I always emphasize the importance of regularly switching up your workout routine. But, funny enough, I sometimes have a hard time doing this myself. Personally, l love resistance training, running, and cycling. They are hobbies of sorts. So, in spite of the constant sweat, fatigue, and soreness that almost always accompany these exercises, they are actually enjoyable to me and never really feel like chores. This is why I choose to stick with them.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I actually do practice what I preach by occasionally changing up my workout routine. In fact, I recently decided to step out of my comfort zone and accept a personal invitation to try out a Power Plate workout at East Bank Club in Chicago.
If you’re not familiar with the Power Plate, it’s basically a specialized vibrating platform specifically designed to transmit mechanical vibrations through the whole body as one stands, sits, lies or leans on it. This is known as “whole body vibration training” (WBVT).
Developed nearly four decades ago, WBVT is quite popular and widely used in athletic training and sports medicine, rehabilitation, and fitness settings and is known to considerably improve physical performance and enhance recovery from injury.
Needless to say, given its widespread popularity and use, I was totally amped and ready to try out the Power Plate and ultimately share my WBVT experience. I decided to undertake a private one-on-one session at East Back Club with Maureen Wagner who is one of their top fitness trainers.
Maureen started the session by coaching me through a dynamic warm-up so I could become acclimated to the Power Plate. She purposefully designed the warm-up to target my hip flexors and hamstrings, as these muscles are continuously activated during WBVT. I also performed multiple repetitions of weightless squats on the platform, which really got my blood pumping and my muscles adequately prepared for the intense workout to come.
I think Maureen realized early on I wasn’t a novice so she quickly pumped up the volume to make the most of our time together.
The workout itself was largely comprised of traditional resistance exercises like step-ups, push-ups, back rows, butt bridges, triceps dips, and biceps curls, all carried out in 30-second “vibration sequences”, at slow-to-fast speeds, with minimal rest between exercises.
While these exercises weren’t at all new to me, the actual incorporation of vibration is what made all the difference.
The premise behind the use of WBVT is pretty straightforward. Simply stated, this type of training forces your body to recruit more muscle fibers. Muscles are generally comprised of thousands of individual fibers that are recruited based on the body’s physical demands. For instance, lifting heavy weight requires more muscle fibers than lifting with light resistance while running requires more fibers than walking.
But, whether you perform resistance or cardio exercises, the body generally only uses about 40-60 percent of its muscle fibers. The number of fibers recruited is largely dictated by your neuromuscular system, which has the ability to adapt to common physical demands, a phenomenon often referred to as “muscle memory”. This is why practicing a skill or sport leads to better performance.
Interestingly enough, WBVT on the Power Plate bypasses the neuromuscular system and basically activates most of your muscle fibers into a state of almost constant muscle contraction. This essentially means that your body works harder during any given exercise performed and, as a consequence, the flow of blood to your muscles increases in order to supply the working muscles with more oxygen.
This increased oxygen to the muscles (properly termed muscle oxygenation) greatly supports post-exercise recovery.
To be honest, using the Power Plate was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It initially takes some getting used to as the vibration stimulates all your muscle fibers – Even those that make up the structure of your face. When standing on the vibrating platform, it actually feels as though you’re working before you even move. But, this is nothing more than a feeling. Simply standing on the platform will not lead to any physical improvements. You won’t burn extra calories either.
It is what you do while standing on the platform that leads to results.
In addition to the traditional resistance exercises I mentioned before, I also performed isometric iterations of others like the squat, row, overhead, press, and lunge in combination fashion.
Isometrics basically involve static muscle contractions that don’t involve any joint movement – That is, no shortening or lengthening of muscle fibers results. Incorporating such isometrics into WBVT has been proven beneficial in improving physical function and rehabilitation among individuals with joint problems like arthritis.
During the latter phase of my workout session, Maureen also taught me how to effectively use the Power Plate to perform common exercises like mountain climbers, single straight leg deadlift, and planks, which really challenged my endurance, core strength, and stability. I personally hate all three exercises, so performing them on the Power Plate made the experience even worse – But, in a good way, I guess.
I can easily see myself incorporating WBVT to really spice up my resistance training routine. Since, I generally alternate between heavy lifting and light weight circuit training, the Power Plate would be a great way to intensify those lighter weight sessions. Through it’s effects on muscle oxygenation, integrating this type of training could also improve the efficiency and overall effectiveness of my running and cycling programs as well.
After about 30 minutes of dynamic WBVT, Maureen closed the session by coaching me through some of the most stimulating, yet relaxing stretches I’ve ever performed. These included hip, hamstring, and back stretches, which themselves weren’t totally new – Again, it was the incorporation of vibration during these stretches that substantially amplified their effects.
Right after the stretches, I underwent a series of vibration “massages” targeting my hamstrings, quadriceps, neck, and shoulder muscle groups. It was this portion of my session that made it well worth it. And, surprisingly, I fell asleep within a couple of hours after – My guess is that my body had already begun the recovery process, which is another plus!
If you exercise regularly and are looking to add some excitement to your routine, I highly recommend experiencing the Power Plate for yourself. While WBVT alone is not a substitute for traditional resistance and cardio exercises, it’s certainly a great way to take some of the routineness out of your workouts.
So, if you’re in Chicago or the Chicagoland area, check out East Bank Club where Power Plate units are readily available for use by members and/or guests. The club also offers group classes in addition to private and semi-private sessions on the Power Plate. Otherwise you can do a quick Google search to find your nearest location with a Power Plate. Besides the commercial unit, Power Plate offers a portable version built solely for personal use. I haven’t tried this one yet but you can check it out here.
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Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.
Before starting an exercise training program you should first make sure that exercise is safe for you. If you are under the age of 55 years and generally in good health, it is probably safe for you to exercise. However, if you are over 55 years of age and/or have any health problems, be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise training program.