The Contour Sport is an electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) device, consisting of conductive gel pad electrodes and the belt itself. It’s not really marketed as a weight-loss device; EMS devices rarely are, for one important reason—they don’t work with a layer of fat between skin and muscle. We’ll get into that in a bit.
The Contour Sport is manufactured by Teksmart Fitness LLC—otherwise known as Contour Technology LLC—based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company has a Better Business Bureau file opened since 2008, but they have a D-minus rating because of a backorder situation with their replacement gel pads.
The Contour Sport is cleared for sale by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a Class II medical device, meaning no prescription is needed, “for the purpose of strengthening, tightening, firming and recovering healthy muscles.”
Contour Sport Claims
Get Ready for a Total Body Exercise Experience.
Warm-Up Better. Potentiation Program: Warm-up your muscles quickly and prepare them to work faster and easier at the beginning of training or physical activity.”
- Endurance Program: Delays muscle fatigue during activity—Activates more muscles fiber—Improves overall endurance.
- Resistance Program: Increases strength of slow-twitch muscles—Improves power of fast-twitch fibers—Increases resistance to prolonged efforts.
- Strength Program: Focuses on the fast-twitch muscle fibers—Increases muscle strength better than conventional training—Reduces the risk of injury.
- Explosive Strength Program: Increases strength for short bursts of power.
Recover Faster. Active Recovery Program: Relaxes and refreshes tired, sore muscles like a massage—Draws fresh nutrients into the muscle—Speeds removal of Lactic Acid—Promotes the release of endorphins—Accelerates muscle recovery from days to minutes. (formatting adjusted)
The company has a of 30-day refund policy:
Your trial period begins the day you receive the Contour Core Sculpting System. If you are not completely satisfied with your Contour Core Sculpting System after using if for a full 30 days, contact Customer Care…within 5 days of the end of your trial period and request a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA#) number.
The Contour Sport also is easily disguised underneath your clothing, which is nice for being outside of the home. Because it directly stimulates the nerves to voluntary muscles without your brain having to send the conscious messages, you can exercise while your brain is focused on other things.
With Contour you are exercising. But you’re doing it in a more efficient way. The Contour does what the human brain typically does. Rather than the brain sending an electrical impulse to the muscles, the Contour delivers the impulse directly to the nerves that control muscles causing it to contract and relax just like you were doing traditional exercises.
It is said to give you at least 200 contractions in a 30-minute time period.
Contour Sport Ingredients
The belt comes with gel pad electrodes (which can be used independently of the belt so you can use it on your biceps, thighs, etc), a care and usage booklet and a storage/travel pouch.
The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind The Contour Sport
Most electrical muscle stimulators (EMS devices) that have been reviewed by FDA are intended for use in physical therapy and rehabilitation under the direction of a health care professional. If a company wants to sell EMS devices directly to consumers, the company needs to show FDA it can be used safely and effectively in that setting.
According to the website for Australian rehabilitation clinic chain PhysioWorks,
It takes approximately 10000 repetitions for your brain to learn how to quickly send a message to your muscles via the quickest nerve pathways. This contraction pattern becomes your “memory engram.” The more frequent your muscle is recruited the better your body becomes at finding the quickest way to recruit that muscle. EMS can potentially provide you with repeated contractions to accelerate this learning process.
EMS technology has been around for many years, and has been used quite frequently in the medical rehabilitation field. People who have just undergone surgeries have some sort of electrotherapy to get their muscles functioning back to normal. There have been multiple studies done on this type of therapy, but how does it measure up for weight loss?
The overwhelming conclusion just from years of customer reviews for various EMS devices is that the electrical impulse has to be able to reach the muscles in order to contract them. So while it may help to tone and strengthen an already flat stomach, for those looking to lose fat, an EMS device is premature. And even with a flat stomach, EMS stimulation doesn’t magically give you washboard abs. There’s a whole rigmarole fitness models and competitive bodybuilders go through to get that look, and even for them it’s temporary.
In a study published in the 2002 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a handful of college age students were tested on the effects of electrical muscle stimulation for strength and change in body composition over the course of a few weeks. Because EMS devices have been advertised to help a person increase their strength, tone up their body, and decrease body weight in general, they wanted to try it out for size. The results were less than impressive.
The EMS group underwent stimulation 3 times per week following the manufacturer’s recommendations, whereas the control group underwent concurrent sham stimulation sessions. EMS had no significant effect on the any of the measured parameters. Thus, claims relative to the effectiveness of EMS for the apparently healthy individual are not supported by the findings of this study.
And the FDA puts another nail in the scientific coffin:
Using these devices alone will not give you “six-pack” abs. Applying electrical current to muscles may cause muscles to contract. Stimulating muscles repeatedly with electricity may eventually result in muscles that are strengthened and toned to some extent but will not, based on currently available data, create a major change in your appearance without the addition of diet and regular exercise. …
Doctors may use electrical muscle stimulators for patients who require muscle re-education, relaxation of muscle spasms, increased range of motion, prevention of muscle atrophy, and for treating other medical conditions which usually result from a stroke, a serious injury, or major surgery. Again, the effect of using these devices is primarily to help a patient recover from impaired muscle function due to a medical condition, not to increase muscle size enough to affect appearance.
EMS is more geared toward rehabilitation, and getting a person’s muscles firing better after a surgery versus using it as a weight loss tool. Nonetheless, you will burn calories when your muscles are contracting hundreds of times on their own, but do customers notice a difference?
Word On The Street About The Contour Sport
There are hardly any customer voices for this product, likely because you cannot purchase it except on their website. And TeKsmart Fitness has apparently stopped making replacement gel pads, vital to Contour Sport’s functionality, and the website gives no indication as to when they are going to come back. When you’re paying almost $200 for a product, you kind of want to be sure you can use it more than 30 times; that means having an assurance replacement parts are available.
It was once sold on Amazon.com, but it is no longer available there.
And EMS devices aren’t without their cautions. Again from the FDA:
FDA has received reports of shocks, burns, bruising, skin irritation, and pain associated with the use of some of these devices. There have been a few recent reports of interference with implanted devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators. Some injuries required hospital treatment. It is very important that these devices be properly designed, manufactured, and labeled with clear and complete instructions for use and that anyone using them follows the instructions carefully.
The Bottom Line: Is The Contour Sport Worth A Try?
Definitely not. Aside from the fact that EMS technology isn’t for fat loss and won’t do a thing for your abs if it can’t get the electrical signal to your muscles through a layer of fat, Contour Sport doesn’t sell their replacement gel pads. And while there are generic replacement pads on Amazon, there are also other ab belts that sell for a lot less money.
Again, EMS devices don’t work through layers of body fat. If you can’t feel the electrical impulses in your abs, you may as well take it back and invest in a mini-trampoline instead.