Ab exercises on a ball can help you whittle your middle.
Ab belts are everywhere in the media. Just turn on the TV and you'll see at least one commercial featuring these products. Manufacturers say that ab belts are the key to a six-pack and fast weight loss. Unfortunately, these claims lack scientific proof. In the best case scenario, you'll lose water weight and slightly tone your core muscles.
While an ab belt might make you more sweaty, it doesn't reduce stomach fat.
Understand the Mechanism
The FDA classifies ab belts as electrical muscle stimulators (EMS). All manufacturers selling these devices must comply with FDA requirements. They can't make false claims or mislead consumers via advertising materials. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of EMS devices that fail to meet these regulations.
Ab belts use a technology called electrical muscle stimulation to contract the muscles and improve their function. Traditionally, EMS is prescribed to patients recovering from surgery or suffering from certain disorders that cause muscle atrophy. However, ab toning belts are marketed for a different purpose.
These devices claim to burn stomach fat and give you a ripped physique. Some guarantee fast weight loss and improved overall conditioning. According to the FDA, ab belts and other similar products may be able to temporarily tone your muscles, but have no effect on body fat or girth reduction. Furthermore, they will not "turn your abs from flab to fab" as manufacturers claim.
Weigh the Potential Benefits of EMS
EMS, the technology behind these devices, is proven to work. In clinical trials, it has been shown to improve overall strength and body composition. According to recent study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, subjects who used whole body-electromyostimulation, a new EMS technology, experienced significant improvements in oxygen uptake, sleep and several psychophysiological factors. There were no abnormal changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
This technology causes your muscles to contract repeatedly in response to the electrical signals sent by EMS devices. The problem is that ab belts are too weak to produce noticeable results. Additionally, they only target your abdominal muscles. Since there is no such thing as spot reduction, these devices are unlikely to burn stomach fat.
EMS doesn't put stress on your muscles as strength training does. Progressive overload is the key to muscle growth. Ab belts fail to provide the stimuli needed for hypertrophy. No studies, to date, have found that ab belts can increase muscle size and strength. Even though EMS may slightly improve post-exercise recovery, research in this area is limited.
Electrical muscle stimulation can help with injury rehab when used as part of a physiotherapy program. For example, it benefits people who have ACL reconstruction surgery. However, ab belts use a completely different mechanism of action and are designed for a different purpose. These devices are based on a more scaled-down version of EMS, so they have a negligible effect on muscle function.
Ab belts have no effect on stomach fat. In the best case scenario, these devices may slightly improve muscle tone.
Prioritize Your Safety
The FDA warns about the potential dangers of ab belts and other EMS devices. These products may cause pain, skin irritation, burns and shocks. They can also interfere with defibrillators and pacemakers. Unregulated devices may lead to electrocution.
If your goal is to lose belly fat, commit to lasting lifestyle changes. Exercise and clean eating can do more for your body than any diet pill or slimming aid. Ab belts may slightly increase your muscle tone, but to a lesser extent than weight training and other exercise methods.
Burns, accidental shock, skin irritation and pain are common side effects of ab belts and other EMS devices.