They say money can’t buy you happiness. But now thanks to a new government-approved body-sculpting treatment, it may be able to buy you abs.
The noninvasive treatment known as Emsculpt shoots high-intensity focused electromagnetic energy through the skin to build muscle and tone the body.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Emsculpt increases muscle mass by 16 percent and reduces the waistline by approximately 19 percent, according to the company.
How does it work?
The procedure is relatively quick and painless. A rubber pad is placed on the target muscle area, such as your abs, thighs, or buttocks. The pad then produces intense electromagnetic waves that cause involuntary muscle contractions.
These contractions trigger the release of free fatty acids, which break down fat deposits and increase muscular tone and strength, similar to the way doing a situp or lunge would.
Like exercising, the body responds to the wear and tear the stimulation causes by rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue, resulting in stronger, firmer muscles. You’ll feel the same soreness after Emsculpt that you would after a strenuous workout.
“It would be like doing 20,000 situps in 30 minutes — well beyond the capacity of the most ambitious workout,” Dr. Margo Weishar, a board-certified dermatologist at Springhouse Dermatology and Aesthetics in Pennsylvania, told Healthline.
“This new technology actually builds muscles through forced contractions, [and] these contractions also help to destroy fat cells in the treated area,” Weishar added.
If you end up losing fat, consider that a bonus.
Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, a dermatologist at Yale New Haven Hospital and president of Connecticut-based Modern Dermatology, says data from small studies have shown possible fat reduction, but that Emsculpt is only FDA-approved for muscle toning and strengthening.
“While this technology stimulates muscle hypertrophy with repeated and continued treatments, it is not a fat-directed therapy,” she told Healthline.
Robinson is also part of the medical advisory board for aesthetic medicine at Healthline.
The treatment requires four 30-minute sessions — two a week for two weeks — to achieve maximum results. The results aren’t permanent, though, so if you stop, the toning will, too.
It’s not cheap, either. Each session goes for about $750, which amounts to $3,000 for the entire procedure.
How does it compare to CoolSculpting?
It may seem like Emsculpt is quite similar to CoolSculpting, the popular nonsurgical fat-reduction solution. But the two are actually very different.
Unlike Emsculpt, which uses electromagnetic energy to stimulate the muscles and firm up the body, CoolSculpting uses a device to freeze the subdermal fat cells, which damages them beyond repair. Then, they’re eliminated through the body’s natural elimination process.
“CoolSculpt is typical for more fat loss, Emsculpt more for muscle toning,” said Dr. Liviu Saimovici, a board-certified physician with Advanced Rejuvenation Centers and a clinical instructor at the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Medicine in New York.
In addition, people of all sizes can use CoolSculpting, whereas Emsculpt is best for people who are active, have a lower body mass index (BMI), and are already at their ideal body weight, says Saimovici.
Lastly, the results of Emsculpt are temporary. People who undergo the procedure must keep up with the treatments every six months or so. CoolSculpting’s results, on the other hand, are permanent.
Emsculpt shouldn’t be used as an alternative to CoolSculpting, as the two offer completely different results. In fact, Emsculpt can be a great follow-up treatment to CoolSculpting once the fat has been removed.
How safe is it?
So far, studies have shown no safety issues. But some health experts are concerned about the long-term side effects of Emsculpt.
Because it’s such a new technology, relatively little is known about how the strong electromagnetic waves could affect or damage internal organs down the road.
The safest way to lose fat and build muscle tone is — as you may have expected — to hit the gym and eat healthier. However, if you’ve tried to work off that belly bulge but can’t seem to make a dent, Emsculpt may be an option worth exploring.
“Good old-fashioned exercise is not effective when trying to get rid of certain stubborn areas of fat, most likely because of hormonal and aging changes,” Saimovici said. “It is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve hyper-maximal muscle contractions during even most strenuous exercise, hence the advantage of Emsculpt: almost immediate results.”
So, if you want to tone your body but don’t have the time or energy for the workouts, Emsculpt could very well be your ticket to six-pack abs.