Vibration Training: Latest Fad or The Real Deal?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/17/2009 6:07 AM   :  78 comments

Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy a machine for a few hundred dollars, plant it in front of your TV set, and stand on it for a couple hours per day while it did all the work necessary to burn calories, build muscle, and lose weight?

If you like to browse the web for new weight loss and fitness products, you’ve probably seen advertisements for Vibration Training machines, along with claims that these machines can work wonders for your weight loss. You may even have seen one of these machines in your gym.

Vibration Training (also called "acceleration training") is definitely a “big thing” on the fitness scene these days. But does it work, or is it just another gimmick?

At this point the verdict is still out on what Vibration Training can actually accomplish. But there are some things we do know:

• It’s not just a money-making gimmick. Vibration training does have serious scientific support, and can be very useful for some purposes when done properly and with high quality equipment.

• Many of the machines on the market now, especially the cheap ones, ARE just gimmicks. The claims manufacturers make, especially about their weight loss advantages, are false, and following their recommendations can actually be dangerous to your health. Many of the cheap machines can’t deliver even on the legitimate benefits of vibration training.

• You definitely should not buy a cheap machine, plant it in front of your TV, and plan to spend hours on it to speed up your weight loss. That could cause serious health problems, and won’t do anything at all for your weight loss.

Here’s some information you can use to separate the fraudulent claims from the ones worth investigating, and decide whether Vibration Training might be something that could be right for you.


Vibration training has been around for quite a while. It was first developed by the Russians in the 1970s, to help their astronauts maintain physical fitness while subject to long periods of weightlessness and inactivity in space. These days, it’s being used by everyone from professional sports teams, sports medicine and rehab clinics, and commercial gyms to help increase physical performance and enhance recovery from injury.

HOW IT WORKS

In theory, vibration training works by forcing you to use more of your muscle fibers. Normal voluntary muscle movement, like you do when walking, running, or strength training, typically activates about 40-60% of the fibers in the muscles being worked. This process is controlled by your neuromuscular system, which has learned over time how many muscle fibers must be activated at once to accomplish a given amount of work.

Vibration training basically bypasses this system and forces your body to activate nearly all the muscle fibers to maintain a near-constant state of muscle contraction while you’re on the vibrating platform. This enables you to work harder on whatever exercises you’re doing while on the platform, and also increases blood flow to the muscles, which will help speed up recovery. It can also be used to help maintain muscle tone and bone health in people who aren’t able to use their muscles normally due to pain or other medical problems.

There is quite a bit of research showing that vibration training can help increase strength and speed recovery after workouts—and also improve balance and body awareness. But only under certain conditions. As usual with this kind of thing, the devil is in the details. You can’t just jump on the nearest Power Plate and expect to get results. You have to use the right vibration frequency, and the right amplitude, to achieve the particular result you’re looking for. That means using a quality machine that allows for the appropriate adjustments, and knowing which settings are right for your purposes. See the link to training guidelines below for more info, and if you have any medical or movement limitations, be sure to discuss this with your doctor before trying it.

What Vibration Training Can’t Do

Vibration training is not a substitute for actual exercise. You can’t build much muscle or burn fat by simply standing on a vibrating plate. In fact, it won’t burn fat at all. Like weight lifting, vibration training puts your muscles in “anaerobic” mode, which means you’re not burning fat at all. And if all you do is stand on the machine, the only thing you’ll get better at doing is standing on the machine. As mentioned above, using the machine (either during your exercises or as a warm-up immediately before an exercise) can help you recruit more muscle fiber and work harder during that exercise—that’s what will produce the results, not the machine by itself.

More is NOT better—in fact, it’s not safe.

It’s crucial to remember that your muscles aren’t the only thing that gets vibrated when you use one of these machines. Vibration training should not be used by pregnant women, and can be dangerous for people with some spinal or other medical conditions.

Your organs and your skeletal system also get a good shaking (in fact, vibration training can be used to help prevent or manage osteoporosis). It’s very clear from the evidence that too much time on a vibrating platform can cause serious medical problems. For most people, a limit of 10-15 minutes at a time, every other day, is safe. If you try to use it like a cardio exercise machine for 30-60 minutes most days, you run the risk of problems like hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalances, and even organ failure.

