Do Electronic Ab Belts Work?

The Flex Belt

Who doesn’t long for a lean and toned core that produces a feeling of excitement rather than dread at the thought of donning a bathing suit?

Anyone who has stayed up past 11 p.m. or has risen before 6 a.m. has most likely seen infomercials for electronic ab belts. These belts claim to produce rock-hard abs by simply just wearing them. While most of us know that such a claim is probably exaggerated, ab belts are one of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment.

But, before we get to reviewing them, here’s a little background information:

The concept of the electronic ab belt is electronic muscle stimulation (EMS), a technique that has been around for quite some time. In the 19th and 20th centuries, medical researchers studied the effects of electronically stimulating muscles via tiny electrodes as a way to train the muscle. Today, EMS is used as both a muscle training and a therapeutic form of treatment. In fact, the sports training tactic of electrotherapy is built along this same premise. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that American fitness manufacturers took EMS to a new level by offering it to anyone who was looking for a simple way to tone their core.

The U.S. Federal Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) has certified a few EMS devices for over-the-counter use that can be marketed as a muscle toning device. In 2002, the Federal Trade Commission cited three electronic ab belt products,  the AB Energizer, AbTronic, and Fast Abs devices, for making false advertising claims. has reviewed a few of the hottest electronic ab belts, none of which are the ones singled out by the FDA.

Here is a summary of each.

Name: Contour Abs Belt

Claim: Get lean, strong and toned abs and lose three inches off of your waist in two weeks.

How it works: The Contour Abs Belt uses EMS via electrodes affixed underneath gel pads. The electrodes send a signal directly to your muscles, telling them to flex and relax. The device works the upper and lower abs, obliques and lower belly area at the same time. The intensity of the Contour Abs Belt can be adjusted for a more mild or more aggressive stimulation. It can be used while doing other activities like walking, making dinner, working out or working on your computer.

Cost: $199.80 plus a trial-offer fee of $14.95.

FDA-approved: Yes

Name: The Flex Belt

Claim: Effectively firms, tones and strengthens all your abs, all at once, so you get a great workout in just 30 minutes a day.

How it works: The Flex Belt features three pre-positioned, medical-grade GelPads, covering the central abdominal muscles and external obliques. The signals from the Ab Belt reach out to nerves where they are the most concentrated and branch out to reach all the abdominal muscles, causing them to relax and contract naturally. It can be used while doing any other activity.

Notable mentions: The makers of Flex Belt are a medical device company headquartered in Galway, Ireland with 40 years of expertise designing, manufacturing and marketing EMS devices for medical and consumer use. It is considered one of the gold standards in electronic ab belts.

Cost: $199.99 plus shipping and handling.

FDA-approved: Yes

Name: The Ab Sonic

Claim: The action of the Ab Sonic massage belt is the equivalent of doing 600 sit-ups in 10 minutes.

How it works: Ab Sonic stimulates the nerves that make your muscles expand and contract. That’s how you work out and exercise. It can be used while doing any other activity. It can be used on your midsection as well as on your arms and legs.

Cost: $15- $20 plus shipping and handling.

FDA-approved: No

Cautions: The FDA warns that any EMS device should not be used by persons with certain conditions, including implanted pacemakers or other implanted metallic or electronic devices, swollen or inflamed areas, such as phlebitis, or cancerous lesions. In addition, the safety of using the devices during pregnancy have not been established.

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