Self-driving cars, smart technology everywhere, and now a form of exercise that doesn’t stress you to the extremes. Instead, you simply strap yourself to a piece of equipment and watch your body tone itself. Known as whole-body vibration, this might just be the best invention since sliced bread. But does it actually work?
The Skinny on Vibration Exercise
Vibration training, like the name suggests, involves the deliberate exposure of the body to mechanical oscillations. This takes place on a vibration platform, a treadmill-like device that has an oscillating plate in place of the conveyor belt. Standing on this plate vibrates the entire body from the feet up, usually at 30-50 times per second.
So, what’s the point here? The idea is to stimulate the body’s response mechanisms to physical stress. The brain sends signals to muscles throughout the body to actively counteract the imbalance caused by the rocking motions. That involves contracting and relaxing muscle fibers in tandem with the frequency of vibration.
Working your muscles in such a fashion will obviously lead to significant strength gains. In the long term, whole body vibration may improve coordination, balance, and flexibility. It’s further been suggested that the technique stimulates the skeleton to reinforce itself, given that bone cells are themselves sensitive to vibration.
Can You Bank on It?
Well, yes and no. On one hand, whole-body vibration is based on the same principle as plyometrics; it creates a high-intensity workout by forcing your muscles to stretch and contract rapidly. It was originally developed for astronauts as a way of maintaining one’s physical conditioning in zero-gravity environments.
It should be noted that the concept itself is nothing new — it’s been traced as far back as the Greek era. Years of research affirmed its ability to deliver the same benefits as regular exercise. In particular, a study involving mice subjects showed that whole-body vibration can be as effective as the latter in building muscle and burning fat.
But let’s not get carried away here: Vibration training cannot substitute physical activity. Yes, it can help you bulk up (or shed weight to a limited extent) but, being a static workout, it falls woefully short in cardio and respiratory training. Moreover, humans and mice differ significantly in several key areas. So it would be unrealistic to expect whole-body vibration to benefit both in equal measure.
So Now What?
Thinking of vibration training as a silver bullet to fitness would be missing the point by a country mile. As you will recall, the technique was actually proposed as a way of maintaining the results acquired from traditional exercise. Thanks to vibration platforms, astronauts can spend up to 400 days in space without suffering severe muscle shrinkage.
For mere mortals, though, the therapy is meant to be used in conjunction with standard workouts. Standing on a vibrating platform alone will stress the muscles in your body, but not in the magnitude needed to produce meaningful results. That is until you bring other exercises into the picture.
Picture this: doing sit-ups the old-fashioned way is said to recruit up to 60 percent of your muscle fibers. Performing the same routine on a vibration platform will engage just about all of them. Do that 3 times a week in 15-minute sessions, and you have yourself a highly-potent workout regimen.
Vibration machines are perfectly suited for calisthenic workouts (i.e. rhythmical movements that don’t require other equipment). There are, however, a few routines that have been tailored to fully harness their potential:
–Isometric squats: Stand on the vibration platform with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your palms clasped on the handles, bend your knees till your thighs are parallel to the floor. Maintain this position for 30-60 seconds, then go back to the original one. Repeat the sequence after resting for a few seconds.
–Split squats: Place the ball of your right foot on the floor, with your left foot planted flat on the vibrating plate. Start moving your right foot back so you can adopt a collapsing stance. From there, try lowering your right knee while bending both legs simultaneously. You may hold on to the machine’s handles to help you stay balanced, but don’t stop till the front of your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Resume the original position and repeat.
–Push-ups: Place your hands on the vibrating platform and lie down while extending your legs rearwards. Make sure your entire body weight is supported solely by the hands and feet. Also keep your hips, shoulders, and heels straight. Lower your chest until it’s barely touching the platform while tightening your torso. Pause for a couple of seconds and push back to the initial position. That’s how you do push-ups on a vibration machine.
Of course, there are plenty of other exercises you can do on a vibration machine; your options are only limited by your creativity. But don’t go out looking for a gym with one just yet — not before consulting your doctor. You see, exposure to intense oscillations can be risky for physically ill/impaired individuals. So make sure to see your doctor for advice on whether it’s okay to use the equipment.
Other than that, it’s recommended to approach vibration training as you would any other workout. Practice moderation, and make sure to combine it with other routines. Also, remember to stretch before getting started. Most importantly, keep in mind that exercise is only as safe as the equipment is structurally sound.