Editor’s Note: John T. Weatherly has helped with conditioning programs and research at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. John is also a frequent commenter and contributor on the Russells’ Blog. Today’s article is the second in John’s series on vibration plates. These plates vibrate like a truck on a highway, allegedly making you fitter. Weatherly exposes the unreliable studies that the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and others have published on vibration platforms, and the corporate relationships that helped cover up the bad science.
In Part 1 I demonstrated that NSCA and others have published many unreliable research studies on vibration platforms. For example, many studies on Power Plate models did not even test the platforms under loaded conditions to see if they performed as the manufacturers claimed. The research was so bad the International Society of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions had to publish a paper in 2010 on how to conduct and report WBV studies.
Power Plate is a corporate ally of the NSCA and also a partner with EXOS (formerly Athletes’ Performance).
As the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning, we support and disseminate research-based knowledge and its practical application to improve athletic performance and fitness.
Really? Why would the NSCA publish numerous unreliable and invalid vibration studies? Was it they just didn’t know any better and made honest mistakes? Or, did the NSCA cover up information on purpose and publish the studies anyway?
You are about to read a sordid account about some of my experiences with the exercise industry.
My Background With Vibration
From 2003-2005, I consulted with an exercise company on rotary inertia and vibration. In 2004, I actually met with an ex-Soviet scientist to discuss his work on vibration. This is how I became involved with vibration. During this same time period (2003-2005), I wrote and communicated with Mark Verstegen (President and Founder of Athletes’ Performance, which is now EXOS).
I remember one email in particular with Mark. He said he thought vibration was HUGE and that the CNS and fiber type influenced responses to different frequencies and amplitudes. I believe Mark and Athletes’ Performance (AP) were the first facility in the US to develop a corporate partner relationship with Power Plate in late 2002.
A few years later, after I had briefly represented another company in the vibration industry (I haven’t had a thing to do with vibration companies for at least seven years), I met an individual in New Zealand online named Lloyd Shaw that knew more about actual vibration equipment than anybody I had come in contact with. Keep in mind, I had communicated with an ex-Soviet scientist along with other scientists such as Dr. Patrick Jacobs who was with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the time, and had communicated with somebody recognized as one of the top performance specialists in the world (Mark Verstegen). Lloyd knew more about the actual vibration equipment than any of these other people. Lloyd and I have corresponded ever since.
Lloyd Shaw educated me on the history of Power Plate:
1) In 1999 a group of Dutch and German engineers built a more ergonomic and nicer looking model of Dr. Bosco’s Nemes platform for the retail market.
2) Research and engineering tests were promising but work needed to be done to increase the plate size and power.
3) Power Plate split in 2003 with one partner going to China to get cheap knock-off platforms made.
4) In 2004, Lloyd Shaw, an ex New Zealand Navy Weapons Electrical Mechanic and Mortician, was hired as Power Plate’s Product Manager.
5) Lloyd Shaw failed Power Plate’s new Chinese-made model on all tests. The biggest issue with the Chinese units was they provided random (non-lineal) vibration and dropped all advertised specifications with various loads over 20 Kg on the plates.
6) Lloyd Shaw ordered a recall of the Chinese Power Plate units.
7) Power Plate’s higher ups ignored the recall and sold the machines to the public. Power Plate only advertised the unloaded specifications (not loaded) to people.
8) Power Plate tried to place an injunction on the engineering reports, which included issues with plastic replacing the older steel construction. Faulty electronics and overall design errors meant the machines could never perform to the same level as the original, well-tested, steel machine.
9) Power Plate hired a group of academics to divert attention away from these issues and use the engineering reports, awards and research from the older real machine to sell the new Chinese model.
For more information, check out these links:
Power Plate’s Fake Scientific & Medical Advisory Board
Power Plate listed individuals on their website that were on Power Plate’s Scientific & Medical Advisory Board. They listed Mark Verstegen, even though Mark’s company was a corporate partner with Power Plate. Power Plate also listed Dr. Steven Blair, a former President of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). They listed Dr. David Nieman (a former VP of the ACSM) as heading the Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State. Power Plate marketers were so dumb they listed Nieman as a PhD, even though he’s a doctor of public health (DPH). In fact, Power Plate corrected this after I mentioned it online.
Think about this. You have an individual on your board of experts and you can’t even list his doctoral degree correctly. But that’s not the worst of it. Another person Power Plate listed among these experts was Dr. Marco Cardinale.
