Fitness equipment & Coaching

Abdominal belts: A good or bad way to strengthen your abs?

There are many different types of abdominal belts designed to shape or strengthen your abs (almost) effortlessly. How do they stack up against conventional fitness wisdom and under what conditions can they be useful for athletes?

The abdominal belt: Is it a miracle accessory?

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Strengthening your abs without making any effort and losing weight is the promise that an abdominal belt makes. If we take a closer look, the question seems more complex: There are several types of abdominal belts, each one with a different purpose and a very specific mode of operation.

The different types of abdominal belts

The main types of abdominal belts are:

Electro-stimulation abdominal belts: The most common and perhaps the most popular. They consist of a belt equipped with electrodes that regularly transmit electrical impulses to the muscles, trying to mimic the contraction signal sent by the nerves during exercise. The intensity of the stimulation, which increases as the session progresses, can be adjusted by means of a control box. This method, called electromyostimulation (EMS), is sometimes used by physiotherapists to stimulate muscle groups that have become immobilised after an injury. It can also be used to promote recovery after training.

Vibrating abdominal belts: Slightly less expensive, vibrating or massaging belts create a vibrating massage with the aim of melting localized abdominal fat, not for muscle strengthening. Although their effectiveness in eliminating fat is minimal at best, they invigorate the skin and can be used as a complement to sports activities.

Sweat belts: Here, perspiration is used with a sauna-like effect to eliminate toxins and promote slimming. The weight loss observed is often due to the loss of water and the device is an accompaniment to a more comprehensive approach, including a balanced diet and physical exercise. This type of belt can be worn during the day or during training to multiply its effects tenfold.

Some abdominal belts combine these different technologies: Electro-stimulation, sweating and vibrating massage.

What are the target areas and the intensity of effort felt?

Only the electro-stimulation belt causes a real contraction of the muscles. The activated muscle groups are the rectus abdominis, the internal and external obliques and the transverse muscle. There is no impression of effort as there is after an abdominal workout. The process, even if it requires a small period of adaptation, is not painful. The vibrating belt and the sweating belt offer a relaxing sensation, aimed at slimming down the belly, not working the muscles.

Are the results the same as when doing abdominals?

Of course, the results are not the same as with real sports sessions for abdominal muscles. Visually, electro-stimulation has interesting effects, more in the order of toning up, with sometimes a slight reduction in waist circumference. Unlike with real physical effort, the number of calories burned remains limited.

How to use an abdominal belt properly

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Although we shouldn’t expect miracles, an abdominal belt can nevertheless be effective in combination with physical activity. In particular, the electro-stimulation belt helps to firm up the abdominal area and to adopt better posture. The appearance of the skin is also improved. To obtain convincing results, wear it at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes to an hour while walking or doing sports. Slightly increase the intensity during breaks between activities.

Wearing an abdominal belt requires a few precautions:

EMS is not recommended in cases of heart failure, cardiovascular disorders or epilepsy.

It is also not recommended for use during pregnancy.

It is best to avoid running with an electro-stimulation belt: The abdominal contractions triggered are not synchronised with the strides and the exercise would not be very pleasant.

Which abdominal belt should you choose?

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There are many abdominal belts available on the market. This selection of 3 belts will help you make your choice.

The most connected: Connect Abs – Slendertone

This electro-stimulation abdominal belt connects to an iOS or Android smartphone with a dedicated monitoring application to visualise its progress over the course of each session. With 100 different levels of intensity and personalised programmes for getting back into shape, exercising for a specific event or toning up your belly after pregnancy, it appeals to a wide range of profiles. The remote control is rechargeable via USB.

Best value for money: EM 37 – Beurer

This EMS belt is suitable for all profiles and body shapes since it is equipped with an extension to adjust its length if necessary. It has 40 intensity levels, adjustable on an LCD box. Battery-powered, it is offered at an attractive price and is the bestseller in its field.

The most powerful: Maxibelt Free Action 4M – Sport-Elec

The Maxibelt belt allows you to work different abdominal muscles with precision, featuring 4 zones that can be activated and adjusted separately. Coupled with the Free Action electro-stimulation system, one of the most powerful on the market, it offers 94 levels of intensity and is particularly suitable for use by athletes.

Check out our Fitness equipment & Coaching page for more advice.