Do ab belts really work? An ab belt is a device that you wear around your stomach in order to ‘train’ your abs even when you’re not exercising… or even moving!
This of course is the dream of many: to get amazing abs while just sitting around and watching television. But can it really be that easy? And if so, why is it that we don’t all already have incredible looking six packs? Let’s take a look and see what’s really going on here.
The Basics: How Ab Belts Work
The idea behind an ab belt is that it will deliver short electric currents to the abdomen in order to develop that washboard stomach. If that sounds a little alarming (shocking even) then don’t worry: the electric current is too small to cause any damage to the skin or any other tissue.
Rather, the aim here is to stimulate the muscle into contracting. Our bodies actually ‘run’ on electricity in many ways, and we control the movement of our muscles by using electric impulses (over the neuromuscular junction) in order to engage the muscle fibers.
In other words then, when you wear an ab belt, it will send signals to your muscles causing them to contract – and thereby simulate actual exercise.
Here’s the thing: your body doesn’t know when it is lifting weights or not. All that matters to your body is the contraction and the strength of that contraction. Contract hard enough and you can trigger all of the important signalers that lead to growth and strength:
- You’ll cause microtears in the muscle fibers making them more likely to then grow back thicker and therefore stronger
- You’ll occlude the blood – causing it to pool in the area unable to escape, along with other important metabolites that trigger growth such as growth hormone
The effort is the same in other words, whether you are actually lifting a weight or not.
Will it Get You Abs? Do Ab Belts Really Work?
Now the million dollar question: will using an ab belt really get you abs?
The answer? Yes and no. Maybe. As usual, it’s unfortunately not quite so simple.
The problem is that an ab belt will only work to tone and strengthen the abs – which is actually only part of the story. You see, in order for your abs to become visible, you also need to ensure that you have a low enough bodyfat percentage. The aim is to tone the abs so that they protrude as much as possible, and then to cut away the fat that ‘covers them up’ in order to bring them into stark relief and achieve that ‘cut’ and defined look.
Ab belts do not aid with weight loss, and there is no such thing as ‘targeted weight loss’ (meaning that you can’t choose precisely where you lose the weight). Therefore, using an ab belt on its own won’t help you to get visible abs.
But there is some good news.
That is that you actually don’t need to have ridiculously low bodyfat in order to have a visible six pack. It is commonly thought that you do, but in fact, a bodyfat percentage of around 15% is still perfectly low enough in order to see your abs. The problem? Most of us don’t have strong enough abs in order for them to be visible in these circumstances.
So, if you want to gain visible abs, the trick is to try making your abs strong enough – as long as you have a relatively ‘normal’ body fat percentage. And an ab belt can help you to do this.
This is actually a contentious point – some people argue that the only ‘secret’ to abs is to have a low bodyfat of around 5% and nothing else matters.
But this is completely incorrect. Not only do many popular celebrities have much higher BF% (Chris Evans as Captain America for instance) but you can also see what a difference contracting your abs makes in the mirror – that just makes them larger and harder, just like exercise would over time.
Another tip that not many people realize, is that training the ‘transverse abdominis’ can make a world of difference. This is the band of muscle that lives underneath the six pack (the rectus abdominis) and that holds your stomach in and supports your back.
If you train the transverse abdominis, then you will gain a flatter stomach because it will hold the muscle in more. Doing countless sit ups won’t do this: but wearing an ab belt will!
How to Use an Ab Belt
The effectiveness of the ab belt is ultimately going to come down to how you use it. Here are some tips:
- Combine use of the ab belt with cardio exercise or dieting where possible. This will help to lower your bodyfat percentage, thereby helping you to make your abs more visible.
- Use the ab belt on regular intervals – the abs are made up of predominantly slow twitch muscle fiber, which means they will respond very well to frequent training. Training your abs every day or every other day should be considered perfectly fine.
- Ideally, aim to combine use of the ab belt with other types of functional strength training. Use an ab belt along with a training program that incorporates deadlifts, leg raises, sit ups, kettlebell swings and more and you should notice yourself change shape quickly!
There are many more tips and tricks that can help you to get more from an ab belt… but the bottom line is that when used in conjunction with a good diet and health program, they can provide an excellent additional stimulus. Do ab belts really work? Absolutely!