If you have an interest in bodybuilding then you will be aware of what a booming industry it is, and just how many different kinds of bodybuilding equipment there are – each one promising to do miraculous things and to help you build powerful muscle more quickly and easily than would otherwise be possible. In fact if you are truly a fan of bodybuilding, then you are possibly likely to have tried many of these things yourself and you’ll know that they aren’t always quite what they promise. And in fact it’s almost fair to say that they usually aren’t what they promise.
It pays then to research these training products before you invest too much money or too much hope into them, and it makes sense to read about the experiences that others have had before you shell out. Here then we will look at ‘Power Plates’ – a brand of training equipment – and decide whether they’re worth your money.
What Are Power Plates?
If you’re wondering what a Power Plate is then it has nothing to do with crockery. Rather a power plate is a ‘vibrating platform’ which can be used as exercise equipment. This has a vibrating base and it can be found in many gyms these days in rows of two or three. It looks like a vibrating box much like something out of a computer game, and you’re likely to find rows of people training on it by doing press ups and sit ups etc.
More precisely this is a machine that can vibrate around 1 to 2 mm which means 25-50 times a second and they are designed to be wide enough to let people stand on them with their feet shoulders’ width apart. The speed of these vibrations can be adjusted in order to increase the intensity.
The Power Plates have a string of celebrity endorsements appearing in advertizing including Jonathan Ross, Donatella Versace, Claudia Schiffer, Madonna and Natalie Imbruglia.
How Do They Work?
The idea behind the Power Plate is that these vibrations cause an ‘involuntary muscle contraction’ throughout the body which is enough to increase the intensity of a workout. Arguably you could also presume that the body would attempt to balance itself in order to account for the movement and that might lead to tensing in the stomach and core muscles in much the same way as you might train no a wobble board. Similarly then the individual does their exercises on the Power Plate in a bid to make them more effective.
The proponents and marketers of these machines claim that spending 10 minutes on a Power Plate is equivalent to spending 60 minutes working out in a conventional setting. Other claims include that doing 10 sit ups is equivalent to doing 100.
Do Power Plates Work?
The question then is whether or not Power Plates work, and unfortunately the answer is as you might expect: ‘no, not really’. The history of Power Plates is founded well in science – they were originally developed as part of the Russian space program in order to help prevent atrophy of muscles for Russian astronauts spending long amounts of time in zero gravity. The fact that they had been used successfully to prevent muscle wasting here suggests that they do have some positive effect.
However at the same time the marketing behind Power Plates has taken some liberties in the benefits they promise for Power Plates and their effectiveness has almost certainly been exaggerated. A simple way to know that these don’t equate to six or ten times the same amount of workout as regular weight training is to point out that if they did – everyone would have one. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that there is more than one type of muscle contraction and just because the muscles are being ‘activated’ doesn’t mean they are causing microtears.
For instance it is important to move the muscle when you contract it – called ‘dynamic tension’ – in order to train the muscle through the whole range of motion. It’s only really beneficial then to be tensing the muscle group you’re working at the time. Of course vibrations in your bicep during the squats aren’t going to achieve that much then, and likewise you won’t be increasing the amount of resistance in your abs when you do sit ups either.
Then there’s the simple fact that the contractions caused by Power Plates aren’t hard enough to cause proper microtears. If they were then you would know about it when you stepped off Power Plates and you would be sore all over – which you simply aren’t after a go on a Power Plate. We encounter small vibrations every day – such as when we ride the bus – and surprise surprise they aren’t able to turn us into Hulks over night.
If you really want to tense your muscles during a workout – which is no doubt a good way to increase intensity – then you don’t need an expensive Power Plate to do it – just squeeze the muscle at the top of the workout until it hurts and you’ll get that little bit of extra ‘juice’ out of each rep. Bodybuilders like Arnie have been doing it for years, and that’s why he was Mr. Olympia and Jonathan Ross still has a gut.
And another problem with Power Plate is that you can’t run on them and you can’t carry a heavy (100k) weight onto them or they’d be damaged and you’d injure yourself. They encourage people to do light exercise because it’s all you can do on them.
There’s also a slight chance that using a Power Plate could even be bad for you, and if you subject your joints to too much vibration it can damage your cartilage and lead to RSI (repetitive strain injury). It’s also not great after a full meal…
The Moral of This Story
There’s a moral to this story, and in a way the Power Plate is indicative of all that is wrong with the world. The problem is that people would rather stand on a Power Plate for ten minutes than they would do a proper workout that got them sweating and hurting and took an hour. That’s too bad because at the end of the day putting the time in and breaking a sweat is the only way to build muscle and lose weight. Don’t waste your money on anything that sounds too good to be true, and don’t buy into the hype. Use your common sense and just think: if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not causing microtears, so it’s not building muscle.
Shame on you Madonna…