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Two Fit

Published: Sunday April 21, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday August 15, 2013 MYT 10:31:13 PM

Vibrating technology

For a revolutionary method of training, try the Power Plate. It gives you better results in a shorter time.

I’M always on the lookout for new ways and exercises to improve my fitness. Doing routine workouts do not cut it for me. I have to vary my workouts or I feel I’m getting nowhere. Plus, I need to find innovative routines to keep my students motivated.

My fitness level had plummeted considerably after laying off exercise for a whole year due to gastrointestinal issues. I couldn’t eat 70% of the foods I was able to eat before. As a result, I was constantly fatigued.

From being able to perform 60 burpees and five-minute planks, 10 crunches were all I could muster before my stomach would go into spasms. My once-upon-a-time toned, pretty-fit body was in a sorry state. It was turning limp and unsightly.

I needed to whip my body back into shape. From experience, I knew the fastest way I could obtain results was to work on the Power Plate, which is designed to reduce training time while providing a muscle stimulus that leads to changes in muscle mass.

I had worked on it before and although I was initially a sceptic, I was amazed at how quickly I got fitter and stronger, and how much higher I could jump while dancing.

The Power Plate is a device that utilises principles of vibration therapy to improve muscle strength and performance, regardless of one’s physical and neurological condition. The vibration is three-dimensional. It goes up-down, forward, backward and side-to-side. The exercises may be simple but because of the vibration, all the smaller muscles are forced to wake up, which in turn helps improve balance and stability.

The vibration technology was initially developed in Russia in the 70s for astronauts to prevent bone and muscle loss while in space. When they landed on earth, they were put through vibration training programmes and results showed their muscles acclimatised better to gravity and the “recuperation” period was shorter.

Research has proven that with the use of vibration in space, astronauts could also stay there three times longer because the technology helped maintain their bone density levels.

Later, Russian ballet dancers discovered that vibrations could help them jump higher and aid in healing injuries by increasing their muscular strength. Once communism fell, the secrets of the technology found its way to Europe and eventually, athletes began using it.

In 1999, Dutch Olympic trainer Gus Vandermeer found that he could increase the speed and strength of alpine skiers by putting them on a vibration machine. He formed a company and made improvements to the machine.

Now, the technology is being used in hospitals, universities and health establishments. It’s suitable for everyone, from the Olympic athlete to someone new to exercise.

In a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (Vol. 6, pp: 44-49, 2007), the whole body vibration training period over six weeks produced significant changes in sprint running kinematics and explosive strength performance.

Performance in 10m, 20m, 40m, 50m and 60m improved significantly, with an overall improvement of 2.7%. The step length and running speed improved by 5.1% and 3.6%. The counter-movement jump height increased by 3.3%, and the explosive strength endurance improved overall by 7.8%.

With my stomach feeling a little better this year, I called up freelance Power Plate trainer Choy Kim Yuen and asked if he could put me through the grind. His first reaction was to laugh because he knew how fit I used to be.

However, when he saw my reduced state, he was shocked. When I stepped on the body composition analyser scale, the printout revealed almost half the assessment fell into the “under” or “deficient” category.

My plan was to work on strength and cardiovascular fitness. I wanted results in 12 sessions. We set to work at the Body Tone Wellness Studio in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

“Usually, we can see a difference in clients within three months of beginning the Power Plate training. If you work on it three times a week, you should start seeing the difference before the first month ends,” he said. “The focus is on strength training. We don’t waste time doing cardio because you can do that on your own.”

I steered my mind to seeing results within two months.

The average person can lose about 400 to 600 calories in a session, claims Choy. In fact, one of his clients managed to lose 1,200 calories – all in 45 minutes! Progress can be tracked by using electronic monitors that are designed to accurately gauge physical activity and the calories burned. Evidently, those with larger bodies or more muscle mass tend to burn up more calories

“Most women want to work on their stomachs. But your stomach is already flat. Be happy!” he quipped.

No, flat was not enough. I wanted my six-pack back! It had been my pride. Though, at the back of my head, I knew it was going to be an impossible task to sculpt it again given my restricted dietary intake presently.

Choy’s warm ups began with a step up and down for two minutes, alternating legs. Then some quick stretches on the machine before we embarked on the session proper.

We began with the basics – holding the position in squat, dead-lift, bridge, plank, etc, for 30 seconds. In some exercises, he would use the hand straps. Static exercise using hand straps are equally as effective as doing dynamic exercises. It was already a challenge for me and I was breaking out in sweat.

My entire body was in pain the next day. Out came the rubs, gels and what-nots. But I plodded on. We slowly upped my workouts using dumb bells, ViPR tubes and medicine balls.

After the second week, he decided to put me on a tougher circuit routine. Five exercises, 20 reps each and five rounds. It was harsh but I managed to do a total of 100 squats, 100 push-ups, 100 tricep dips, 100 bent-over rows and 100 side-plank dips.

“You’re definitely getting stronger,” remarked Choy, pleased.

I was elated. Then disaster struck that night while I was teaching a dance class. I did the carbriole and landed wrongly. Ouch! A searing pain shot through my ankle, but I continued to dance. The injury was worse than I thought and put me back three weeks.

My workouts became inconsistent due to work travels and the nasty ankle sprain. Every time I resumed training after a week or two, Choy would step down my workouts so I could rebuild again. My progress was hindered, it was frustrating, but I couldn’t help it.

Two days ago, we worked with the TRX suspension cables. It was different and equally challenging. I’m still feeling the effects. Other gadgets used with the Power Plate include kettle bells and punching bags. Yoga practitioners can also try doing their asanas to gain better balance.

While it’s a great machine that can bring about results three times faster than ordinary workouts at the gym, there are contraindications and not everyone is suitable for the vibration technology. It’s not advisable for migraine sufferers, pacemaker wearers and those with advanced osteoporosis.

I stepped on the body composition analyser scale again yesterday and despite my inconsistency, I’m happy to report that my muscle mass has gone up and my body fat has gone down! The more muscles you have, the more you weigh, so Choy makes it a point to tell his clients not to pay too much attention to weight gain.

Of course, you still have to embark on two or three cardio sessions outside the Power Plate to achieve maximum gain.

The writer is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance, but longs for some bulk and flesh in the right places.

Tags / Keywords: Health, fitness, power plate

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