You’ve probably seen them or possibly used one. I’m talking about those vibrating platform devices used in fitness centers, athletic training rooms, and physical therapy offices. The rationale behind these devices is to perform exercises while the device vibrates at various set levels of oscillating intensity.
The manufactured vibration stimulates the receptors in the muscles (muscle spindles) thus cause them to work harder. Coupled with the performance of an exercise such as a push up or squat, more muscle fibers are recruited and fatigued. Therefore, more muscle fibers are trained. At least that is the premise.
Before moving forward, many of the references you will come across refer to this endeavor as “whole-body vibration.” But does whole-body vibration only count when your entire body is secured on the vibrating device? I assume so. However, when only the arms or legs are secured on the device – leaving either the lower body or upper body anchored to the floor – is this also considered whole-body vibration? Something to think about.
The Need for Results and Research
I personally have tried a vibrating device. It was a unique experience, particularly when I attempted to walk on stable ground following one minute of standing on the vibration platform.
Long term, however, I’m unclear of measureable and useful results. I need to see the legitimate peer-reviewed research on the upside of this training mode. I would guess vibration training has merits in some capacities relative to injury rehab or simply getting someone to move, so let us look at where the current-day research currently stands relative to this type of training.
Vibration Training and Postural Stability
A four-week study on posture, published in 2014 in PLOS ONE, was performed on four groups of young men males (N = 28) to determine both the short- and long-term effects of whole-body vibration. Three of the four groups exercised on a vibration platform with different parameters. The subjects were exposed to vibrations three times each week.
A stabilograph (a device that measures body sway) was used pre-study, following a single whole-body vibration session, post-study immediately following the last prescribed set of exercises after four weeks, and one week after all training ended.
Over the long term, vibration training significantly shortened rambling and trembling motions in a frontal plane. The lengths of these motions decreased significantly following the one-week post-study. The value change of the center of pressure path lengths in both sagittal and frontal planes were statistically insignificant.
Based on these results, researchers concluded that long-term vibration training improves posture stability of young men in the frontal plane.
Vibration Training and Low Back Pain
It is purported that low back pain affects approximately 80% of all people at some point in their lives. Chinese researchers have therefore proposed a study to examine the effect of whole body vibration exercises on chronic low back pain. However, the benefit of vibration training for low back issues is yet controversial.
In this study 120 subjects will be used in a single-blind and randomized controlled test with chronic low back pain. The subjects will be randomly assigned to an intervention group and a control group.
The intervention group will perform whole-body vibration exercises twice a week over a three-month period. The control group will perform general exercises twice a week over the three months. Primary measures will look at a visual analog scale for pain, the use of the Oswestry Disability Index, and adverse events. Researchers will also examine spinal muscular strength and endurance, torso proprioception, transversus abdominis muscle activation capacity, and quality of life.
The goals of this study will be to determine whether whole-body vibration exercises produce positive effects as compared to general exercises relative to chronic low back pain. The results will be beneficial to those afflicted with low back pain and the medical professionals who treat them.
Vibration Training and Muscle Damage
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also published a relevant study earlier this year. A muscle damage study was performed to determine additional muscle damage, soreness, and inflammation while comparing a moderate-intensity vibration and bodyweight resistance exercise session to a similar session with the same exercises but without vibration training. The subjects’ diets were as also controlled.
The subjects were ten recreationally active male college students. They completed two different 24-hour study periods that incorporated the aforementioned exercise sessions with vibration and no vibration.
Measurements were as follows:
- Muscle torque at 0, 60, and 240 degrees of angular velocity.
- Muscle soreness subjectively using a ten-point scale at the triceps and quadriceps.
- Muscle inflammation pre-exercise, immediately post-exercise, four hours post-exercise, and 24 hours post-exercise.
The researchers concluded the addition of whole-body vibration training had minimal effect on muscle function and damage, soreness, or inflammation due to these findings:
- Whole-body vibration increased muscle soreness 24 hours post-exercise in both the triceps and quadriceps when compared to no vibration training. However, the results were not statistically significant.
- Muscle torque decreased immediately post-exercise in the triceps and quadriceps at 0 degrees and in the triceps at 240 degrees. However, there was no difference between exercise prescriptions.
- The exercise session created statistically significant but only small increases in muscle inflammation. However, there was no difference between exercise prescriptions.
- The inflammation marker interleukin-10 increased only minimally from whole-body vibration.
Vibration Training and Jumping Ability
The fourth and final study we will look at today was also published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and examined the short-term effects of various barbell squat protocols (using post-activation potentiation) on jumping ability, with and without whole-body vibration. Fifteen college athletes were used in the study (Average = 2o years, 178 lbs., 5-10.5″).
The subjects not in the control group performed:
- Countermovement jumps for three trials and a best drop jump following three conditions.
- Parallel squat with 80% a 1RM without vibration.
- Parallel squat with 80% of a 1RM while on a vibration platform.
Each condition was performed for either one set of three repetitions (low volume) and three sets of three repetitions (high volume). The protocols were followed by both one- and four-minute rest periods.
Study results showed significant improvements in the countermovement jump height following the four-minute recovery and the low volume protocol regardless of the condition.
In addition, there was a significantly lower drop jump height observed following a one-minute recovery for the parallel squat with a vibration condition following both the low and high volume protocols.
In this study the researchers concluded a four-minute recovery was sufficient for improving countermovement jump height after a low volume protocol was initiated, independent of the specific condition. Also, performance of the drop jump height following the parallel squat plus the whole-body vibration improved regardless of the protocol in male college athletes.
Based on the latest research, the use of vibration training can have merit if you’re simply seeking to be active, moving in some capacity, and rehabbing from a prior injury. In laymen’s terms, it may be of some benefit. However, regarding vibration training’s offering to physically dominating qualities, I would not hold my breath if I were you.
1. Piecha, M., Juras, G., et al. “The Effect of a Short-Term and Long-Term Whole-Body Vibration in Healthy Men upon the Postural Stability,” PLoS ONE 9-20 (2014): e88295, accessed May 21, 2014.
2. Xue-Qiang, W., Yan-Lin, P., et al. “Whole Body Vibration Exercise for Chronic Low Back Pain: Study Protocol for a Single-blind Randomized Controlled Trial.” Accessed May 21, 2014.
3. Hazell, TJ.; Olver, TD, et al. “Addition of Synchronous Whole-Body Vibration to Body Mass Resistive Exercise Causes Little or No Effects on Muscle Damage and Inflammation.” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: January 2014 – Volume 28 – Issue 1 – p 53–60, accessed May 20, 2014.
4. Naclerio, F., Faigenbaum, A , et al. “Effectiveness of Different Postactivation Potentiation Protocols With and Without Whole Body Vibration on Jumping Performance in College Athletes. “ Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: January 2014 – Volume 28 – Issue 1 – p 232-239, accessed May 21, 2014.
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