89 trials. Seemingly good news. However, these same researchers also found that, “a relationship exists between a stimulation intensity of ≥50% maximum voluntary contraction and significant strength gains.” Put in layman terms, means that the electric-induced contraction must be set really high to produce any type of results.


As a potential gimmick of a product, a few government agencies have chimed in on the ab belt debate. According to the Wall Street Journal, the last few years the Federal Trade Commission has filed against four companies alleging misleading advertising, resulting in some $12 million in penalties. In addition, the safety of the belts has come in to question. Ab belts have had various reports of burns, bruising, and skin irritation. That is why the FDA now has to clear the stimulation belts, in order to assess the safety of the apparatus. Still, almost all ab belts have not been cleared by the FDA. There is only one ab belt that has been cleared by the FDA and that is the Slender Tone. Although the Slender Tone is cleared by the FDA, that does not mean that it works for fat loss. It simply means the belt is safe. For more information about and a coupon for the Slendertone Flex Belt click here.


Where the Myth Lies…


By now, any rational thinking adult has to be fairly skeptical about ab belts. They seem to be more myth than fitness miracle. And this thinking is spot on. See, when you watch an infomercial for an ab belt all you see is people with six packs smiling at you. They have the body you desire and claim the ab belt is what got them that body. The problem is you don’t see the hours of hard work that goes into that body before they put on an ab belt. You don’t see the workouts that go into that body. You don’t see the strict diet they follow, that allows them to look like that. No, you see the ab belt and the abs. That is the myth. That you do not have to do anything other than put the belt on for a few days and bam, six pack abs. If you do not do things to improve your body outside of using the abdominal toning belt, you will never see the results the individuals smiling at you in the commercial have attained.


Ab Belts Do Stimulate the Muscle But They Don’t Burn Fat


Ok, but do these abs belts actually have a positive effect on muscle strengthening? Well, yes and no. For the most part, ab belts do not work because the muscle stimulus they actually produce is insufficient. For an ab belt to actually work, one would have to increase the strength of the electrical to a level that would be almost excruciating and certainly too painful to bear. But, ab belts have still been proven effective in rehabilitation. Electrical stimulation has been used with some success by physical therapists. EMS is used in these scenarios to help rehabilitate muscles that have weakened after injuries or surgeries. In these cases, scientists say the claims that it works the muscles are credible. Although, promises of rock hard abs and fat loss are quite extrapolated and are not supported by any evidence, scientists say.


Overall, the truth about these ab belts is this. They do not burn fat around your abdominals. There is no such thing as spot fat reduction. You cannot choose which area of your body you lose fat. The only way to burn fat is from all over your body. Just like the thought process of doing a ton of sit-ups to gain that washboard stomach, there is no device in the world that will melt fat off your body topically. Yet, ab belts can, in theory, build muscle. If the electrical stimulation is strong enough, EMS could stimulate your abdominal muscles in a similar fashion to sit ups and crunches. Therefore, increasing your muscle mass and in turn, increasing the tone and size of your abdominal muscles. This means that if you have a very thin layer of fat covering your abs, an ab belt could theoretically make your abdominal muscles more visible by toning and strengthening them. But, if you have a thick layer of fat covering your abdominals, an ab belt will not help you whatsoever. For that matter, not only will an ab belt not help you, no abdominal exercise will cause your abs to become visible. You must lose the layer of fat that covers your stomach though diet and aerobic exercise. The number of sit-ups you do is irrelevant if you still have body fat covering your abs.


The only way to get the waistline, and potential six-pack you want is through diet and a cardio-oriented workout plan. Combining a cardio workout 4-6 times a week, with a balanced low-carb, low-fat, high protein diet will have you seeing positive changes in a few weeks.


This article was contributed by Matthew who blogs at Weight Loss Triumph. Having a background in biology science, Matthew often reviews fitness and weight loss products, and popular weight management plans such as Nutrisystem and Medifast. When it comes to building a healthy, muscular body, Matthew believes that there is no shortcut to a well-design diet and workout.

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