Whole Body Vibration Training
In recent years, the use of vibration plates (also called vibration platforms) has increased significantly. As most or all of your body is affected by the vibrations, Vibration Training is sometimes referred to as “Whole-Body Vibration” (or WBV) training.
Given the many claims made about WBV, the your biggest questions are likely to be:
- Is there any evidence that any of the claims are true?
- If so, which ones?
- Does it benefit everyone or does it help some people more than others?
- What kind of exercise does it involve?
- Are there any dangers / downsides or contra-indications to using vibration training?
These are the questions I’m going to look at here.
Claims for WBV training are many and include the following:
- Increased Muscle Strength
- Increased fat loss / weight loss
- Increased bone mineral density
- Increased flexibility and mobility
- Improved balance and proprioception
- Improved blood circulation
- Increased lymphatic drainage
- Improved speed of recovery from injury
- Increased testosterone
- Increased Growth Hormone
- Reduction in Cortisol level.
- Pain reduction
- Reduced cellulite
- Improved overall fitness with a significant reduction in time required for exercise.
- … and more.
Is there evidence to back up the claims about vibration training?
A fair amount of research has been conducted in the use of vibration training but I think it’s fair to say that more is needed, especially in regard to long-term effects and also large-scale studies – many of the studies so far have involved relatively small numbers of people.
Nonetheless, I’ll run through the results of some of them. I won’t be going into too much detail about the specific exercises tested, but mainly showing the conclusions.
1. Studies on WBV Training on Young Men
One study observed:
- An increase in the mechanical power output of the leg extensor muscles
- Improvement in Neuromuscular efficiency
- Enhanced Jumping performance
The biological mechanism produced by vibration is similar to the effect produced by explosive power training
Furthermore, blood plasma samples taken showed:
- A significant increase in the concentration of Testosterone and Growth Hormone
- a decrease in Cortisol levels
2. Posture in young men
A four-week study on posture to determine both the short- and long-term effects of whole-body vibration. The subjects were exposed to vibrations three times each week.
Over the long term, vibration training significantly shortened rambling and trembling motions in a frontal plane. Based on these results, researchers concluded that:
- Long-term vibration training improves posture stability of young men in the frontal plane.
3. Passive WBV on young people
A study involving young men & women receiving passive WBV sitting on a chair mounted on a vibrating platform showed that:
- 2 minutes passive WBV has positive acute effects on attention and inhibition in young adults.
4. Effects of Vibration Training on Post-menopausal women
A 24-week study compared WBV with Resistance training. The duration of the WBV program was a maximum of 30 minutes, which included warming up and cooling down.
Each Resistance program lasted for about 1 hour in total.
- Vibration training significantly increased BMD (bone mineral density) of the hip. These findings suggest that WBV training might be useful in the prevention of osteoporosis.
- WBV training resulted in a significant 17.6% net benefit in isometric quadriceps strength and a 14.2% net benefit in Dynamic strength.
Another study concluded that, in older women:
- Resistance training alone and with whole-body vibration resulted in positive body composition changes by increasing lean tissue.
- However, only the combination of resistance training and whole-body vibration was effective for decreasing percent body fat.
5. Effects of Vibration Training on Elderly Subjects
A one-year trial concluded that WBV training in community-dwelling elderly appears to be efficient to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength.
Another study among people with an average age of 72.6 standing on a ‘low frequency oscillation loading device’ at 20-30Hz vibrations 3 times a week demonstrated that, after 6 months
- Balance-function improved significantly, suggesting that WBV possibly prevents falls by improving standing balance in elderly subjects.
A 3rd study with elderly subjects concluded that:
- Fast and easy exercises, 3 times a week during 6 weeks, using WBV apparatus, could improve the quality of life, the walk, the balance and the motor capacity in elderly patients
6. WBV training Effect on Fat-Loss
In one longer term study, it was found that:
- Whole Body Vibration training may have the potential to reduce Visceral Adipose Tissue [fat around internal organs] more than aerobic exercise in obese adults, making it a meaningful addition to future weight loss programs.
7. WBV and Cellulite Reduction
A study suggested that Vibration plate training can:
- Reduce the appearance of cellulite, and accelerate and enhance collagen remodelling.
