The concept of the SIXPAD Abs Belt sounds promising: you can grow a six-pack without any exercising, spending 23 minutes a day wearing the abs belt. And although even SIXPAD states that you'll see "12% improvement in abdominal muscle size after 8 weeks alongside a balanced diet and exercise, while an 8% improvement was seen after just 4 weeks", I'm sure many people will think that by donning the SIXPAD Abs belt, they will grow washboard abs overnight.
After a few weeks of usage, it's hard to prove or disapprove the claims of SIXPAD. As we mentioned many times here on T3, abs are made in the gym and revealed in the kitchen, so if you think an EMS belt will transform your round pot-belly into a chiselled six-pack, you're in for a disappointment.
But if you want to cram in some extra muscle activation when you'd otherwise just sit on the sofa scrolling through your Facebook feed, the SIXPAD Abs Belt could actually be worth the cost and the fairly considerable level of discomfort involved.
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SIXPAD devices have a lot of traction online, mainly thanks to the endorsement from Cristiano Ronaldo, who admittedly has a well-sculpted body and is therefore a very good person to advertise an EMS trainer. In fact, we should listen to what Ronaldo has to say on the SIXPAD website: "Outstanding performance is the result of daily training. It isn’t magic. It’s persistence."
This is the key point and the main reason many people won't see quick (or any) results: the SIXPAD Abs Belt only works if you bomb your abs every day for a long period of time. If you use the SIXPAD Abs Belt twice a week for three weeks, you won't see any changes in the size of your abs, I guarantee it. If you put the effort and time in your abs training, you might.
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SIXPAD Abs Belt: design
The SIXPAD Abs Belt comes in a big flat box and I was surprised just how big it was. Come to think of it, the large size is understandable since the SIXPAD Abs Belt is supposed to train the entirety of your abs, including the obliques, and that is a large area to cover. It also comes in two sizes (medium and large) so if you are larger (in any way), you can opt in for the larger belt to make sure all areas are covered properly.
Working the abs with the SIXPAD Abs Belt is pretty straightforward, although make sure you apply the gel sheets to the back of the belt before the first use. There is a manual in the box, but in general, put the belt on so it covers your abs completely. Not rocket science, really.
Long pressing the '+' button fires up the machine on the first power level. There are altogether 20 (!) power levels and in the few weeks I used the belt, I could only go up to level five, so there is plenty of room for improvement (from my side). The sessions last for 23 minutes and you can do anything you want in the meanwhile, one of the main benefits of using the belt.
Better still, no cables need to be attached to the SIXPAD Abs Belt when it's in training mode so you can move around freely. The Abs Belt can be connected to your phone using Bluetooth and the SIXPAD app. The SIXPAD app is rather large (350MB on Android) and it's not the best rated app in the Google Play Store either, for a good reason.
Through the app, you can initiate training sessions and control the power of the belt as well. That is if the belt and the app connect at all: it took me quite few tries to pair the two during each session, and very often I just gave up altogether after a few tries. On the upside, you can use the app without registering, so no need to hand over any personal details if you don't want to.
Thankfully, the SIXPAD Abs Belt doesn't need charging very often, considering once-a-day usage frequency, you will only have to charge if once a month, pretty good. The charging port is located at the bottom of the little control unit at the front of the Abs Belt, under a little plastic cover. I found this cover a bit loose and it often came undone, although I only charged the Abs Belt once, so can't say I was undoing the cover very often.
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Sixpad Abs Belt: how does it work and does it work at all?
There is a whole section on the SIXPAD website detailing the technical nuances of the SIXPAD system, but in a nutshell, electrical muscle stimulation (or EMS for short) devices send little electrical impulses to the muscles which in turn contract and tense for the duration of these impulses.
According to said page, "normal physical activity uses approximately 30% of muscle fibres leaving 70% dormant. EMS can effectively target and stimulate these dormant fibres." Again, it would be really hard to prove/disprove these claims and even the above statement uses words like "approximately 30%", so I have doubts about 70% muscle stimulation.
Using the SIXPAD Abs Belt can definitely be felt in your abs, though. I went up to the fifth power setting and my ab muscles were jumping like there is no tomorrow. After the training session, I could feel the workout in my muscles, maybe not as intensely as after doing a hanging leg raise/ab rollout session, but considering I was just sitting around with a belt wrapped around my torso, it's not too bad.
Regarding the claims ("8% improvement was seen after just 4 weeks"), it's hard to tell. How would you measure an 8% increase in muscle mass? I have 14% of body fat index – according to the Tanita BC-401 body composition monitor – so my abs are somewhat visible but not visible enough to see an 8% increase.
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Sixpad Abs Belt: should you buy one?
The SIXPAD Abs Belt might not be your one-way ticket to six-pack heaven but it is a good complimentary device for abs training nevertheless. Unlike training and recovery devices like the Theragun G3, using the SIXPAD Abs Belt won't yield any immediate results and if you want to see any results ever, you'd have to use it as an additional training device alongside a healthy diet and proper abs training, as intended.
I had a few griefs using the SIXPAD Abs Belt, some of which could be helped by the manufacturer, some probably can't. For one, putting the cold Abs Belt on in January, when you are cold anyway, was not a fun experience. If there was a way to apply some heat to the belt before one uses it, that'd be great, but I understand that even if there was such technology available, it might compromise the otherwise excellent battery life.
Secondly, the SIXPAD Abs Belt – and all SIXPAD devices – should be stored on a plastic board (supplied with the product), so the contact gels stay fresh for longer. But even with putting the belt back on the board after each use, considering daily usage, you'd still have to replace at least some of the gel sheets once a month.
The SIXPAD app could also use some TLC, both in terms user interface and connectivity. The app and the belt often didn't find each other, even after multiple tries, which was frustrating. If they did, you could control the different areas of the belt (main panel/oblique area) as well as see your progress and create training plans.
If you take the SIXPAD Abs Belt for what it is, a complimentary abs training device that works best if you put some effort into abs training anyhow, you won't be disappointed, especially if you do as you are told and use the SIXPAD Abs Belt every day for a longer period of time.
Given the high price, I would recommend getting a SIXPAD Abs Fit 2 or even a SIXPAD Abs Fit instead of the full SIXPAD Abs Belt, which could save you a heap load of money, and all you're missing out is the oblique trainer, which might not worth an extra £100/$100. You'll spend that money on replacement gel sheets pretty soon anyway.