I first heard of the Wonder Core Smart a couple days ago from a guy commenting on my Ab Wave article.
Any product with the word Wonder in its name always raises my eyebrows, especially when it comes to health products.
Being the inquisitive type, I decided to investigate to see what made it so wonderful.
So what is the Wonder Core Smart anyway and what does it do?
The Wonder Core Smart is an infomercial exercise product that, according to the company, is a “revolutionary new fitness breakthrough designed to target your entire core, focusing your workout like a laser on your upper, middle, lower abs and obliques.”
They claim it’s the “ultimate total core workout” and will deliver the “6 pack abs you’ve always wanted.”
The product purportedly accomplishes all this by its “dual resistance” feature designed to “work your muscles on the way up and the way down.” There are eight listed exercises users can perform, including:
- Scissor Kicks
- Ab Tucks
Aside from the machine itself, you get a workout DVD and an exercise guide. According to their promotional video, you also get a nutrition guide. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you’ll get a non-slip mat and an “arm and thigh toner” which looks to be rubber tubing.
Sounds great, but can it deliver?
Maybe you’re asking yourself, “Should I buy this thing? Does it really work? Is there any scientific research to support their marketing claims? Well, that’s where I come in.
Make no mistake about it, I’m very thorough when I evaluate infomercial products. I’m going to answer all these questions and much more.
Therefore, the purpose of this article is to categorically and systematically review and dismantle Wonder Core Smart’s marketing claims and give you an honest and fair exercise physiologist’s assessment.
In order to be thorough in my assessment, I transcribed the video from the company’s website to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I then combed over the transcript and website and came across some marketing sleights of hand similar to other infomercial gadgets I’ve reviewed (Ab Wave, SpinGym, Ab Circle Pro, Slendertone)
Before I go on, let’s be honest: advertising is meant to do one thing: sell products. And I’m ok with that. I get it. CAPITALISM, yeah baby!
But I’m also a firm believer in full and honest disclosure of the facts so that people can make an educated and informed decision.
Ok, let’s get down to business.
“The ultimate total core workout”
This is a claim based on nothing more than the company’s opinion, not on scientific fact. I’ve been to enough marketing seminars to know buzzwords like “ultimate” are just meant to activate the primal part of your brain and get you emotional over the product.
How do they quantify a “core workout” in order to make this comparison?
Bottom line: this is just marketing hype. You can interpret it any way you like.
“Wonder Core Smart is the revolutionary new fitness breakthrough”
“Revolutionary?” “Fitness breakthrough?” Says who?
Bottom line: As with the above “ultimate” claim, these terms are just emotive marketing jargon based on the opinions of the company.
“designed to target your entire core, focusing your workout like a laser on your upper, middle, lower abs, and obliques.”
The claim that it “targets your entire core” is technically true in that the muscles listed are affected by the exercises, but there are other important considerations to bear in mind.
The predominant muscles worked would be the rectus abdominus (the bricks you see in a six-pack) and, to a lesser extent, the obliques as assisting muscles.
However, all of the listed exercises work your body ONLY in the sagittal plane of motion (i.e., front to back movements) and not in the frontal (i.e., movements out to the side) or transverse planes (i.e., rotational movements).
The fact that the device offers no sideways or rotational movements means that the internal oblique muscles would be largely under-utilised.
As an exercise physiologist, my concern with using a machine that puts you through the same plane of motion with no variety is that it can plausibly create muscle strength imbalances (which may lead to things like back or neck pain).
For example, think of the guy at the gym who ONLY does bench press and ab crunches. You’ll notice his shoulders are rounded forward due to overdevelopment of the same muscles from the same exercises through the same plane of motion (sagittal plane).
A well-rounded fitness routine should prepare you for daily living that occurs in three planes of movement (and everything in between).
Bottom line: In order for Wonder Core to be the “ultimate total core workout,” the company still has work to do with coming up with other exercises that work the core in a more thorough and complete way.
“Dual resistance design that works out your abs in both directions, giving you twice the workout with each and every rep.”
By its very design, this claim of “dual resistance” is technically false.
First, the term “dual resistance” gives the impression that the machine provides resistance to working muscles in both directions. However, because it is spring loaded, it only provides resistance in one direction, and that is upwards.
Second, because it is actually a “single resistance” machine, it is false that the Wonder Core works your abs in both directions. It doesn’t.
For example, if you’re doing sit-ups on the machine, the pads are against your back. This means that the machine is actually reducing the workload on your abdominal muscles because, by design, the machine is pushing you up. And on the downward movement, the machine is resisting you.
You can clearly see below in the still frame from Wonder Core’s own video that the model is crunching upwards and the arrow indicates the machine is assisting her.
In order for the marketing claims to be true, the pads would have to be against your chest, not your back. And the machine would need to place resistance against your chest on both the up AND down phases of the sit-up.
