Shake things up with Power Plate®

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Vibration training gained popularity with Russian athletes in the 1960s and has been around ever since (1). Today you can find Power Plate® machines in your local gym or fitness boutique. They have even just released a Personal Power Plate®, weighing 18 kg, that will fit under your bed or in your cupboard.  There are numerous benefits to vibration training, including increased circulation, improved flexibility, reduction in cellulite, speeding up recovery, boosting endurance, and improving core strength and stability (2).  It can also be a great benefit when strength training in the gym. In 15-30 seconds you can pre-activate your muscles which will in turn, increase your power and range of motion (ROM). In a 2016 study, Dallas, et al. (3) found direct pre-activation resulted in increased flexibility and explosive strength in the legs of divers. This affect last up to 15 minutes following exposure to vibration. The pre-activation in this series were 4 sets of 30 seconds with 30 seconds rest in between, with a different exercise for each set (static squat, dynamic squat, and lunges on each leg).

How can you pre-activate? Hop on to the Power Plate® in your gym and either hold a static pose or a simplified version of the move you are about to perform, such as squats, without the weights. Even if you have to wait a minute or two for the lifting equipment to become available, the benefit of the vibration training was found to still be available up to 15 min (3). In other research studies, vibration training has been shown to improve muscle activity, force, and power (4).

What is the physiological reason behind this? Dallas et al. (3) hypothesise that the vibration helps the stretch reflex loop in the muscle fiber. Vibration training also raises muscle temperature and blood flow to the muscle which helps with ROM (4)  The neurological system may improve motor unit synchronisation and help further develop the central balance neuropathways (5).

By using a Power Plate® during your workout, you can reduce the length of the session.  The vibration makes the workout more intense, activating all muscles in body. Even if the exercise you are doing doesn't target another part of the body (for example, a bicep curl), another part (the core) is still engaged.   Older people who have trouble with their balance or people who take part in sports that require a lot of agility (trail running, parkour, tennis, basketball, football) will see rapid improvements in their sports performance once they started using vibration training.  A 2016 study (6) found that Elite male soccer players improved their stability when they had a short vibration training session of 3 x 60 seconds with 60 seconds rest in between trials after a 10 minute warm up on a stationary bicycle.  Additionally, both the elite and amateur male soccer players improved their anterior Y balance test reach distances, which is an indication of improved flexibility.  This increase in stability, flexibility, and balance can help reduce the risk of injury in the long term, such as during a match.

There are several contraindication for vibration training.  People who are pregnant, have cancer, broken bones, a recent IUD insertion or have a pacemaker should not use the machines.  Never use the machine barefoot and always use the mat if you are sitting on the machine.  Some people find the vibrations too intense on first use.  To help the body become accustomed to the new sensation, you can stand on the mat during the first few sessions to dampen the intensity.  Also, rock back and forth on your feet from heels to toes to explore how the vibration travels differently through the body depending on body positioning.  Standing straight up will allow the vibration to travel right up to your head, so aim to keep the knees soft.

The vibrations are not something you will have experienced before, so it may take some time to get used to.  Once you are used to it, vibration training is a proven way to make use of your limited time in the gym.  The long-term improvements in flexibility, strength, and stability will be an asset to your performance goals.



References
1 Biermann, W.  1960. Influence of cycloid vibration massage on trunk flexion. American Journal of Physical Medicine  (39): 219–224.
2 https://powerplate.com/
3 Dallas, G., G. Paradisis, P. Kirialanis, V. Mellos, P. Argitaki, and A. Smirniotou.  2015.  The acute effects of different training loads of whole body vibration on flexability and explosive strength of lower limbs in divers.  Biology of Sport. 32(3): 235-241.
4 Sands, W.A., J.R. McNeal, M.H. Stone, G.G. Haff, and A.M. Kinser.  2008. Effect of vibration on forward split flexibility and pain perception in young male gymnasts. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance.  3(4):469-481.
5 Ronnestad, B.R.  Comparing the performance-enhancing effects of squats on a vibration platform with conventional squats in recreationally resistance-trained men.  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 18(4): 839-845.
6 Cloak, R., A. Nevill, and M. Wyon.  2016.  The acute effects of vibration training on balance and stability amongst soccer players. European Journal of Sport Science.  16(1): 20-26.


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