It may look like a Segway minus the wheels, but Power Plate is a new way to stay fit that works by shaking you into shape on a vibrating platform that promises greater strength and flexibility with a decidedly nontraditional workout.
Embraced by athletes, celebrities and aging rock stars, Power Plate works through a science called acceleration training that was pioneered by Soviet scientists in the 1960s and used to keep cosmonauts from going flabby in space. The concept is that standing on the machine's vibrating plate makes the muscles work harder as the effort to maintain balance is added to the exercise. The minor instability causes muscles to act in reflex up to 50 times a second, resulting in a more rigorous workout in fewer minutes.
No moving parts are obvious when you look at this machine, which is absent pedals, stairs and moving treads. You stand on a large black platform facing a control panel in the center of wide, tall handles. When you activate the Power Plate, the platform starts to vibrate. A lot.
The user then performs typical exercises—squats, lunges, push-ups—the effects of which are intensified by the vibration. The machine comes with straps that attach to the platform to get your arms involved for exercises such as pulls or curls. You don't shake or shimmy, but you do feel a buzz, which the makers claim increases flexibility, strength and bone density and even improves circulation, with workouts lasting only 15 minutes, done three times a week. We liked how it relaxed tense back muscles.
A long list of celebrities and athletes have bought into the Power Plate, including such hard bodies as Shaquille O'Neal, Heidi Klum, Madonna and Matt Damon. The ultimate testimonial may come from The Police's Sting, who credits it with keeping that aging rock band fit enough to endure the rigors of the road.
Check with your doctor before hopping on the Power Plate. The Power Plate Pro5 retails for $9,250. Smaller, less expensive versions are also available.