Rattling dumbbells and vibrating plates have arrived, but do they improve the way we exercise?
Shaky technology changes gym workouts
One fitness trend taking firm hold in the Emirates is that of vibrating workouts: from weights to plates, these contraptions aim to boost the effectiveness of exercise by adding repetitive instability.
One of these is BodyVib, a souped-up dumbbell that, according to its website, uses a process called "mechanical decoupling", which triggers a vibrating motion within the weight.
When compared to the Shake Weight (see below), this provides a gentle rumble from within rather than "a shake" provided by pure manpower. Its manufacturers, however, claim it has similarly astounding effects on one's physique.
Numerous gymnasiums cross the UAE stock these weights and many personal trainers advocate their use, including Lumi Stoican, the assistant manager at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel's Pavilion Marina and Sports Club in Dubai.
"There are a lot of these kind of products out there, but I think these ones actually work, especially if you're trying to tone your muscles," she says. "They're not really suitable for body building, but if you're after some toning I would say they're about 40 per cent more effective than normal dumbbells. They kind of vibrate the fibres in your arms while you use them, which causes them to fatigue quicker.
"They also look really cool and futuristic - kind of like something from Star Trek, so my clients really like to use them."
Another piece of vibrating sporting equipment that is in common usage across the UAE is the PowerPlate, an oscillating platform on which the user carries out push-ups, sit-ups and stretches. The vibrations are supposed to make these exercises six times more effective by putting extra tension on the muscles.
The InterContinental Abu Dhabi Hotel Health Club gym is home to one of these machines, and gym instructor Abderrahim Laasiba was keen to extol its benefits.
"If you're in a rush and don't have time for a really long work out, then these machines are perfect for you," he says. "You can do a full body workout in about 20 minutes - so they are very popular with our gym members - and there's often a queue for people to use the machine."
The concept has even been adapted for animal training: at last month's Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex), a Dubai-based company called Stableforce Trading promoted the VitaFloor, which takes "the same well-established physical and technological principles of whole-body vibration training (WBV) as used for astronauts to stimulate the development of bone density and muscle fibre", to train horses.
Stableforce general manager Ajith Varghese says: "When we started our company four years ago it was pretty tough, but recently more trainers have heard about this product and it has been selling really well."
VitaFloor is used after a horse has been training or running a race, he says.
"The vibrations work to improve the horse's circulation, which can help reduce swelling in their legs and heal minor strains," he says.
"The first time the horse tries it, he may be a bit scared, but after this they really begin to get used to the feeling of the vibrations and they do love it."
Back to humans, new from the makers of the PowerPlate is the PowerBike: an exercise cycle that takes Spinning to a whole new level. Fitted with an oscillating seat and pedals that recreate the bumps and jolts of riding over cobblestone streets or a mountain trail, according to the company website the bike "generates more muscle activity per stroke to the legs and gluteus".
But despite the vogue for shuddering sports goods, some health professionals are sceptical about the effectiveness of this kind of equipment.
Michael Haddin, the owner of Haddins Fitness Centre at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, has been a personal trainer for more than 10 years. He worked with professional cricketers and tennis players before founding his business in the UAE.
"You get a lot of these fads that just come and go, and most of these products are completely useless," he says. "These vibrating dumbbells and the like, they might have a slight benefit if you don't do any exercise at all, but otherwise they're just a waste of time. In my experience, these get-fit-quick pieces of equipment are just gimmicks, as you've got to devote time and energy to it if you're really serious about losing weight and getting healthy.
"Nothing can beat aerobic exercise and full-body functional movements that engage all the muscles, so in my gym we use equipment like kettle bells and medicine balls. So really, anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is.
"I reckon in six months we'll have completely forgotten about these vibrating weights and everyone will have moved on to the next fad."
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