The Bottom Line: Should You Use It?

If you’re a regular exerciser and/or a competitive athlete who wants to put a little more ummph in your workout, incorporating a vibration platform into your routine could be a good idea.

If you have problems with balance or body awareness, vibration training can help you improve these problems (but check with your doctor first).

If you have certain medical conditions or physical limitations that prevent you from doing regular exercise, using a vibration platform may help with maintaining muscle tone and maintaining/increasing bone density. But you should be sure to work with your doctor or physical therapist to set up your program—don’t do this on your own.

If you’re looking for something you can do to burn calories without much huffing and puffing, don’t waste your money on a vibration platform. It won’t work.

Anyone who plans to use a vibration machine should be familiar with these safety and training guidelines:

Vibration Training Guidelines

If you'd like to know more about the research on vibration training, here's a good place to start:

National Strength and Conditioning Association Hot Topic



What do you think? Have you tried vibration training, or are you interested in it?


Photo taken from Flickr






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Comments

  • 78
    I've got one and I like it. - 8/29/2013   6:24:41 PM
  • JAIMEJ33
    77
    I had heard about these vibration machines about a year ago from my chiropractor for building bone density and started doing my research on vibration machine reviews online. While it does seem like there are so many cheap knock offs out there I was looking at the brand my chiropractor uses but it is very expensive (over $9,000!) and I don’t a full blown commercial machine for my house. The more research I did I found that the type of movement is very important; moving in 3 fields, up and down, side to side, and back and forth is what all the positive research pointed to. The frequency range it can go to will make a difference, mine goes up to 50hz! The machines weight is also important especially for balance and strength use, you don’t want it to tip over when leaning back into a deep squat or stretch. I tried out a few different models and brands at my local fitness store which really helped me see the difference in quality. The inexpensive ones were not even close to the sturdiness and quality I was feeling using the one at the Dr.’s office. I found a great machine I am really happy with and after 6 month of using it 4 days a week I am happy to report I am no longer in osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis) and have actually had an measurable increase in bone density! I am buying a vibration machine for my mom now because she has osteoporosis and has been on medicine for a few years now with no benefit (and a bunch of scary side effects). I’ll keep you posted but I could not be more thrilled with the Vibration machine I bought, well worth it! -J’aime - 4/6/2012   9:08:45 PM
  • HILLARY405
    76
    They really do work! I have owned and used a vibration machine for almost 6 months now and I can notice a HUGE difference in my flexibility and overall strength. I bought one after being "sold" on the benefits in my local retail store. I had a little buyers remorse at first and my husband though I lost my mind for spending $3500 on a "gadget". Funny thing is that I was determine to prove him wrong so I started doing research on these machines and very quickly realized what they did and what I was supposed to do with them. I have had amazing results in a short period of time! First off, you don't just 'stand' on these machines, you hold an athletic position, like a squat. When you are in a squat position, the vibrations (up to 50/sec) come up through your body and once they hit the first contracted muscle in your body, the vibration causes the contracted muscle (in this case quadriceps and hamstrings) to relax. As each vibration hits the muscle, the muscle contract and then relaxes. This means that the muscle can be stimulated up to 50 times a second! You can target any muscle in your body and you do not move while on the machine so it won't hurt your joints. Think about skiing, the first run of the year and how much your muscles burn. This is essentially the same thing but one a vibration machine, it is increased 10 fold. I had knots on my Achilles tendons that are now gone (stretching on the machine) and I feel much stronger and healthier now. Best part, my husband has been consistently using it now for 2 months!!! Sorry to go on so long, but if anyone is seriously thinking about buying one of these, they are worth it. Just don't buy a cheap one as it will do nothing for you. Also, make sure it is a "vertical motion" and not a pivotal (teeter totter) motion as the latter will be harder on your joints and not give you any worthwhile benefit. If anyone has any questions I would love you answer them for you as I am a true believer in vibration machine training! - 4/6/2012   3:18:00 PM
  • 75
    I couldn't believe it when Dr. Mercola was endorsing using the Power Plate on his website (and selling it for a lotta pretty pennies!). I figured he'd blow it off as a gimmick. But doesn't sound like I'd benefit a great deal right now since I'm not as regular about exercising as I should.

