How'd you like to get firm stomach muscles, without working out? The Ab Force is one of many devices that claims to help you.
22-year-old Melissa Nelson doesn't need to lose weight! But she's the only one brave enough to show-off her waistline and try the Ab Force. "Anything with 'conductive gel' I get a little nervous about having to use it, you know?" laughs Amy Jacquin.
Ab Force is one of a rash of products that use electrical impulses to make your muscles contract. It claims those contractions help you tone your muscles, without any physical exertion on your part. You start by spreading the conductive gel on the belt pads.
Melissa puts the belt on her lower abdomen, and turns it on.
"Do you feel anything?" Amy asks. "No," she says.
"Then keep pressing the one button until you eventually do feel something," Amy instructs. "Oh!" Melissa laughs and jerks as her stomach starts vibrating.
"Does it hurt?" asks Amy. "No!" Melissa squeals. "It's like.... pth, pth, pth! That feels weird! Oh, my goodness!"
You can see Melissa's stomach twitching involuntarily. It looks like she's laughing hard, but she's not. "It doesn't really hurt, it just feels weird," she describes.
Ab Force cycles through various contraction patterns -- from slow and long contractions, to fast shocks. It automatically shuts off after ten minutes. It warns you not to use the belt for any longer than that, or more than two separate times a day. And it comes with a list of people who should NOT use it -- women who are pregnant, diabetics, those who've just had abdominal surgery, etc. etc. Read directions carefully.
"My biggest fear is that you're putting it over your abdominal region," says Wendy Nall, a physical therapist at Health South in Cape Girardeau. "What are you doing to the abdominal organs? Are you interfering with the electrical impulses that make for normal digestion or bowel movements? Stuff like that."
He points out a similar device he uses to help muscles wake-up after surgery. But he's a licensed therapist... AND he can't use the device without a doctor's prescription. So he questions how products like the Ab Force are even on the market.
Wendy also points out that contractions caused by electrical impulses are involuntary. You can actually get cadaver muscles to contract when using electrical impulses. Those are not the kind of contractions that tone your muscles. Studies done over a period of six weeks prove that these belts don't help.
"If you think you're going to get a six-pack from this thing, it won't happen," adds Wendy. "It takes a lot of work to firm-up abdominal muscles."
Toning requires your brain to tell your muscles to contract, and then applying power.
"Save your money!" Wendy advises. "Spend it on a gym membership, or take your family to a movie!"