Ab Wave Review: Fat Marketing Promises Thin on Truth

| May 19, 2012 | 49 Comments

ab wave exercise gimmickWhat Is the Ab Wave System?
The Ab Wave is 2012′s addition to a long line of questionable infomercial exercise gimmicks with little redeeming value.  Unlike other ab gadgets, this one takes lazy to a whole new level.  You actually sit in the machine and then swing side to side, using momentum to carry you through the range of motion.  It may sound convincing, but can this product really deliver svelte abs and obliques?

I have to confess, it never ceases to amaze me at how purveyors of infomercial exercise gimmicks keep coming up with new ways to repackage the same old crap.  Even more disconcerting is that they use the EXACT same marketing tactics over and over again…and people still fall for it hook line and sinker.

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Two years ago, I authored a comprehensive point by point debunking of the Ab Circle Pro’s questionable marketing, which contributed to the company being fined $25 million for making false claims. I honestly didn’t think it could get much worse, but then this week I was alerted to the Ab Wave.  The majority of the marketing copy mimics the same tactics used by the Ab Circle Pro, SpinGym, and Liproxenol (i.e., lose weight quickly and easily without the effort).  Sadly, there are reports of Ab Wave infomercials popping up all over the radar in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom.  I’d be surprised if it wasn’t trickling into other countries as well, given that infomercials tend to creep like an insidious pancreatic cancer lesion.

Therefore, the purpose of this review is to systematically address the Ab Wave System’s main marketing claims and provide a bit of balance to their unfairly lopsided sleight-of-hand promotional materials.  I have transcribed the audio portion of the Ab Wave sales video which can be found at the end of this article (Click here for transcript).

Ab Wave Claim:
From the promotional website: “It’s fun and it’s easy!  Just sit and get fit!*

Response:
Ah yes, there it is, that pesky asterisk!  Why do they always have to tack conditions onto those promised miracle results?

The fine print below it states “By adhering to the Ab Wave System, which consists of adhering to a healthful meal plan, exercise on the ab wave machine, plus regular cardio or aerobic exercise.  Your results may vary.”

The marketing material interchangeably uses the terms “Ab Wave” in reference to the machine and the “Ab Wave System” which refers to the machine, healthy eating plan, and the recommendation to do aerobic activity.   The sleight of hand is that the promotional materials are all disproportionately biased towards the machine but give comparatively little attention the the overall “system.”  This is where consumers often confuse cause and effect vs. coincidence.  Results obtained from healthy eating and regular aerobic exercise (cause and effect) while doing the Ab Wave machine a few times per week might be erroneously attributed to the machine (coincidence) instead of your hard work.  In the grand scheme of things, you would fare better by saving your money and just opt for the healthy lifestyle instead.

 

Ab Wave Claims:
(1) From the promotional website:
“From the Easy Slide & Glide movement to the Total Body Twist & Turn motion, your body will go from frumpy to fabulous!”

(2) From the promotional video:
“The secret is its unique “fast track technology” uses the fun swinging momentum of gravity to target your upper, middle, lower abs and obliques all in one fat-burning fun wavelike motion, firing your core like never before.”

Response:
The promoters claim that the easy slide and glide movement or ‘fast track technology‘ is a beneficial movement, but in reality, the ease of use is also one of its greatest limitations.  The fact that you’re 1) sitting upright with no significant gravitational load on your abs; and 2) using momentum instead of your muscles to complete the movement only serves to decrease the effectiveness of the machine.

Also, because your body weight is supported by the machine (i.e., you’re in the seated position) and momentum is doing the majority of the work, you are unlikely to achieve any appreciable increase in heart rate and, consequently, training intensity.

 

Ab Wave Claim:
From promotional video:  “Introducing the Ab Wave System!  You just sit and wave to get fit, flat washboard abs like this (showing ripped shirtless guy).”

Response:
It is highly improbable that you will get “washboard abs” using the Ab Wave machine.  The low exercise intensity is unlikely to place any strenuous demands on the abdominal musculature, plus your calorie expenditure would likely be insignificant (given the fact that your body weight is supported in the seated position and you’re using momentum to minimize muscle activation).

