I tried the Body-Contouring device EMSculpt, and now I have real abs. The gym can only do so much.
Everyone has a certain body part they fixate on, and for me it has always been my belly. As someone whose workout routine can best be described as listless and irregular, I had more or less given up on having a belly even close to EmRata level. And so, when I got an email about a brand new, FDA-approved body contouring treatment called BTL Emsculpt, which not only burns fat but also builds muscle in the abdominal area, I immediately made an appointment with Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank.
Read on to learn all about my experience and get insight from experts about the Emsculpt procedure, how it works and whether it’s a smart move for anyone craving visible abs.
When I arrived at the NYC office of cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, one of the first five dermatologists to get the EMSculpt device nationwide, Frank explained exactly how EMSculpt works. “EMSculpt is a new category of device,” he told me. “For the very first time, we are using magnetic fields therapeutically. It’s basically like a mini MRI machine.”
The non-invasive HIFEM (high-intensity focused electromagnetic) technology induces 20,000 supramaximal muscle contractions in 30 minutes. What exactly does that mean? “This technology is able to affect the muscle in a way that you wouldn’t be able to do voluntarily,” Frank said. “When you do a crunch or a squat, you activate about 50 percent of that muscle group every three to five seconds. This is activating 100 percent of the muscle 20,000 times in a 30-minute period.”
Sobel says that when he describes EMSculpt to a reluctant patient, he always lets him know that “the benefits of EMSculpt may sound too good to be true, but the truth is it really works and I have seen amazing results.”
“If anyone has any doubts, I would remind them that not only will they see a great improvement in their muscle tone, but they will also be able to train more easily – better, stronger, longer – which can help them reach their fitness goals even faster than they would without the help of EMSculpt.”
Indeed, the idea of lying still for 30 minutes and getting the definition and fat-burning effect of 20,000 crunches sounded too good to be true, but there is no arguing with facts. According to the company’s protocol, EMSculpt is able to create about 16 percent muscle development in the area where it was used after four treatments at two-week intervals.
Frank says it works because you dramatically increase the metabolism around the muscle and because of the “hyper contraction of the muscle, fatty acids leak into the muscle cells.” That’s why you see a 16 percent fat burn on top of the muscle gain. Unlike CoolSculpting treatments, where you tackle fat directly, fat burning through EMSculpt is more of a residual effect of what the machine does to your muscles.
Sperling points out that while EMSculpt can certainly emphasize definition on its own, the best results come from a combination of EMSculpt treatments, a healthy diet and a consistent workout regimen. “Basically, if the patient is already in top shape, then EMSculpt can only theoretically be all they need to get an even tighter body. But if they are more of an average body type, like most people with a normal BMI, then EMSculpt is great for improving definition in their abdominal area, but we also recommend they adopt a lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise to get more noticeable and long-lasting results,” Sperling says.
Wondering if you are an “ideal” candidate for EMSculpt? Frank recommends it for anyone who is health-conscious and who exercises, but is looking for that extra definition that their SoulCycle classes don’t provide – the icing on the cake, so to speak. If you have to choose between EMSculpting something like CoolSculpting or SculpSure, Frank says the right choice depends on your goal.
If you are more interested in losing fat, CoolSculpting may be the best choice, and then you can use EMSculpt for toning and muscle definition. Frank cautions that while EMSculpt can help reduce fat, its main function is to build muscle. So the less fat you have at the treatment site, the more visible results you will achieve. The device is FDA approved for use on the abdomen and buttocks, with smaller attachments to sculpt the arms (biceps and triceps), calves and thighs. When smaller areas are addressed, it is usually for therapeutic or rehabilitative purposes
Because EMSculpt is a non-invasive procedure, patients do not need to fast or rest before their appointment. Just show up at your appointment, and that’s it!
The actual EMsculpt process is relatively painless. The device is put on over your abdomen (or butt), and then the power is turned up by the doctor. Frank says they usually start with lower power and then work upward, because going straight to 80 or 100 percent can overload the muscles and even cause a herniated disc. According to Frank, this risk is why you are unlikely to find an EMsculpt device at your local beauty salon anytime soon; you need a trained practitioner who knows how to use the device safely.