In six months, exercising 2 or 3 times a week in 8-13 minute sessions,
- the WBV group achieved a 25.7% reduction of cellulite on thighs and buttocks.
The WBV + cardio group exercising as above plus 24-48 minutes of cardio training
- achieved a 32.3% reduction.
8. Effects of Vibration Massage on Blood Circulation
Vibration training isn’t only about exercise. Vibration Massage is also on offer and one study found that
- 5 minutes of massage at either 30 Hz or 50 Hz significantly increases the skin blood flow and thus circulation in the arms.
- Performing massage on the 50 Hz setting has additional benefits by increasing the blood flow more rapidly and retaining the level during the recovery period, making the effects longer lasting.
Who does vibration training help most?
Vibration training seems to be able to everyone to some extent, young or old, fit or infirm, healthy or not, but the benefits differ between groups and some groups seem to benefit even more than others.
Young & Healthy
In the young and healthy, the greatest benefits seem to be gained from combining vibration training together with resistance training and other forms of fitness activity.
One study, as mentioned above, showed that the young men in the study seemed to gain benefits in cognitive function (e.g. attention, memory, reasoning ability etc…) even from passive vibration training, though there does not seem to be any reason to assume that such benefits are restricted to young males.
Reductions in cellulite do not appear to be dependent on age but there was an even greater reduction in those who combined vibration training with cardio training.
However, it seems that the majority of research points to benefits to the latter groups.
In other words the main beneficiaries seem to be the following:
- Post-menopausal women. Improvements in muscle strength, balance, and bone density.
(Loss of muscle strength and bone density of Astronauts in space is also the reason why NASA has invested in investigating vibration training as it may be crucial to the success of any future manned mission to Mars.)
- Elderly. Improved muscle strength and balanceFor the elderly, or those who are osteopoenic, the increase in bone density allied with improved muscle strength and balance seems likely to help prevent bone fractures from falls, although there have not been sufficient research to prove this as yet.
- Overweight / Obese. Improvement in weight reduction, but more specifically a reduction in the fat surrounding internal organs.
- Those looking for Cellulite reduction
What kind of exercise does Vibration Training involve?
The most basic and passive exercise using a vibration platform merely involves standing on it with the knee slightly bent and for some people that may be all that there can manage.
However, for more capable users it becomes more effective if it is combined with other exercises. Most exercises which can be performed while standing in one place – e.g. many routines involving weights – can add to the effectiveness of both.
Other exercises such as push-ups, with feet on the floor and hands on the platform, crunches, stretches and use of the straps which are usually attached to the vibration machine can all make an extra difference to the results achieved.
Are there any dangers / downsides to vibration training?
There is a potential risk involved in the use of vibration. However, the main risks seem to involve heavy vibration over a sustained period, such as users of pneumatic power tools.
With the more powerful, high-end vibration platforms, it may be advisable for older people to avoid prolonged use at higher magnitude settings.
As mentioned above, most experts recommend bending the knees while standing on the platform to absorb some of the impact and avoid any jarring or transmission through the spine which may occur if you put your weight on your heels.
For most use, however, use of vibration training is considered zero-to-low risk and the benefits seem to vastly outweigh what little risk there is.
As always, it would be worthwhile, especially for the elderly or those with osteoporosis, to get advice from your medical practitioner before going ahead with a programme of vibration training.
As a relatively fit and active, not overweight, middle-aged male, I use our vibration plate often and, subjectively, I feel that I benefit a great deal from it. It does seem to enhance the intensity and the effectiveness of exercises I do and shortens the amount of time I need to spend doing them. (Sports personalities who agree with me include tennis champions Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, so I’m in good company!)
I feel therefore, that vibration training has the potential to help anyone, regardless of current fitness.
But if you’re elderly, osteopoenic, overweight or wishing to reduce cellulite, you have an extra incentive to get one and use it every day.
For a guide as to which vibration plate would be best for you, see What’s the best vibration plate?
- Hormonal responses to whole-body vibration in men.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10774867
- PLoS One. 2014 Jun 20;9(6):e100506. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100506. eCollection 2014.
- Age and Ageing, Volume 38, Issue 4, 1 July 2009, Pages 448–454, https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afp067
- Obesity facts. Online published April 7, 2010 ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20484941