I Tried TruFlex For Ab Sculpting – Here’s What Happened
It’s equivalent to doing 54,000 crunches.
Standing Appointment is our review series that investigates the best new and notable cosmetic treatments in the aesthetics space and determines whether or not they are worth trying for yourself. This week, one writer tries truFlex treatment for sculpting abs.
I’ve always been really insecure about my stomach. I’m almost always bloated, no matter how much apple cider vinegar water I drink in the morning or how many probiotics I take. I dream of the day I can confidently wear a crop top or tight-fitting clothes, but I can’t stomach (pun intended) the insecurities I feel when wearing those items. And trust me, I’ve tried it all — fad diets, intermittent fasting, HIIT workouts, pilates, cycle-syncing, and nearly everything recommended by strangers on TikTok. Unfortunately, with such a chaotic, frenzied New York lifestyle, I’m not nearly disciplined enough to stick to any a routine long enough to make a big difference. I’m only a 26-year-old teenager after all.
So, when I learned about truFlex, an FDA-cleared, painless, zero-downtime, personalized muscle sculpting treatment that adapts to your fitness level, shape, and goals to strengthen, firm, and tone your muscles, I was eager to try it out. For my sessions, I visited Shafer Clinic, a beautiful plastic surgery clinic located on Fifth Avenue in New York City, frequented by individuals who earn significantly more than I do.
Ahead, I share my experience getting the buzzy treatment, including what to expect in terms of results.
What Is truFlex?
TruFlex by Cutera is a muscle sculpting treatment that focuses on increasing muscle mass, toning, and strengthening through the use of Multi-Directional Stimulation (MDS) technology. This works by stimulates the muscles and as a result, confusing them, helping to overcome the plateau effect that can occur with your regular exercise routine. TruFlex is fully customizable and allows for the direct isolation of specific groups, delivering 100% of its energy directly to them. According to Katie Neff, director of marketing for truBody, Cutera’s family of body treatments, 15 minutes of stimulation is equivalent to 54,000 crunches or 20,000 squats.
What Is The Difference Between TruFlex And TruSculpt?
There are two different machines under the truBody umbrella: truFlex and truSculpt. The former is designed for building muscle, while the latter is radiofrequency-based and targets fat reduction. TruSculpt is the first radiofrequency device cleared for lipolysis. “The technology focuses on fat reduction and uses monopolar radiofrequency (RF) technology, which selectively targets subcutaneous fat cells, heating them and causing induced ‘cell death,’” says Neff. (It's worth noting that truSculpt can become very hot, and for people with darker pigmented complexions, there's a higher risk of experiencing some darkening of the skin.)
TruFlex, on the other hand, works to strengthen, firm, and tone muscles, with the ability to stimulate up to eight groups at a time. Other treatments on the market can only target one or two at once.
You can treat any area of the body with the truSculpt, as long as the hand-piece can fit. However, for truFlex, specifically, you can't use it on the chest muscles because they are near the heart. Neither device can be used on the face.
The Benefits Of truFlex
TruFlex is quick (15 minutes), non-invasive, and requires zero downtime. For the best results, the brand recommends one four to six sessions. Results can be seen after one treatment series.
The device is highly adaptable to each patient, making it an excellent option for individuals with various body shapes and sizes, skin types, and fitness levels. Currently, it is FDA-cleared for firming, strengthening, and toning the buttocks, inner and outer thighs, and abdominal muscles. However, people also use it on their arms, lower back, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and more. During your consultation, your provider will assess your candidacy based on your goals, health, and medical history.
My truFlex Experience
I was quite anxious as I headed into my consultation because I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. My PA-C, Allison Lester, was incredibly kind and calmly talked me through my neurosis. We started by assessing whether or not I was even a good candidate for the treatment: She pinched the fat on my abdomen to see how much there was. She said mine was minimal, which made me a good candidate because I'd be able to see results faster.
