150120 Vibration Training
By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS
For quite some time the effectiveness of vibrations on the body have been noted in various clinical and research settings. The question arises; is it a useful as a means to develop strength. The short answer is yes; but with caveats attached.
Vibration loading has been successfully used in the astronaut program to help prevent bone loss and to enhance recovery from sprains and tendonitis in normal and athletic individuals. Recent research has centered on the use of whole body vibrations to increase bone integrity, balance, muscular strength and more recently for weight loss if you also cut back on your calories.
Additional benefits may also be noted in reducing back pain but as in all cases of beginning a new exercise regime it is recommended that you speak to your health care provider to see if it is appropriate for you.
This research has demonstrated that whole body vibrations in the 25-40 Hz ranges improves explosive power in those who are physically active. Additional findings have shown this type of training to be beneficial to older adults with balance problems and for increased bone formation in postmenopausal women.
The mechanism used to deliver the vibrations is a power plate apparatus that applies a high frequency, low amplitude current to the platform on which the trainee is standing or performing their exercises upon. The exercises are done erect or relaxed, with weight shifting from leg to leg, and on the toes or heels. Other movements include push ups, dips, squats or jumping below maximum velocity and height. Static stretches also seem to be more beneficial on the vibrating platform.
It appears that the vibrations produce small variations in muscle length. These small changes stimulate the tonic vibration reflex-the one that activates the muscle spindles and alpha motor neurons. These are the processes that cause the muscle fibers to contract.
Delving further into the after effects of this training modality it was discovered that combined with non loaded static and dynamic exercises which were specifically focused on balance, strength and power the most positive gains were made during the first two months of training. The following two months showed minimal gains, if any at all.
This is similar to the normal adaptation phases of any new exercise or program. The first few months are the most productive.
This suggests that neural responses and recruitment of muscle units were positively engaged through the use of the vibration platform. Additional studies are warranted before any definite conclusions can be reached about the usefulness of these devices regarding the link between nominal and superior strength gains.
One final note if you are pregnant or have other health problems, whole body vibrations can cause some harmful results in some situations such as during a pregnancy or other non-specified health problems.