"What does this thing do?" Rachael Blumberg wondered. The former college water polo player never saw anyone using an odd contraption that sat in a dank corner at her West L.A. gym. So she hopped on it — and was all shook up. It was a vibration plate, a platform that vibrates from 20 to 40 times a second.
Blumberg didn't know that the Soviets invented these fitness machines in the 1960s when they discovered that vibration helped keep cosmonauts' muscles and bones from atrophying in a nongravity environment, or that NFL and college trainers were using vibration plates to rehab athletes with increased circulation.
But after several days of doing squats, in-place running and other exercises on it, she saw results. "I was tighter, leaner, stronger — in one week!" she insists. In American Dream fashion, she quit her corporate job, bought nine $12,000 vibration machines from Power Plate, the manufacturer, and this year opened PlateFit, a tiny fitness studio in West Hollywood.
It was an instant hit.
The PlateFit classes are just 27 minutes long, but, as I found out, that's a workout. According to Power Plate, the subtle instability of the patented "3-D" vibration (simultaneously moving 1 to 2 millimeters up and down, side to side and back and forth) amplifies force by accelerating your muscular movements. Translation: You work out more in less time — yet feel surprisingly refreshed when it's over. People seem to like the efficiency; PlateFit's 100 classes a week are packed, says Blumberg, so much so that she just opened a second location in Brentwood.
Sunlight streams in from three windowed sides of a small, 20-by-20, second-floor storefront overlooking the Brentwood Country Mart. Nine Power Plate machines are arrayed in front of a mirrored front wall. Instrumental dance music, slightly sped up, tattoos a fun, frisky beat, yet not so loud that you can't hear the distinctive buzz of the machines. This class is the hard-core BootCamp, one of the toughest of two dozen on the menu, so there will be no stretching, no gradual warmup. An instructor on a wooden, nonvibrating pedestal in the middle of the room wastes no time. We bolt like racehorses from the gate. "Jumping jacks!" she yells as she leads us. "Ten, nine, eight...."
"We need more ventilation in here," I start thinking within seconds. Breathing deep, gulping oxygen, I watch the mirror in amazement as my sweat glands gush just five minutes in — all while the perfectly coiffed women around me seem to flow at breakneck speed without a hair out of place. But by the end, we're all drenched. The class is nonstop, moving lickety-split from jumping jacks to cross-over steps, squats, mountain climbers and other familiar exercises. Each is done with either one or both feet atop the padded, vibrating 3-foot-round plate surface, assuring that we shake that booty — and every other body part. Then, to ramp it up, we do some of the same exercises holding dumbbells and medicine balls. We turn toward the back of the room for side-to-side core work and stretch-cord shoulder presses and pulls. With butts perched on the plate and shoulders leaning against the vertical post, the vibration during these exercises is intense; I felt like my brain was going to explode.
PlateFit's classes range from hard-core Boot Camp and Kickbox Fit classes to the more leisurely Recovery and Cellu-Fit. Interestingly, all the classes seem to leave a pleasant afterglow. Although blasted in class and already beat up from a hard weight workout I'd done the day before, I felt refreshed afterward — and I wasn't alone. "I said 'enough' 10 minutes into it — and left energized," said Amy Field, a 33-year-old singer-songwriter from Sherman Oaks. Lee Hillman, Power Plate chief executive, says that's because the vibrations not only massage as they work you, but "flood you with serotonin, HGH and testosterone while suppressing cortisol." All I know for sure is that 27 minutes on that jiggling, joggling, wobbling, quivering, quaking machine left me feeling good.
$99 a month with unlimited visits. PlateFit locations: 309 Kings Road in West Hollywood, and 13050 San Vicente Blvd., No. 208, Los Angeles. www.platefit.co