 

Ab Wave Claim:
“Best of all, it’s fun and easy. Wave goodbye to stressful crunches that strain your neck. Wave goodbye to bulky machines that cost thousands.  The Ab Wave eliminates every obstacle that kept you from getting in shape.”

Response:
This is where they slap you with a litany of common sales objections and then provide you with a simple solution to a complex problem (obesity).  It gives the impression that the only other way to get into shape is by doing crunches or using “bulky machines.”  It gives no consideration to more practical and relevant activities such as walking or cycling which, if done on a regular basis, will contribute to fat loss around the mid-section.  As for specific conditioning, there are other options besides “stressful crunches” for conditioning the abdominal musculature (i.e., planks, side planks, etc).

 

Ab Wave Claim:
“What if you could get off the floor and into a comfortable padded seat and wave goodbye to fat?  Imagine losing inches while you watch TV!”

Response:
This claim panders to the “pleasure seeking, pain avoiding” side of human nature.  While exercise does not necessarily need to be impossibly difficult in order to get results, it does take long-term effort and commitment.

 

Ab Wave Claim:
Ab Wave helps you fire your core like never before!

Response:
Wait, hold on!  The Ab Circle Pro already staked its claim on this claim three years ago?  Could it really be possible that there are two gadgets competing for the same title?  In my opinion, it looks a bit fishy and tends to make me wonder if it’s the same company with a new gimmick blowing the same tired smoke up everyone’s ass.

 

Ab Wave Claim:
Best of all, it stores easily under your bed or in your closet.

Response:
Like most infomercial ab gadgets, this one will likely wind up in the dusty graveyard under your bed.

 

Price: How much does the Ab Wave cost?
The Ab Wave System is far from cheap considering it’s sold on overblown hype without a single scientific research report on its effectiveness.  It costs $14.95 for a 30-day trial plus $19.95 shipping and handling, plus taxes.  Then, after 30 days, you are liable for 4 payments of S39.95 plus taxes.  Total cost will be approximately $194.70 plus applicable taxes, so likely over $200.  If you’re looking to buy the Ab Wave in Australia, New Zealand, or other countries, the price might be higher due to import taxes.

Where is the Ab Wave sold?
The Ab Wave appears to be sold through a Canadian website, but also looks to be available in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand markets.  However, to the best of my knowledge, this is a relatively new product and, based on my observations, does not yet appear to have the same sales and distribution infrastructure in place yet.

 

Conclusion
The Ab Wave machine (as part of the “Ab Wave System”) appears to be yet another  too-good-to-be-true infomercial gimmick sold via misleading marketing.  Much of the sales copy appears to be eerily similar to another questionable product, the Ab Circle Pro, and is based on the notion that losing weight is quick and easy.  As with the Ab Circle Pro’s marketing strategy, the primary emphasis is on the exercise machine.  However,  the low intensity of the movement is unlikely to result in any significant calorie expenditure (and consequently fat loss).  It is more likely that weight loss would stem from the collective Ab Wave “System,” which includes the healthy eating plan and recommends additional aerobic activity.

Bottom line: I would advise consumers not to buy the Ab Wave (save your $200) and instead just improve your diet (reduce soda, burgers, fries, and candy) and get into a regular walking program (all free).

 


Transcript of the Ab Wave infomercial

Ab Wave pitch man:
Warning! Warning!  Do NOT adjust your set!  What if you could get off the floor and into a comfortable padded seat and wave goodbye to fat?

Introducing the Ab Wave System!  You just sit and wave to get fit, flat washboard abs like this (showing ripped shirtless guy).

Best of all, it’s fun and easy. Wave goodbye to stressful crunches that strain your neck. Wave goodbye to bulky machines that cost thousands.  The Ab Wave eliminates every obstacle that kept you from getting in shape.

The secret is its unique “fast track technology” uses the fun swinging momentum of gravity to target your upper, middle, lower abs and obliques all in one fat-burning fun wavelike motion, firing your core like never before.

