Madonna Vibrates For Fitness

Madonna's, the Chicago Bulls' & Hillary Swank's secret weapon

Madonna has always been on the cutting edge in her workouts.  Among other things, she does yoga and Pilates to stay in shape, and over the years she’s happily mixed it up to keep challenging herself and take it to the next level.

Madonna’s current new craze is using a Power Plate®.  She actually owns one of these machines, which go for $3,500 for a home unit and as much as $9,250 for a health club model. Power Plate’s claim is that by standing on it three times per week for a mere 10 minutes, you’ll develop sleek sculpted muscles.

Other celebrities who have testified of the Power Plate’s benefits are Sting, Hillary Swank, Clint Eastwood, and Serena Williams. Even professional sports teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Green Bay Packers have incorporated it into the exercise routines of their players.

So why does this 10-minute machine work when other gadgets that have promoted similar results in the same amount of time have always been “too good to be true”?

I’ve been on a Power Plate several times and it delivers a pretty intense workout. The company describes the machine as “creat[ing] instability in the human body, as with each vibration, the body is forced to perform reflexive muscle actions, multiple times per second. Furthermore, these contractions must work in multiple dimensions as the Power Plate machines actually oscillate in all three planes, exactly as the human body is designed to do. The net result is an incredible improvement in force production, or strength and power.”

Here’s how I translate the last paragraph: it shakes the shit out of you. Your teeth literally rattle. It’s an intense workout, but I wonder — actually I worry — about the long term effects of the Power Plate on your body.  You hold onto the bars and go into a position, like a squat, and then turn the machine on for a set period of time, say 60 seconds.  Or you have your feet off the side and hold a plank position with your hands on the vibrating platform.  You can also move through a range of motion, going up and down in the squat or push-up positions.  Pretty much whatever you do with a regular resistance training program, you can duplicated with a Power Plate.

The origins of this machine comes from the Russian Olympic training program from the 1960s. The Soviets expended a great deal of money and time crafting better athletes and they came up with this vibrating platform as one way to do it. The basic idea was athletes would perform their usual exercises on the platform, but because the platform was shaking so strongly, their muscles would be challenged and quickly fatigue.

Power Plate training takes less time and has a greater toning effect than just doing the exercises on a solid surface. The company literature suggested three times per week for 10 minutes as a good workout plan.

Research has also suggested that the machine can be helpful with osteoporosis, arthritis and fibromyalgia. In these cases, an individual would simply stand on the platform for a brief period of time and let the vibrations work, gradually building up to longer times and simple exercises.

I almost bought the $9,000 machine for my studio, because I was compelled by the research for osteoporosis.  It’s the number one health issue my clients have and the studies were strongest for suggesting the Power Plate could help reverse the effects of osteo.

But there were two reasons why I finally didn’t do it:

1.  The vibrations on this machine are so strong that if it’s not placed on concrete floors you are actually causing wear and tear issues on your home.  Yes, really.

2.  I have a client who is a medical doctor and she had also tried the Power Plate a few times.  Ultimately she stopped because, as she put it, “You’re not just vibrating bones and muscles, you’re also vibrating soft tissue, like your heart and your eyeballs. I don’t know what the long term effects of that are and I don’t want to be the guinea pig.”

That was enough for me; I’m taking a wait-and-see approach.  I’d like a little more research on the machine’s positives and I’d like to make sure my organs can survive that level of shaking over the long haul.

Thoughts?  Have you tried the Power Plate?  What did you think?

Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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7 Responses to Madonna Vibrates For Fitness

  1. Megan @ Healthy Hoggin' March 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    I tried the Power Plate for 10 minutes, and I was shocked at HOW MUCH you are shaken! At first, I thought I wasn’t going to make it for the full 10 minutes, feeling my eyes and teeth shake, but I toughed it out, and by the end I did feel like I got a bit of a workout. Not enough to replace a traditional workout, though.

    Also, I think rebounding would produce similar results! I own a very nice rebounder, which is much cheaper than one of these machines, and I believe the shaking produced by bouncing on it is just as good for my muscles and bones! (without the potential side-effects of the vibrating!)

  2. Mark Fluette August 24, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    I was just reading the reviews about Megan’s eyes and teeth shaking… and your client the medical doctor whos shaking more than just bones and muscle. I sell these, have a training certification with Power Plate, and my clients are not experiencing any of these side effects with very little training.

