There are many brands of abdominal training belts that are meant to work and tone your muscles. Many of these companies make products for men and women, differentiating between the genders mainly for fit and not for performance. Abdominal belts are usually meant to be used on healthy individuals and as part of a training regime, not as a total replacement for any activity.
Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is used in ab belts specifically to make the muscles in your stomach (abdomen) contract, mimicking the muscle movements your body makes naturally. Many different belt and EMS manufacturers use Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) technology to create strong, deep muscle contractions in order to tone very specific areas of your body.
There is a reason that EMS is used so widely as a muscle toning technology. EMS technology was first used in the 1960s as a means of rehabilitating muscles after surgery. As the technology improved, it was extended beyond that group for use in patients suffering from central nervous system impairment. Obviously not something they could do at home, let alone on themselves! More recently, in patients who have had orthopaedic surgery, EMS has been used to help improve muscle tone.
In the 1970s Eastern Bloc research suggested that EMS was more effective than exercise alone in strengthening muscle in élite athletes.During the 1980’s, electrical muscle stimulation began to be used by people attempting to tone up the body after undergoing a severe weight loss. The idea was that electrically stimulating the muscles in the lower back, abdomen, thighs, and other sections where a great deal of reduction had taken place would also encourage the skin to tone even as muscle mass was built through regular EMS sessions. Some people reported a great deal of success with this approach to toning the body, while others found the results to be less efficient than using conventional exercise regimens.
Interestingly, it is not simply anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of EMS in toning muscles. Various studies have been conducted, including one in 2005, which demonstrates the benefit of EMS in building muscle but specifically not in reducing fat or changing BMI. So the study specifically illustrates that EMS works in the situation created but not for fat loss – for muscle tone only.
“This investigation evaluated training responses to prolonged electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) in sedentary adults. Fifteen healthy subjects (10 men, 5 women) with a sedentary lifestyle completed a 6-wk training program during which they completed an average of 29 1-h EMS sessions. The form of EMS used by the subjects was capable of eliciting a cardiovascular exercise response without loading the limbs or joints. It achieved this by means of inducing rapid, rhythmical contractions in the large leg muscles.” Of course, this is a complex and precise way of describing what it is and an EMS machine does. What is interesting is the scientific study itself and the fact that this form of muscle-building was taken seriously.
The abstract continues to get into the detail of the study including laying out that it was executed in such a way that the subjects of the study did not do any additional exercise. The abstract continues: “The training effect was evaluated by means of a treadmill test to determine peak aerobic capacity [peak oxygen consumption (V?o2)], a 6-min walking distance test, and measurement of body mass index (BMI) and quadriceps muscle strength.” While this seems a bit complex, breaking it into its component parts demonstrates how they measured the effectiveness of the ab belt scientifically and not through subjective means.
Most importantly from the abstract is the line “After training, subjects demonstrated statistically significant improvements in all variables except BMI.” The fact that there was no effect on BMI shows that this cannot be used for weight loss or fat reduction but increases in strength and endurance demonstrate that it is effective at building muscle. This is supported byt the conclusion “These results suggest that EMS can be used in sedentary adults to improve physical fitness. It may provide a viable alternative to more conventional forms of exercise in this population.”
Your mileage may vary and you may or may not get results from the various ab belts on the market. This does not mean that overall they are, or are not, effecting – only that they work in that way for your body.
There are many types of these belts on the market. Slendertone make an ab belt for women or men.