Vibration Exercise Equipment is one of those things that on the surface appears to be a total gimmick, but in fact it offers a number of very real benefits. Having said that however, there are also some claims made about what it can do that simply aren’t true.
This equipment basically consists of a platform that’s driven by an oscillating motor. When you stand or sit on the platform, it vibrates your entire body while you hold static poses or do dynamic exercises. It’s usually adjustable in terms of the frequency, amplitude (amount of movement), and direction that the platform vibrates.
How Vibration Exercise Began
Russian scientists discovered the benefits of Vibration Exercise in the 1970s while looking for a workout that could be done in space.
Because of the lack of gravity in space, astronauts and cosmonauts experienced muscle atrophy (loss of muscle) and bone loss, which limited the amount of time they could spend there before returning to earth. It also predisposed them to osteoporosis (a condition where your bones lose their strength and density by becoming porous).
For rehabilitation of cosmonauts after long space flights, the Russian scientists experimented with biomechanical stimulation, and found that Vibration Exercise stimulated muscle and bone development. As a result, Russian cosmonauts were able to spend a record of 420 days in space. By comparison, American astronauts, who trained with traditional workout equipment, could only stay for 120 days because their bones and muscles began to suffer.
Types of Vibration Exercise Equipment
There are a variety of different types of Vibration Exercise Equipment, each of which has it’s own main uses. These can be categorized as follows:
- High Energy Lineal – This type of equipment creates an up-down motion that produces a strong stretch-reflex contraction in your muscle fibers. It can overload your muscles with up to 6g of acceleration (6 times gravity) in the upward direction, meaning that you’re essentially doing weight training using your own body weight. This is very effective for building strength in your muscles and bones.
- Medium Energy Lineal – This type of Vibration Exercise Equipment is the most commonly found. It too creates an up-down motion, although it’s usually quite cheaply made. Some variations have 3-D vibration which is low quality. It generally gives slower and less consistent results.
- Low Energy/High Amplitude Lineal – This type is used for various functions such as helping to prevent osteoporosis, therapy for improving circulation and flexibility, and limited fitness training.
- Low Energy/Low Amplitude Lineal – This type has similar uses to Low Energy/High Amplitude Lineal equipment.
- High Speed Pivotal – This equipment creates a see-saw, or teeter-totter movement. It’s used for physiotherapy work at lower speeds and exercise workouts at higher speeds.
- Low Speed Pivotal – This type of equipment is generally used for therapy sessions.
How Vibration Exercise Equipment Can Help You
Many studies have been done on the effects of using Vibration Exercise Equipment, and the number done each year is increasing. Let’s look at some of the major benefits it provides you with:
The main mechanism of Vibration Exercise Equipment that provides benefits to your muscles is the reflex response it induces in them as a result of the vibration. This causes your muscles to contract very quickly and repeatedly.
The interesting thing is that because these muscle contractions are subconscious, many more muscle motor units, and therefore muscle fibers, are activated than would be in a conscious, voluntary movement. Studies have shown that as a result of this, your muscles are actually used more quickly and efficiently, making them capable of producing more force.
This leads to a strengthening of your muscles, however it’s only effective if the motion isn’t too intense and it doesn’t last too long, since this would cause your performance to diminish because of muscle fatigue.
An important difference to note between Vibration Exercise and conventional resistance training is that because no additional weights are necessary, there’s only a minimum of loading on your body structure. This ensures that there isn’t excessive loading of your bones, ligaments and joints. For this reason, the use of Vibration Exercise Equipment is very suited to people who are old, sick, significantly overweight, or injured. It’s also suitable for professional athletes who want to stimulate and strengthen their muscles without overloading their joints.
Vibration Exercise Equipment also allows you to train various muscles of your body, depending on how you position yourself. For example, standing on the vibrating platform would target your legs and hips most effectively.
Studies have also shown that Vibration Exercise can lead to improvements in your bone mineral density, reversal of osteoporosis, and a reduction in the likelihood of you developing osteoporosis in the future.
Vibrations cause the activation of bone-building cells in your body, and a reduction in the activity of cells that break bone down. Repeated stimulation of this system, together with the increased pull on the bones by your muscles, has been shown to increase your bone mineral density over time.
Other responses that Vibration Exercise produces in your body include the stretching of tendons, and supposedly, increase of blood circulation and improving of blood oxygenation.
The rapid contraction and relaxation of the muscles at 20 to 50 times per second is believed to work as a pump on the blood vessels and lymphatic system, increasing the speed of the blood flow through your body.
Testing done on circulation improvements have been fairly inconsistent, however. For example, some studies using animals actually showed that extreme vibration is linked to circulatory problems.
Tests have also described effects such as:
- Cellulite reduction
- Increased production of hormones associated with exercise
- Decreased production of hormones associated with stress
Manufacturers of Vibration Exercise Equipment also claim that its use will help to:
- Increase your range of motion
- Improve your coordination
- Improve your posture
- Lower your levels of stress
- Eliminate tension-related pain
How Vibration Exercise Equipment Can’t Help You
For something that’s been found to provide great benefits in some important areas of your health, it’s a shame that some manufacturers and marketers of Vibration Exercise Equipment (only some – not all) need to resort to making unfounded claims about what it can do.
This only puts it at risk of being categorized as nothing but a gimmick. That’s exactly what I thought the first time I saw a vibration platform being promoted at a local shopping center. Their claim was something along the lines of “10 minutes on this machine is the equivalent of 1 hour in the gym”.
But Vibration Exercise Equipment isn’t a gimmick – if it’s used as intended. If it’s used for anything else, then of course it’s junk.
Unfortunately however, as with everything in the weight loss industry, profit always comes first. And as I’ve mentioned before, weight loss is big business. That’s why we always need to stay educated and keep on the alert for lies and misinformation among anything we’re being told.
Despite the claims made about Vibration Exercise Equipment, using it has NOT been shown to help with:
- Weight loss
- Muscle sculpting
- Muscle toning
- Increased fitness
The earliest forms of this equipment were thought to help you lose weight by using a fast, jiggling motion designed to melt away body fat. These machines usually had a belt that was hooked around your buttocks, and while you simply stood there the belt would shake with the aim of disintegrating your fat.
(A local health club near where I lived in Tokyo had one of these and I used it quite a lot. Surprise, surprise – it didn’t work!)
Although Vibration Exercise Equipment has developed quite a bit since then, the results of tests done so far on weight loss still don’t look at all good.
Small gains may be possible using this equipment, but you can also achieve the same gains through yoga, Pilates and other types of low or no impact exercise, and strength training.
The same goes for toning and sculpting your muscles. You can’t stand still on a piece of Vibration Exercise Equipment and hope your body definition to change significantly. It just won’t happen.
You can, however, use free weights or resistance bands while on the equipment, and the added weight and concentration you need to maintain balance on the vibrating platform will help to increase the benefits of the resistance exercises.
Some manufacturers have claimed that their Vibration Exercise Equipment will get you fit in just minutes a day. In some European countries it’s been promoted as the only fitness tool you’ll ever need. But this simply isn’t true.
While Vibration Exercise can enhance your existing training, and lead to some strength gains, it can’t be used as an alternative to your regular exercise. Any increase in metabolism and cardiovascular fitness, for example, will only be minimal at best.
In terms of fitness and benefits to your musculature therefore, it’s best used as a supplement to a sensible diet and exercise program.
Vibration Exercise Equipment is definitely NOT the be all and end all of weight loss and fitness training and it’s NOT a magic bullet, as some marketers would unfortunately have you believe.