Updated: Mar 3, 2019
Have you ever heard of Whole Body Vibration? Many people have not but it’s the hottest thing in exercise, weight loss, strength training and therapy right now. The technology itself is not new. Having been around since the 1960’s, Russians were its primary users training both their cosmonaut’s and world class athletes. Today most professional sports teams use them, Olympic training center uses them, and a few gyms; one of which is Revibe Fitness and Wellness in Burnsville MN. The Owner, exercise physiologist Keith Spennewyn believes they are the future in strength training, weight control, and pain management. He should know, he’s been using them to train world class athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and even people who have chronic pain for the past decade.
You may or may not be aware, but there are several different types of vibration platforms out there. Some of them are not worth the money you spend while some are a great investment. Specifically, there are three different categories of vibration with no universally agreed upon names. This has left manufacturers to make up their own names as they go and, unfortunately, has created a multitude of names being used. That can be confusing to someone looking to purchase, or use, Whole Body Vibration so I want to clarify some terms and types of vibration. To be certain, there are good vibrations and bad ones. Since I am not trying to sell you exercise equipment, I am free to discuss the truth, rather than attempt to snow you with sales jargon to convince you that my machine is better than theirs. As a gym owner, I could buy whatever vibration tool I wanted to buy. I chose the type of vibration with the greatest amount of research backing it up. Keep that in mind as you read through this blog.
Despite some manufacturers insisting that their vibration type is unique, there are really only 3 types of vibration. The most commonly used names for these types are pivotal (oscillating), linear (vertical) and Tri-Planar (multi-directional). All the other names you come across are just different names given to either of these three types of vibration.
There are different technologies and mechanisms employed to drive the platforms upon which you stand; however, the question we must ask is whether that vibration is good for you or not!
Pivotal Vibration Machines
Let’s start with pivotal (ossitation). This is a platform that pivots up and down like a see saw or teeter totter, lifting one foot up then the other. Manufacturers include Vibrapro, Vibraslim, Vmax, Tectonic, Tzone, Zaaz, Hypervibe and Noblerex. First let’s just say that very few studies exist that have been done using anything other than Tri-Planar. The majority of studies do not favor pivotal machines for fat loss, bone density improvements, or circulation. Even animal tests showing visceral body fat reduction was not done with pivotal vibration.
The argument used by pivotal manufacturers often sounds good but it is not based on the science of basic oscillation. Instead, it is based on the science of Tri-Planar whole body vibration while using an entirely different vibration. One such argument is "As the stretch reflex takes 40-50 msec to complete, frequencies above 27Hz produce superfluous vibrations and may even be potentially dangerous as the muscles are incapable of responding to dampen the extra vibrations. The extra vibration may then have deleterious effects on the joints."
The problem with this claim is that they offer no research to back up their statements, and although they sound good they are simply false. Since the bulk of research has been done on multi-planar motion (Tri-Planar) over the past 55 years and no such adverse effects have been reported, we must assume the pivotal manufacturers are fabricating the facts rather than quoting actual science.
By the way, pivotal manufacturers almost always say their motion is better and, after all, why would they say anything else. They say it’s natural but I know of no movements in life that mimics rocking the hips back and forth. If we stick to the science however, pivotal motion fails to create the very principles associated with whole body training namely being G-force. Pivotal machines can be hard on the lower back and knees, they do not provide the proprioceptor stimulation of other machines, and they are marginally affective on moving lymphatic substances. Most pivotal machines provide about 5Hz-30Hz whereby other manufacturers avoid anything below 25Hg because the extremely low amplitudes coupled with the large pivotal motion (5-11 mm) is known to damage soft tissue.
The final limitation is that both limbs must be in contact with the plate unless you are standing dead center, which would eliminate the positive effects of vibration. For the most part, pivotal machines have large frames on each side, eliminating a significant amount of actual exercises that could be performed. That leaves the individual but one choice: stand still and let the machine shake you. Hardly what one would consider exercise, and hardly effective in the long term.
Linear Vibration Machines
Linear machines vibrate only up and down or side to side. Typically linear machines will have one motor rather than two provided by the originators of whole body vibration. A quick peruse of many web sites on these manufacturers, which include: Zen, Zen Pro, Vibeplate, G Power, PF Activator and Wave. The argument with one motor machines is primarily “Two motors producing vibration can cause detrimental effects on brain and body synchronization, especially over time. Two motors can never be properly synchronized, as a result, if you stand on a two motor system, you and your brain will become desynchronized over time.”
First, the site only sells single motor machines, so I understand their comment. But to consider brain desynchronizing a legitimate event is preposterous. There are a multitude of organizations which exist in the United States to evaluate equipment for safety before being sold on the market. 55 years of its use should have been long enough to see any "brain desynchonization" events yet no documents occurances exist. They go on to say “This can lead to a host of negative side effects such as: fatigue, muscle weakness, sleep disturbances and even immune system imbalance. A one motor system always delivers a 100% synchronized vibration and message to your brain and body, helping your system to be in its optimal functioning state.”
