I recently wrote an article on Whole Body Vibration (WBV) platforms. Recent research indicates that using a Whole Body Vibration will not increase the density or quality of your bone.
Shortly after I wrote my article, several readers asked me if using a product called the Power Plate Vibrating Plate (PPVP) would be an effective way to build bone.
Since the PPVP is a Whole Body Vibration (WBV) platform, I assumed that using it, like all other WBV platforms, would not improve the density or quality of the user’s bone.
Power Plate Training and Bone Density
However, the company claims on its website that “Power Plate training leads to a significant increase in hip area bone density”. They refer to a study (1) published in 2004 in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research to support this statement.
Ninety postmenopausal women participated in the study.
During the 24-week study period, the researchers created three groups of people for the tests.
- The Power Plate (PP) group that performed exercises on the PP.
- The Resistance group that performed aerobic and resistance exercises without the PP.
- The Control group that did no exercise.
The study claims that Power Plate training resulted in a 1.5% net improvement in bone density in the hip for the PP group compared with the Resistance and control groups.
Does the Power Plate Vibrating Plate Possess Special Powers?
Either the PPVP possesses some special capabilities that allow it to increase bone density (that other WBV platforms do not have) or the exercises (and intensity of exercises) performed by the PP group were different from those performed by the Resistance group.
I reviewed the published study in detail and found that the researchers gave the resistance group a substantially different exercise program than the PP group.
Different Exercise Programs Yield Different Results
The exercise program that they gave the Power Plate group was more favorable for bone-building compared to the exercise program that they gave to the Resistance group.
The reason the Power Plate group showed an increase in hip are bone density over the study period – compared to the other groups – was not due to the benefits of the PPVP. It was a result of the exercise program that they followed.
The Exercise Program for the Power Plate Group
The Power Plate group was assigned an exercise program (2) that involved progressive weight-bearing exercises.
- The study did not specify the precise number of sets or repetitions involved but they did mention that the PP group, unlike the Resistance group, was encouraged to consistently increase their load. Progressively increasing exercise load promotes bone-density improvement. This was not done for the Resistance group.
- Exercises for the PP group included a variety of weight-bearing exercises such as lunges and squats. The Resistance group did not perform weight-bearing exercises.
- Training load for the PP group was increased by changing the execution form of the exercises from predominantly two-legged to one-legged exercises. By making the PP participant stand on one leg, the researchers doubled the load through that leg. This was not done with the Resistance group participants.
- The training program for the PP group included a wider variety of exercises. By introducing variety to the exercise program for the PP participants they stimulated bone development. Variety was not included for the Resistance group participants
The Exercise Program for the Resistance Group
The Resistance group did not follow the same exercise program (2) as the PP group. The exercise program for the Resistance group consisted mostly of endurance training and non-weight-bearing exercises.
- Endurance sets were used for more than half the duration of the study. Endurance training and, specifically, high-intensity endurance training, has not been shown to build bone.
- Unlike the PP group, there was no variety in the type of exercises used. Studies have shown that bone and muscle need to be surprised with variety in order to build.
- Seated strength exercises were employed. Seated exercises are not considered weight-bearing exercises.
Readers who are interested in knowing the actual exercise programs in the study can read this supplemental blog entry.
Advantage: Power Plate Group
The PP group had an advantage over the Resistance group, not because they used the Power Plate Vibrating Plate, but because they followed an exercise program that promoted bone-density improvement.
This study failed to demonstrate that Power Plate training alone improves bone density or quality. Research has consistently demonstrated that it is the type and intensity of exercise program that will dictate how much your bone density and quality improves over time.
I recommend that you follow an exercise program that promotes bone quality. Your program should also teach you movements that avoid fracture while doing your exercise program and daily activities. I encourage you to consult with a health professional qualified in this area.
A more appropriate study would be to have two groups perform identical progressive weight-bearing exercises, with one group exercising on the PP and the other group exercising on the floor. Results of such a study would determine much more equitably whether the PP is more effective in building bone than a program without the Power Plate.
(1) Sabine MP Verschueren et al. Effect of 6-Month Whole Body Vibration Training on Hip Density, Muscle Strength, and Postural Control in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. JBMR Volume 19, Issue 3, pages 352–359, March 2004
(2) I have listed the individual exercises for each of the programs (as much detail as the researchers provided in their published study) in a separate blog entry.
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