This is a very interesting question, highly debated today.
Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is a procedure to contract muscles
by use of electric impulses. EMS is used successfully in medicine as
therapy in muscle atrophy, reeducation of muscles, increasing range of
motion, joint replacement, gait training, shoulder subluxation,
reduction of muscle spasms, speeding the healing process of muscles
As regards the stomach muscle-toning type products, the American
Council On Exercise commissioned a study conducted by the University
of Wisconsin-La Crosse to investigate the claims of these products.
The study found that after eight weeks of EMS usage, subjects did not
lose weight or body fat, nor did they experience firmness or increased
strength. The study reported, "Not only was EMS ineffective, it was
time-consuming and painful, too." Some subjects also experienced some
disturbing side effects - one woman was unable to put her arms down
every time the stimulator delivered its shock. Also, according to the
FDA,EMS devices should not be used by persons with certain conditions,
including implanted pacemakers or other implanted metallic or
electronic devices, swollen or inflamed areas (such as phlebitis), or
Julianne Abedroth-Smith, lead researcher on the American Council On
Exercise study noted that "Electric Muscle Stimulation may strengthen
muscles to a point, but probably will not help individuals lose
weight, lose fat, or change their basic body dimensions.
Also, there are opinions saying that passive exercise that does not
result in a significant enough caloric expenditure to encourage weight
In May, 2002, The Federal Trade Commission in the US filed lawsuits
against three electronic abdominal exercise belts: AB Energizer, Ab
Tronic and Fast Abs. The lawsuit claims that the ads for these
products falsely claim the belts will help tone stomach muscles. The
lawsuit also says the companies that make these ab belts don't honour
their refund, shipping and warranty promises. "For years, marketers of
diet and exercise products have been preying on overweight,
out-of-shape consumers by hawking false hope in a pill, false hope in
a bottle, and, now, in a belt," said FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris.
"Unfortunately, there are no magic pills, potions, or pulsators for
losing weight and getting into shape. The only winning combination is
changing your diet and exercise."
So, I guess electric muscle stimulation is no substitute for physical
The study commissioned by American Council On Exercise
Electric muscle stimulation helps heal injuries but doesn't add mass
or tone an article from The Business Journals by Michelle Buckley
Article by Sam Grobart in the Men's Journal
A review of AbTronic by Streets Cents. The results are aligned with
the ones above.
A research paper on the use of EMS
FTC charges three top-selling electronic abdominal exercise belts
with making false claims press release by the Federal Trade
electric muscle stimulation
Hope this helps!