* Prices may differ from that shown
I spent under a fiver for this ab belt. It comes with a Velcro strap that attaches round your waste. The belt has The has a metallic pad that you use conductivity gel on. You place the metallic pad on you belly then use the control panel to chose different modes and power levels. The pad sends electronic pulses to your stomach muscle making them contract.
The belt itself is very light and looks very cheap (probably why it was less than a fiver). the Velcro straps are uncomfortable and cause me to itch. The pad itself is tiny. The picture they use is not a true representation of it's actual size. The pad itself is a bit scratchy and can make your belly feel a bit burnt if used for too long. Other belts are a lot more comfortable. As The belt is so small it can double up as a thigh or bicep toner.
As I paid so little I can't grumble to much and it does actually tone your stomach. However next time I would spend the extra pounds for more comfort.
I've always been vaguely interested in the concept of the 'ab belt'; the electronic toning system which requires little effort on the part of the user - but can a machine that you simply strap to your middle really replace hours of hard graft at the gym? Of course, the short answer is "no" - as the only way to really burn fat is by undertaking lots of aerobic *as well as* anaerobic exercise. That said, ab belts have been shown in many cases to firm up the muscles and produce a toned appearance if used correctly. Despite my interest, I had no intention of actually purchasing an ab belt - however, last year I received a free one when I ordered another product from an online sports shop. The product in question was the 'AbGymnic' - a device which, as well as your middle, can be also used around the arms, thighs, or hips.
HOW DOES IT WORK? + PRICE & AVAILABILITY
Like many other ab belts on the market, the AbGymnic works by sending a series of electronic pulses into your muscles, thus making them flex and release as they would if you were performing sit-ups or stomach crunches - the machine is specifically designed for 'problem' areas, and it's safe for use by men and women. As well as for toning use, electrical muscle stimulation is also often used in the rehabilitation of patients who have limited movement, in order to keep areas of muscle active so that they don't waste away. Although I didn't pay for my AbGymnic belt, where sold, its price ranges from £3.99 to £17.99. The current Amazon price is £4.70, making it one of the cheapest ab belts available - but does it deliver the goods? If you're looking for a more expensive ab belt from a more respected make, the 'Slendertone Flex' is currently available for £51.
DESIGN & APPEARANCE - what does the belt look like?
On the surface, the AbGymnic appears simply to be a rectangular piece of fabric with rounded edges - it's made from a nylon-like thick material, and the inner side (the part which touches your skin) features two flexible metal plates. Back to the front, and there's a plastic panel which serves as the controls to the unit - there's no screen to contend with, just a few rubber buttons and a couple of LEDs which flash to tell you which mode the machine is in. Just below the buttons is an opening section which reveals the unit's single CR2032 cell battery. A spare battery comes with your new AbGymnic belt, and each battery lasts for ages - I've used the device for over a year, and I'm still using the original. Because the machine is small (21 x 11 cms), it's easily transportable, so you could use it wherever you go - not that I'd really want to spend my holidays with one of these strapped to my midriff.
USING THE DEVICE - operation guide
Before you use the AbGymnic, you'll need to spread some toning gel on its inner metal pads - a 10p sized shallow blob should be perfect. A tube of this transparent gel comes with the product, but it only lasts a couple of months, so you'll quickly have to invest in some more. Currently, a pack of two 100ml bottles cost £4 from amazon.co.uk - although you can plausibly use any gel of a similar consistency, as long as it's safe to put on your skin. Once the gel is in place, strap the AbGymnic belt to the area of the body that you want to tone - for the purposes of this example, I'm referring to the device's use on the stomach. The velcro strap which comes with the machine is next to useless, as it just comes loose as soon as I put it on (a combination of weak velcro and a mild beer belly!) - thankfully you can use the belt simply by holding it to your stomach, a long as even contact is made with the skin. Pressing the 'On / Hi' button will activate the device, and each subsequent press of the button will increase the intensity and speed of the contractions. There are ten power settings in total, and I've personally found the machine to be most effective if I go straight to number eight. It's then a case of doing nothing - simply recline and let the machine do all the work. The length of time you use the belt for will depend on your personal level of devotion to the cause of a toned stomach - last year I used it for fifteen minute sessions a couple of times a day. You can use the machine more - although excessive soreness is a sure sign that you're doing too much.
DOES IT HURT!? - perhaps the review's most important question
The AbGymnic belt doesn't 'hurt', although the sensation isn't an entirely pleasant one - it's like your muscles are twitching without control, and it's accompanied by what I can only describe as a prickly feeling. Similarly, if you don't spread the correct amount of gel on the pads you may experience a slight electric shock - this may sound quite dramatic, but it's not too bad - remember the device is operating only from the power of a small battery. To be honest, it takes a while to get to grips with the entire process, and like anything else it's just a case of practice makes perfect. In terms of the belt's after-effects, your muscles will be slightly achy after use - a fairly nice feeling which suggests that the process has to some extent worked.
THE DOWNSIDES - any problems?
At this stage I should point out that the AbGymnic is a cheaply made machine - not only does it feel rather flimsy, but it's prone to falling apart in the hands. I've already mentioned the fact that the Velcro strap is rather weak, and could only stretch around the waist of an incredibly slender individual, the likes of which would have no use for the belt in the first place! Secondly, the plastic sticker on the front (which tells you which button is which) keeps coming loose. This is especially annoying, as it frequently moves, stopping the buttons coming back up after they've been pushed down. For me, this isn't a real issue, as half the time I'm expecting it - but for a new user, it might come as a surprise to find that they suddenly can't turn the device off! Thirdly, the buttons aren't especially responsive, meaning you sometimes need to press them a few times before they activate. For all its faults, let's not forget that this particular machine can be picked up for under a fiver, and for that price you don't often find a lot of quality.
THE CLAIMS vs THE RESULTS - did the AbGymnic work for me?
Abgymnic claim that "After just 3-4 weeks of regular electronic muscle stimulation you'll have more noticeable body curves and visible body improvements - ten minutes of Abgymnic is equivalent to 600 sit ups!" - but is this the case? I started out using the AbGymnic around three times a week, and maintained the ritual for around six months. I combined the use of the device with my normal routine of swimming once a week, jogging once a week, and playing squash once a week. In the first couple of months there was visually no change to muscle tone whatsoever, similarly, the third month passed without change. However, by the fourth month, slight changes had become vaguely noticeable (although when I say "noticeable", I mean during close examination, in the right lighting conditions type-of-thing) in the form of increased firmness of the area, and increased definition in shape. The problem was that I'm not sure that the toning was completely down to the AbGymnic, and not due to other determining factors - perhaps I or exerted more energy during swimming that month, or jogged that little bit faster?
FINAL ANALYSIS - a product worthy of investment?
Overall, the AbGymnic Belt is an easy to use and generally pain-free product. Its success will depend on whether you're using it in collaboration with a healthy eating regime and other exercise, as on it's own, the AbGymnic (or any other belt for that matter) won't give you the miraculously flat stomach that you've always desired. The real key is perseverance, as this isn't something which will work in a week. For the price, the AbGymnic does provides moderately good value for money, but it isn't especially well made and does feel cheap. That said, the qualms that I have with the device only relate to the strap and the front sticker, as the electronics have always been reliable - I think three stars would be a worthy reward for this entry level toning device. Finally, it's important to note that you shouldn't use the device if you suffer from heart conditions or have sensitive skin - also steer well clear if you have a pace-maker fitted.