    - 8/28/2011   1:34:14 AM
  • GAMMATUNA
    74
    I'm so glad I read this article. I was seriously considering buying one of these vibration plates. Having read Deans informed opinion I need to be much more active anyway. I will save my pennies and its back to the 13000 steps a day campaign. - 7/10/2011   10:48:22 AM
  • 73
    I've tried one but can't afford the gym that has them. I have seen one advertised for nearly $2K making it unattainable. For now I'm sticking with I know and have a wait and see attitude. - 3/20/2011   5:58:39 AM
  • 72
    No, nor am I interested. - 2/28/2011   11:10:58 AM
  • ELVIRARAGO
    71
    Why do people write on such a topic when they don't know anything about it. And as one mentioned, you have to see it to believe it. There are many health benefits to a POWER PLATE vibration machine. One must research the real machine verses gimicks out there. One must train with a certified trainer with a Power Plate machine in order not to hurt or cause seriour injuries. It is a powerful machine with many proven studies. It is medically accepted in Europe.

    Its a true and powerful machine. - 2/22/2011   11:29:18 AM
  • 70
    Think I will just wait this one out and see what long term effects are. Could be great for occasional sore muscles but not sure about long term effects of regular use. - 2/22/2011   8:27:05 AM
  • LAURIES_PLACE
    69
    This reminds me of very old gyms that hooked women into a machine with a belt around their hips that "shook" the fat off. I am not impressed with the idea. It sounds as if there is too much harm that can be done. - 10/21/2010   9:29:47 PM
  • 68
    Since injuring myself (along with fibromyalgia), I am very limited as to the type and amount of exercise I am able to do. If I could find a qualified person to guide me I would certainly be interested in this. - 10/21/2010   4:21:37 PM
  • 67
    I would like to point out that Coach Dean says that this could cause Hypothyroidism, but the link http://www.vibrationtraining.net/20
    07/03/10-whole-body-vibration-train
    ing-guidelines
    in this blog says that it could cause hyperthyroidism - 3/25/2010   10:38:05 PM
  • JO_007
    66
    Interesting that most of the negative comments on here are from people who have never actually tried a vibration training machine.

    Like most people I was skeptical about vibration training, but after trying it and losing 15cm in just 2 months (and I'm pretty small anyway) I was convinced it was a great way to tone up for busy people - actually even better than the gym!

    In fact I was so convinced by these Vibra-Train machines that when the pukekohe shop closed down I re-opened leased machines and am now running a successful studio in Pukekohe & am learning so much about the benefits from my own customers!!

    One girl came back from a week snowboarding and raved about how Vibra-Train had made her legs so strong that she was able to board longer and better - with less pain than ever before!

    Another lady has a sever back hunch and Vibra-Train has helped her stand upright when nothing else worked! Her doctor was amazed and now refers a lot of his patients here.

    People tell me of aleveiation with their arthritis, helping get a great night sleep, curing headaches, migranes & sinus problems, help with circulation - even varicose veins
    (and these are just the things I can remember off the top of my head now)

    Not to mention weight loss and toning. Don't forget Elle McFerson, Madonna & Cher among others use this to keep them looking great!

    By all means be skeptical but don't knock it until you try it!!
    (oh and please don't be tempted to buy a cheap machine - I saw someones comments on here about buying a $2000 one? You will only be dissappointed sorry, you need the real deal or you just wont see the results) - 10/11/2009   5:43:27 PM
  • LRSHAW1
    65
    I can not believe their are so many uneducated comments on this forum.

    " Like those old fashioned exercise belts" or " My Mum had one "

    The first unit like the one they describe above was only released to the public in 1999 ? Why do people comment on something they clearly are confused about the basics on. How would simple vibration or massage make you lose weight ? I am actually dumbfounded people that ignorant still exist.