The problem with Dr. Cardinale is he didn’t know Power Plate was listing him as one of their experts on the Power Plate Scientific & Medical Advisory Board on their website! Lloyd Shaw contacted Dr. Cardinale and Cardinale said he didn’t know about it. So, Power Plate issued an apology to Dr. Cardinale and removed his name from the list of experts on the Power Plate Scientific & Medical Advisory Board. Power Plate also dropped Dr. Steven Blair off the list of experts on the Power Plate Scientific & Medical Advisory Board, for some other reason.
However, the list still included two people that I had interacted with. One was Mark Verstegen. The other was Dr. David Nieman. It was quite interesting that Power Plate stated on its website that Dr. Nieman headed the Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State. Years earlier, I had helped Dr. Nieman with data collection for a study or two on immune system responses to exercise.
Athletes’ Performance Launched Core Performance
Around this same time period, Athletes’ Performance (AP) was broadening its market from athletes to the general population with the Core Performance brand. They launched coreperformance.com and I went on the discussion forum. Several people started vibration and Power Plate threads that the moderators eventually shut down.
I commented but didn’t start any of the discussions. Mark Verstegen and AP decided to bring Scott Hopson on the forum to answer vibration questions. They billed Scott as Power Plate and AP’s “worldwide educator” on vibration. AP erased almost all of this but what happened is Scott was brought on to answer questions, I asked questions, Scott disappeared, and I was kicked off the forum! Here’s one exchange with Scott Hopson that AP wasn’t able to erase.
At this point any communication between Mark or AP staff and me ended. I found out just asking questions about Power Plate could get a person on Mark and AP’s banned list!
The Fake Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State
I thought it was a conflict of interest for Mark Verstegen to be on Power Plate’s Scientific & Medical Advisory Board when they were corporate partners. However, for a university and a research scientist to do the same thing would be even worse in my view!
A scientist friend of mine had mentioned in a phone conversation he thought Dr. Jeff McBride was really the person in charge of the Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State. This same individual mentioned he thought what happened is Dr. Nieman agreed to let Power Plate use his name and Appalachian State’s name on their website in order to get funding from Power Plate.
I decided to play dumb and call the Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State. I talked to a university operator and was told there wasn’t a listing for the Power Plate Research Center. This seemed odd that a research center at a university didn’t have a phone number listed in the university directory. So, I called Dr. Jeff McBride and talked with him. Dr. McBride had written a short review on Vibration Training and Athletic Performance for the NSCA.
I asked Dr. McBride why Power Plate was saying on their website there was a Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State? Dr. McBride said:
They gave us some money!
McBride said he had been involved with a Power Plate study. Dr. Nieman had conducted a Power Plate study. I believe one other Power Plate study had been done at Appalachian State at the time for a total of three Power Plate studies at the Power Plate Research Center headed by Dr. Nieman at Appalachian State. Dr. McBride said they didn’t have any studies currently going on and none planned for the future. He also said companies like Power Plate come to researchers like him wanting to prove their equipment works. Dr. McBride told me he thought it was a fad. My immediate thought was, how can there be a Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State if there’s nothing going on, nothing planned for the future, not any phone number, and Dr. McBride thinks it’s a fad? The date of my phone conversation with Dr. Jeff McBride was July 20, 2009.
Over the next few months, I occasionally checked Power Plate’s website. Power Plate still said Dr. David Nieman headed the Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State on their site. Of course, Power Plate still listed Mark Verstegen and Dr. Nieman on the Power Plate Scientific & Medical Advisory Board.
The Dodgy Drs. Nieman and Gaskill
I decided to contact Dr. Nieman directly about this. Dr. Nieman is highly thought of for his work on exercise and the immune system. He’s received many research grants and awards. In 2013, the American College of Sports Medicine awarded Dr. Nieman “the prestigious Citation Award for his extensive work in health and exercise sciences.”
One would think it would be easy to get a simple yes or no about the existence of a Power Plate Research Center headed by Dr. David Nieman from Dr. Nieman himself. You’d also think a person of Dr. Nieman’s stature and accomplishments would freely answer other questions about Power Plate. And heck, I even helped collect data for a study or two of his a long time ago. You’d think he’d answer simple questions in a straightforward manner from a person like me.
I called Dr. Nieman’s office, left messages, called the department secretary, called an office he had in another town, sent emails. I received no answer from Dr. Nieman. On the emails I included Mark Verstegen, Lloyd Shaw, Dr. Steve Fleck (current NSCA President), and Dr. William Kraemer (Editor-in-Chief of JSCR) to name a few of the recipients. I wanted to know if Mark and Dr. Nieman, since they were both on the Power Plate Scientific & Medical Advisory Board, had ever communicated about vibration? I knew Mark wouldn’t answer but was hoping somebody like Dr. Nieman would. I did not get any response.
