We love a bit of fitness tech wizardry in the Home Gym Experts office and today I got to check out a rather interesting bit of kit in the ab market that’s a bit different to a lot of other gym gear. In this guide I’ll be covering everything I learned about Sixpad and whether or not it has any real benefit in building that mythical perfect six pack.
What exactly is Sixpad?
Sixpad is a brand that has a range of products in the home fitness space. Their main product range is based around the use of electrical stimulation to contract muscles and make them stronger and bigger.
And their flagship product was the sixpad abdominal training pad. It’s a kind of pad you attach to your abdominal area and it works those muscles by contracting them using an electrical current.
Electrical stimulation products have been around for as long as I can remember and martial arts legend Bruce Lee used to experiment with them in his training back in the 70s! There’s a whopping difference between those early products and what we’ve got today.
How does Sixpad work?
The Sixpad system uses special gel pads which go between the electrical connection and your skin. You don’t need to put any special lotion on. (Doing that will actually reduce the effectiveness of the pads).
Once the connection is made, a 20hz frequency wave will tweak the muscle group in a similar way to resistance training or bodyweight exercises would do. Without you having to do any work yourself other than sit and feel your muscles tighten up and relax repeatedly.
What is ‘EMS’ and how’s it used in training?
EMS or Electrical Muscle Stimulation uses a simple electrical current to contract muscles. The reason Sixpad uses a 20Hz pulse is that it gets you enough stimulation without leaving muscles feeling over-trained (yep, it’s powerful stuff).
It’s a technology that’s not only used to give your abs a boost but it’s also commonly used by physios across the UK and other parts of the world to strengthen weak muscles, reduce swelling and relieve pain. It can even help heal wounds apparently.
What’s the science say – is this a sham?
EMS seems to increase muscle mass and functional properties of limb muscles
This all sounds really good but have there been any published studies on EMS and does it actually promote hypertrophy muscle growth?
A 2018 Study did an in-depth review of EMS, in particular, they were interested in how it could prevent muscle atrophy with age. The results showed that EMS does indeed prevent sarcopenia (muscles getting weaker with age) and can also build strength and size in muscles.
“we may conclude that EMS is safe and would limit or reverse the sarcopenic process and its structural alterations by modulating molecular processes involved in atrophy development. EMS seems to increase muscle mass and functional properties of limb muscles,”
What does Sixpad do differently from what’s gone before?
There were a few things that got me interested in the Sixpad product. Here are some of the main changes from the old-school fitness mag ads gadgets:
- No wires – Everything is wireless these days and the Sixpads can be charged and then used anywhere (even when you’re at work – if you can keep a poker face…) You charge it with a USB cable.
- They don’t weigh as much as you might think – Older EMS systems were bulky and awkward. The Sixpad system has a slim profile and a lightweight across the range.
- They’re a lot more advanced – One of the things that Sixpad did was a lot of research into finding the best level of current that would tone the muscles without making them feel tired or exhausted.
Is it just for abs then?
No. Although the name makes it sound like you’ll be using this around your middle, there are actually a lot of other muscle groups it can work out. The Sixpad brand has a number of products, each looking more sci-fi than the next, aimed at working different parts of your body.
This can’t be safe!?
If you think strapping electrical pads to your abs and then passing a current through your skin sounds like a recipe for disaster, you’d be forgiven. I had my reservations but this kind of treatment has been used in clinics around the world for many years and is completely safe.
Where can’t you put the pads?
EMS is safe to use on any of your muscles, with a few exceptions. You can’t use this above the neck, areas around the heart, spine, chest or shoulder blades. Anyone with an existing heart condition won’t be able to use the Sixpad anywhere on their body.
Ease of use
Getting up and running with the Sixpad is fairly straightforward.
You don’t need to use it in conjunction with the app and there’s nothing fancy to set up. Here’s the super-quick version of how to get it set up.
- Attach the little gel pads – Just pull them off and whack them onto the electric connections on the six pad.
- Turn it on – Make sure you give it a full charge first.
