LFS Product Review - Contour Core Ab Sculpting System
Carve abs in bed!! That's the late-night sales slogan for the Ab Contour Belt. If you have never seen this thing, it's basically a belt that contains what we in the physical therapy business refer to as an electrical stimulation (e-stim) machine that one is suppose to place over their midsection. Now the makers of the Ab-Contour belt would have you believe that you can "sculpt your abs in just minutes a day – while you work or while you play!” No seriously...that is quoted right from their website
E-stim has been around for quite some time. There are reports of ancient Egyptians using eels, or other similar fish which produce an electrical shock, for the purposes of pain relief. Fast forward some 4500 years and to this day we still use e-stim for that very same purpose in physical therapy clinics around the world. E-stim is also used when we need to re-train a muscle on how to work, after an injury for example. Countless studies have been done to back up these claims on e-stim.
Ok, so we know that e-stim is helpful in reducing pain and atrophy…what about actually helping the normal “healthy” person gain muscle, or what we in the business call muscle hypertrophy? A 2002 study done at University of Wisconsin set out to look at just that. Without boring you to death on the details (which you can read here), basically what they concluded is something I knew as soon as I saw the Ab-Contour belt on TV…the makers of the belt are full of shit. The final conclusion of the study was that “EMS had no significant effect on [body weight, body fat, [limb] girths, isometric and isokinetic strength, [or] appearance (via photographs).]”
If you have seen the commercial you are probably saying to yourself, “but they had that fancy camera and a Dr. who told me it works!” I hate to burst your bubble my friends but that is all just smoke and mirrors. Let’s start with the “Dr.” Watch the infomercial and you will notice the letters that follow his name are not MD; they are DC which is “doctor of chiropractic”. I repeat he is a chiropractor, not an actual medical doctor. Does he know about e-stim? Yes he does. Is he qualified to speak about its uses? He sure is because chiros use e-stim just as much as we PTs do. This guy should know all the evidence about e-stim that I just yammered on about for the last two paragraphs, yet he purposely endorses this product as effective…pretty shady if you ask me. So what about that fancy thermal camera? The thermal effect you are seeing after the belt removed is real, I mean the model just had a belt on that was pretty much sending controlled electrical shocks to his stomach. Electricity = heat so it's no surprise he was heated up. If I thermal imaged you after you stepped out of a sauna you would light up like aurora borealis, but that doesn’t mean you just had the workout of your life, it just means your body is hot.
So please save yourself the $179.99 for the next piece of “revolutionary” fitness equipment that I am sure we will see on another infomercial in the near future, but if you still can’t shake that urge to want to shock yourself at least go with one of these units. They do the same thing, are much cheaper, and you don’t look like an idiot wearing them either.