The benefits of using an ab belt
As scientific studies have shown, there is evidence that backs up the claims that ab belts can positively affect your muscles.
Even as far back as 1761, Luigi Galvani discovered that direct electrical stimulation led to contractions in muscles.
A long time after this first discovery, sports training began utilizing this knowledge in the 1960s and 1970s and, to this day, direct electrical stimulation is used as physiotherapy as well as training.
Clinical studies have also shown that direct levels of electrical currents can affect skeletal muscle fibers in certain ways. In turn, this leads to more pinpoint training for different needs such as resistance, endurance, and strength.
Electrical stimulation therapy has been proven to improve a soccer player’s kicking strength. A 2010studyfound that ball speed from stationary kicking positions and knee extension torque increased significantly after 5 weeks of consistent EMS on a player’s quadricep muscles.
Using ab belts for muscle stimulation also increased the strength of professional elite athletes.
An extensivereviewlooked at nearly 100 studies relating to the effects of EMS on the physical performance of elite athletes.
After 3 to 6 weeks of EMS use, various performance aspects improved for these athletes such as their:
- Maximum strength
This review shined light on some surprising results. One key benefit EMS had on these athletes was the significant increase in their gains. “…despite their already high levels of fitness” the athletes were “able to significantly enhance their level of strength.”
This was especially intriguing as elite athletes are usually already at their peak of fitness and the top tier of performance. There is generally very little room for improvement but electrical stimulation helped most athletes grow stronger.
Another benefit of ab belts is how it decreases postnatal diastasis recti abdominis muscles (DRAM). This is otherwise known with the less scientific name of “pooch belly” that pregnant women regularly get once they give birth.
A2017 studysaw women with DRAM, who were around 2-months postpartum, use ab stimulators as well as partake in ab exercises. Another control group just did ab exercises without an ab belt.
After 8 weeks, both groups of participants experienced a huge improvement in reducing DRAM.
Even more interestingly, the group using ab belts saw an even better improvement than the group who only did ab exercises.
When looking at what the ab belts could do in this case, the following improvements were seen:
- A decrease in DRAM
- A decrease in waist/hip ratio
- A decrease in Body Mass Index (BMI)
- An increase in ab muscle strength
Here in the USA, ab belts are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ab belts are divided into two categories: Medical/prescription devices and regular type devices.
They can be used for medical purposes such as re-educating muscles after an injury or muscle spasms. EMS has also been used for post-surgical stimulation.
Science has proven that ab belts and EMS devices work in sports and medicine. You can find a dedicated page to electronic muscle stimulators on the FDA websitehere.
This is to regulate the sales that go directly to consumers with devices such as ab belts. This is important because of some untrue advertisements on the web and in commercials that promise results that just are not possible.
The FDA explains that EMS manufacturers must demonstrate how safe and effective their devices are and if they can match the claims they make with their marketing.
If you are planning to buy an ab belt, it is worth reading 10 questions the FDA answers to better explain why manufacturers of muscle stimulation devices need to be regulated.
Some of the questions are basic such as:
- Do ab belts/EMS devices really work?– Their answer: “…no EMS devices have been cleared at this time for weight loss, girth reduction, or for obtaining rock hard abs.”
- Will an ab belt give me the same effect that many sit-ups, crunches, and other ab exercises will?– Their answer: “Using these devices alone will not give you “six-pack” abs…” and it “will not create a major change in your appearance without the addition of diet and regular exercise.”
- Is the FDA concerned about the unregulated marketing of EMS devices?– Their answer: “Yes. FDA has received reports of shocks, burns, bruising, skin irritation, and pain associated with the use of some of these devices. Some injuries required hospital treatment.”
As you can see, independent trials and studies have found some benefits of using ab belts but the jury is still out on their overall impact.
The FDA has not approved any EMS devices for weight loss or gaining six-packs so more studies are needed.
Ab belts for people with a small layer of body fat
The core message of ab belts is that they can tighten up your ab muscles somewhat but the visible impact depends on a host of other factors.
One main factor is the amount of body fat between the ab belt and ab muscles.
It is believed that the current from these devices is not strong enough to make it through numerous layers of fat. Therefore, these belts are probably not strong enough for severely overweight individuals.
It is recommended that fat-burning workouts should be the main priority to see any weight drop off.
Only after some time when the body fat has been reduced sufficiently, should an ab belt be used effectively.
If you’re looking to get a washboard stomach and rock hard 6-pack abs, then you must understand that this can only be achieved if you have a very small layer of body fat.
Even having over 10% body fat is enough to hide any muscles from view. An ab belt may tone you up underneath but without that fat burn, your results will continue to go unnoticed.
If you use an ab belt regularly for up to 8 weeks, you should not expect to see the contours of your muscles straight away.
Lose some belly fat and get your body fat percentage down and only then will you start seeing results.
You can reduce your body fat percentage by sticking to a healthy diet and workout regime. Then, use an ab belt to supplement your gains and add that extra toning boost.
When losing an inch or two from your waist, you will not only see the contours of your ab muscles but you will also feel a lot better in yourself.
Just an inch or so can give you a large psychological boost to get you on a fitter and healthier road. Chuck in the investment of an ab belt and you could feel a million dollars very soon!
Popular ab belt brands
If you were to search for fitness products that promised you rock hard pecs and abs in a matter of weeks, you will probably be searching the web for longer than it takes to actually achieve a six-pack.
You must consider popular and well-known brands if you are looking to purchase an ab belt. This is because they have a proven track record and thousands of customer reviews to gauge their pros and cons.
One of the most popular brands is Slendertone. This fitness company has been selling ab belts via television and magazine ads for a few decades. For you young readers, they have even by selling ab belts since before the internet became popular!
