Most helpful critical review
807 of 868 people found the following review helpful
This does "work" & would likely be useful for some needs - but I don't think it'll help lose weight and I found it uncomfortable
on March 18, 2013
The Flex Belt is an EMS device, designed to tone and strengthen your abs muscles. EMS stands for "electrical muscle stimulation" and it is what it sounds like. The Flexbelt sends an electrical signal to your abs that causes them to momentarily "clench" and then relax. You can follow a few different built-in training programs, but for the most part they all consist of putting on the belt, plugging it in, and then having it stimulate your abs for about half an hour while, in principle, you get to be working on something else. In practice, even after trying these out nearly every day for a couple of weeks, I found it to be too distracting to get much in the way of other work done - at least work that required any serious attention.
The whole package seems like it's professionally designed - it doesn't feel at all cheap. It looks like it will last for a few years, and everything fits in a convenient pouch (included). What you get is a belt that has three electrical nodes - one that goes roughly just below the navel, one that goes on the left and one to the right. It comes with a set of sticky gel pads that you place over the nodes. They stick to the nodes on one side, and they actually stick to your belly on the other. You can peel them off afterwards, and they come off clean, but with just a bit of sticky residue remaining on your abs. You are supposed to retain the plastic seals that cover up the gel pads, so that they don't accumulate debris or stick to each other in between uses. I've been told they are good for 30 to 50 uses and that sounds plausible to me. I've used it nearly twenty times, and they still seem to have their "stick." The belt, which secures via velcro, is big enough for fairly small to medium waisted people, but comes with an "extender" for those, like me, who are "bigger boned" (hey, I'm very tall, too - but I admit that I could stand to lose some weight).
Anyhow, you secure the belt with the velcro, and then plug in the battery pack, which needs to be charged up ahead of time. This will not run directly from an outlet - and that's probably a very valuable safety precaution in case there happened to be a power surge. You turn on the battery pack, select a program, and then boost up the intensity to get it started. It doesn't start up until you start to boost up the intensity. One minor flaw in the device seems to be that as you are boosting up the intensity - and you have independent left and right intensity controls - it gives you a continuous "jolt" until you stop at a certain level and it goes on and then off, giving a continuous stimulation for a few moments and then shutting off for some breathing room.
It has 150 different levels, ranging from a barely noticeable electrical stimulation at 1 to something I can only imagine is quite painful and cramping at 150. I generally have "trained" at around 75 and that feels like "easy" crunches. If I get up to 85 or so it is painful and feels like cramping. I imagine that I would build up a bit more resistance and be able to elevate my levels after some period of time.
So, how does it feel? At first it was very uncomfortable - I don't like the cold, sticky pads on my skin and then the steady electric shock feels strange. After a while it's not so bad - like everything, you get used to it, even though I still can't quite "study" anything while this is running. I have a hard time concentrating and can only do simple things. What really matters, though, are the results. I do feel like my muscles are getting a little bit of tone, and they feel a bit tightened, much like they do after a good abs workout for a few days. That's the thing, though: I have decided that I'd actually rather just work out. It feels better doing it, and I think the results are more impressive. According to research I've read, you don't burn a lot of calories doing this - what it does do is enhance tone, just like exercise would.
I was glad I got a chance to try this out. In fact, it reminded me that after a car accident when I was much younger I went to a physical therapist who applied a similar technique to some of the muscles of my back. What I've concluded, though, is that it is most likely to be beneficial for those who, for a variety of reasons such as back injuries, cannot engage in any kind of abs exercises. Of course, in that case it would be smart to consult a doctor before even considering this as a way of building muscle and tone.
Overall, this seems like a well-designed product, that could be useful for some. I'm dubious about any potential "weight-loss" claims - but I'm just as dubious about any program focused on abs that claims or implies it will give you good abs. To get good abs you need to eat well and the right amount, first, and work out, second. If you were doing all of that, but for some reason couldn't get definition in your abs - maybe because an injury made it impossible to exercise abs appropriately - and if a physician agreed, this would likely be a great tool. Also, if you don't mind the feel of this - I admit that's likely to be subjective - it couldn't hurt to add it to the routine - especially for days you couldn't get in other abs work.
Note: I was provided with this product by the manufacturer, with the understanding that I would try it and post an honest review. I hope that it is helpful.