How could willful subjection to bodily vibrations possibly be good for anything besides inducing dizziness? Why would anyone choose to endure such hostile shaking and brain rattling discomfort? Vibration training has been around longer than you might think. Perhaps your mind quickly conjures up visions of the notorious Shake WeightTM, or maybe you can recall those ridiculous pictures from the 1950s with people hooked up to a silly contraption with a large rubber band gyrating their body. How archaic!
Now hold on a minute. Before you and I begin to judge modern vibration tech with whatever ridiculous devices people used in the past, we should ponder whether or not subjecting our bodies to vibration could actually help improve our fitness, or anything for that matter. Well, I have to tell you, from one skeptic to another, that the right type of vibrations, in proper doses, does actually have benefits. And there are plenty of studies and research to support these claims.
Fortunately for you and I, the times have certainly changed. No longer will you need to hook yourself up to an oversized rubber band to achieve the vibration experience sought after a half century ago. Today, there are numerous whole body platform devices on the market that have engineered optimal vibration frequencies to sufficiently achieve the intended health benefits.
For all of you geeks out there, the use of a whole body vibration plate produces vertical (or rotational) vibration while emitting a vibration between 26-50Hz and an amplitude of 4mm. The whole body vibration training method is a neuromuscular method based on the tonic vibration reflex (Sovijärvi et al. 54).1 The tonic vibration reflex is a sustained contraction of a muscle subjected to vibration. This reflex is caused by vibratory activation of muscle spindles – muscle receptors sensitive to stretch.
Do I just stand there and vibrate?
The most common (and definitely the easiest method) is to simply stand upon a vibration platform. The vibrations will gently travel from your feet through the spine and into the head. Just be careful to always stand with your knees bent and hips engaged, so that your head does not shake excessively.
Any movement performed while standing on the platform will have increased benefit. Stretching will be more effective, fitness routines will return better results, and normally unused muscles or tissues will be stimulated. Try doing standing yoga poses or stand on one leg. You can also do push-ups with your arms on the vibration plate.
If you’ve never used a vibration platform before, I would recommend limiting your use to 2–3 times per week for about 5-10 minutes each session, eventually increasing your duration up to 15 minutes.
And just in case you were interested, I prefer to use the Bulletproof Whole Body Vibration device at my studio. I use the Vibe daily and its often the first item my kids gravitate towards when visiting the studio – I practically have to drag my son off the thing!
What can vibration do for me?
Vibration is one of the best tools for increasing blood flow to muscles before and after your workout. It enhances your blood flow prior to activity while steadily warming the muscles and allowing them to operate much more efficiently than with most other traditional warm-up routines.
It has also been shown to result in a hormonal, immunity, and anti-inflammatory response that can speed recovery. This healthy blood flow to your skin and the tissue beneath it is crucial for healing injured muscles, improving oxygen supply, and helping to get rid of waste products (e.g.: lactic acid) from your muscles. The enhanced blood flow after a workout carries nutrients to the damaged tissues at an accelerated rate, which decreases the amount of time necessary for recovery and reduces exercise-induced soreness, enhances lymphatic drainage and peripheral circulation2, and improves proprioception (your sense of positioning and motion). Plus, it honestly just feels amazing to stand an vibrate following an intense workout.3
Enhanced Balance & Strength
After you gain a little confidence and feel more comfortable with basic movements on the vibration platform you can start exploring new and more advanced balancing and strengthening exercises (e.g.: pistol squat, single leg toe touch). Regular, boring exercises instantly become more dynamic and made more effective during whole body vibration. Your muscles will respond more intensely and effectively to these exercises and will give you additional overall benefit.
Shake Off Your Fat!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could just shake off the excess fat from your body?! Sounds like a dream, right? Well, while fat falling off our body while vibrating might feel like a fantasy, here’s the thing, whole body vibration has actually been shown to reduce visceral abdominal fat more than aerobic exercise alone. In at least one study4, four groups (diet, fitness, vibration, and a control group) were followed for six months. Measurements were collected following the six months and each of the intervention groups experienced nearly a 5-10% decrease in bodyweight! However, only the vibration group managed to maintain their weight loss of 10% or more in the six months following the completion of the study. Even more incredible was that the vibration group lost twice as much visceral fat after six months, when compared to the fitness and diet groups. So go ahead, shake off that excess fat!
Should I use a Vibration Platform?
WARNING! Always consult your physician before beginning this or any exercise program, especially if you have any known medical condition, or have a medical history that includes any of the following:
- Fracture or joint issues
- Brain blood clot
- Any back problems, including herniated/ bulging discs or any other diseases of the vertebral column or spinal cord
- Cancer or any acute disease
- A neurological condition
- Ocular conditions
- Ear problems
- Thrombosis, including deep vein thrombosis
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICDs)
- Nerve damage to the bottom of your feet
- Kidney stones
Do not participate in vibration training if you have a medical condition that could be affected by vigorous shaking and vibrations, or are at risk of stroke or heart attack, are pregnant or may be pregnant, have a history of detached retinas or other retinal/eyeball problems, have received an intraocular lens implant, or are recovering from recent surgery. If you experience chest pains, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, severe joint pains, or changes in vision or hearing during use, stop using your vibration device immediately and consult your doctor before continuing. As with any form of exercise, it is important to maintain adequate hydration.
1Sovijärvi, Olli, et al. Biohacker’s Handbook: Upgrade Yourself and Unleash Your Inner Potential. 2nd ed., Biohacker Center, 2021: 301.
2Games, K. & Stefon, J. & Wilson, A (2015). Whole-Body vibration and blood flowing muscle oxygenation: a meta-analysis. Journal of Athletic Training 50 (5): 542-549.