    Vibration Therapy = Light Vibration or Massage . It causes stimulation to muscles and bloodflow. First release 1870

    Vibration Training = Heavy Vibration . This is only a recent thing with the first proper commercial machine released in 2004 . The 1999 versions were too small and weak.

    Where the confusion sets in........( apart from the willful ignorance we see above )

    With about 250 companies globally building mainly light Therapy machine and selling them as Training units. Usually from China. This is a deliberate attempt to rip you off, but a little homework can give you lots of protection.

    Go to...... vibration-training-advice.com for BS marketing free articles on how to not get ripped off and stay safe. - 9/28/2009   1:21:54 AM
  • 64
    I would try it in a gym with some specialist and see if I like it first. But I would not get it for home use. - 7/23/2009   4:30:54 AM
  • MIKEVEH
    63
    This makes me think about the old "belt" machines you used to see in gyms a million years ago where you would put the belt around your waist and it would go back and forth supposedly taking the fat off your midsection. I'm dating myself with this but I would bet it's been 15 to 20 years since I saw one of those machines and this seems like a new, high-tech version. - 7/22/2009   3:34:16 PM
  • 62
    There is one of these machines at our gym. You can only set the machine for 45 seconds or maybe a minute at the most- it is used by athletes- but not for overall fitness. I noticed when I use it after I run I don't have the soreness I usually get. It does jiggle your head quite a bit- so I cannot do the push-ups or sit-ups on it like the chart suggests. If you are prone to motion sickness there is NO way you are going to spend an hour on this machine! I think I'm one of the only people at the gym that actually uses it! - 4/26/2009   9:38:23 PM
  • LARRY7853
    61
    Points regarding Vibration Exercise:
    1. Millions of individuals with neuromuscular disorders etc. cannot exercise conventionally. Vibration training may be a viable alternative.
    2. At present, the industry is dominated by unethical marketers, but this will change.
    3. There are 170 different platforms available commercially. Similar to automobiles, they are not all of the same quality. Remember, you get what you pay for. Quality engineering costs money.
    4. Vibration training can act as an excellent adjunct to conventional power routines. It has applications for warm-up, cool-down, flexibility and for rehab.
    People who have had a bad experience on a platform have usually utilized incorrect positioning, are dehydrated or have done so not under the supervision of a qualified vibration trainer.
    5. Finally, go to Pub Med and see the amount of research on Whole Body Vibration Training/Exercise. - 4/17/2009   12:58:42 PM
  • 60
    This sounds nuts. I can't see how this shake-up would do anything but dislodge my brain -- and it would have to be already pretty loose in my head to get me involved in this fad. - 3/22/2009   8:11:51 AM
  • 59
    I think it would be nice to try in addition to me still doing my regular routine. - 3/21/2009   6:33:36 PM
  • 58
    I use the one at my trainer's gym, and I really like it, it 's an addition to a great workout (not the total workout), and I love to use it for stretching afterward, using the massage level of vibration. It really works the knots out of my calves. - 3/21/2009   11:47:52 AM
  • 57
    I've seen the Power Plate machines in the gym, but since I have neck problems vibration raining is not an option.
    I would use it if my body allowed it. - 3/21/2009   5:11:47 AM
  • 56
    There has been alot of research on the same lines of reason for deep resonate Sound Therapy during exercise too, and for basic massage and more. "The Brown Note" can actually KILL by disrupting the frequency that nerve impulses travel and cells function. But increasing or decreasing that vibration can slow or speed up cellular activity...as in healing wounds faster or burning more fuels.
    The idea that one has to use more or most of their muscles to balance is far from new, but I can see how using all three benefits at once is revolutionary.
    I wonder if their are schools that have specific training for operators or if its truly that difficult.
    - 3/21/2009   2:42:31 AM
  • 55
    Yep, when I saw the title of this blog, I got the same image that others mentioned of the "butt toning" machines and such of the 50's, some which were common in beauty salons. LOL ...
    Seriously, though, would I use or even consider one? I don't think so! I'll stick with the old fashioned, tried and true ways, thank you very much! Might make a nice conversation piece sitting there in front of the TV ... until it turns into another clothes hanger or dust collector, that is. - 3/20/2009   7:20:45 PM
  • 54
    Julia...How hilarious! That is EXACTLY what I thought of when I saw the picture and heard about the technique. My best girlfriend's mom had one and we use to play with it! Did those things really work? Haha!! - 3/19/2009   3:32:59 PM
  • 53
    This machine reminds me of the ones from the 50s and 60s where you strapped the leather belt around your butt or hips and it jiggled you silly claiming to help you lose a ton of weight. Did anyone else get this image in their mind? It seems like such a joke. Another reason I'm glad I'm doing what I'm doing and not letting anyone else try to sell me a load of hooey! - 3/19/2009   2:56:11 PM
  • 52
    All I can say, is I am glad there is some honesty out there, regards to this machine. There is so much hype and hope in the weight loss industry, that people are going to be foolish enough to BUY this thing for thier home, where it will become a glorified clothes hanger!!