    A simple bit of advice would be to position yourself correctly on the machine: Simply stand with semi-flexed knees on the platform. This means that muscles are contracted and will therefore limit transmission due to dampening. Then there will be little to no shaking eyes or teeth. If muscles are engaged, they will absorb vibrations. While training on a Power Plate, as you increase the joint angle of the knee (to full extension or standing straight up) more vibration will be felt in the head and upper body. So next time you try a Power Plate and feel your head shake, squat down and feel it work in the right area. Hope this helps!

  3. Lisa Johnson August 24, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    Mark thanks for your comments. I did want to clarify that my client the doctor enjoyed the Power Plate but had concerns about the long term effects on the body due to the really vigorous vibrations that does go through your body.

    I appreciate your suggestions about flexing the joints more to increase absorption from the machine but then I guess my question back would be is all that vibration necessary? I’ve been on these machines several times and I’ve seen the potential. But I don’t want to be the guinea pig for long term effects. I’m hoping these things are actually great. Their applications with the elderly and with osteoporosis issues look very promising … but (big but) I want to make sure it’s safe over a long period of time.

    Thanks Mark, I appreciate it,

    Lisa

  4. Mark Fluette August 25, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    Thank you Lisa, I agree with your concerns and I know many have wondered about long term effects of vibration training. There have been studies on it actually. After looking into comparisons by ISO (International Standard Organization) and controlled studies posted for public view on the Power Plate site under Research, I have found some very clear differences between Power Plate Acceleration Training and prolonged exposure to work environments such as transportation, construction and the military (where the real danger of long term vibration is due to hour after hour continuous exposure).

    As with any form of training, the correct use of the machine, dosage and protocol will determine the benefits and effects of performing a training session on the Power Plate. And I highly suggest you consult a medical professional and a certified personal trainer with at least a level I core fundamentals certification on Acceleration training. When the user has correct guidance on the many ways to use a Power Plate safely, the rewards far outweigh any risk.

    One 1992-1998 study published summed it up best: “It is imperative to acknowledge the crucial differences between the methodology and application of vibration in work conditions, and those used in training programs. Vibration only leads to vibration syndrome when exposed two to eight hours a day for many years.”

    Another 1994 sports science research study stated: “The risk is negligible when performing vibration training for a maximum of 30 minutes per session, three times a week.”

    Power Plate Acceleration Training should be used on a regular basis, starting with low intensity, low frequency settings and short sessions. Whether it’s for sports or daily life goals, and as with any progressive training program, you can safely increase the intensity and duration without any bad side-effects.

    I can assure you this is a safe long term training method… Also I think it’s pretty neat to see people like Rocco Mediate, Hillary Swank, Lance Armstrong, Clint Eastwood, Sting, and many other people from all walks of life being guinea pigs for us on this Vibration Training thing. I know I’m a believer!

    -Mark

  5. Lisa Johnson August 25, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the comments and the research you’ve done for the readers. I’m going to tweet this post out again so people can share your perspective and do their own research and make up their minds. I am familiar with vibration syndrome and I was thinking along those lines. That being said, I realize you have a financial stake in this company so please forgive me for taking it all with a grain of salt. I’d like to see some large, research based studies based on the long-term effects of machines specifically in the Power Plate genre on humans.

    Thanks though for coming back and giving more input, it’s really appreciated.

    Lisa

  6. Jacqui Cooper August 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    Hi

    I have severe arthritis of the knees and have started using a power plate at my local gym, I have to say it has provided immense relief for the pain in my knees and has helped flexibility.

    There may be danger in anything if used and abused but I think the Power Plate can be a real benefit to people like me (58, overweight and joint problems).

    I appreciate your medical friend not wanting to be a guinea pig but considering some of the contra indications that come with approved drugs…….. 10 minutes, 3 times a week on a power plate seems to me to be a pretty safe bet.

  7. Lisa Johnson August 25, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Jacqui, thanks for your comments, I’m glad that it’s helped with your arthritis. I have to say I’m on the fence about this product. I *want* it to be good and do exactly what they say it does, but I want more studies too. The initial reports for osteoporosis are excellent … and that’s the biggest issue my clients at my studio have.

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