ScienceSkepticism

Power Balance: For When Rubber Bands Just Aren’t Expensive Enough

Last year I posted an item here, detailing how I, as the emcee at a charity event, chose not to say anything negative about Power Balance bracelets to the raffle winners that received them as prizes. Many of you thought I had missed a great opportunity to teach about the placebo effect, if not perform a bit of peripheral consumer watchdog-ism. After all, a Power Balance wrist band can cost more than $30.00 US, and if it’s all just sports voodoo, I could have saved some people some money.

PB BraceletNow, if you’re not familiar, Power Balance wristbands are a simple band made of rubber that looks similar to a wristwatch. However, where the watch face would be on a wristwatch, there is instead a holographic disk — which is kind of a cool looking thing, from a purely visual standpoint. Of course, as you no doubt have guessed by now, Power Balance claims the holographic disk does way more than just look cool.

From the Power Balance website:

Power Balance is Performance Technology designed to work with your body’s natural energy field. Founded by athletes, Power Balance is a favorite among elite athletes for whom balance, strength and flexibility are important. . . .

. . . . Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.

Eastern philosophies? Energy fields?

Those a re a couple of phrases that appear in a lot of New Age claims, and should tip off a good critical thinker. And of course I always doubted the effecacy of the wrist bands, and meant to investigate and write a full post about them at some point.

Well, as often happens when I put something aside, a lot of other people look into it, and do all the leg work for me.

For example, friend of Skepchick, Richard Saunders exposed the Power Balance “technology” on Australian television at the end of last year. See that video below:

Not only have the skeptics looked into the Power Balance claims, but some good sports people have as well. Below is a video from an October episode of the ESPN show, Outside the Lines, featuring some similar tests.

And if that wasn’t enough, you can see another video here, featuring tests being done right in the offices of the Center for Inquiry.

And yes, all of them come to the same conclusion about the Power Balance wrist bands. I’m sure you can guess what that is.

The lesson here is, if I put off something long enough, someone else will do the work for me. Either that, or the lesson here is, the only power Power Balance has is to separate the gullible from their cash.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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11 Comments

  1. I bet they also have the powers of elastic rubber bands of all kinds that are related to their ability to stretch and return to their original shape. They would probably make a mean slingshot, severely restrict blood flow from your hands if you’re really fat or twist it double, hurt like a MF if you shoot them at someone and hold together appropriately sized bundles of stuff or rolls of paper just fine.

    Of course so would the duplicate product the Placebo Band or an extra thick regular rubber band, but you’re still overly harsh in your final sentence.

  2. So the hologram resonates? Do they even have a clue what a hologram is? (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “Of course not.”)

    Holograms only work with monochromatic light. So the claims of the Power Balance company imply that the life force energy field (aka midichlorian field) is monochromatic.
    Have they measured its frequency and wavelength? What is the velocity of a propagating life force field (frequency times wavelength)? Is it infinite? Is that why Obiwan could feel a great disturbance in the force while he was in hyperspace?

    Holograms focus light using phase effects (which critically depend on wavelength). One of the cool things they can do is create 3 dimensional images if they are appropriately designed. So I want to know, did they make holograms that create images of Yoda? Did they do a double-blind test with control Power Bands that create images of nothing and of Emperor Palpatine? Without that, this is rubbish!

    But most likely none of this was tested. Yet another example of the woeful gutting of consumer protection regulations by the accommodationist Senate in the face of pressure from the Galactic Trade Federation.

  3. A while ago, I saw that similar bands where being sold in the local hypermarket, giving very specific claims like “it will increase your strenght and flexibility by 30%”.
    I asked the girls in the stand if that meant that using one of this will allow me to lift, let’s say 40 Kg if I can now lift a bit over 30 Kg.
    They then offered to prove that they worked.
    I was told to stand straight, and stretch my arms in front of me, then, without moving my feet, to twist around and see how far I could reach.
    I did that, and one of them marked how far I reached.
    Then… “Let me put this on, and you will see that you can stretch more than before”.
    I decided to do it, and I did actually reached past the mark… just that without using the bracelet.
    I put it on for the 3rd try, and only reached as far as the 2nd. one.
    What did they say about this? Well… ” If you don’t believe it will work, it won’t work”

    !!!!!!!

  4. You can find more details about the test the IIG performed for Yahoo! on our web page: http://iigwest.org

    We put a lot of time and effort into planning for a bigger test, but when Yahoo! asked us to do this, we had to rush it. That said, I think we did some fantastic work and covered our bases really well. Sadly not much of it shows in the Yahoo! video. Check out the site for more, and we’ll be putting together our own results video soon.

  5. Just to give a plug for the SkepTrack people at DragonCon, my oldest went to the talk for kids where they addressed products like these. Then he saw a power balance booth at the state fair and immediately launched into talking about how those are obviously fake and how he know all their tricks.

    Something Richard Saunders said stuck. :)

  6. @Buzz Parsec: So the hologram resonates? Do they even have a clue what a hologram is? (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “Of course not.”)

    That’s ok, they probably don’t really know what ‘resonates’ means either, so it all works out. The product of two negatives is a positive.

  7. Aw, dang, I was just about to say something about this Power Balance thing, thinking I had discovered some NEW HOKUM that I could expose to the world.

    The local news here in Philadelphia had a segment on Power Balance wrist brands, where they said, “The new fitness craze that celebrities are in to–will it give you a Victoria’s Secret body?”

    Much to my…uh…INTENSE chagrin, no reasonable skepticism was invoked by the CBS Eyewitness news team at all.

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