And check this out – just release the knob and twist to blast away those obliques. You’ll firm and flatten your abs in weeks.

Testimonial from woman 1:
On the Ab Wave System, I lost 17 pounds, 13 inches and I feel fantastic!

Testimonial from woman 2:
Just try it because you’ll begin to notice results right away. It’s easy to use and it definitely works.

Note: a disclaimer in microscopic print is displayed during the testimonial.  This is completely illegible on the website because the video display is too small.

Ab Wave pitch man:
No more straining your back and neck. The ab wave gets you off the floor and into a comfortable padded seat. It’s perfect for every fitness level. Raise your legs for a more intense workout.

Imagine losing inches while you watch TV. Best of all, it stores easily under your bed or in your closet.  Gym memberships are expensive. and who has the time? These machines cost thousands, but you can try the ab wave system for 30 days for only $14.95.

If you can sit in a chair, you can ride the Ab Wave to the best shape of your life. Don’t delay, order the Ab Wave today!

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Exercise, Health Watchdog, Obesity

About the Author ()

Dr. Bill Sukala is a clinical exercise physiologist, university lecturer, and health writer. He holds a PhD in Exercise Science with a research focus in obesity and type 2 diabetes, a masters degree in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis in cardiology, and a bachelors degree in Nutrition. In his free time, you will find him traveling and surfing around the world! Follow him on Facebook, , and Twitter.

Comments (49)

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  1. anonymous says:

    bit of googling brought up the ab wave trademark registration from 2003 (http://www.trademarkia.com/ab-wave-78139593.html):
    according to this, the AB wave is primarily classified under
    - Games and playthings;
    - gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes;
    - decorations for Christmas trees (!!!!!!!!)
    how hilarious is that :D

  2. Helen says:

    Thank you so much for articles like these they really save us wasting money one can ill afford to loose…

  3. rachel says:

    Haha I watched this in the hospital at three in the morning or something…the ad repeated and repeated and repeated. It looks pretty ridiculous, especially the part in the ad when they show the photoshopped ‘fat’ woman transforming into the photoshopped ‘perfectly shaped’ woman

    • Bill Sukala, PhD says:

      Thanks for your comment Rachel. Yes, it is pretty much carpet bombing at its finest. I just wish more people could see past this nonsense. No need for gadgets and gimmicks. People that lose weight and keep it off simply make healthy lifestyle changes and stick with it for the long haul!

      • Sezza says:

        What about the slendertone abflex belt? There are lots of good reviews on this product however I am always skeptical. What do you think?

        • Hi Sezza, the slendertone belt uses basic electrostimulation much like what you’d find in a physiotherapist’s office. However, the idea that you can just zap your way to leaner fitter you is a bit unrealistic and does not tell the whole tale. This completely ignores the fact that 1) it does nothing to reduce body fat; and 2) you are not working your abs as part of your body’s natural biomechanical chain. In other words, even if it does mildly stimulate the abs and keeps them from atrophying, the reality is the training effect is “out of sync” with the rest of the body. See my Slendertone review here (and in the other highlighted links). Slendertone belts give the faulty impression that you can “lose weight without the effort” but in the long run most users will end up disappointed. Notice they give you a free exercise and nutrition guide. If the product stripped fat off the belly by itself, then they wouldn’t have to tell you to do the two main ingredients you should be doing anyway. Moral of the story, forget the slendertone belt and just do real exercise and eat less refined food. Hope this helps.

    • Anon says:

      #rachel
      The photoshop ‘fat’ woman with ab muscles over her rolls of fat was hilarious!

  4. I am just writing a piece on the exact same thing – can not believe these products – my favorite is they say – and no cardio – then then go on to say it combines abs and cardio….

    No wonder people are lazy and broken!

  5. Scott says:

    Excellent comments to warn potential victims of these ridiculous exercise gimmicks. Fresh healthy food and regular exercise is the key. Unfortunately human nature is always trying to take the easy road. The only useful benefit of this product I see, is to get the body used to motion sickness if you are considering sailing the Pacific in a small yacht.

