Updated: Oct 9, 2018
When it comes to optimizing human performance, you can’t go past whole body vibration (WBV.) Whole body vibration training is incredible for every system in the body, and in particular helps to create a powerful rush of circulation, something that is missing in many people’s overly sedentary lives these days.
Vibration training is also known as acceleration training, and provides a serious upgrade to your health. Many people associate vibration training with gimmicky machines from infomercials that giggle your fat. WBV is so much more than that! WBV can provide up to 40 muscle contractions per second, and isn’t just applicable for training purposes, it also majorly impacts wellness, and performance. On a very basic level, it feels pretty good too!
How it works
Acceleration training is an advanced way to increase the force put into the body for training or recovery purposes. Vibration training can achieve a high volume of systemic work and force, in a short time. Whole body vibration training was originally developed to help astronauts with muscle wasting and bone density loss, after living in a zero gravity environment in space.
Force = Mass x Acceleration
Recognising this equation, it is possible to increase the force applied to the body, by increasing the mass or by increasing the acceleration. Traditional training methods seek to increase the force through the body by increasing the mass, or the weight we lift. Whole body vibration platforms increase the force through the body via acceleration. Acceleration is achieved by creating rapid vibrations over 3 dimensions, thus increasing your gravitational pull or relative G-Force. In this way, it is possible to apply up to 8 G-Force, or 8 x body weight to your system.
Imagine lifting 8 x your body weight in an overhead press. It sounds impossible and would be very challenging, not to mention it would unleash many compressive forces through the system. With vibration training, it is possible to stand on the platform and achieve the equivalent force (up to 8 x body weight) without the compression and without feeling as strained or exhausted.
A good machine will allow you to input both the frequency of vibration (hertz) and the amplitude settings (distance the plate moves per cycle.) The Powerplate brand we use allows you to load 25-50 hertz through your body, which is the equivalent of 25-50 vibrations or muscle contractions, per second. A muscle cannot contract at speeds higher than 40Hz. Therefore the lower hertz options are great for flexibility, hypertrophy and strength gains, but the high-frequency settings are more beneficial for increasing lymphatic drainage, circulation, fascial hydration, reducing cellulite, and creating a massage effect.
The below chart shows the relative settings and equivalent G- Force:
Key Benefits of Whole Body Vibration:
Bone density increases
Muscle strength increases
Weight loss and cellulite reduction
Improved circulation and lymphatic drainage
Improved cardiorespiratory fitness:
Increased hydration of connective tissue
Hormonal changes: Reduced cortisol, increased testosterone and growth hormone.
Reduced visceral fat
Pain reduction, faster recovery, and reduction of swelling
Pelvic floor strength
Improved insulin resistance
Vibration Training for Strength
When you train with WBV, every muscle in your body is reacting, adapting and making micro-adjustments every second. This results in more work being performed in less time than traditional workouts. For example, even using the lowest settings of 30 hertz at a low amplitude for 60 seconds, you are experiencing roughly 1800 muscle contractions in just one minute! As you can see from the chart above, even at 35 hz and Low amplitude, you are doubling your equivalent body weight, and that is without any additional weight! Because the whole body is on top of the platform, the whole system becomes stronger together. Neurons that fire together, wire together.
Vibration for Flexibility
WBV can be used intelligently to create mobility through lines of tissue. We know that static stretching isn’t the best way to increase mobility, and that better changes occur when there is subtle movement along a line of tissue. WBV platforms mean that a stretch can be loaded in 3 dimensions, therefore resulting in a better, and longer lasting change in flexibility. In addition the vibration will upregulate systemic circulation and hydration, further creating more pliable tissue.
Vibration Training for Wellness
Vibration training is a powerful healing aid for our body. In my opinion, the most beneficial way to use whole body vibration is to lay on it to create a ‘flush’ or massage effect. Vibration is far reaching, meaning it can access deep areas of the body that are not often nourished with enough movement. Movement is vital for a healthy body. A lack of daily movement will impact brain function, dehydrate fascia, decrease waste removal, negatively impact hormones, posture, cripple digestion, create headaches etc. Given that WBV allows more work to be performed by the whole body at once, it is a great option for those who are time poor!
