I used to write for a gossip column at the New York Daily News, interviewing celebrities on red carpets, asking endless infuriating questions like, “Who are you wearing?” or “What’s your hair secret?” (Celebrity hair, it turns out, is full of secrets.)
Occasionally, if an actor or actress had gone through a radical physical transformation for a role, I’d have to ask how they’d pulled it off. Many had tales of training with Marines or carrying around bags of grilled chicken breasts wherever they went so they could be constantly eating protein.
I knew I could never do that myself. (Carrying bags of meat is the kind of thing that gets you arrested on the subway in New York.) But often, the stars would make reference to a particular tool that helped them get results faster than when they normally worked out: a vibrating platform that they stood on, or balanced on, while doing normal moves. They said it deepened their workouts and toned their bodies at a startling rate.
They were talking about Power Plates.
Many gyms have them, it turned out. They look a little like a StairMaster with a platform instead of pedals. You stand on it and do your normal squats, or use it for support as you do a pushup or plank or other ground-based maneuver. It vibrates powerfully, forcing more muscles in your body to activate, especially your core, to keep yourself in position. Also, the plate creates an unstable platform, which causes the target muscles to constantly adjust to compensate, increasing the effectiveness of the move.
“Instead of using maybe 60 percent of your muscles working at that load, 85 percent of those muscles are really activated and working,” explains Brian Nguyen of Brik Fitness, who trains celebrities like the Rock, Michael Bay, Anthony Mackie and Amy Adams. “One of my clients is Mark Walhberg, for almost 12 years now. We don’t go anywhere without a Power Plate.”
The company came out with the Personal Power Plate, a portable version, so I arranged to get a loaner to test. I used it for several weeks, keeping it in my apartment and carrying it downstairs to my building’s gym. It weighs about 40 pounds and comes in a bag with handles.
The Personal Power Plate plugs into the wall and vibrates at 25 to 50 times a second (about the same rate as a massage chair you’d test out at Brookstone and then not buy) for either 30 or 60 seconds, which is just enough time to do 15 or 30 squats, pushups, deadlifts or what have you. It’s big enough to stand on with a wide stance. It doesn’t have a vertical stand like the original Power Plate, which makes it more portable but also slightly less flexible.
I work out with weights four or five days a week and run two or three days a week. I know how my body responds to lots of different routines, and the Personal Power Plate made my workouts more effective. I did push ups, squats and one-leg dumbbell deadlifts on it. I did calf raises, planks and even dumbbell bicep curls.
Doing a given exercise, I felt more thoroughly exhausted quicker than normal and was more sore a day later than I’d normally be. I was training for a half marathon at the time, and my leg workouts definitely made me stronger, and, I think, faster.
According to Nguyen, who says he uses the Power Plate for nearly all of his celebrity clients, it is good for both building muscle and for weight loss. (According to the brand, Power Plate users drop twice as much fat over six months than people using fitness and diet alone.)
“I put every one of my weight loss clients on there,” he told me. “I put every athlete on there. I put muscle gainers on there. Every single NFL team pretty much has a Power Plate in the locker room.” I believe it.