These are people with whom I’ve interacted. I’ve mentioned Mark and Dr. Nieman but I used to stay in Dr. Fleck’s house some when I was his intern with the USOC many years ago. I actually read Dr. Kraemer’s doctoral dissertation (it was on endogenous opioids, Peptide F which Kraemer discovered, and exercise) at Fleck’s house. I’ve met Kraemer multiple times and corresponded with him about vibration. Dr. Fleck, when I was around him, was a very blunt, upfront type. I like people like that because you know where things stand and what’s going on. And now, Dr. Fleck has become a chameleon that changes colors.
Nobody will answer my questions about vibration research.
The whole Power Plate ordeal not only smelled like a rat, but it was a rat! With no response from Dr. Nieman, I contacted Dr. Paul Gaskill, the Department Chair. I spoke with Dr. Gaskill on the phone and also sent emails again including Drs. Fleck and Kraemer along with Lloyd Shaw among the recipients. At first, Dr. Gaskill said he wasn’t sure if there was a Power Plate Research Center. Can you believe how absurd this was? The Head of the Department doesn’t know if there’s a Power Plate Research Center in existence in his department.
Dr. Gaskill said he would get to the bottom of this by meeting with Drs. Nieman and McBride and get back to me. It took continuous prodding on my part from 1/19/2010 to 2/26/2010 to finally get a response from Dr. Gaskill. Dr. Gaskill finally said there was nothing currently going on at the Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State headed by Dr. Nieman but Dr. Nieman would be taking a Power Plate to the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill for a study in the fall.
Now, just think about this a moment folks. These are research scientists (Drs. Nieman and McBride) and the Department Head (Dr. Gaskill) at a university and they avoided answering simple questions about their publicly asserted research.
Drs. Fleck and Kraemer
I thought people like Drs. Fleck and Kraemer would do something. They knew about the fake Power Plate Scientific and Medical Advisory Board. They knew how Mark Verstegen and Athletes’ Performance had banned me for simply asking questions about Power Plate on coreperformance.com. Of course, Dr. Fleck wasn’t NSCA President at that time but Dr. Kraemer was Editor-in-Chief of the NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Kraemer and Fleck did nothing! Dr. Kraemer even said in this 2011 New York Times article he didn’t know much about prescribing vibration exercise. The article stated:
“We don’t know a lot about prescribing it,” Dr. Kraemer said. “There’s the rub.”
And yet it is being used many times without an understanding of how to do it best or what the long-term training effects will be.
“Research,” Dr. Kraemer said, “is trying to catch up.”
Heck, the NSCA still has Power Plate as a corporate ally in spite of all of this, and even though Power Plate is being liquidated and is under administration.
Power Plate is currently a part of Performance Health Systems, LLC.
Richard Beddie and REPS in New Zealand
Even with Lloyd Shaw in NZ exposing Power Plate scams and liquidating Power Plate, Richard Beddie’s REPS lists Power Plate seminars for continuing education credits.
Beddie approves of Power Plate after all the bad research and Power Plate scams, but he wants CrossFit L1 Trainers to pay REPS to stop getting critical press? Prior articles on this blog have pointed out that Beddie’s behavior is tantamount to extortion.
Giant Web of Deceit
I have demonstrated in these two articles that exercise scientists conducted numerous studies on Power Plate models without testing the platforms under loaded conditions. Somehow peer reviewed journals such as the NSCA’s JSCR published these unreliable and invalid studies. Both the NSCA and EXOS (formerly Athletes’ Performance) are and have been corporate partners with Power Plate. Richard Beddie’s REPS is also connected with Power Plate for continuing education credits. Furthermore, this series has revealed a fake Power Plate Scientific and Medical Advisory Board and a fake Power Plate Research Center at Appalachian State headed by ACSM fellow and former VP of the ACSM, Dr. David Nieman. The supposed authorities of exercise science could have stood up and stopped this scam. They did nothing. This includes NSCA President Dr. Steve Fleck and NSCA’s JSCR Editor-in-Chief Dr. William Kraemer.
But, what should we expect from an industry that gives presentations showing researchers how to lie and cover-up?
All decent, honest people should be repulsed by this behavior and organizations like the NSCA that tolerate it. They cannot be trusted.
About the Author: John T. Weatherly has undergraduate and graduate degrees in exercise science. He was a research assistant to the former Head of Sports Physiology for the US Olympic Committee (USOC) and has helped with conditioning programs for athletes in Olympic sports as well as professional baseball, college football, and an NBA player. In the 90’s, John published and reviewed articles for the NSCA and was an NSCA media contact on the sport of baseball. He helped initiate the first study on a rotary inertia exercise device at the University of Southern California (USC) and has consulted with the exercise industry on various topics, including vibration.