    Thanks alot for this report, and the YOUTUBE view of what it is all about.
    The promise of helping my bones, is great, and if they get one at my gym, I will look into it THERE, but NEVER would I buy this for my home. I have better ways to spend my money. - 3/18/2009   10:11:05 PM
  • ALICOTTER
    51
    There is one at the gym I go to. Not sure who order it. It is for use with a trainer. Done of the trainers like it. So it is never used. Just sits in a corner - 3/18/2009   8:48:23 PM
  • 50
    What happened to simple exercise? No, I don't plan to buy this AT ALL. First of all, I can't afford one. Second, why do we need all these machines to exercise? I guess, I can understand a simpler device such as a treadmill or stationary bike, but why do we need all this extra stuff? We have all the mechanisms we need...our muscles and bones. Third, I have a lot of skeptisism about these kind of things...it reminds me of those belt things that were supposed to jiggle the fat off you (which totally didn't work). :D Anyway, thanks for the article! - 3/18/2009   5:24:41 PM
  • 49
    sound simulatr to something my mom had when I was young, alls I remember was that it was fun to stand and let it do the work, I also don't think she ever lost weight using it - 3/18/2009   1:29:44 PM
  • 48
    sounds awesome for osteoporosis, that could be a huge deal for older women. Also I like the idea of using it for PT/rehab. I'm constantly working on rehabbing my knee 3 years after ACL surgery, so I would like to try it. I'll ask my physical therapist about it. - 3/18/2009   12:06:26 PM
  • 47
    Thanks for the article. - 3/18/2009   11:55:38 AM
  • DANIKASMOMMY
    46
    I couldn't help but notice that a many of those who posted comments about this being a fad and it not working have not tried it. As a trainer and a massage therapist, I was pretty skeptical at first, but after trying it a few times, I could see just how helpful it could be. IT IS IN ADDITION TO A HEALTHY DIET AND A REGULAR EXERCISE ROUTINE...NOT IN PLACE OF!! That is very important to remember! And, you are not just standing, lying, or sitting on it letting it do the work. You are actually doing your workout on the machine, ie double leg squats, single leg squats, crunches, etc. It is there to help intensify your workout, not do it for you. I admit, it was REALLY wierd, but something new and fun. I don't know what was out during the 70's, but with the way technology and science has advanced since then, I don't think it is even possible to compare this with that. Try the gym version of this machine with a trainer...unless you plan on spending some money on buying one for yourself, not sure this is something you should get on the cheap. - 3/18/2009   11:09:20 AM
  • CEEBERRY1
    45
    Thanx for the information. I think I will pass - 3/18/2009   10:36:16 AM
  • 44
    You've got to be kidding me ! I think I will pick one up at a garage sale in a couple of years, cause they will be there ! - 3/18/2009   9:58:10 AM
  • 43
    If I had access to one I might try it, just to see what it's like. Don't think I would depend on it for any real exercise or weight loss. Definitely wouldn't spend the money to buy one. I could see where it might be a way to shake out the stiffness after a good workout. - 3/18/2009   7:53:45 AM
  • 42
    I tried one that was being demoed at a trade show. After about 2 minutes I had a headache, my ears were ringing, and I began to feel nauseous and disoriented. I'm definitely not a candidate for being a poster child for these gizmos...LOL - 3/18/2009   7:33:24 AM
  • 41
    Thanks coach for invaluable information. I had been for sometime thinking of getting one for myself. I think i'll pass. - 3/18/2009   5:46:01 AM
  • 40
    i guess if you could get hold of a machine for inexpensive, it would be something different to add to your exercise routine. - 3/17/2009   9:40:43 PM
