Cellulite and vibration platform training: separating fact from fiction

Does power plate reduce or prevent cellulite?

Cellulite is a combination of superficial fat accumulation, loose skin, water retention, inflammation and subsequent scar tissue build up. Vibration plate training can help improve some of these aspects of cellulite, but does not really cure cellulite. In summary, it helps a bit but it is does not quite live up to the hype.

 

The science bit (i.e. the good news)

Strong mechanical stimulation such as vibration produced by a vibrating platform does encourage adipocyte apoptosis and fibroblast proliferation and upregulation. In plain English this means that fat cells are encouraged to die off early, whilst at the same time collagen cells are encouraged to replace the dead fat cells and also increase their production of collagen and elastin (the two proteins that make your skin firm and elastic).

Obviously, those two things (fat cell apoptosis and fibroblast stimulation) can have a direct effect on three aspects of cellulite :

  • fat
  • skin firmness
  • and water retention (fluid retention improves because blood vessel walls are made of collagen, elastin and similar proteins, so an improvement in collagen output would make them stronger and more resilient, thereby decreasing tissue water leakage and therefore water retention).

Of course all the above can only be considered as good news for cellulite sufferers: if we believe the hype, all one needs to do to get rid of her cellulite is spend hours on a vibrating platform, right? Well, as always in life, things are not that simple, as we explain in the following paragraph...

 

The reality bit (i.e. the bad news)

Unfortunately, things are never that simple. Vibration training and other mechanical stimulation does indeed cause the effects mentioned above. However, standing on a vibration platform for more than twenty minutes every other day is not the best thing for other tissues in your body, such as the cartilage found in your knee and hip joints or the retina in the back of your eyes and several other organs, which may be damaged by excessive vibration.

Some people are more sensitive, whilst some others are not - but in some cases you will never know before it's too late. This makes it pretty impossible to safely provide enough stimulation to your cellulite tissues to significantly affect cellulite. Therefore, with twenty minutes you may notice some results, but nothing sensational will ever happen.

In addition, power plate training by it's own is not enough. Vibration does not burn the fat, it merely disrupts the fat tissue. Fatty acids released from that tissue will still have to be oxidised (i.e. burned) in your body, otherwise they will simply be re-deposited in fat tissues, including cellulite tissues.

 

The naivety bit (...)

"Well, if I can't stand all day on the vibration machine because it's bad for me, how about sit or lie on it for less time, so that the machine affects more my cellulite and less my other organs and tissues?", I can hear you saying. Well, this sounds like a logical argument and in fact I have seen many women lying down or sitting down on the power plate in gyms, enjoying the good vibrations and smiling with pleasure...

However, what these women do not realise is that their ovaries, liver, kidneys, adrenals, pancreas and other internal organs don't particularly like vibration. Vibration training may be good for tough connective tissues (skin, bones, ligaments, muscles) but it it detrimental to more fragile tissues, as the ones mentioned above. Quite simply, lying or sitting on the vibration platform will damage your internal organs long before it inflicts any significant damage your belly fat tissue.

Personally, I would prefer to keep my kidneys intact and lose my love handles with other methods, rather than cause damage to my body. This is not scaremongering, it is reality: kidneys for example suffer quite negatively from the effects of vibration, and this has been documented for decades, long before vibration plates became popular. In fact, I would never perform any other exercise on a power plate than squats and lunges. Yep, that's it! Ten minutes every other day and that's it.

Doing sit ups, crunches, push ups and other torso/upper body exercises on a vibration plate are simply:

  • Either a waste of time, because not much vibration is transmitted to the right places, as in the case of performing arm curls whilst holding the belts connected to the machine. Or even as in the case of doing sit ups whilst your sitting bones are in contact with the vibration plate.
  • Or dangerous, because too much vibration is transmitted to all the wrong places. For example your discs and cartilage found on your wrist joints do not particularly like being vibrated whilst you perform push ups. Neither your ovaries and lumbar discs are happy when you sit or perform ab crunches with you lumbar spine in contact with the vibration plate.

"If that is the case, why do personal trainers teach you such a large variety of exercises on vibration machines and why do gyms offer one-hour vibration plate classes?", I can hear you asking. The answer to those questions can be simply summarised in just a few words: fashion, ignorance, responding to demand, boosting sales, doing what everyone else is doing...

 

How about localised cellulite treatment based on vibration?

Well, this is the next logical step in our quest to apply the benefits of vibration in the pursuit of cellulite reduction. Several years ago I went down that route, in my quest to offer my clients the best cellulite treatment possible. I used the strongest therapeutic vibration machine available today, a machine popular in the 70s, 80s an d90s, called G5.

I actually went even further and asked the manufacturer to produce an even stronger machine than those available commercially. Predictably, cellulite did decrease and skin firmness did improve, but only at the expense of spider veins (also known as thread veins) appearing on the treated areas...

Since replacing one evil with another is not a good idea, I gave up on localised vibration-based treatments for cellulite. Incidentally, for the exact same reason (plus it's negative effect on skin firmness), I also abandoned roller-suction treatments (treatments that utilise vacuum suction with rolling, also known as palper-rouler treatments) and switched to a manual method for a few years, before finally offering the radiofrequency, ultrasound cavitation and electro-mesotherapy I currently use at my practice.

 

The moral of the story is...

First of all, stop chasing miracle treatments - they do not exist. Just don't believe the hype.

  • Do train up to three times a week on a vibration plate, performing squats and lunges for up to ten minutes. Stick to ten minutes - more is not always better!
  • Combine this training with serious diet and cardiovascular exercise for maximum results
  • Combine with a good cellulite treatment just before or immediately after your power plate training.
  • Use a quality cellulite cream, ideally one with high concentrations of multiple active ingredients and applying it immediately before or after the training for maximum results
  • Do not even think of lying on the machine to lose your love handles, or sit on it to have a firmer bum...