    • Bill Sukala, PhD says:

      Thanks for your comment Scott. Too right! I wonder what they’ll devise next!! Seriously, it never ceases to amaze me the creativity in creating hokey exercises to make people part with their money.

  6. Mr Kiwi says:

    You a a bit of a hypocrite. you bag all these machines yet your website does the same thing with pointless adverst for wrinkle saving secrets or 5 foods you should not eat, pay us money and we will tell you the secrets. People buying this have made the concious decision that they want to loose weght and want to do something about it.

    If this is what gets them into keeping fit then who are you to crap on the idea.

    You are a doctor (well you put PHD after your name) so you should be able to remain impartial and offer encouragement to people that want to get up adn do something.

    Then again, maybe the trut hurts and this post wil be deleted.

    • Bill Sukala, PhD says:

      Hi Mr Kiwi, Thank you for taking time out to express your opinion. I think your comment may refer to the use of Google Adsense. You should know that this is something that is automatically provided by Google so there are times where a hokey ad may pop up. This is a bit of a sore subject for me too since it is clear I don’t support questionable/non-scientific products. I am considering looking at other ways to help offset the cost of hosting etc. On that note, while I am for people getting fit, for reasons mentioned in my blog post, I am not convinced the Ab Wave Pro is much more than hot air and hype.

      • Alin says:

        Whilst the information on Bill’s site is informed and helpful to those contemplating the machine. In my opinion, Bill you are one-sided. The machine may or may not give results, depending on how people choose to use it at home. Maybe it does or does not give a cardio workout. However, I didn’t see any mention of the toning affects it may or may not have. From past experience with this gimmick machines, with consistent use, it certainly contributed to a toned physique. So I agree, Bill, your comments as a PhD, should also include the encouragment to those who feel the need to buy a machine to help (yes it’s the easy way out for them, but, if it works for them, then, that is a positive).

  7. Denise says:

    Thank you I had just googled abwave and your site came up first. Thank you I have just saved myself a heap of money and will just conTYinue on my stationery bicycle.

  8. Claude says:

    i have seen the add on tv…it looks convincing with all the fit people doing the excercise and all the promises, thanks for your review i wont waste my money

  9. Thanks for this wonderful informative material.Please continue to use your knowledge to enlighten the public.I almost fell for the advert few mins ago.Is there really an easy way to loose belly fat?

  10. Sara says:

    Like most everyone else, THANK YOU. I just got up to the bathroom and saw this AD on the TV (my husband was asleep in front of) so watched it. The AD only specified delivery cost so I googled the Ab Wave and saw your review first. I’ve had a stroke and need to ease stress on my affected knee. This system looked (as they do) too good to be true. Of course it is. Thank you again and Thank YOU Google for directing me to THIS important 2GB site :)

  11. Ab wave user says:

    I bought this machine second hand a month ago for half the price. I wouldnt have bought it new but as it was less than half the price i decided to. Thia machine works amazingly!! It comes with a dvd and u not only do the ab wave system by itself you can use resistance bands to work on other parts of your body. The video also shows you other exercises to with with the use of the ab wave but not on it. It does work and i use it every night and morning while watching tv. Half an hour goes quick on it if you are watching tv. The meal plan they give you is ridiculous and noone would be able to survive on it haha i dont stick to their meal plan but just eat healthier than i used to. I still eat takeaway and icecream 1-2 times a week and it still has affects. Amazing machine once you have it but the ad makes it look like crap!

    • Bill Sukala, PhD says:

      Why not just keep up with your healthy eating habits and non-abwave exercises and save your money. You’ll likely get the same results. Thanks for your comment.

      • Ab wave user says:

        Because i already have the abwave and it works so im not wasting any money. U use ur abs i dont know what you are on about in your article. Even though you are sitting down it activates them. Have you even used the machine? Then you wouldnt have a clue if it worked or not?! Some people are so quick to judge. If you get the chance buy a second hand machine they do work and are good :) results worked for me!!! :D

  12. wanting an abwave says:

    I am getting married in may 2012 and i am currently watching the ad for the ab wave. i need something like this to help tone me so i fit my dress more comfortably as i have gained a lot of weight and am struggling to get rid of it. do i bite the bullet and get one to help me. i need results and get back into shape before my wedding.

