Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) has been around for a long time – but over recent years we’ve seen numerous companies promising their products will give you strong, toned abs in a matter of weeks.
And what’s more, they claim you can achieve all this while doing the chores or watching TV! Sounds too good to be true, right?
In this post we take a look at some of the top-rated ab belts on the market, as well as discussing some very interesting scientific research. Be sure to read our warning about muscle toning products before purchasing one.
Whether you’re searching for that elusive six-pack or just want to find out more, our roundup of ab toning belts is the perfect place to start.
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A low voltage electrical current is sent from the device to a series of pre-positioned electrodes (over the abs). The electrical impulses cause the abdominal muscles to contract – the concept being – that you’re replicating a workout, without actually having to do conventional stomach exercises.
Slendertone Connect Abs
Slendertone claims that their most technologically-advanced belt is a “revolution in body toning”. When you come out with a statement like that you need to be able to back it up!
Fortunately, Slendertone’s latest device doesn’t disappoint. These aren’t simply throw away comments from the manufacturer.
But what makes this product so special?
The most striking feature has to be its app driven smartphone integration. With this you can set toning goals, plan workouts, and track your progress through the dedicated (free) Slendertone Connect app. No previous ab toning belt has ever been able to do this.
Did You Know?
The free Slendertone Connect App is now available from the Google Play store for Android as well as from the iTunes store for iOS. Initially, it was only compatible with iOS devices.
What we love about this new smartphone integration and dedicated app is the motivational aspect. No excuses to miss a session now with toning alerts (reminders) sent to your phone and other devices, such as computer, tablet, etc.
You can read more about this in my full review, where we got hold of one of these belts and tasted it for ourselves.
Tracking your progress and goals through personal reports, achievements, and recommendations adds a whole new dimension to ab toning. Slendertone has beaten other brands to it and is the first to move into the smart abdominal toning space.
While it does come with a price tag to match, Connect Abs’ unparalleled features set it way apart from the rest of the field. It really is incomparable to anything else currently on the market.
For waist sizes: 24” – 42”
Intensity levels: 100
Battery: Rechargeable (USB charging)
Warranty: 2 year
This short video gives a great insight into how the belt and Connect App work together:
Most ab belt manufacturers recommend that you use it in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
The Flex Belt
You may have come across The Flex Belt on TV, it’s been heavily promoted and endorsed by a number of high profile celebrities?
This top-of-the-line toning device has a whopping 10 programs and 150 intensity levels! If you look closely at the photo you’ll see the controller looks almost identical to the Slendertone product below.
You might be wondering why:
That’s because both of these products are manufactured by Bio Medical Research Ltd, a company based in Ireland – with 50 years experience in the development and manufacture of EMS equipment.
The advantage here:
Is you can use the Slendertone branded replacement gel pads, as well as The Flex Belt ones. You can buy whichever are available for the best price at the time.
Perhaps the most impressive thing though:
Is 60-day money back guarantee they provide with The Flex Belt. You can find more information about it at the bottom of this page.
They’re so confident you’re going to love their product that they ask you to take advantage of this guarantee, if you’re not entirely satisfied. That’s a pretty good offer, if you ask me!
Intrigued? Why not read my: in-depth review of the Flex Belt
For waist sizes: 24” – 52” (includes belt extension for waist sizes over 44″)
Intensity levels: 150
Warranty: 2 year
We found the part about muscle confusion in this video very interesting.
If you don’t want to watch the whole video you can jump to 5:01 for that. This is where having such a large variety of programs and intensity levels really helps:
Does it really work?
A few years ago, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse published a study on ab belts.
They looked at a Slendertone belt and found that it significantly improved abdominal strength and endurance.
During clinical trials:
They monitored people who used the belt five days a week, for between 20 and 40 minutes a session, and over a period of two months.
Here’s how the study was summarized in the Wall Street Journal:
In the 41-person study… published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, subjects using the Slendertone lost 1.4 inches from their midsection, compared with no change for a control group who did no exercise. The researchers concluded that, while fat wasn’t lost, the stronger abdominal muscles pulled in the abdomen, much like a girdle.
Electrical muscle stimulation came to prominence in the 1960s and 70s, when sports scientists began to utilize the technique. Since then, athletes and others have been utilizing EMS for training, therapeutic and cosmetic purposes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the sale of EMS devices in the United States.
Slendertone vs Flex Belt
Both the Flex Belt and Slendertone’s range of ab belts are manufactured by the same company, Bio Medical Research Ltd but sold under the respective brands.
They use identically shaped and sized pads and their positioning on the belts is exactly the same.
The differences come in the spec.: number of programs, intensity levels, controller unit (your smartphone via bluetooth in Connect Abs’ case), battery, belt material, finishing, etc.