Our lymphatic system has 7 x the amount of fluid than our circulatory system, yet it has no pump and therefore relies on movement for muscles to manually push waste through the body. Key areas that rarely get enough movement are the stomach viscera, hips and pelvic floor, inner thighs, hamstrings and deep calves. Enriching these areas with vibration helps increase nutrients to the area and pump the waste out! When areas don’t move as well as they should, our proprioception is down-regulated making us less skilled at navigating our own body, and the environment. The rush of hydration, stimulus, and circulation to the area with WBV means the nervous system feedback loop is enhanced.
Digestion Enhancement – Physical movement through the bowels to help move waste through.
Opens up the posture by hydrating chronically shortened and dehydrated tissue through the front of the body.
Releases the pelvic floor and deep pelvic tissue in a non-confronting way. (Yes, most pelvic floors are tight, not weak)
Hydrates the visceral region, which often lacks adequate circulation, when prolonged sitting is an issue.
Enhanced breathing and respiratory muscle strength
Lymphatic Waste removal
Reduces post workout soreness
WBV is a miracle worker for injury management. We have seen swollen and inflamed tissue reduced before our eyes in one session. When it comes to injury management the old Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) approach is outdated. We know that inflammation is an important part of successful healing, and therefore it is important to facilitate inflammation, rather than attempt to block it. Subtle movement to the injured part is key, and ice, compression, and elevations are counter-intuitive to healing.
Vibration training enables us to increase movement to damaged areas, without actually moving the injured part. For example, a swollen, twisted ankle can be placed on the platform, and vibration applied. When the injured part is too sore or delicate, vibration up or down the chain is also helpful in speeding up healing and overcoming some of the compensation challenges that result from injuries. Vibration helps increase circulation to the injured part so that the immune system can commence repair, and the lymphatic system can remove waste products from the area.
What You Can Expect In A Vibration Session
It’s important to start slow with Vibration training to see how you react. It feels easy at the time, but due to the high forces and high volume of work being completed, it can stress the body more than you realise. For this reason, we cap our vibration specific sessions to 30 minutes, to avoid overloading the nervous system.
Some people love the way vibration training feels, others not so much. We always start people off with a gentle calf flush or calf massage. This involves laying on your back with the calves resting on the platform, and ideally a sandbag over the shins to help anchor and relax the legs. It’s a nice way for people to experience the feel-good benefits of WBV. When they stand up afterwards they instantly report feeling lighter and freer in their movement.
Training on top of the platform can be very intense for some people, so it’s important to bend the knees to reduce the vibration to the head. Depending on the size of the unit you are using, almost any exercise can be performed with WBV using simply bodyweight, or by adding external equipment. Some of the more high-tech commercial machines have inbuilt cable systems.
Contraindications to Vibration training
There are a few conditions listed as contraindications to training with vibration. As with anything common sense prevails and some of these conditions are helped by WBV if used correctly. If you suffer from any of these conditions, it’s a good idea to get approval from your doctor before using WBV.
Severe osteoporosis (T score of 4 or worse)
Severe cardiovascular diseases
Pregnancy (12 weeks post ok) *We have successfully used WBV with several pregnant clients for calf massages only with no issue at all.)
Acute thrombosis conditions
Fresh / open wounds
Acute Hernia, Discopathy
Hip and knee implants
Brands You Can Trust (and afford!)
The most famous brand is Powerplate who make a variety of platforms for personal and commercial use. Powerplate is the only company to be certified as a medical device. Powerplate offers commercial solutions, home versions and more recently portable units. We recently purchased this personal Powerplate which is easily transportable and great value. It retails for around $2695 and comes with a carry case purchased within Australia from here
Niagara also makes portable and affordable therapeutic massage units, which we also use for more specific body parts. These tools are great for targeted massage to increase circulation, reduce pain, optimize posture or reduce stress, but don’t have the same force profile for training purposes as a Powerplate does.
We have been using various vibration devices in our business for the last 4 years and have seen fantastic transformations in fitness, mobility, pain management and health. Vibration training just feels good, but you really have to experience it to believe it.
*This blog was written for Living Bulletproof in Australia, view the original article here complete with research links.