Slendertone is known for producing high-quality ab belts for both sexes.
One such belt is theSlendertone CoreFit Abdominal Toning Belt. You can check the customer’s feedback and reviews on such belts to find out whether it is the right one for you or not.
Some other very popular ab stimulators include:
- The Flex Belt Abdominal Muscle Toner
- Antmona Abs Stimulator, Muscle Toner
- Flextone Abs Stimulator
- OSITO Abs Stimulator Muscle Toner Abdominal Muscle Trainer
When viewing these products, you will come across positive and negative reviews. It is important you consider these as most of the customers have tried and tested the ab belts over a certain period of time.
However, what you may not be able to know is the body fat percentage of some of these users which could be different to you.
Try and find a review from someone with similar body weight and shape to you to see if their results are what you desire.
Many negative reviews state that the ab belt simply didn’t work. However, some of these have stated that they only used a belt for one or two sessions.
In reality, you need to use any EMS device consistently for 8 weeks or more to have any results.
Do your due diligence when purchasing and investing in an ab belt and be aware of any knock-off brands and false advertisements.
Alternatives to ab belts
If ab belts are unable to offer you what you want in terms of fitness, then there are some alternatives.
As we have mentioned, to get any benefits from an ab toning belt, you will need to lose excess belly fat as an ab stimulator only has a limited effect through a layer or so of fat.
Therefore, you should start using dip belts and doing intensive fat-burning workouts and adjust the types of food you eat in your diet.
Before you begin any intensive workout routine, you should consider your level of fitness and how overweight you may be.
Of course, what you want to gain from an ab belt is dependent on your personal preferences so if you just want to use one to feel more toned and not necessarily see any muscle definition, then you may not have to shrink your body fat percentage down dramatically.
As with any change in diet and workout regiment, consult your doctor first to ensure it is safe to do so.
Some additional exercises you can do to burn fat and work on your abs include using:
- Elliptical trainers (Here we compare the 7 best foldable elliptical options)
- Rowing machines (Click here for our Life Fitness Rowing Machine review)
- Stepping machines (We compared the 7best Stair Stepper Machines)
Consistency is key! Continue fat-burning workouts with a healthy diet and over the space of 4 to 8 weeks, you should start to see a difference in your body fat percentage.
Once you begin to notice your fat levels decrease, you can start focusing on your ab muscles. Exercises that focus on your abdominal region include:
- Using an ab roller
- Using a sit-ups bench
At this point in your exercise program, you should be seeing the effects. It is usually, only at this point, that an ab toning belt could make a positive impact.
Once you achieve less body fat with a stronger core, the tightening of your ab muscles from an ab belt should give you more chance of seeing muscle definition.
With the right approach, ab belts can help you achieve defined ab muscles but not on their own.
With a combination of fat-burning workouts, a healthy diet, and an ab belt, you should start to get those six-pack abs you have always dreamed of.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many common questions about ab belts so let’s take a look at them and answer each one for you below.
Do ab belts reduce belly fat?
No matter what device you use or exercise you do, spot reducing fat from a specific spot of your body just is not possible.
There have been numerous studies on this matter, such asthis onefrom the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
It was found that “six weeks of abdominal exercise training alone was not sufficient to reduce abdominal subcutaneous fat and other measures of body composition.”
In layman’s terms, ab stimulation on its own willnotreduce belly fat. You can not target any belly fat with any exercise.
You can work muscles underneath but the whole area of body fat must be reduced through fat-burning exercises first.
Do ab belts cause muscle soreness?
Ab belts work by contracting your muscles repeatedly. This is the same as strength training or when you do crunches.
Therefore, ab belts do cause muscle soreness but this depends on how long you use one.
Just wearing an ab stimulator for 5 minutes may not leave any soreness but you could experience some muscle fatigue after 10 to 15 minutes.
How much should I use an ab belt and for how long?
Previous research trials into ab stimulators have shown that they should be used 5 times a week to experience significant muscle strengthening and toning.
During the first week, participants would wear an ab belt for 20 minutes per session. This gradually increased to 30 minutes from weeks 2 to 4 and then 40 minutes a time during weeks 5 to 8.
Although uncomfortable and painful at first, the more an individual uses an ab bet, the more they can withstand, as with exercises. This generally means the muscles are getting stronger and tighter.
Can I burn calories with an ab belt?
The short answer is, no. If you intend to burn calories, you must do fat-burning exercises.
Even a simple walk can burn calories. If your goal is to lose some inches off your waist, start doing high-intensity body fat workouts and cardio.
An ab belt alone will not help at all in your mission to lose weight.
So there are the pros and cons of using an ab belt. Ab belts do work but only under the right circumstances.
Let’s sum up what an ab belt can and can not do.
Ab belts CAN:
- Activate muscles
- Tone existing muscles
- Help you feel better about your body
- Help you feel toned
- Help in physical therapy
Ab belts CAN NOT:
- Aid in any weight loss when used on their own
- Work off any large amounts of fat tissue
- Reduce Body Mass Index (BMI)
Ab belts will stimulate your muscles like physical workouts but with electrical currents instead.
As with other EMS devices, ab muscle stimulators can have a positive impact on physical therapy and for those recovering from injuries.
Although more research still needs to be done, there is no doubt that EMS has a range of benefits, even for your mental health.
If you want a six-pack stomach, leave the ab belts alone until your body fat percentage is around 10% and eat healthily. You should save your hard-earned money and prioritize a healthy diet and workout regime first.
Focus some workouts on your core to strengthen it, even if you can not see any physical changes under your body fat. Over time, with dedication, you will see results.
Once you have lost body fat and strengthened your ab muscles, only then will you potentially see any benefits from using an ab belt.