- Start a standard 23-minute training session – The Sixpad has a simple + button that does it all for you, with one press.
- Put it back on the included storage sheet – once the workout is finished, it turns off itself and you can store it safely away.
The 2022 Sixpad family and a rundown of what each one does
Sixpads has a decent range of products designed to cover each muscle group. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ is the Body Fit which can be applied pretty much anywhere you want. Other Sixpads cater to specific areas like your abs. Here’s a quick rundown of the range.
For abs: Absfit and Abs Belt
These gadgets work your ab muscles with the Abs Fit (versions 1 & 2) being strap-free and the abs belt strapping around your waist. The Abs Belt offers more
Sixpad’s leg trainer has two whopping great big sensors on it that are ideal for working your hamstrings, quadriceps, and adductor muscles.
The Arm Belt can be wrapped around your arms and used to work out biceps, triceps and forearms. You don’t need two of these as you can do one arm at a time and then swap, but they are also available in a twin set.
This is a nifty little bit of kit that can be applied to any muscle in your body, from biceps to inner thighs. It’s small profile means you can stick it on any hard to reach muscles and set the program away.
I think a lot of people will go for this as it’s fairly inexpensive and lets you do pretty much your whole body, albeit one group at a time.
The Foot Fit
This product is noticeably different from the rest in that it’s not some kind of pad you attach to yourself. Instead, it’s a floor plate that you place your feet on, a bit like a weird-looking bathroom scale.
Other than that, it works under the same idea, using EMS to stimulate calves, and tibia muscles all the way up to your thighs. It will also improve circulation in your feet.
This one definitely takes some getting used to but there are a number of benefits and it’s something you could even use under your desk while you’re at work.
As well as the electric Bluetooth fit tech, there are also some interesting ‘suits’ up for sale. This sounds more high tech than it is.
Don’t expect to strap into a suit and lie back as it tones you up. While that would be great, what this mini-range offers is a collection of tights, waistbands and arm suits.
Whichever piece you buy, the Sixpad clothing all does the same job. It’s cleverly designed to create extra resistance when you’re moving your joints. For example, the arm suit sections create quite a tug on your arms when you’re using your elbow hinge joint that can work your muscles without holding any kind of weight.
You can buy the segments separately if you just want to target your arms or get the whole lot if you want to look like batman (or batgirl – there are suits for both sexes) in your home gym.
Getting to know the Sixpad app
Like any good fitness gear, the Sixpad has its own app. So what exactly does the app do, and does it have any practical uses?
- It has a training visualization – Where you can ‘see’ your abs being worked out, although it’s just a graphic showing a simulation of what could be happening.
- You can adjust the level via your smartphone – Instead of using the control on the unit itself, you can set it digitally.
- Track your usage – You can see how often and on which days you have used your Sixpad.
Is the app useful?
In all honesty, this product works fine without the app. There’s no real incentive to use the app, and as mentioned in the ‘cons’ section below, it’s not in the best shape at the time of writing either.
You can see what the Sixpad app has to offer before you buy, at the App Store.
Who is the Sixpad gear aimed at?
I always like to do a write up on who I think will get the most out of a product and who won’t find this useful. Here’s some thoughts on who will and won’t like this product.
Who will love the Sixpad?
If you’re already fit and into training, I think you’ll find this a good supplement to your training. The way it makes the muscles feel primes you for a workout and could be used either before your workout, or as a sort of split routine where you could do this in the morning and then weight training later in the day.
If you’ve got a sedentary job, like I do during the day, this could also be really effective and have some benefits for you.
Age-wise, this is a good product for healthy seniors or anyone in training looking to get some additional improvement, strength and tone from their body.
Who should probably wait?
However, if you’re just starting your home gym, there are other bits of kit you should probably invest in before this. Weight benches, dumbbells, a decent barbell and weights, a good rack. If you’ve already got a decent setup, then adding a couple of the Sixpad products to your routine isn’t a bad idea though.
Does this replace training with weights?