Linear machines do not possess multi-directional force. It is true that they will have some roll over movement into other planes which comes close to Tri-Planar motion but does not fully achieve it. The purpose of the up and down motion (vibration) is to create a g-force, which it does. It also helps lymphatic motion too, but it falls short in providing the movements of a tri-planar machine, which is important for recruiting additional muscle into the mix. Working with chronic pain for the past 10 years, and having used many WBV devices, I find the pivoting machines to be the least effective, followed by the linear machines. Which leads us to the tri-planar machines.
Tri-Planar Vibration Machines
A newer type of machine on the market is called duel vibration, a knock off of multi-planar with independent functions to independently control the motion. These machines of course are being sold as more effective because some machines can offer over 3700 speed adjustments and 60 different settings per motor. They include manufacturers such as Pulsar, Tectonic, Vmax and Triflex. While this sounds good on paper, all of the slight variations in vibration make little difference as long as the vibration is tri-planar. Therefore, this machine tends to just make exercise more complicated and therefore actually exercising more unlikely.
Tri-planar are unique insofar as they were the first kids on the block. Suffice to say that vibration technology has been around since the late 1800’s, although it was used badly then. It was perfected by the Soviets by 1960 and used behind the iron curtain to train Cosmonaut’s and athletes. It was further perfected after the mid 1980’s to produce the first commercial whole body vibration machine (called Power Plate). After all that research and all that time, it was tri-planar vibration that was found to be the most effective. It would be important to understand that all of the afore mentioned vibration technologies were investigated, and subsequently abandoned.
It is also important to point out that no other manufacturer was able to reproduce the motion of tri-planar motion because Power Plate patented it, hence pivotal and linear machines were created to compete with them without infringing on Power plates patent rights. In other words, the effective vibration backed by scientific research was patented until about 5 years ago when that patent ran out, allowing other manufacturers to now copy that research. Tri-planar machines include Power Plate, 3G Cardio, and DKN.
Tri-Planar vibration is said to vibrate in all 3 planes, left to right, front to back, and up and down. Why is this important? Other than it having over 55 years of research backing it up, it provides a wide variety of benefits which is non-invasive to the user. Remember, vibration can be bad if it is poorly applied to the body, such as in a jack hammer. But vibration applied in the correct way, through the whole body at an appropriate level is safe and effective.
Here’s how it works: Tri-Planar vibration technology enhances motor unit recruitment resulting in increased muscular recruitment. In other words, if you do a squat on the ground then do the same squat on a vibrating plate you will recruit 30% more muscle into the movement. This vibrational force creates 25-50 vibrations per second forcing the body’s kinetic chain to respond each time advancing your stabilization, coordination, strength and endurance. In other words, the extra muscle recruited uses more calories and enhances strength gains and fat loss.
The vibrations produced also trigger neurological responses in muscle, which stimulate sensory receptors to elicit something called a "tonic vibration reflex." In other words, the vibration creates a sustained muscular contraction. Even when the body is stationary, it is still undergoing multiple contractions per second. So not only is movement more effective on the plate, but also people who have limitations in mobility can benefit by simply standing on the plate.
This is not to say that exercise on a plate is nothing more than standing on it. The concept of progression still applies, eventually you will have to add mobility to further the benefit. The plate simply allows people who were not strong enough, or in too much pain to move, to be able to gain enough strength and lower their pain levels enough to begin to do work.
At Revibe Fitness & Wellness we have used this technology to successfully manage: idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and both rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis. Moreover, this technology has also demonstrated dramatic benefits in rehabilitation and in the management of chronic pain. We have noted decreased overall and specific pain, a quicker recovery of damaged muscles and tendons post injury, faster recovery post stroke/CVA, improved blood circulation and lymphatic return, accelerated recovery of the tissues post ACL reconstruction, improved neural plasticity and sensory motor function in spinal cord injury, reduced pain, and improved mood and increased activity levels in patients with fibromyalgia.
Whole Body Vibration delivers measurable results in both athletic and aging populations. In fact, healthcare professionals have reported benefits in conditions ranging from debilitating chronic illness to simple cosmetic concerns, including improved spinal stability, improvement in metabolic function, improved muscular tone and stability and improved balance and falls prevention.
The multi-planar technology has gained acceptance from major medical, rehabilitation, and therapeutic centers around the world because decades of research have gone into the creation of proven training and therapeutic procedures.
Tri-planar motion can be an effective adjunct to many areas of sports and rehabilitation methods. In general fitness, it is a great alternative for people who enjoy an active lifestyle, but do not have the time for a lengthy work-out. Top athletes and everyday sports enthusiasts are always looking for better ways to train their body and gain a competitive edge. For serious athletes, workouts on whole body vibration machines enhance the results of conventional training and explosive strength training, as well as serve athletes and trainers alike to speed recovery and regeneration times.