Ab Belts: Godsend or Useless Gadgets?

We all want perfect biceps, buns of steel and killer abs. But let’s face it-if you’re the average American, you either don’t have time to workout the six days a week it takes to achieve the results you want or you simply don’t like to work out. Whichever group you belong to, there are a million and one new “gadgets” on the market promising big results with little or no work.

One of the biggest fads in fitness today is the ab belt. There are several ab belts on the market including the “Ab-Energizer,” “Fast Abs,” and “The Ab Tronic,” but they all seem to make the same claim: slim down without breaking a sweat and get the abs you always wanted.”

Despite numerous reports disputing these claims, ab belts still seem to be selling by the thousands. Why? The answer is clear: ab belts offer what some believe is a quick fix for flabby body. Ab belt marketers say the belt can be used to tone up any part of the body. Fast-Ab commercials also mention that “just 10 minutes with Fast-Abs is the equivalent of up to 600 sit-ups.” Marketers also claim that you can work your abs anywhere-watching TV, at the office or even around the house. Its’ no wonder consumers are buying ab gadgets by the thousands-they’re like magic! But the sad truth is this: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So here’s the skinny on ab gadgets.

Most ab machines look a lot like cummerbunds. Lithium batteries are generally used to power the belt and “tightening gel” or some form of gel is included in the kit. These simple looking gadgets are based on electrical muscle stimulators, or EMS, designed to give muscle contractions. They do, but actually building muscles from this kind of stimulation requires a great deal more power and pain. *According to Dr. Venu Akuthota of the Rehabilitation Institute, “you need very long duration, hot amplitude, meaning a very strong stimulus and those kind of stimulus’s are very uncomfortable and the typical person wouldn’t continue with that.” The American Council on Exercise “Fitness Matters” magazine asked the University of Wisconsin to test EMS machines. Their findings added even more validity to Dr. Akuthota’s statements. After 8 weeks of testing the machines on volunteers, U of W found that there was “no significant changes in weight, body-fat percentage, strength or overall appearance. In order for the belts to work they would have to be cranked up to a level beyond what most people can tolerate (think hand in socket while standing in water).”

Another problem with Ab Belts is most are not approved by the FDA. The FDA has checked out a number of EMS devices over the years, but they were all designed for rehabilitation and classified as medical devices requiring a prescription. According to FDA spokeswoman Sharon Snyder, “Anything delivering electricity to the body must be evaluated by the FDA to be safe.” The current crop of EMS abdominal belts doesn’t have government clearance. A recent FOX news report noted that there is one AB belt that has FDA approval, the Slender Tone. Although Slender Tone is cleared by the FDA, that doesn’t mean it works, only that it’s safe. If you’re still not convinced that Ab Belts are nothing but useless gadgets, give one a try, but make sure the one you purchase has a money back guarantee. Remember, there’s no substitute for diet and exercise. In order to lose weight and tone up, good old-fashioned exercise is the only way to do it. It is almost impossible to work one specific area and expect results. You can do 1000 sit-ups or crunches a day and it won’t matter if you still have body fat covering the muscles. You simply can’t “spot reduce.”

For maximum weight loss and killer abs, the following diet and exercise plan will do it.

1. Cardio Exercise 5-7 days per week for 30-60 minutes. (Cycling/Biking, Running, Stair climbing) It doesn’t matter whether the exercise is indoor or outdoor. Once you reach your goal, 3-4 days per week, for 20-30 minutes should be sufficient enough for maintenance.

2. In order to lose weight you should you have to burn more calories than you take in. It’s that simple. If you’re 160 pounds, your daily calorie allowance to maintain your weight is 1,600 calories (multiply
your weight in pounds times 10 to find your daily calorie allowance). In order to LOSE weight you have to eat at least 15-20% below your maintenance level. A good way to do this is to eat 5-6 small meals a day instead of 2-3 big ones. This way, you’re not so hungry between meals that you end up overeating.

a. Eat quality protein at each meal (fish, chicken, lean meats, turkey). 50% of calories should come from complex carbs such as vegetables, brown rice, oatmeal and whole grains. Avoid refined simple carbohydrates such as white flour or white sugar.

b. Lower your fat and saturated fat intake. Only 15-20% of your total calories should come from fat. A small amount of good fat such as olive oil or flax oil is better than no fat at all.

c. One of the most important thing to remember is to drink plenty of water whether you’re dieting or not! Eight to ten (8 oz.) glasses per day is a good start.

3. For killer abs, try the following exercises:

*Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Fold your hands behind your head. Curl your torso forward until you feel the small of your back flatten out on the floor. Keep your elbows back. Use your hands to cradle your head and take strain off of your neck. Do not pull yourself up with your arms. Slowly ease your torso back down to the floor. Exhale on the way up, inhale on the way down. Do 15-25 repetitions.

*Lie on the floor. Fold your hands behind your head, elbows back. Slightly lift your head, chin away
from your chest. Raise both legs as far as you can, then slowly lower them back down. Do 15-25 repetitions. This exercise is intense but it’s well worth it. The results are amazing.

*Lie on a bench. Reach overhead and hold onto the bench. Raise both legs in the air until your toes are pointing at the ceiling. Keep your knees slightly bent. Raise and lower your hips without lowering them all the way down to the bench. Do 15-25 repetitions.

*Sit on the floor with your knees bent and hold your arms straight in front of you. Keeping your arms low, lean back until you’re halfway to the floor. Lift your feet off the floor and extend your legs until they are straight. (Keep your legs low.) Hold for up to 30 seconds. Do 1-10 repetitions.

*Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Raise your legs so that your hips and knees are bent at 90 degrees. Place your hands behind your head, with your elbows on the floor. Twisting from the waist, bring your right elbow towards your left knee, and at the same time, extend your right leg. (Your left elbow should remain on the ground.) Complete the set on one side, then change to the other. Note: Do not alternate. Do 15-25 repetitions.

*Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet together. Place your hands behind your head. Let both knees gently fall to one side with one leg on top of the other. Keep your elbows wide and curl straight up. Repeat on the other side. Do 15-25 repetitions.

Good Luck!

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