Emma Bartley’s ongoing struggle to fit into her jeans. This week: can a vibrating platform really help the lazy gymgoer to tone up or is it just a gimmick?
My first reaction to the Power Plate’s appearance in my local gym in 2008 was one of fear. A circular platform with a vertical stem with a big circular handle at the top, it looks innocent enough, like an upside-down mushroom. But some zealous manager at Virgin Active had written up and laminated a series of warnings including the advice that those with detached retinas should avoid using it. I approached with the idea in the back of my mind that I overdid it my eyes might fall out.
But I did approach, because the promise of the Power Plate (and similar products such as VibroGym) – that 20 minutes of exercise on one is equivalent to 40 minutes on the gym floor – is irresistible to an inherently lazy Size 13. The makers explain that the body reacts reflexively to the vibrations, so if you do your usual workout standing or leaning on one, your muscles will be working doubly hard as they a) perform the movement and b) work against the oscillation.
The first exercise I tried was a plank – this is a great move to try on the Power Plate as it’s so simple. You can set the speed of the vibrations on a keypad at the top: 30, 35, 40 or 50Hz, with lower vibrations recommended for strength and resistance training and higher for massage (of which more later). You can also set the time, from 30 to 60 seconds. To help with exercises such as the plank, where you are working close to the ground, there is also a start button with a time counter at the bottom of the stem, so that you can see how long you have to go.
It’s an odd, fizzy sensation and my face went quite red – its typical response to any exertion, but a good sign that the Power Plate was doing something. Next I tried squats, holding on to the handles at the top, crouching down and pushing up on to my toes. This too was quite helpful as I felt aware of the vibrations and also of the time counter, trying to fit my usual 15 reps into 30 seconds.
Since a training session at the Power Plate Academy in Marylebone, Central London, with their head of education Lars Harms, I’ve added a few more core exercises such as the V-Sit, which is surprisingly tricky to maintain. It’s also great for push-ups, ballet-style exercises and my personal nemesis, the side plank.
After my workout with Lars, in which I try the PowerBIKE – its pedals vibrate, a bit like riding over cobbles; I wasn’t at all sure but Olympic cyclist Rebecca Romero has assured me she loves it – he sat me on a Reebok step with my legs across the platform so that the backs of them were fully in contact with the vibrating surface, and put the machine on full-blast for several minutes. After two or three, my skin was itching like crazy and I got off and clawed at myself for a while. Lars explained that this happens sometimes because the vibrations stimulate the blood flow. So it’s also good if you have poor circulation and, they claim and I suppose it would make sense, for cellulite.
The obvious benefit, by the way – if you were reading Fifty Shades of Grey on the way there and felt the need for a bit of a “release” – is sadly absent. You would really have to contort yourself to get the relevant area into contact with this 2ft-wide platform. Plus you might get some odd looks in the gym.
If you’re totally hooked, you can buy your own Power Plate from £1,495. A friend of mine has one in her garage and swears it’s the only thing that has ever changed the shape of her naturally bulky legs. And having used them regularly over a number of years now, I can report that your changed silhouette should be the only thing putting your eyes out on stalks.
Learn more about Power Plates and see videos of good exercises you can do on them at powerplate.com