WTF Is This Body Contouring Treatment That's All Over Instagram?

As a person who loves to work out, I follow a ton of fitness instructors on Instagram. I started noticing more and more of them were posting photos of themselves undergoing something called an “Emsculpt” treatment, leaving me instantly intrigued. Why are these seemingly fit people opting for this procedure? Does it really work? Is this something I should be doing? Is it painful? Do you love this sh*t? Are you high right now? Do you ever get nerv—wait. Sorry. Back to the topic at hand. I had to learn more about Emsculpt, so of course I did the only thing that made sense—sift through the #Emsculpt hashtag on Instagram and stare at every before and after photo I could find, and honestly I was mind blown. I knew I had to try this out for myself.

We looked to the local pros at SKINNEY Medspa in NYC to learn more about this new craze and experience it firsthand. This treatment offers people the chance to have the abs of their dreams by literally just lying on a table for 30 minutes and doing…nothing. Or so it seems.

So what exactly is Emsculpt? Emsculpt is the first and only non-invasive procedure to help both men and women build muscle and sculpt their bodies without needles and anesthesia. A single session is the equivalent of doing 20,000 sit-ups or squats, depending on which area you’re treating. A total of four sessions are recommended to achieve optimal results, with each of the treatment sessions occurring over the course of a two week period. Okay, enough of the science—how TF did it feel and WTF happened?

Before we started, the esthetician performing the treatment (shout-out to you Paris Small) walked me through a few breathing exercises, which I shrugged off because, again I thought: I’m just lying here. I go to the gym 5 times a week—how could this be any more difficult than that? Once I said I was ready, she wrapped a belt around my waistline and hooked the device under the belt. The device itself basically looked like a standard smoke alarm with a handle—not super intimidating. But then the machine turned on and I was literally rocked to my core. I can only describe the woman who helped me through this session with one term, an angel, because I did not take what was about to happen seriously enough.

I wouldn’t say it hurt, but it was definitely A FEELING. I honestly thought nothing could surprise me after getting laser hair removal or a bikini wax but this was a totally different type of experience and one I certainly I have never felt before. You know that scene in The Little Mermaid when Ariel’s voice is sucked out of her? That’s basically what I could equate this to feeling like. The end results are supposed to be the abs of my dreams, which is essentially the same grand honor as becoming a real human in 2019.

Paris suggested I bend my knees on the table and hold onto the handle bar of the device since that gives the feeling of more control. It took pretty much half entire session to get into the groove of breathing with the contractions, but after that I was able to come to terms with the treatment.

One thing to note is that I am an idiot and went to a reformer-based workout class earlier that day that targeted the ab region. Being sore from the workout only increased the intensity I felt during the first session. If you’re like me and someone tells you not to work out, you ignore them and just do whatever you want. I warn you: DO NOT WORK OUT THE DAY OF TREATMENT. Honestly I would suggest not working out your core during the entire course of your four treatments. I did SoulCycle here and there just to keep myself sane, but you do not need to be pushing yourself, as the treatment is a workout in and of itself. This isn’t something they will tell you beforehand, but from a personal experience, this is the biggest piece of advice I could offer.


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But for professional insight I turned to Christine Stagnitta, District Sales Manager for Emsculpt to ask the questions you all really want the answers to, like who is the ideal candidate? How long do the results last? Is this too good to be true? How is it different from cool-sculpting? And finally, is it actually safe?

To address the most pressing concerns about safety, Christine explains, “Emsculpt is the most safe technology on the market; it doesn’t get any safer than this. It’s Tesla technology that is basically a mini MRI machine, which is the most safe test you could get. There are no negative side effects other than that you could be sore from the muscle contractions.”

What I found most interesting during my conversation with Christine is that people who work out actually don’t need the full-intensity treatment. Christine says, “When the device was originally launched we believed that people who worked out frequently would be able to hit 100% intensity right off the bat but it turned out to be the opposite. The reason being is that the motor neurons in their muscles are already active, so they didn’t need as intense of a treatment to get their muscles to contract. The more you use your muscles, the more intense the treatment feels. A person doesn’t have to go up to 100% intensity to get results, you can be at 30% and still see optimal results because it is all contingent upon that person’s threshold.”

So who is the ideal candidate? “Anyone can benefit from an Emsculpt treatment, not just people who are already in shape,” Christine says. “Everyone is different and this is why getting a consult is so important. It all depends on what the person’s goals are. Say they haven’t felt their abs work since giving birth or they’ve plateaued at the gym or they have stubborn fat that the gym is just not fixing—Emsculpt is a great solution. People love how the treatment makes them feel—if they work out, it makes them feel stronger.”

And finally—is this legit or another gimmick promising a quick fix? Christine tells us, “Emsculpt can affect a wider demographic of patients than popular treatments like cool-sculpting. Once you start undergoing Emsculpt treatments, you’ll really start to feel and connect with your muscles, leaving you feeling highly motivated. The longer you maintain and stay in shape, the better your results are going to be; the more that you keep that muscle active, the more you’re going to maintain that 16% muscle growth and 19% fat reduction that occurs simultaneously. If you’re working out frequently, you’re going to have very long lasting results and notice you’re stronger in your work outs because of the additional muscle. As of last year, Emsculpt outsold cool-sculpting, which has been around for decades. The technology was built from scratch in Prague and received FDA approval in 2016 but didn’t hit the market until 2018 because the developers wanted to ensure it would be super successful.”

And while you may notice some instant results, the full effects will reach their peak 3 months after the last treatment. So while I wait for my miracle to fully develop, I leave you with these crazy before and after photos.

Images: Jon Ly / Unsplash; skinneymedspa / Instagram; EmSculpt