Sadly, although the Sixpad gear is something pretty much anyone could benefit from, it’s not going to replace resistance training. Instead, I find it’s better to think of it as a really effective thing to do alongside your workout. I know a lot of people like to use this before they work out too.
While your muscles will be stimluated, toned and given a good workout, for muscle growth you’re going to need to also keep up with your progressive weight training and other activities.
How much does it cost?
You can get involved with Sixpad with their Body Fit 2, from around £175. At the time of writing, that’s their lowest priced product. The Abs Fit costs £180 for the original version or £230 for the improved one.
You can save money if you go for one of the available bundles, which combines things like two arm pads and one Abs Fit in one pack.
The 6 things I liked most with Sixpad
- It’s comfier than it looks in the pics – While it looks like a piece of armour, the Sixpad is actually a bit of a softie and can flex and fit around the stomach (or other parts) really comfortably.
- You can feel it doing something – You’ll definitely want to start on a lower setting until you get used to it. Once it starts, you’ll feel a rhythmic pulse that is not unpleasant and feels akin to doing ab work like crunches, without the bad back.
- It definitely helps core strength – As much as I bang on about core strength, it’s something I definitely don’t do enough with. And this belt could help with that. I could definitely work and wear one of the ab sets and it’s only an extra 20 odd minutes.
- Should last a long time – This isn’t a cheap product you can get at Lidl. The Sixpad is a well-made bit of kit that I think will stand up to a fair bit of use. It’s also got plenty of power in it (thankfully you can start off small and build up) so I think this will be of use to the more muscly guys and girls out there too.
- There’s a lot of science behind this and it’s used by physios too – This feels like it’s doing a lot but it’s reassuring to know that it’s not just some gadget a company came up with. EMS is a serious tool that has a lot of research behind it.
What’s the customer feedback and reception been like for the Sixpad gear?
“My partner and I have been using the SIXPAD belt for around 8 months. We have both seen great results and I have found it particularly useful to help build my core strength after pregnancy.” – Lauren (Verified Buyer)
What are the downsides to the Sixpad system?
It’s not a cheap product
Although the Sixpad system offers good value for money in terms of the quality of the product, the price can add up if you’re planning to get a number of pieces.
The app has low reviews
If you’ve taken a look at the app that Sixpad uses, you’ll have been met with less than favourable review scores. With one user stating:
“The product is good but the App needs more work. Considering that consumers have been complaining for over two years, it’s a shame that the manufacturers have not responded”
You can only hit a few muscle groups at a time
Another downside is that this isn’t a full-body workout. It’s very niche and you’ll be targeting specific muscles during the time you’re wearing it. It would be amazing if you could buy a full suit, but it would cost a fortune if one existed.
You could do your legs, arms, abs and other parts at the same time if you buy a number of pieces but that will involve high costs too.
How often can you use the Sixpad?
You can use this gear every day if you want to. The only thing you have to be careful of is the same with any kind of exercise; muscle fatigue.
Are they waterproof?
Obviously, water and electricity don’t play well together. Having said that, you can use this if even if you do get sweaty during a workout. But obviously you won’t be able to do the backstroke in the local pool and use Sixpad to do your abs at the same time.
Can you wear a Sixpad 24/7?
Sadly there are some limits to using the Sixpad. I was slightly disappointed to learn I can’t work out when I sleep. The idea of going to bed with manhandles and waking up with a giant six-pack isn’t possible as you can’t wear these while you sleep.
Takeaway: Is Sixpad actually any good?
The Sixpad system is a brilliant additional way to work pretty much every muscle group you can think of. (Albeit a limited number at a time). It doesn’t take long to use and is the perfect time saver if you use it when watching TV, reading or working.
It’s not the cheapest equipment you can buy for your home gym and you can definitely do without owning one. The app too has some work.
But if you’re looking for a way to tone and strengthen muscles without doing any extra work, definitely have a look into Sixpad. You can really feel the Sixpad working and it’s the ideal way to strengthen and tone at other times during the day.