Can you get a six-pack without lifting a finger?

EMS(Electronic Muscle Stimulation), a technology that's been in hospitals for over 40 years to restore muscle function in rehab patients, is again hogging the headlines in the fitness industry.

Wearable bands using EMS are now believed to trim, strengthen and even tone key areas of the body without you having to lift a finger.

Gaining attention recently is Slendertone. Designed and manufactured by the Ireland-based company Bio Medical Research (BMR), Slendertone is a toning belt that delivers a complete abdominal workout. This is claimed to be clinically proven.

Its latest product, called the Slendertone Premium Abs, an improved version of the first, is slimmer (read: more discreet), has higher intensity levels and can now be safely worn during exercise.

EMS stimulates the body's natural muscle movements. When signals, also known as EMS impulses, are sent to the medical-grade GelPads attached to the band, they stimulate the muscles underneath to contract naturally.

The belt not only works on the rectus abdominus and oblique muscles, but also the difficult-to-activate transverse abdominis, one of the main core stabilizing muscles of the lumbar spine.

A 20-minute session gives you a complete abdominal workout similar to doing 120 crunches, the manual said. That, they claim, results in a firmer, stronger and flatter tummy in four to eight weeks, depending on intensity.

How true are the claims? And how far gone are we that we now believe gadgets can do the actual exercise for us?


"EMS technology works to strengthen and rehabilitate muscles, hence it works for both people in rehab and healthy people. During exercise, your muscles naturally respond to signals sent by your brain.

"EMS works in the same way, reaching all targeted muscles in one short session while you carry on with your daily routine, or as a part of your exercise regimen. Slendertone products apply natural body science and deliver impressive toning results, thanks to clinically proven EMS technology," said Angel Ng, Asia-Pacific sales and operations executive for Slendertone.

The study, called "The Effects of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation Training on Abdominal Strength, Endurance, and Selected Anthropometric Measures," showed that all 41 subjects had firmer, more toned abs, with 72 per cent increased abdominal endurance and 49 per cent increase in abdominal strength.

Leading the team of scientists in the study was Dr. John Porcari, professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The study, funded by the Complex Technologies in Minneapolis, Minnesota, had all 41 subjects training five times a week for eight weeks.

"You should use your product for 20-40 minutes a day. For best results, we recommend that you do five training sessions per week.

You should, however, do only one session per day, as this allows your muscles to recuperate," Ng said.

Slendertone Premium Abs has 10 abdominal muscle toning programs, including a sports pro crunch and endurance trainer programs, with adjustable 0-150 intensity levels.

Road test

There are three products from BMR using EMS technology, all designed to complement a regular workout routine. The other two are Slendertone Arms, with three muscle-toning programs with up to 99 intensity levels, designed for an advanced arm workout, and the Slendertone Bottom for firming, tightening and toning the buttocks, proven, she said, that's as effective as 60 reversed leg lifts in just 30 minutes.

The respected American Council on Exercise (ACE), the leading certification body of personal trainers in the world, took the Slendertone Bottom Toner on a road test. The ACE-sponsored test was also conducted by a team led by Dr. Porcari, where they recruited 72 female volunteers between 20 and 60 years old.

They were randomly divided into three groups: the control group that did nothing, the exercise group that did conventional exercise routines for the buttocks, and a stimulation group that used Slendertone.

After six weeks of using the product five times a week for 30 minutes, bottom strength for the stimulation group improved by 15 per cent, and they gained six per cent more strength than the exercise group. Endurance was boosted to 29 per cent compared to 26 per cent for the exercise group.

And while the EMS proved effective, the exercise group did fewer reps that would equal to about only six minutes of exercise per session, compared to the stimulation group that spent 30 minutes using the device per session.

Traditional exercise would have far exceeded the stimulation group had they spent equal amounts of time. That means the gadget won't give you those dreamy six-pack abs, but it can help you get there faster-with proper diet and exercise, naturally.