Vibration Training: Latest Fad or The Real Deal?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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.


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

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

Photo taken from Flickr