By: David Howatson-Begg
Picture a young personal trainer, no more than 23 years old, hopping around the gym floor from customer to customer with an energy level beyond compare. Full of enthusiasm but without experience. He comes across one gym member whose aspirations are served perfectly by Power Plate. The participant is game. Our trainer is exuding confidence “this will help your bad hip' and “you'll be relaxed and energized” he proclaims. The gym member is set up, primed and ready to go. Start. In an instant the user scrambles off the Power Plate in a hurry. A buzzing head. An itching nose. A strange sensation they never want to repeat.
That was my first interaction with a customer using whole body vibration. Any discomfort on the user’s part was not caused by Power Plate. It was a result of my ignorance. Unfortunately, it's a story too many people can relate to. We see many users standing on Power Plate for the first time and experiencing that 'buzz' through their head. In some cases that may be their first and last experience with whole body vibration. Thankfully there are straightforward solutions to avoiding discomfort and other negative effects.
Athletic Ready Position
An easy way to dampen the vibration as it travels up the body is to adopt the Athletic Ready Position before you hit the start button. The stance is simply to bend the knees and hinge at the hips so that the upper body has a slight lean forward. Having this position before starting the Power Plate creates muscular tension in the legs and core, which absorbs the force. More absorption means the head is far less likely to feel the waves of vibration. Find the correct angle during squats or upright exercises as you move and your head shouldn't feel anything but normal.
Set For Success
A universal rule applies when thinking about the appropriate settings: do not go on 50/HIGH straight off the bat. A frequency of 50Hz means that the body is absorbing 50 waves of vibration per second. Having the amplitude on High makes the Power Plate platform drop and rise (or vertically displace) between 2-4mm. It's like the ground beneath your feet falling then coming back up to meet your body 50 times per second as you walk down the street. It's a huge amount of stimulation to experience, especially in your first interaction.
Drop the settings down and forget the bigger is better mantra that is often applied. Power Plate recommends 30/35Hz Low throughout our interactions via previous blogs, online videos or in face-to-face meetings. Only hit that 50/High during massage and recovery when you are not going to be standing upright on the platform.
Utilising our good friend functional movement is a great way to ensure the body absorbs the vibration. Let’s take an abdominal crunch or V-Sit position as an example. The pelvis is a big set of bones that, when in contact with the platform, will push vibration up through the spine and into the head. The closer the head is to the platform then the less distance the force has to travel. If we are static or perform restricted movements such as crunches then there is very little tension. Inevitably the vibration will go up into the head.
By adding movements such as a reach, a throw or a basic change in direction we create more points of tension for the vibration to hit. So wave your arms, press a dumbbell, throw a ball, kick your legs - just do anything that causes motion. Those actions are not only effective but its way more fun to move than it is to wait, count and hope.
By David Howatson-Begg, Performance Health Systems UK Master Trainer