Slendertone System Abs
One of Slendertone’s higher end devices, System Abs is a rechargeable device with 7 pre-set programs and 99 intensity levels.
If you don’t already know about Slendertone:
They’re one of the market leaders when it comes to electrical muscle stimulation, especially its application in ab toning belts.
One of the things we like about this belt:
Is that it comes with the Slendertone System Rechargeable Controller. That means there’s no messing around having to swap batteries – or worse still, running out and having to head to Walmart for a fresh set!
The other advantage is you can pull the control unit out of the belt to make any adjustments – and check what you’re doing on the LCD screen.
Slendertone recommends you replace the pads after 20-30 toning sessions.
If you look after them you may be able to get a bit longer out of them.
The MSRP for a set of replacement gel pads is $15.99, although we did manage to locate them here for considerably less.
You can also buy them in a pack with 3 sets, which brings the cost down even more.
For women’s waist sizes: 24” – 56” *
For men’s waist sizes: 27” – 56” *
Intensity levels: 99
Warranty: 2 year
* Includes belt extension for waist sizes over 44”
Slendertone 7 Program Abdominal Muscle Toner
Like the idea of a Slendertone ab toner belt but don’t want to splash out on one of the higher priced models?
You may want to take a closer look at this one.
While you won’t get a fancy pullout rechargeable device:
You will get a product that uses the exact same EMS technology and replacement pads as the top-of-the-line belts.
This particular belt has 7 built-in programs and 99 levels of resistance for you to choose from.
The only thing you may want to bear in mind:
Is that the screen is very small and not backlit, (it’s located on top of the unit which inserts into the front of the belt). This can at times make it a bit tricky to see exactly what you’re doing.
I guess you’re going to have to compromise somewhere though with the more affordable belts…
For waist sizes: 24” – 56” (includes belt extension for waist sizes over 47”)
Intensity levels: 99
Battery: 3 x AAA
Warranty: 2 year
These vary slightly, depending on the brand and model. You may have replacement batteries to buy, which tend to be a standard type. Then there’s the electrodes – generally, you’re looking at upwards of $10 for a set. You can usually find multi-packs that work out cheaper than buying single sets.
HealthmateForever Ab and Back Pain Relief Belt System
If you’ve read my piece on TENS belts you’ll know about this setup already. HealthmateForever manufactures a range of TENS EMS combination units, along with a number of innovative accessories.
This particular device and belt offers you:
The best of both worlds. EMS for building muscle and TENS for pain relief.
What we like about the (patented) design of the belt is:
How it can be used on the front to work the abs – and when turned round – can be applied to the back. It’s like having two products in one!
A genuinely multifunctional product, in every sense.
If you’re buying one of these or any of their devices for that matter – in the USA or Canada – you have the added bonus of a limited lifetime warranty.
Another company that has the utmost confidence in their products.
For waist sizes: 26” – 48” inch
Intensity levels: 20
Warranty: Limited lifetime
You might be wondering about these types of ‘muscle toners’…
IdentikitGift Abdominal Toning Belt
ITERY Abdominal Workouts Belt
Online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay are currently littered with products like these. There was a very similar looking product launched in late 2016 in the UK, called Sixpad. It has been heavily promoted by soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo with a series of television adverts.
The first warning sign we see with a number of these products is that there’s no mention of FDA clearance on their listings. And when you consider the FDA regulates the sale of these in the US, you’d think they would mention it in the product descriptions.
The other thing that immediately concerns us with these (and the above two are only examples of many) is that they are making claims about toning, tightening and strengthening muscles. For a company to market their devices for these uses they must be able to back this up with firm supporting data.
Now, these companies may have FDA clearance for the products and data to backup their claims but this information doesn’t seem to accompany their product listings.
We did further research into some of these companies to look into their backgrounds, however we unable to find websites for them or more detailed information about their products.
We also read some of the negative reviews for these and feedback included: no instructions or poorly worded instructions, misleading claims and people even questioning the authenticity of the other reviews. All things considered, we would be very cautions when it comes to such products.
In 2002 and 2003 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged “Three Top-selling Electronic Abdominal Exercise Belts”, with making false claims about their products. The marketers of AB Energizer, AbTronic, and Fast Abs were charged after they advertised that users will get “six pack” or “washboard” abs without exercise. The company behind AB Energiser was also accused of falsely representing that the device will cause weight loss.
Is it suitable for everybody?
While these types of ab belts are absolutely fine for most, there are a few people who they’re not suitable for. As an example, those who have a pacemaker or similar electrical implanted device should not use one. There are a handful of other exclusions, which is why it’s always imperative to read the instructions before using one. If you’re ever unsure about the suitability, consult your doctor or another medical professional before using.