Power Plate Fitness Equipment in Spas and Clubs. Hype or Hot?
By Susie Ellis
During my vacation I got to spend a bit more time at the gym and decided to try out a new piece of equipment they just added – the Power Plate!
I have seen the Power Plate at many trade shows recently and in several gyms in Europe. I have also read that celebrities like Madonna, Sting, and several professional sports teams were using it with great enthusiasm. I have to admit I was a bit dubious when I first started seeing and reading about the Power Plate and its vibration technology. It reminded me of another piece of vibrating equipment I had witnessed many years ago when I first started my career in the spa industry. It was the mid-70’s at the Golden Door in California and, yes, there were vibrating belts in the gym. They were popular with the female guests – including the Gabor sisters who would spend what seemed like hours with the belt around their hips and thighs jiggling away while chatting or even reading a book. When vibrator belts went out of style due to unsubstantiated weight loss claims, it was certainly fine with me.
But positive talk about vibration surfaced again when mini-trampolines emerged onto the scene (often used in fitness classes) in the 1980’s and today we are hearing about the vibration technology of the Power Plate – or similar products with different names. Their story seems pretty compelling. Apparently this technology was developed by a Russian scientist for cosmonauts as whole-vibration training and was used to prevent muscles and bones from wasting away while in space. Later it was used by Russian ballet dances and their elite Olympic athletes with very positive results. Research showed that regular use can improve bone density.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Power Plate, there is a photo to the right. The device has a large plate that vibrates in a specific motion 30 to 50 times per second. The idea is that the vibration forces muscle contractions – kind of like dynamic tension exercise. Your body feels the instability and strives to stabilize by tensing the muscles. It takes very little concentration on your part and is in actuality a fairly pleasant sensation. You are supposed to spend between 10 and 30 minutes on the equipment, alternating between various exercise positions and resting in between.
So I decided to ask for a session with Stephanie, a personal trainer and the gym’s director, who had fortunately just taken a very thorough training program. She was able to demonstrate a myriad of exercises, explain some of the science, and help me do a short workout.
I have to say that I was impressed. Not only did I learn about the vast amount of muscle groups that can be worked through the exercises, but I have to admit that I was actually tired at the end of the few minutes of my vibration workout. During one exercise – push-ups with my feet on the floor and arms on the plate to work the arms and chest – I was positively convinced that this was doing much more than my regular push-ups do for me.
We will of course all learn more as time goes on….but if I had to predict whether this Power Plate equipment is here to stay, I would have to say yes. Not as a substitute, but as an addition to a well rounded exercise program that includes strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. I think that the aging baby boomer concerned about bone density will want to add this to their exercise routine.
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