We decided to go forward with a full abdomen treatment, which consists of six 15-minute sessions spaced out over three weeks. There's also the option to do four 45-minute sessions over two weeks, but I didn't want to have to sit still for that long. It's around $4,000 for a treatment series, which is pretty comparable to Emsculpt, which costs around $1,000 per session.
The device offers three different modes. First, there’s prep, characterized by a twisting motion that prepares the muscles. This is particularly beneficial for individuals who aren't actively engaged in regular workouts. Next is tone mode, which encourages muscle contractions that enhance strength by causing them to contract and hold. Finally, there's the sculpt, the most intense of the three, which generates full muscle contractions aimed at building muscle mass and boosting your basal metabolic rate. It's all adjustable, with varying percentages of intensity. Lester assured me that no one ever reaches 100%, and the highest intensity typically falls within the range of 60-80%.
Gel conductor pads, which can be a bit chilly, are placed on your stomach, and then the applicators are applied on top. Describing the sensation is a bit tricky; some liken it to aggressive tickling, but it's by no means painful — just uncomfortable. I'd best describe it as the discomfort I feel when holding a plank for a long time. The session provides breaks, so it's not a continuous 15 minutes of stimulation. Instead, it stimulates and then stops. As you approach the six-minute mark, the contractions become more continuous, with the first seven and a half minutes being the most intense. Talking your way through it helps, and by the end of my treatment, I felt as though Lester and I were lifelong friends due to how much I asked her to distract me. Taking slow, deliberate inhales and exhales, similar to what you might do in a workout class, can also help you get through the more intense moments.
Because there’s no downtime, I was able to return to my normal routine after each session. The only advice Lester gave was to take a break from working out for one day following each session, allowing my muscles a day of rest. She explained, “When you're working out your muscles, whether through natural exercise or with a machine that's stimulating them for you, you're causing little microtears in your muscles, and your body needs some time to repair that.” She also suggested avoiding high sodium foods and sticking to high-protein meals, which can help support building muscle mass.
Each session, we increased the intensity, and the highest I reached was 64%, so it was always on the extreme side, but again, never painful. The entire process is very quick; you're in and out of the clinic, and there's a bit of soreness the next day, but it's minimal.
When reviewing the before-and-after photos in a Canva-style collage, I was a bit surprised. It didn't necessarily feel like a significant difference when it came to trying on clothes; I mean, I didn't drop a pants size or anything (but also, why would I, considering it's my abdomen). However, there's a clear difference. My stomach is noticeably flatter, and my waist has slimmed down a bit. I started to notice a difference after the third treatment, but it wasn't until I saw the final progress pictures that I was truly impressed.
The most important lesson Lester taught me is the distinction between having strong abs and having visible abs. Visible abs are often difficult to see in individuals with more than roughly 10% body fat. For someone like me, who has more body fat than that, the benefit was more about gaining strength than suddenly having chiseled abs (which I still don't have). The device enhances muscular strength and size, so it accomplishes both. Now, I'm able to activate my core more effectively than ever before.
I grappled with this story and this treatment because it felt like taking a shortcut, and I'm not entirely sure where I stand on the idea that, if you're insecure about something, you should find the means to fix it — our bodies aren’t science projects. However, vanity won this battle in the end, and I'm glad I underwent the treatment. After all, no matter how much I work out, I’d never be able to do the 54,000 crunches the device provides in 15 minutes.
Now I love how I look when I stare at myself in the mirror, but the most stressful thing is the newfound pressure I feel to maintain this thousand-dollar body. After my sixth session, I went to my best friend's wedding and indulged in an endless mountain of butter chicken, pizza, and cake, feeling extra guilty knowing my newfound abs were at risk of disappearing (you should be able to maintain the muscle as long as you stay active, but you may need to come in for quarterly booster treatments). And obviously, people who take really good care of themselves feel that pressure regularly, but in my honest opinion, this treatment is only worth it if you have the discipline to maintain the results. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money, unless you have a big event coming up — like needing to wear Marilyn Monroe's archival dress on the red carpet, for example.