You know the saying: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Keep that in mind when reading the promises made by companies that sell abdominal toning belts. These devices promise to contract your ab muscles with minimal effort from you. All that's required is that you strap one on your waist, turn it on and let the electrical stimulation do its "magic."
While the belt may technically stimulate your muscles and impact strength, they won't do much to make a difference in your size or shape. Only committed exercise and diet can do that.
Toning Belt Basics
The belts contain electrodes that you strap onto bare skin. The electrical stimulation causes your abs to tingle, and even contract. You'll pay upwards of $90 to $200 to experience the zing as you wear the belt for 10 minutes or longer every day.
The stimulation does target your muscles — this much is true. But, it isn't enough to give you a six-pack or induce fat loss. Frankly, if the toning belts worked, you'd see far fewer cars parked in front of your local health club.
A small 2005 study published in Sports Science in Medicine found that a specific toning belt did notably increase strength and endurance after eight weeks of use at five episodes of 20 to 40 minutes per week. The participants did no extra ab exercise during the test period and were compared to a control group who also engaged in no ab exercise. Participants who used the stimulating belts did report feeling more "toned" and "firm" than prior to using the belt and believed their posture had improved. The study also confirmed a loss of 1.3 inches in the waists of participants who used the toning belts.
Despite these seemingly positive findings, the ab belt group did not experience any differences in body weight, body mass index or skinfold thickness, which is a measure of body fat.
A later study, published in 2007, found changes in strength did occur with use of the ab belt, but no change in waist size. Why the studies' findings differ isn't clear, but the discrepancy is definitely not a resounding endorsement of the contraption. Other research is still scant on the effects of abdominal toning belts.
If you desire to improve strength mildly, the device might work for you — but only if you're already of a normal weight. Overweight and obese people have too much fat covering the ab muscles, so the stimulation just can't penetrate the ab muscles.
Toning belts aren't made to reduce fat, either. Even if you do develop stronger abs by using the device, you most likely won't see them. Only fat loss enables the muscles, and striations that define them, to be visible.
Fat Loss Success
Your ticket to fat loss is through diet and exercise. An eating plan that ditches sweets, refined grains and saturated fats is more likely to help you lose pounds of fat than a buzzing belt. Watch your calorie intake, emphasize lean proteins, such as fish and chicken, and consume only moderate amounts of carbohydrates to get lean.
Moving to burn calories is also going to help you tap into fat stores. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio on most days of the week. Increase your cardio to 60 or 90 minutes to see more dramatic results. Augment this cardio with a minimum of two strength-training workouts per week that train all of your major muscle groups with heavy weights.
You can take a gamble and wear the belt to increase abdominal strength or make the effort to do tried-and-true exercises to build abs you reveal once you lose the extra fat. Bicycle crunches, stability ball crunches, plank holds and woodchop twists are effective ways to train your abs, at no cost to you.