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EmSculpt: The Millennial-Approved Way to Build Muscle

The body-sculpting technology has garnered a mainly Millennial following since hitting the market last summer. Its latest applicator is likely to do the same.

A new technology is taking the “work” out of “working out.”

EmSculpt, the body sculptor that contracts muscles at a degree the body isn’t capable of on its own, is in high demand one year after hitting the market. The technology has been used to strengthen one’s core, gluteal muscles and thighs, and is known to build muscle, burn fat and help the body recover from injuries. It has garnered a mostly Millennial audience despite its hefty price tag, and this month, the newest applicators received FDA clearance for use on the arms, calves and curves of the thighs, allowing patients to build muscle in those areas without actually working out.

“The new applicator makes it a total body machine,” said Dr. Arash Akhavan, whose Manhattan office is the first to receive the updated technology. “The only area we cannot treat with this device is the chest and back muscles.”

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A look at EmSculpt's new applicators, which hit the market this month after receiving FDA clearance.
A look at EmSculpt’s new applicators, which hit the market in July after receiving FDA clearance. Courtesy Image

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The technology, he said, uses “high intensity, focused electromagnetic energy” that sends impulses to the muscles that cause them to contract “much more rapidly than your nervous system can get the muscles to contract” on their own. These “supermaximal contractions” are not only proven to build muscle, they burn fat, too.

“The muscles are being overworked to this degree that they’ve never been worked to before and they are starving for energy,” explained Akhavan. “A chemical signal goes out locally to all the fat cells, saying, ‘We need energy.’ So the fat cells start breaking down their fat into what are called free fatty acids, the building blocks of fat molecules. These free fatty acids are released into the bloodstream to feed the muscles the energy that they need. Some of the fat cells break down all of their fat, so every single fat molecule becomes free fatty acids. That is actually toxic to the fat cells — that’s a good thing, it kills them. So those fat cells are permanently destroyed.”

A typical EmSculpt treatment produces 20,000 supermaximal contractions over 30 minutes. Standard protocol is four treatments over the course of two weeks, which at Akhavan’s office costs a total of $4,000. Depending on the patient’s fitness level, he or she can see results as quickly as right after the treatment ends.

“We had an NHL hockey player come in and have the abdominal treatment and he left with a six-pack on his last day,” Akhavan said.

The Instagram generation’s obsession with body-sculpting and instantaneous results has given way to a generation of technologies and procedures designed to deliver both. Liposuction, injections, TruSculpt and the Kardashian favorite CoolSculpt are among the treatments that fit the bill.

What differentiates EmSculpt is the fact that it not only gives the appearance of muscle, it builds actual muscle.

“I’m turned off by the trend of people injecting fat into their biceps or their calves or fat into their buttock or Sculptra and fillers into their buttock,” Akhavan said. “That’s such a weird concept — injecting temporary things to bulk up an area that’s mimicking muscle. It’s so much more satisfying to build muscle that works.”

No serious risks to EmSculpt have been recorded — “just some minor stuff, like a little bit of soreness,” Akhavan said. “The contradiction would be metal implanted anywhere near the area or any electrical equipment implanted that it could short circuit.”

The technology, he added, is in such high demand there’s a wait list to receive it. And the science speaks for itself.

“It’s on CAT scan, MRI, ultrasound,” he said. “We’ve been able to see that there’s a 15 to 20 percent increase in muscle layer and a 15 to 20 percent decrease in the fat layer in [the treatment] area. It’s a pretty cool result for a few treatments over two weeks.”

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