Our expert says:
the machine is the latest in marketing hype in the fitness and training industry. That said, there is more evidence and a stronger theoretical basis for the Powerplate than there is for many “gimmicks” before it. The problem is that the marketers and agents for the machine hyper-inflate its value and they end up detracting from it by promising the world and delivering a village.
So let’s talk about what we do know about vibration training, which is actually not all that new – it was first used by Russians. Scientific studies have found that vibration treatments improved strength when used AS PART of a strength training programme. That is, the addition of Powerplate training to a strength programme made the users stronger than if they just did normal strength training. The reasons for this, without getting overly technical, is because the vibration increases the gravitational force and stimulates the muscle-tendon unit to lengthen and shorten at a high frequency, much like strength training does. The result is that the nerves controlling the muscle are stimulated and the muscle gets stronger as a result.
Is this the same as saying it could REPLACE strength training? Probably not. At this stage, it’s too early to know the answer for sure, but I suspect that strength training, with its specific movements, still holds the edge, because strength is functional. In other words, you can be strong in one activity, but not in another, and I’m not convinced that passively being strengthened by standing on a Powerplate can develop the co-ordination necessary to actually create useful strength. This is also why the Powerplate is probably most useful when strength exercises are performed on the machine (like squats, lunges etc), because you then get the additive effect of vibration plus movement.
So the jury is still out on the best use and integration of the Powerplate into training. It is not likely to be a substitute, but a complement, to strength training. Then, where it might be particularly valuable is in people who can’t do weight training for strength, such as elderly or injured people.
The other commonly desired use of the Powerplate is for weight loss, and that’s where marketing runs rampant. At this stage, there is still no substitute for cardiovascular training, no shortcut and no way that the Powerplate will compare to those forms of exercise for weight loss. It will, of course, have some effect, and so it’s not wasted time, but it’s fairly low down in the queue of weight-loss exercise forms until proven otherwise in a decent scientific study.
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