  13. Abwave user says:

    I brought this machine about 3 months ago and have not changed my diet in any way and have not increased my exercise routine apart from the use of the ab wave every day for about 30 minutes. It has helped me loose 15 kilos and I have visable abs. Did you even bother to research or try this machine out before judging?? I have recommended this machine to any of my friends who expressed the desire to loose weight or to those who ask how I did it. I’ve never looked back since buying it.

  14. Olive says:

    I tried this out on a 30 day trial and decided to keep it as im actually using it every day. part of the problem for me being very busy was actually doing any exercise at all. I dont know if this is the best machine out there but it works for me :D

    Being a doctor you should acknowledge that any exercise is good exercise.

    • Bill Sukala, PhD says:

      Hi Olive,
      Thanks for your comment. I agree that a little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing. However, I take particular issue with the over-the-top, if not outlandish, marketing that is used to promote these things. People do not need to spend money on these types of gadgets when it is just as effective and economical to go out for a walk. You should also note many of these products give you a diet plan which, if followed even without the machine, would likely result in weight loss. Kind regards and best wishes to you in your efforts.

  15. alma says:

    Thank u for this review. I am lucky to come across this review as my friend who fall to this gimmick is selling me her extra ab wave. She has 2 as she was told that she was lucky to be the 38th caller as they will give her extra ab wave equipment for no extra price.but then the price of 1 equipment is AUD 399. I then realised after reading this review that she got ripped off…poor girl.

  16. Bev says:

    I have a metabolic muscle disease which means I can’t do aerobic exercise and also have weak muscles and tendons which damage easily and have led to two hip replacements. I thought the abwave might be helpful as it is non weight bearing exercise. Do you think it might be helpful in my case?

    • Dear Bev,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I think you have to make a decision about what your specific health goals are and what you’d like to accomplish. It may be worth your while to consult a clinical exercise physiologist in your area who would be familiar with your medical concerns and could safely guide you down a safe path to health. You might benefit from something along the lines of aquatic exercise which offers some support (and a warm environment). A stationary bike might also provide you with a reasonable workout with support (i.e., the seat). With regards to the Ab Wave machine, I am skeptical of this and many gadgets like it because they tend to pitch themselves as a catch-all for everyone, plus the lines about being quick, easy, effortless, etc. I’m not a fan of simple solutions to complex problems and I do believe that is mostly what these overpriced gadgets are. Given your medical concerns, it would be worthwhile having a proper consultation with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. Since it looks like you’re in Australia, a good place to start would be: http://www.essa.org.au. Type in your post code and it will bring up exercise physiologists in your area. Best wishes!

      • Bev says:

        Thank you so much. I will do that :-)

        • Kris says:

          I have borrowed the Abwave to try. I have had a stroke and thought it might be an easy exercise for me, I find it quite difficult, my arms and legs tire quickly, my back aches, I guess its different for everyone, you really need to try one to know if it is right for you

  17. Jenni says:

    Thank you for the review. I am looking for effective ways to tone my abs and hips without having to sign up to a gym. Suggestions of what I can do or where I could go to look????? Thanks :)

  18. Souls baboul says:

    I highly recommend to use the abwaver like your going to sit on it on the side.as if it’s a horse up and Down. Abwaver did not work for me. Since I paid $450 plus I recommend to use it this way. The machine doesn’t work there way.gimmick.

  19. Souls baboul says:

    Forgot to mention don’t forget to crunch for the abs.I put my legs over the machine ready to ride like a horse and go slide forward crunch and back it works better.

  20. Natasha says:

    Well im gonna get it, it sounds good, ive been trying to tone my midsection for all of my life.. I always watch what I eat in fact I am vegetarian, ive had lipo on my stomach but I just cant seem to get the abs, ive joined the gym all my life on and off.. This last time I paid for extra personal training until she stuffed up my knee by making me do a lunge to many.. Ive got a treadmill in my home but there goes the knee thing again.. I cant do it that often. I am not motivated to get on the ground and do situps or knee lifts. This sounds like a wonderful invention.

