Cutting Edge Fitness client Natalie Conte, front, does crunches while using the Power Plate machine during fitness class, with instructor, Rudy Bunge, center, and Sam Ghanem. The machine has users vibrating to tougher workouts. (Carline Jean, Sun Sentinel / October 15, 2012)
It may feel like exercising with a jackhammer, but fans of a new-age machine vibrating in South Florida fitness centers and physical therapy offices say it builds sleeker bodies and heals injuries in a fraction of the time.
Called the Power Plate, its rapid-fire pulsations are said to increase blood flow and make muscles contract just by standing on it, which delivers an extra, low-impact intensity to workouts.
Thanks to celebrity endorsements by the likes of the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade and Madonna, a machine first introduced to America's fitness scene 10 years ago is today enjoying a resurgence of popularity across South Florida. "There was a picture in Sports Illustrated of Dwyane Wade working out on a Power Plate, and now everyone wants to do it," said Jonathan Master, owner of Vibe Fitness Studio in Wellington, which has four of the machines. "I get so many calls on it," said Chris Verna, a personal trainer in Boca Raton.
Based on technology reportedly developed in the 1960s to help Russian cosmonauts restore bone density lost in space, the Power Plate platform delivers three-dimensional vibrations that stimulate 25 to 50 muscle contractions per second, making the muscles work harder and energizing circulation. "From the very first time I got on it, I thought it was absolutely the very best workout you could get, because it's very quick," said Tara Darlene Diamante Canhos, owner of the Diamante Day Spa in Fort Lauderdale. "It works out your whole body in just 20 minutes." More of a beauty spa than a gym, Diamante's has just one exercise machine: the Power Plate. And, Canhos said, "people love it." "At first, people want to know what the hype is all about," said Rudy Bunge, an instructor and personal trainer at Cutting Edge Fitness in Boca Raton. "But then they get on it and see what it's all about, and they keep coming back."
Research has shown some improvements in muscle strength and endurance when using vibrating platforms with certain fitness and strength training routines, according to numerous studies published in medical journals, and the device reportedly helps improve symptoms of osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and other illnesses. But others warn that in excessive doses, high-frequency vibrations can carry long-term risks for brain damage, low-back pain and digestive discomfort.
Those who swear by the Power Plate's benefits say there is no reason to use the machine more than 30 minutes at a time, twice a week. And it's also been embraced by multiple health-care experts. Of the 40 locations in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties listed on the Power Plate's website as carrying the machines, 12 of them are chiropractic, physical therapy and other health-care offices.
Darlene Wooldridge, owner of Back to Health therapy clinic in Fort Lauderdale, said the machine is ideal for older patients who don't have a full range of motion. Because you get results without putting pressure on the joints, it helps people rehabilitate an injured knee or foot more quickly. "It's got so many uses. It doesn't take up a lot of space, and it really works," Wooldridge said. "I'm not into getting something because it's a fad. If I'm going to spend that much money, it better be useful for myself and my patients." Retailing for $9,500 to $12,950, the machine is an investment, but one that's paid dividends for gym owners like Anna Delgado, of Cutting Edge Fitness. "Everybody that gets on the Power Plate, it's an unbelievable workout, even for an athlete," Delgado said. The cost of a session on the Power Plate ranges by place. At Cutting Edge Fitness, for example, a private 30-minute session with an instructor are $49, and small group classes cost $35 each. At Diamante Day Spa, a 20-minute session without an instructor is $35, and an instructor-guided session with a Zen Bath is $75.
For Boca Raton mom Alisa Jaffe, 49, the Power Plate has both fitness and health appeal. She believes using the machine twice a week at Cutting Edge Fitness, in addition to surgery to remove a parathyroid tumor, helped reverse her osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. "I think it's amazing," Jaffe said, adding that it also helped with a stubborn foot injury. "I'm very, very happy with it. I love it."