Ask people why they spend hours a week at a gym or drop major cash on Pilates classes, and you’ll get a variety of answers. For some, the answer is pretty simple: “I want abs.” After all, a defined core has long been praised as the ultimate symbol of fitness, despite the fact that, in reality, genetics often play a huge part in whether or not those ab muscles are able to pop. While a specific diet and exercise routine no doubt can get you closer to the ‘99 Britney Spears aesthetic, a new procedure called EmSculptNeo claims it can seriously ramp up your progress — and all it takes is a few half hour sessions.
Here’s the science, per RealSelf: EmSculpt Neo (which is the next generation of the original EmSculpt) is an FDA-cleared device that combines HIFEM technology with radiofrequency energy in the form of heat. It produces 24,000 “supramaximal contractions” while also using RF energy to boost blood supply to the muscle tissues for increased volume and to break down fat cells by heating the fat layer.
According to Dr. Usha Rajagopal, a board certified plastic surgeon in the San Francisco area, confirms that EmSculpt Neo can melt fat and increase muscle. While the fat loss is permanent, the muscle tone decreases over time without proper maintenance.
"If you don't actively engage the muscle and work the muscle, your muscle strength will slowly go back to your original state," she notes. "This is like any other workouts if you're working out and go to the gym regularly, you will have increase in muscle bulk and strength."
She explains that while surgery like liposuction can get rid of more fat than EmSculpt Neo is capable of, EmSculpt Neo may be a better option for people as there is virtually no down time.
"A good candidate is someone [who doesn't have] a large amount of fatty tissue, but some subcutaneous fat tissue, who wants their muscle strength and definition to improve," she says. "If someone is very overweight, their results will not be visible. But if their goal is just to increase core strength and to strengthen the muscle, then everyone is a good candidate. The muscle may not show through the layers of fat that you have if you're overweight, but it still can increase your core strength."
In practice, the EmSculpt Neo basically looks like an iron that you have strapped to your area of choice for a half hour at a time. It makes your muscles involuntarily contract in order to strengthen them, while also breaking down fat. Essentially, it’s like you’re performing a supersized workout — without, well, having to workout.
When Le Jolie Med Spa in West Hollywood offered to have me come in for four EmSculptNeo sessions, I jumped at the chance to test out the device. Stars like Lisa Rinna, Ashley Tisdale, Rumer Willis, Drew Barrymore and Kim Kardashian have praised EmSculpt, so I was already familiar with the concept — and very curious to see if it could deliver. While the device can be used currently on your glutes, thighs and arms, I decided to see how EmSculpt Neo would work on my abs.
During my first of four sessions at Le Jolie Med Spa, certified physician’s assistant Daniela Massachi snapped some “before” photos of my stomach, so we could compare at the final session. However, I was told that it was possible to see the final results up to three months after my final session — and that I would see the best results if I kept up with a healthy diet and added some cardio into my exercise routine.
I then laid down on the bed and had the device strapped to my abs. Within a few seconds, the machine began the contraction process — which, honestly, isn’t super easy to explain, and I had never felt a sensation like it in my life. If I had to describe it, the EmSculpt Neo feels almost like a combination of a magnet attempting to suck up my muscles, a low electrical current, and the upper part of a crunch. It wasn’t painful — mostly, it was just weird. However, after a few minutes of on-again, off-again contractions (which were alternated with “tapping” that felt like a stick hitting my stomach) I got used to the sensation — and even had them turn up the device to its full capacity.
By my fourth and final session, which were spaced a week apart, I came to look forward to my visits to Le Jolie Med Spa. (And not just because the spa has the best candles on the planet.) As I was used to the sensation, I could chill out on my phone while having my treatment, and, most importantly, snap selfies to send to friends who had zero clue what I was doing.
At the end of the treatments, the physician’s assistant took some “after” photos, and reminded me that results would continue to come in the proceeding weeks. She also noted that I could have up to eight sessions sequentially, and after that come in for “maintenance” sessions.
So: Did EmSculpt Neo work? Yes — but not because I am now sporting “...Baby, One More Time” abs. Yes, my core was more defined: The line that divides my abs down the middle (known as the “linea alba”) was, specifically, far more prominent. Though I’m a regular exerciser, that line faded pretty quickly once I paused my regular HIIT workouts during the pandemic, and I hadn’t been able to really get it back until my EmSculpt Neo treatments. Definitely a win!
Yet surprisingly, it wasn’t the visual change in my body that made me so impressed by EmSculpt Neo. Instead, it was the way in which the treatments gave me a leg up in my fitness routine, and allowed me to push myself a little bit harder.
Days after my first EmSculpt Neo session, I hit up a spin class, and found myself with significantly better posture on the bike. I didn’t have to constantly remind myself to tighten up my core and throw my shoulders back. After my second session, I found myself holding a plank far more comfortably — and for longer — than I ever had before. My newfound core strength inspired me to get back to HIIT and strength classes, which I had put on the back burner in favor of cardio-based classes and at-home cycling and vertical climbing workouts.
According to Brian Nourian, the co-founder of Le Jolie Med Spa, I’m not the only one who loves EmSculpt Neo. In fact, it’s one of the spa’s most popular services.
“In women clients, I see that a lot of them notice that their waist is being more cinched in,” he tells me. “And they're getting that line down the middle that they love.”
The procedure is also particularly popular amongst men who go to the gym regularly, but can’t quite get the ab definition they crave.
“I have male clients that even go to the gym twice a day, and they couldn't achieve a six pack, but because of EmSculpt Neo, their abs are popping out now,” he explains. “It’s working out 80% of your muscle. An athlete can maybe get 40 to 45% use of their muscle in the gym.”
In his experience, everybody has seen “great results” — which means he doesn’t have to work so hard to push the procedure.
“It speaks for itself,” he notes. “EmSculpt is always booked. [Clients] hear about it from their friends. You can just see it. You can feel it, after just one session. Myself, I was skeptical at first, but they said, ‘Hey, just try it.’ After one session, I felt like I was standing straighter — and that was just after one.”
Would I return for more EmSculpt Neo sessions? Absolutely — provided it fits into the budget, that is. With prices beginning at $850 a session, just one session could cost you a year’s worth of exercise classes. (For four sessions, which I received for free from Le Jolie, the pricing is $2550.) Still, if you have the cash to spend, and loathe strengthening your core solely with planks or building your glutes with endless squats, EmSculpt Neo could be a worthwhile investment.
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