    • Hi Natasha, please come back and leave comment on how you went with the product. Cheers, Bill

    • K-dawg says:

      Sorry to say, you are doing it wrong! Everything. You cannot spot target fat loss, and abs will start to show, on anyone, when the body fat levels are low enough. Strong men who compete and throw kegs and such will have killer abs. But they hide behind a wall of gut that they gain as part of their eating plan. As for going to the gym “all your life” on and off, the heck does that mean? You’re either in, or you’re out and if you’re in and you work hard, you will get results. I would most definately kick that personal trainer right in the shins. Perhaps you should consider trying HIIT classes or take a boxing fitness path, more high intensity short burst workouts that will make you sweat ( not that this is a sign of fat loss) and make your body burn up the fat it is storing for energy. As for being a vegetarian… Sounds like you might be better off seeing a dietitian and making a correct eating plan. If you eat wrong, even a vegetarian can eat wrong, you will not see results.
      I don’t mean to be mean or snide or even demotivating as I write a blog purely for motivational reasons, but to have wasted your money on this junk, even after reading this debunking article… I think someone should give you a push to try doing exercise the correct way and with a “plan”.
      Remember if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

  21. tee says:

    its often been said that if a persons effort can save even one person, then the effort is well worth it!
    well….. dude, you’ve just saved me $400 Australian dolars! Our biggest “Walmart” retailer which is “BIG W” is turning them over for $400 and cant get enough of them..
    Like walmart, they only care about the profits, with no duty of care to the customers…

  22. tee says:

    ever heard of green coffe beans weight control? backed by dr.OZ?
    and…. bowtrowl colon cleanse products?
    whats the best colon treatments in your opinion?

  23. beverley says:

    where can i find or purchase the ab wave machine or do the trial first

    • Save your money. Don’t buy it.

      • MrsFranks says:

        Unfortunately, my husband and I bought one at the end of last year since we haven’t had the time or funds to join a gym and because of my scoliosis.
        We tried but it doesn’t work, it’s another scam like most of those infomercial exercise devices.
        It was a waste of money that we don’t have.
        We’ve lost belly fat simply by walking and eating more healthy.
        Thanks for your comments. It will help other people not to make the same mistake we did.

  24. Darren says:

    Just a quick question.
    I am looking at the Ab Wave as a way to help loosen my back. I have severe pain in my thoracic and lower back and have tried exercises that require gravity and weight. These only go on to make my back pain worse.

    What do people think about the motion that the ab wave provides for helping to loosen stiff backs.

    • Hi Darren,
      I’m sorry to hear you’re having thoracic and low back pain. First and foremost, I would strongly suggest that you get a proper consult for your pain in order to identify the source of the pain. Otherwise, you may perform motions which could aggravate and worsen your condition. A physio or clinical exercise physiologist may be able to provide you some mobility exercises which could help loosen your back and alleviate your pain. It looks like you’re based in Brisbane, so I’d suggest going to http://www.essa.org.au and finding an accredited exercise physiologist in your area who has specific experience with your condition. In the case of the Ab Wave, my concern is that the movement is largely uncontrolled and, in your case as someone with what appears to be some sort of orthopaedic dysfunction, it could possible exacerbate your condition. Again, better to get a proper consult before taking random guesses about what’s best for your back. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t. Cheers, Bill

  25. john says:

    I’ll take your review seriously if you actually buy and use it first!

  26. paul b says:

    you only need quarter of a brain to realise like this Abwave is complete garbage so boring this type of exercise nobody would even keep this up for more than 10 minutes then never use the machine ever again. It is such a hassle and to store it! how are you gonna fit under the bed or in the cupboard and then when you do you never get out again. join a cardio kickboxing gym do proper exercise and have some fun this sort of the rubbish is Pure marketing tosh. You can be sure none of those sexy women running across the beach looking fit With perfect Cleavage etc got that with this crap

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