Sure, the company could try to argue that it’s “dual resistance” in that every resistance exercise has a concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phase. But the weakness of the machine is that it ASSISTS you in the movement!
Bottom line: this marketing claim is inconsistent with basic principles of biomechanics, let alone their own advertising.
“Double the workout in half the time!”
This claim is ambiguous and confusing. First, how do they quantify “double the workout in half the time?” Compared to what? Double WHAT workout?
Is it based on the “dual resistance” premise? If so, then I’ve shown above that the machine is single resistance and, in fact, actually supports your back and assists you, thereby reducing the work your abdominal muscles perform.
The image below displays the exercises that can be performed on the machine.
Of eight exercises, almost all of the movements are assisted by the machine’s spring-loaded design. The amount of assistance a user receives is determined by settings. One exercise doesn’t even work the intended muscle group.
As I showed you in an earlier image, the effectiveness of this exercise is mitigated by the machine’s settings. If you put it up to a higher setting, it will offset your body’s resistance. In a sense, it is spotting you.
Same as with sit-ups/crunches, the machine is assisting by pushing your body upwards against gravity and reducing the workload.
Same as with sit-ups/crunches and pushups, when pushing up into the bridge position, the machine is pushing in the same direction, thus assisting you through the workout.
4) Scissor Kicks
This exercise actually works the glutes and hamstrings when pushing down. On the up phase, it would actually assist your abdominal muscles.
This exercise ACTUALLY works the triceps, not the biceps. If you’re bending your elbows on the up phase, then the machine is pushing in the same direction.
This exercise does work the triceps, with the intensity is determined by the machine’s settings.
7) Ab Tucks
This is an assisted movement and the effectiveness of the ab workout would be offset by the machine setting.
This is called a bicycling exercise despite there being no circular movement like peddling. It would probably work your glutes, hamstrings, and calves a little bit. The machine provides assistance on the upward phase.
Are there any scientific studies?
In a word: no. I did a search of the medical journal databases and did not find a single published study. Not a good look in the credibility department.
The company did, however, try to bluff their way through this one, stating in their infomercial:
“In fact, Wonder Core Smart was proven in university lab testing to be 100% more effective in core exercises than doing them on the floor alone.”
They do not go into details or provide any further information about the testing, how many subjects were evaluated, what outcomes they were measuring, or any reference to legitimate statistics. They only state that it’s 100% more effective than doing them on the ground – which really doesn’t tell us much.
Based on the single resistance design of the machine, it is more scientifically plausible that the machine would be LESS effective than doing crunches on the ground because it assists you through the exercise!
Also remember that when these types of companies claim a product is “tested” or “clinically proven,” there is no legal definition or standardisation for such terms. It is purely up to the individual to decide what it means (read my article on “clinically proven“).
Red flags and warnings
Here are some infomercial red flags I found that you need to be aware of
1) Wonder Core Smart machine vs. Wonder Core System
This is a popular tactic used by infomercial spruikers. If you read the transcript of the two minute infomercial, they state the terms “Wonder Core Smart” (referring to the machine) a grand total of 11 times, or once every 10.9 seconds. On the other hand, they refer to the “Wonder Core Smart System” a grand total of one (1) time, or once every 120 seconds.
The problem with this is that, if not paying close attention, you might be led to believe that the machine alone is responsible for any purported results you might achieve. But the sleight of hand is that you must use the machine as part of a SYSTEM, which includes exercise AND healthy eating.
Point is, why not just give up the two-litre bottles of soda, chips, and doughnuts in favour of more fruits and veggies and start walking every day. That would also have a dramatic effect on your waistline, and it’s supported by mountains of epidemiological research.
2) The use of meaningless jargon
Infomercials are notorious for using ambiguous or confusing terminology that is left to the viewer to decide how they want to interpret it. As I’ve cited above, terms like “ultimate total core workout” and “revolutionary new fitness breakthrough” are typical phrases for these types of products but they are more opinion and conjecture than anything with substance.
3) Embellished phrasing and overblown use of adjectives
The video script starts right into it, asking you if you “want a tight, toned, body and sizzling sexy rock hard abs.” Sure, who doesn’t. Sounds good to me.
They go on and tell you to “stop struggling trying to get results the hard way and start working out the smart way.” Enter the Wonder Core Smart to the rescue.
They claim you’ll get “incredible results” with “amazing exercises, plus cardio for the ‘ultimate’ total body calorie-blasting workout.
Sorry to smack you in the face with a wet fish, but this type of phrasing panders to base human instincts (sloth [lazy], envy, pride). If you’re the lazy and unmotivated type, then a machine you can store under your couch or in the closet probably isn’t going to see a lot of daylight.
4) Fitness models
Do you think those fitness models they hired for the videos and website actually used the product to get those sleek svelte bodies? Do I need to continue?
You cannot put an infomercial on the air without enthusiastic, emotive, or weepy-eyed testimonials. They tap into our innate sense of envy and perhaps FOMO (fear of missing out).
