Even though Power Plate machines have been around for a while, I have never really had the chance or the inclination to try them out until now. I joined a new gym in the summer and this is the first gym I found which can boast with Power Plate machines. I actually looked up the cost of these and found that a decent one (obviously depending on the brand itself) can make your purse lighter by no less than £7,000 – so quite understandably, gyms which are struggling to improve or maintain their membership numbers may not (quite rightfully) have investing into Power Plates high on their agenda.
As with every new thing, I initially carefully eyed up these weirdly vibrating “giants” from a safe distance, having some doubts in my mind about them potentially being just the latest costly fitness fads used by celebrities like Madonna, which are known to over-promise but under-deliver. Shaping up with some buzzing plate under your feet? Yeah, right.
The turning point came for me when one evening I felt particularly uninspired about my usual abs routine at the end of my workout and I happened to notice a poster with a number of power plate exercises. After taking a closer look at the poster, I ascertained that they did not look to complicated, besides it was getting quite late and the gym looked quite empty so I convinced myself that I was unlikely to become the butt of jokes doing something spectacularly stupid on the Power Plate.
Firstly, I am not very technologically minded (in fact, even simple things such as working out how gates on public foothpaths open may cause me big trouble…), so quite understandably, at first I was slightly concerned that I may not be able to figure out how they work. To my relief, I found this is not rocket science as the only setting you can play with are time in seconds (e.g. 30, 46, 60) i.e. how long the plate vibrates; frequency of vibration in Hertz (e.g. 30, 35, 40) i.e. how many times per second the plate oscillates up and down; and amplitude or intensity of vibration (high or low). Finally, there is a so-called air setting which offers an additional way to vary intensity through the air suspension system. Basically, the heavier you are, the more air suspension you need. Then there is a start and stop button. The floor of the machine is covered with a removable rubbery mat which provides cushioning if you stand on it in socks or if you have a body part (such as elbows, lower arm) in contact with the plate. This actually slightly “dampens” the vibrations, too. In addition, there are two cables attached to the side, which can be used to perform different exercises where vibration is transferred into target muscle groups, but are not necessary to use.
In terms of exercises, I found that there are various things you can do with the Power Plate: stretch, perform streghtening/toning exercises (in fact, most traditional exercises such as squats and lunges can be adopted to the Power Plate, with a little bit of creativity and imagination), you can also work on your balance and do a bit of self-massage. (I especially like the sound of this latter one!)
The principle behind the Power Plate is “Acceleration Training” – the machine gives the muscles a high-speed workout by using vibrations to stimulate them to contract and relax. Under normal circumstances, they generally contract once or twice a second, but by standing on the Power-Plate, its vibrations cause an automatic reflex muscle contraction of 30-50 a second. Promoters of the machine claim that the Power-Plate is a great time-saver due to the effectiveness of training and the fact that many muscle groups are activated at the same time.
For novices they recommend to start at a lower intensity/do a shorter time and focus on correct posture to find a position that puts tension on the muscles, and be mindful of protection e.g. keeping the knees slightly bent to avoid jarring through the joints.
I can definitely understand the science behind it, and I can see the benefits it offers: an opportunity to get a good workout if you are short of time, to give more stimulus for the muscles and add a bit more variety and specifity into your workout routine.
However, on the other hand, I think this is a very costly equipment unless you have access to a machine in your gym Besides, there are cheaper alternatives that will help you get the same results (you may need a bit more time though to achieve the same results). Last, but not least, these machines may get great results in your body’s tone and flexibility, but you won’t see any significant improvements to your stamina (cardiovascular fitness aspect). For this amount of money, I have to say it is a slight disappointment.
Having used the machine for a few times to do some core training, I have to say I am a moderate fan. I felt challenged throughout the workout, the exercises I am used to doing on the mat felt somewhat more difficult. I personally feel the machine will be a nice addition to my fitness routine and I will definitely use it for massage as well at the end of taxing workouts.
In my opinion, to get the best results, I suggest you combine the Power Plate with other forms of exercise (especially cardiovascular) to get the most out of your workout. I can guarantee you now that you can’t just vibrate yourself down to a size 8!
Finally, if this article has convinced you to try a Power Plate machine, you can find a number of exercises on the Power Plate website for inspiration.