You might be one of those dudes rocking the full-on dad bod with a lax fitness plan, or a guy who regularly works out, striving to shed that last stubborn layer of belly fat. Either way, achieving a six-pack—or any type of pack—might feel like an unreachable goal at this point.
That’s fine. Remember, some people have genetics more suited to building muscle than others. But, if you really feel like you need those washboard abs, there might just be a hack. There’s nothing more frustrating than working out hard and eating right and not seeing the results you want. There is so much technology that can help you get closer to the results you’re looking for. And one that can help you achieve your aesthetic goals is EmSculpt.
This is a service offered by doctors that promises to help change your physique by working out your abs for you. EmSculpt is a machine that uses HIFEM (High-Intensity Focused Electromagnetic) technology to produce high-intensity muscle contractions meant to simulate the effects of 20,000 sit-ups in 30 minutes. The FDA-cleared treatment claims to build muscle and burn fat simultaneously, and is also used to create more shapely rear ends.
“Studies show that it increased the muscle density by 16 percent,” Dr. Howard Sobel told Mens Health about the EmSculpt treatment, which he offers at his office in New York City. “By causing muscle contractions, it causes a release of epinephrine and the epinephrine breaks down fat. The terminology is called lipolysis—the breakdown of fat. So, EmSculpt also reduces fat by 19 percent.”
Those numbers derive from seven independent multi-center studies across the United States according to BTL, the company behind EmSculpt. There haven’t been any published or reported side effects from the treatment, although the company admits that results can vary.
Sobel admitted that the treatment can be seen as an easy way out for people who don’t want to work out, and he advises clients that EmSculpt is best served in conjunction with traditional exercise, not as its sole replacement.
“This will help you keep those muscles really tight if you happen to miss a week or two of the gym,” Sobel said. “This is not supposed to take place of going to the gym. But if you just wanted a tight abdomen, you could probably just do this.”
Dr. Tom Scilaris, an orthopedic surgeon who is also located in New York, agreed, and thinks treatments like EmSculpt are purely supplemental and shouldn’t be used to abandon exercise altogether.
“They are a great kick-start or supplement to take you to the next level, but you’re going to have to maintain an exercise program,” Scilaris told the New York Post.
Men, in particular, seem to respond to the program positively. “Men, in general, have greater muscle mass, so their response to the technology in some ways may be more dramatic,” says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, cosmetic dermatologist, Chief Medical Officer and founder of PFRANKMD. “I see a lot of male patients use the device on their arms and abs, but really all over. Ideal candidates are close to ideal body weight who are looking to tone and tighten.”
How EmSculpt Treatments Work
The way EmSculpt works is simple. First, the doctor gauges the amount of belly fat of the patient. If it’s well over an inch of fat, Sobel says he might recommend liposuction first. But if it’s roughly an inch or less, Sobel recommends EmSculpt.
A patient then lies down with a paddle-like device, which sort of resembles a small steam iron, strapped to their stomach or butt, according to the target area. EmSculpt’s electromagnetic technology then induces supramaximal contractions that feel like you’re doing crunches or lunges, depending on the placement.
“If you just increased the muscle tone and you have a lot of fat over it, you wouldn’t see it, right? EmSculpt is a combination of breaking down fat and increasing the muscle tone, so you could see the muscles underneath,” Sobel said. “It gives people a jump-start. You may not get a six-pack, but you’ll get a four-pack.”
Let’s answer some of the most common questions about the EmSculpt procedure.
How much does EmSculpt cost?
It’s not cheap. According to Dr. Frank, the cost per treatment is $1,000. A package of four sessions goes for $3,500 at Sobel’s office.
How many sessions do you need?
“Four EmSculpt treatments within roughly a 2-week period, spaced at least 2 to 3 days apart, is recommended,” says Dr. Frank.
Sobel has his patients start with two 30-minute treatments per week over two weeks for a total of four treatments, whether it’s for your abs or butt. He says the effects of the treatments last for up to six months.
How long do EmSculpt results last?
Studies show a 15 to 20 percent muscle growth and fat reduction in the area after treatment regimen.
“You can begin to feel tangible results right after the treatment; however, positive results are seen two to four weeks after the last session and continue to improve for several weeks following the treatments,” says Dr. Frank, who has talked candidly about the procedure on his social media channels. “Like exercise maintenance, treatments can range from once a year to once a month, depending on desired results.”
Does EmSculpt hurt?
“It’s a pain-free procedure, but after the treatment you might be slightly sore, comparable to an intense workout,” says Dr. Frank.
Basically, during the treatment you will feel your muscles contracting.
“Throughout the treatment you feel your muscles contracting from the magnetic pull with five break periods with tapping to release the lactic acid in your muscles, so you are not sore the next day as if you did 20,000 crunches or squats,” says Dr. Frank. “Each treatment for the smaller muscle groups (biceps, triceps, thighs, calves) are 20 minutes in length and feels like your muscle is pumping.”
Sobel agrees. “The next day you feel a little sore, but you don’t feel like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t get out of bed,’” Sobel said.
Does EmSculpt get rid of loose skin or cellulite?
Yes and no.
“EmSculpt burns fat and builds muscle to sculpt your body, allowing you to achieve fitness goals that otherwise remain out of reach,” says Dr. Frank. “This is not a treatment for weight loss. It’s best for individuals who are in good shape already and serves as an ‘icing on the cake’ treatment.”
However, for cellulite, it may not be the most effective treatment.
“I recommend EMTONE, which was developed by the same company. A lot of times we use both treatments to complement each other,” says Dr. Frank. “EMTONE is the most advanced cellulite treatment on the market and is a non-invasive option to improve the appearance of dimpling on the skin.”
Where can you get EmSculpt?
You can do a quick internet search to find a place of treatment near you. EmSculpt also has a tool where you can search for reliable providers.
Are there any EmSculpt innovations in recent years?
Yes. There is a new EmSculpt device called the EmSculpt Neo.
“The EmSculpt Neo device is a new advancement of the original EmSculpt muscle stimulation technology that combines radio frequency,” says Dr. Frank. “The Neo offers simultaneous fat removal treatment and potential for some skin tightening using radio frequency energy—a technology that has been established for fat removal in other devices over the years.”
However, it’s not a quick fix.
“Diet and exercise is always the essential maintenance component of any muscle stimulation and/or fat removal treatment,” notes Dr. Frank. “The advantage is that with the Neo device, both fat and muscle treatment can, for the first time, be treated simultaneously which is time and cost effective.”
Are Easy Abs Even Good for You?
All that said, not everyone is sold on the new treatment.
Russ Greene, a Director of Government Relations and Research for CrossFit, said he’s “extremely skeptical” about EmSculpt, while adding that “the FDA’s approval does not assuage my skepticism.”
“There are numerous effects that result from training at a CrossFit affiliate that exceed these alleged effects,” he said, comparing circuit training in a gym to EmSculpt. “For example, what impact does the device have on blood sugar (A1C), blood pressure, HDL, bone density, etc? We know that you can improve all of these variables and more by changing your diet and exercise.”
Greene acknowledges the bigger concern even the EmSculpt practitioners admit: You might get a better looking body from the treatment if it is effective, but you won’t get a healthier one, as you’ll skip out on the benefits that come naturally from exercise. It might be harder to sweat for your six-pack, but it’ll probably be cheaper and better for you, too.
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