Translation: if you don’t buy this product, then you’ll stay fat and no one will ever love you.
The inherent problem with testimonials in general is that they do not separate cause and effect from coincidence. Did the person get the results from using the machine or the “system” which includes the diet?
Looking at one of the testimonials from the infomercial, a woman makes reference to the machine only:
“It’s such a compact machine and yet I was able to work out my arms, my legs, my core. And the next day I was sore. I didn’t realise I was getting such a workout.”
If you want to learn the inside scoop on infomercials, check out this Dateline NBC undercover investigation which blows the lid wide open on the industry’s secrets “they” don’t want you to know about.
6) The fine print
It’s on virtually every product: “Results may vary.” Why is this a red flag you ask? Well, because the company never explicitly defined “results” and “results” can mean different things to different people, they have to put this disclaimer.
If they were specific about how many kilos (or pounds) you might lose, then that is a measurable, quantifiable expectation put in consumers’ minds. And if people don’t clear that bar, then they have a case against the “money back guarantee” they all offer.
Does it really work?
Yes. No. Maybe, and everything in between.
The marketing claims are waffly, ambiguous, and ill-defined, so the answer to this question really depends on your personal expectations matched up against what the device can actually deliver.
If you think the machine is going to give you a body like the models in the infomercial, then you’re probably going to be sadly disappointed. Those types of bodies require either good genetics or an obsessive number of hours in the gym pumping heavy iron, not to mention a healthy diet.
If you’ve been doing absolutely ZERO exercise for the past 30 years then you’ll probably have sore muscles the day after. But this is less to do with the Wonder Core itself and more to do with you simply lifting your body weight against gravity (with the machine coincidently underneath your body).
In fact, if you’ve been physically inactive for years, just going out and walking several kilometres (or miles) would probably leave you sore too. No rocket science here, just basic physiology 101.
Any benefits to using the machine?
In my opinion, the Wonder Core is more of an assisting device than an exercise machine. If you’re new to exercise, then it can serve as something of a “spotter” to help offset your body weight. As you become more fit, then you can lower the resistance so you accept more gravitational load on your muscles.
I think it could be a helpful machine for people who are: 1) extremely unfit and deconditioned; 2) elderly people who might need some extra support for their arthritis; or 3) people with other medical conditions that preclude them from lifting their entire body weight.
Is it safe?
I’d say yes. I didn’t observe anything about the machine that would pose a significant threat to someone’s health and well-being. If anything, the machine might help reduce your likelihood of getting injured by offsetting your body weight.
Where is it sold?
I found a number of outlets around the world where consumers can buy the Wonder Core. The most popular places in the US appear to be the Home Shopping Network, Amazon, and Walmart.
In my research, I found the device for sale in Australia, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Canada.
As of this writing, there are 387 customer reviews on Amazon.com. It may be worth having a look to check out others consumers’ experience both with the product and their purchase.
How much does it cost?
If you buy from the official website, it will cost you $115, 140, or $160 USD including shipping and handling and depending on which option you choose. These are broken up into five payments of $19.95, $24.95, or $28.95.
Obviously prices will vary from country to country and if you’re ordering through an online marketplace which might have discount incentives available.
A word of caution on price
There are three options available: Basic, Combo, and Extreme. What’s the difference? Not much.
If you order the Combo or Extreme options, you get what is called an “arm and thigh toner” and an exercise mat (Extreme option). Looking at the image above, the toner is pretty much just some rubber resistance band tubing. You can go to your local sporting good store and buy this and an exercise mat for a fraction of the price.
If you want to insure your delivery, you can enrol in the InsureShip Insurance Program for an extra $3.99 USD.
You’ll also be liable for sales tax in the US states of NJ, NV, NY & CA. A shipping surcharge of $20.00 applies to orders from Puerto Rico.
Is there a money-back guarantee?
On a positive note, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (less processing and handling). A good sign was that I did not find a lot of online complaints, so hopefully this means it’s an easy process if you do want your money back.
Contact the company
Customer service phone: 1-800-353-4272 (8:00AM – 8:00PM EST [USA])
Check order status: www.customerstatus.com.
400 RETURNS RD
Wallingford CT, 06494
Take home message: Should you buy it?
Let’s be clear: Wonder Core’s advertising is not 100% transparent. In fact, a lot of it is confusing and misleading, if not downright false.
The company seems confused about the very exercises they advertise and, in my view, this demonstrates an ignorance to basic principles of exercise science and biomechanics.
If you’re ok with all that, then it’s your choice to move forward with your purchase.
Is the Wonder Core a scam or a rip-off? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. I think the answer to that depends on your own moral and ethical compass and what’s acceptable to you regarding truth and full disclosure in advertising.
I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your money. To be honest, I don’t care if you buy a Wonder Core or not. But what I DO care about is that you have made an informed decision based on ALL the facts. Good luck!