If you feel like your attitude towards body image, eating and exercise has changed because of the pandemic, you’re not alone: reports and surveys done the past year show that lockdown measures have led to people being more preoccupied with food and their appearance . This is certainly observed at Veritas Medical Aesthetics, at least from the increasing number of enquiries on our body contouring treatments. Many have expressed their interest in getting a “nicer body” and “losing weight”.
When people say they want to lose weight, what they usually want is to look better and fit with some ‘toning’. To do so, a caloric deficit and endless hours of cardio is not the answer; some weight training must be involved too. When you compare losing weight and building muscle in terms of physical difficulty, the latter takes the cake. This is because building muscle actually takes time and intelligent programming by a coach, and muscle has to be fed correctly in order to grow. Furthermore, due to factors out of our control like genetics, it may be harder for some of us to put on muscle at a certain desired area, such as the buttocks.
Previously, I wrote about Redustim and Coolsculpting body contouring treatments that reduce visceral fat and subcutaneous fat (think “love handles”) respectively. With no lack of aesthetic treatments that reduce stubborn fat, is there one that can specifically work to build muscle? Well, it turns out there is, and it’s called Cutera truSculpt flex.
What is truSculpt flex?
First, let me start by quickly explaining the three types of truSculpt technologies — truSculpt 3D, truSculpt iD, and truSculpt flex.
A fat reduction device that makes use of radiofrequency (RF) energy to deliver heat as high as 48 degrees to the subcutaneous fat layer, causing selective apoptosis within the subcutaneous adipose tissue and permanently destroying fat cells. Patients can expect to see an average of 24% fat reduction in 12 weeks .
truSculpt iD works the same as truSculpt 3D, except truSculpt iD can work more than one area at a time which enables the treatment to be done twice as fast. Think of iD as an updated version of the 3D.
A muscle sculpting device that utilises multi-directional electrical stimulation (MDS) to target specific muscle groups and achieve deep muscle contractions at high intensity. truSculpt flex can treat up to 8 body parts simultaneously — the most any device can do in the body sculpting industry. No physical effort is required on the patient’s part.
Why, then, does Veritas Medical Aesthetics incorporate truSculpt flex and not truSculpt iD and truSculpt 3D into our body treatments? This is because as much as we love the effects of personalised muscle toning and sculpting in truSculpt flex, when it comes to fat reduction, we believe that Coolsculpting treatments have a superior safety track record and produce more consistent results over other treatments currently available, including the truSculpt iD and truSculpt 3D. You may read more about the difference between the various technologies used in body contouring in this article (Coolsculpting).
How does truSculpt flex build muscle?
During traditional strength training, our brain sends a signal to our nervous system and motor neurons to contract skeletal muscle. During a truSculpt flex treatment, we bypass this process entirely and instead, electrical signals are sent through handpieces placed on your body, resulting in full muscle contractions similar to physical exercise. In fact, studies have shown that the contractions induced by truSculpt flex are more intense than physical exercise. On average, a 45minute treatment is equivalent to 54,000 crunches and patients can expect a 30% increase in muscle mass after 6 sessions . A fit adult can only perform up to 100 crunches before reaching a point of exhaustion.
One of the limitations of electrical muscle stimulation is that muscle fatigue and damage occur easily due to repetitive use of superficially located muscles, such as the traps and lats. However, truSculpt flex overcomes this by using multi-directional stimulation with 3 treatment modes at different intensities. This allows the recruitment of deeper muscle groups and avoids muscle damage; lactic acid buildup does not occur.
The 3 modes are:
Prep mode creates twisting motions that mimic the stimulation of a warmup; it involves stretching and building the muscle’s tolerance to contractions.
Tone mode contracts muscles till the point of exhaustion, similar to if you were to perform a set in the gym to the point of failure. This mechanical tension is what initiates the muscle growth process.
Sculpt mode involves fast, deep and sequential contractions of muscles. As your muscle mass is increased, so does your basal metabolic rate (BMR), in order to support this new growth.
I’d like to add that although truSculpt flex is marketed to develop and strengthen muscles over the abdomen, buttocks and thighs, I’ve seen how it can be used on other body parts with similar success. My colleague, Dr. CY Chua, can attest to this with his new deltoid gains!