The contractions come a few seconds apart and feel strangely like super strong vibrations reaching your core. This experience felt somewhat uncomfortable during my first treatment, but got better and easier with each subsequent appointment. With each contraction your feet go up, which made me feel that the treatment was definitely working. After a few contractions, the device switches to a patting motion to help break down the lactic acid released by your muscles. I couldn’t believe how quickly the treatment was over.
EMSculpt profiles as a low-stress experience, and for the average patient, there are no significant side effects during or after the procedure. “EMSculpt is a non-invasive, FDA-approved low-risk treatment, and no serious side effects have been recorded from using EMSculpt. Also, the safety of the device has been supported by numerous studies,” said Sobel. “However, as with many treatments, there are patients who[EMSculpt] should avoid wpcodeself or are not ideal candidates for this type of procedure.”
Sobel specifies that “EMSculpt should not be used by anyone who has metal or electronics (such as pacemakers, copper coils, etc.) in their body, as these can interfere with the magnetic waves.” EMSculpt is also not safe during pregnancy, but can be used after pregnancy to improve diastasis recti – the partial or complete separation experienced by about two-thirds of pregnant women, according to Sobel.
An EMSculpt session typically costs between $750 and $1000 for each of your first four sessions. After that, you can purchase packages to keep your Emsculpt results up to date. To be honest, at that price, treatment is not feasible for most people. But Frank explains that the machine itself is a $250,000 MRI machine, which explains the cost. If you are already spending hundreds of dollars on a fitness subscription or workout classes, EMSculpt may be the only thing that gets you off your workout plateau and thus a worthwhile investment.
The day after my first treatment, my abdomen felt slightly sore, like after a particularly intense Pilates class. I went back for three treatments several weeks apart and waited for the appearance of my sculpted abs. Two weeks passed and I still had no visible results. What did happen is that I was finally able to do the Crow Pose during a Y7 yoga class.
Yoga is about the only form of exercise I enjoy, but my practice is sporadic. So imagine my surprise when I tried the Crow Pose – a movement where you lean forward on your hands, lift your legs and support your knees on your back elbows – and I was actually able to balance on my hands for over 10 seconds. I was shocked. I’ve never been able to make a move like that before and I knew it was because of EMSculpt.
“My biggest referral sources are my SoulCycle instructors, nutritionists, [en]professional trainer-like patients,” says Frank. “There is nothing more frustrating than reaching a training plateau. Many of my patients feel that their entire core is stronger after doing EMSculpt, and they are able to reach the next level of their fitness journey.”
After a few more weeks, I more or less gave up on seeing any visible results from EMSculpt. I attributed this to the fact that I was not the “ideal patient” Frank described. Since I had more fat around my belly and didn’t exercise all the time, maybe I shouldn’t have expected the visible results that were promised?
But then, one day, I looked in the mirror and literally looked double. Could it be? Could those be faint outlines of muscle definition I saw in my abdomen? Could it be abs? My body shape is always more upright than round, but suddenly my waist seemed smaller and I had more of an hourglass figure.
The white Reformation jeans that I usually only wear once a year because they are so restrictive at the waist, now felt more comfortable; there was a noticeable difference in the difficulty in buttoning the top button. I felt more confident in my bathing suit, with a short top and naked. It’s not that I suddenly woke up with a rock-hard six-pack, but the change was unmistakable. EMSculpt had worked and my belly was tighter and tighter than ever before.
I must emphasize that while EMSculpt is effective, it is not a panacea. Ideally, you eat healthy and exercise along with treatment, and if you do, the combination of a nutritious lifestyle and EMSculpt will give you the best results. That said, I was impressed that even with my limited training and my great love of pasta meals, I could still see results. Had all the fat in my belly been replaced by abs that could cut steel? Not at all. But did my stomach area feel (and look) slimmer, tighter and just much tighter? Absolutely.
If you are like me and do not exercise often, but still try to live a healthy lifestyle and just want something to help shape your tummy or buttocks, I can confirm that the treatment is worth the money because you will probably see results. Ultimately, this is a revolutionary treatment that will only become more commonplace as more people try it and hear about it. “This is going to do for the body what b*tox did for the face in the ’90s,” predicts Frank. “It’s really going to change the game for medical and cosmetic applications. The body is the new face.”
After reading Faith Xue’s EMSculpt experience, also curious about what EMSculpt can do for you? Request a free consultation!