  • 39
    My grandmother had a vibration machine that you laid down on...can't say that I ever noticed any difference, but she thought it did. - 3/17/2009   5:58:43 PM
  • 38
    The only vibrations I am getting are of the "Shady" variety. I think I'll pass. - 3/17/2009   5:13:10 PM
  • 37
    Thanks Coach Dean for posting this blog. I know I precipitated it by asking you about them. I'm still looking at buying one albeit it won't be a $15000 machine. I think $2000 is not a bad price for one and I've found one for $900 which is even better. I'm glad to see that some people have actually used them and gotten good results from them. The technology behind them is not the same as the vibrating belt of the '70's that we all know didn't work. If professional sports teams, chiropractors and physio clinics use them as part of their training and rehab programs, doesn't that say something? Not to mention the gyms that are putting them in as an addition to conventional training? They are meant to be used with a training program, not to be used solely to stand, sit or lie on. - 3/17/2009   4:20:32 PM
  • DAPPLEDLIGHT
    36
    There are a number of the more expensive Turbosonic machines
    in my area. A few key people have purchased them and have several
    friends/clients who use them regularly. In this way the machine is not
    only paid for quite soon, but becomes a good supplement to income.
    I have used one regularly (2 to 4 times a week) for over 3 years now
    in addition to swimming, walking and doing tai chi. I and my friends
    have noticed many benefits. For years I had small fibroid tumors in
    my breasts. They were gone within the first few weeks and have
    never returned showing me that my lymphatic system is stimulated
    each time I use it. My strength and my muscle tone improved very
    noticeably during the first three months when the vibration therapy
    was the only form of exercise I was using because of big lifestyle
    changes. I am drawn to continue to use it. I feel better when I do.
    I do Chi Kung and Tai Chi movements while I am on it. - 3/17/2009   3:46:37 PM
  • ROSEGARDEN6
    35
    I saw this demonstrated on THE DOCTORS. It reminded me of those old vibration machines that had a wide belt that could wreck your back. On the show they talked about the alleged improvements from the earlier machines. I must admit that the benefits they talked about sounded good, but find I'm a bit skeptical; I have a bad back and don't think I would even try these newer models. Thanks for this information! - 3/17/2009   2:17:43 PM
  • 34
    Yes, I've seen clips on YouTube for this and I believe that it is VERY helpful for older people to keep balance and small motor skills, so I would LOVE to have access to using a GOOD one. - 3/17/2009   1:48:17 PM
  • 33
    I saw this on the Drs. a couple of weeks ago, seems very silly. It was especially silly that they had Fran Drescher there trying it out!! - 3/17/2009   1:17:50 PM
  • TERILYN1015
    32
    I don't see the point. - 3/17/2009   12:35:36 PM
  • 31
    I literally think a machine like this would kill me. I have MS, and deal with unwanted vibrations in my feet and legs regularly. It's the most uncomfortable feeling. Why oh why would anyone actually pay for it? I'll give you mine for free! - 3/17/2009   12:35:30 PM
  • 30
    What an odd concept. I don't think I'll be getting on one of these any time soon. But is is good to know that the theory behind these is not just a hoax made up by a smart ad company. - 3/17/2009   12:15:44 PM
  • 29
    Sounds kind of like the old vibrating belts used years ago at the gyms. I don't see myself running out to buy this one. I think a consistant exercise program would yield the same results. - 3/17/2009   11:59:32 AM

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