So essentially, truSculpt flex can be customised according to other body parts you think might be lacking; however it is not advised to be used on areas like the chest, upper back, and neck. In addition, truSculpt flex is not recommended if you have the following:
- Abdominal or inguinal hernia
- Cardiac implants
- Cancerous lesions
- Critical ischemia of lower limbs
- Acute trauma or fracture
- Blood flow deficiencies
How does truSculpt flex compare to EmSculpt?
Of all the muscle building devices in the market, truSculpt flex has been compared the most to EmSculpt. Both are FDA-approved non-invasive treatments administered to build muscle with almost no downtime and limited soreness post-procedure. However, they operate by very different mechanisms.
EmSculpt utilises electromagnetic stimulation to induce muscle contraction, which requires bulkier hardware and cannot provide a focal stimulus in a controlled manner. Electromagnetic stimulation also only allows contraction in a linear direction. In other words, EmSculpt is less specific and less effective in targeting muscle fibres and can only treat 2 areas at once. One session is equivalent to 20,000 manual repetitions.
truSculpt flex, in contrast, utilises electrical stimulation and can stimulate specific muscles by the placement of individual handpieces. Its multi-directional stimulation technology allows for very specific muscle fibres to be targeted, providing better body coverage and treating up to 8 areas at once. One session, as earlier mentioned, is equivalent to 54,000 repetitions.
|Technology||Electrical stimulation||Electromagnetic stimulation|
|Mode of application||Several small handpieces||One piece of hardware|
|Direction of muscle contraction||Multi-directional||Linear|
|No. of treated areas at once||8||2|
|No. of repetitions in one session||54,000||20,000|
Can I lose weight with truSculpt flex?
You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything regarding weight — it’s important to note that truSculpt flex is not a weight loss procedure, although it results in some fat loss. When it comes to building muscles, the numbers on the scale are not the focal point.
Instead, focus on body composition and always take before/after pictures to measure progress. Although you can lose some fat and eventually drop the weight with truSculpt flex, I’d recommend combining it with Redustim or Coolsculpting to accelerate the fat reduction process.
Is the truSculpt treatment uncomfortable?
Not at all. The amount of energy conducted through the skin in a session is limited to below 10 mA to prevent any pain and skin injury. In general, patients report discomfort levels of about 2/10. Please note that you may experience some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but this is normal. Recover as you would with a normal training session at the gym; so drink plenty of water post session, consume about 1.2-2.2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight a day and get sufficient rest. We also offer a meal plan to guide our patients at Veritas to complement their treatments and help them reach their body goals.
If you already have an existing fitness regime (e.g. weight training in the gym), I would advise not to do an intense workout 24 hours prior to your truSculpt flex session and avoid training the treated muscle group 48 hours after to prevent overstraining.
How soon can I see results? Are they permanent?
Building muscle is not instantaneous. While you may notice some muscle swelling and microscopic changes after a truSculpt flex session, observable results take time. The rate at which how fast muscles grow and recover is also highly dependent on factors like age, sex, diet and genetics. Therefore, while some individuals may see results sooner than others, generally 6 sessions spaced 1-2 weeks apart should be what you need for optimal results. Thereafter, it is up to you to maintain results either through maintenance sessions or through your own exercise regime.
Many might view truSculpt flex as an excuse to avoid exercising, but in my opinion, it is a great option for those who value investing in themselves and wish to get closer to their dream body. If you are in a bit of a slump post-gym closures and need some motivation, truSculpt flex can be a good starting point.
- Robertson, M., Duffy, F., Newman, E., Prieto Bravo, C., Ates, H. H., & Sharpe, H. (2021). Exploring changes in body image, eating and exercise during the COVID-19 lockdown: A UK survey. Appetite, 159, 105062. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.105062
- Taub, A., & Bartholomeusz, J. (2020). Ultrasound Evaluation of a Single Treatment With a Temperature Controlled Multi-Frequency Monopolar Radio Frequency Device for the Improvement of Localized Adiposity on the Abdomen and Flanks. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD, 19(1), 28–34. https://doi.org/10.36849/JDD.2020.4568
- Nye, R., & Hoffmeister, A. (2020). THE PROCESS OF MUSCLE HYPERTROPHY UTILIZING A NOVEL BIO-ELECTRICAL MUSCLE STIMULATION DEVICE. Cutera.