The Athlete's Secret Weapon: Whole Body Vibration

 I was inspired to write this piece because my Chief of Operations, Connie, started using a Whole Body Vibration (WBV) platform to help alleviate her chronic back pain due to, sadly and heartbreakingly, over a decade of child abuse. It has worked so well for her as a natural pain management tool, and I myself use WBV with my clients to enhance their sports performance, that I wanted to coach you on this topic in case it can benefit your life in some way.

WBV is used by celebrities like Mark Wahlberg, Clint Eastwood, world class athletes like Serena Williams, F1 race car drivers, PGA golfers, NFL players and everyday folks for a good reason!

Side note- when I mention the concept of whole body vibration machines, I’m not talking about those old-school machines that claimed you could vibrate your way to a 6-pack or those “Shake Weight” infomercials. Remember those? 😂

Trusted by Celebrities, Athletes and Doctors
Photo Credit: PowerPlate USA
Trusted by Celebrities, Athletes and Doctors
Photo Credit: PowerPlate USA

What is Whole Body Vibration (WBV) & The Benefits
Whole body vibration platforms are built to transfer the vibrating energy of the machine to your body, which forces your muscles to contract and relax dozens of times each second (though different machines claim different contraction per second rates). This activity makes it feel as if you are exerting this force over your own muscles. There are a wide variety of types of WBV platforms- some that you stand on, sit on or lie on, some for use in a commercial gym and others for home use.

Proponents of the practice say that as little as 10 minutes of WBV each day is enough to help you lose weight, burn fat and build muscle, as well as improve your overall flexibility, reduce pain, alleviate muscle soreness and boost your circulation, among other claims such as:

- Activate More Muscle Fibers. The vibrating surface actually forces your body to not only fight against regular gravity but also fight against vibrations. Independent studies have shown that working out on a (reputable) vibrating platform activates up to 138% more muscle fibers when compared to a standard workout (The American Chiropractor).

- Burn More Calories. Working out on a vibrating surface activates more muscles and in turn, burns more calories. Completing that exact same workout on a vibrating surface can increase the number of calories burned by as much as 50% according to independent studies (European Association for the Study of Obesity). Burning more calories does not have to mean more hours in the gym or longer runs, it can be as simple as doing your regular workout on a vibrating platform.

- Improve Circulation. Tiny vibrations flowing through your body enhance the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to cells and supporting their functioning. Multiple studies have shown that whole body vibration increases skin blood flow. The increased skin blood flow can also help decrease the appearance of cellulite. Simply placing your body on a vibrating platform for 5 minutes can immediately help improve circulation throughout your body.

- Increase Bone Density. Whole-body vibration is a technology that was first developed by scientists in the second half of the 20th century as a way to reduce bone density loss and muscle atrophy in astronauts exposed to zero-gravity conditions. Gravity applies a constant load on the skeletal system that’s what causes bones to maintain a certain density. Working out on a vibration platform increases this load on the bones helping increase bone density. (Whole-body vibration exercise in postmenopausal osteoporosis).

While comprehensive research about WBV is lacking, the science is growing in this area and the initial results are promising and show that it can reduce pain, improve balance and strength in older adults and reduce bone loss. WBV can be used as a therapeutic tool to loosen up the muscles and joints after exercise in order to boost blood flow, alleviate or prevent DOMS, and begin the recovery process. Prior to training, WBV is used to warm up the muscles and tendons, getting the body ready to move through all of its range of motion and help prevent injury. (It is important to note here, that in all of the research referenced above, the subjects of the studies performed some type of exercise like squats, lunges or calf raises while using the vibration platform.)

WBV can also be used to rehab muscles post-injury. Since it is low impact it is a good way to slowly build back strength without adding discomfort or worsening an injury. In this case WBV should be used under medical supervision.

WBV may help improve strength (this review of 5 studies found that WBV “has a potential to induce substantial improvement in neuromuscular performance.”) And it also may help with weight loss and specifically abdominal fat, when you also actively engage in a healthy diet with a caloric deficit. It isn’t clear if WBV is as good for you as regular physical activity, so it really shouldn't be a replacement for daily active exercise, but rather, an enhancement to your daily deposit.

When it comes to whole body vibration, used in conjunction with physical activity, strength training and an overall healthy diet, it may add to your weight loss or muscle building efforts. WBV can also be used to warm up the muscles prior to exercise and/or as a part of an active recovery program.

Which Whole-Body Vibration Platform Is Best?
I believe the health, wellness and fitness space has become saturated with tools, products, and things that cost too much money for too little return. I am not a fan of recommending high priced items and vibration platforms can certainly be pricey depending on which brand you use. I am not affiliated with any single one, and I use the vibration platform that is provided by my gym where I train clients, so I do not have that added expense.

There are several brands that you can buy for home use. I will not list them all here because everyones budget is different. I will simply say, if you are like Connie and this is something that you believe will benefit and enhance your life, then try a vibrating platform that comes with a money back guarantee. Connie herself uses the brand Power Plate because it offers comprehensive and science-backed vibration technology. Power Plate has several models that you can use at home and they have payment plans. You know they are expensive when they offer payment plans! But for Connie, it's worth it because she spends $120 a week on chiropractor appointments to help her manage her back pain, drug-free. The Power Plate helps her manage her pain enough to the point where she is able to save money and cut her appointments to once every other week.

Now, this is not to say I am recommending Power Plate. This is to say that I know many of you will ask me which brand I recommend. I don't have an answer myself as I use the one provided for me, but now you know the one Connie uses and loves.

My advice? Do the research. There are some starting as low as $200 on Amazon with great reviews and yes, some that cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Look up whatever company that fits your budget and see if they are investing in this technology because they believe in it, and not just because they're trying to copy others and make a buck. Read the reviews, go on reddit and see what real people are saying, check out the comments on their social media pages, and make sure they provide a money back guarantee. WBV platforms are becoming more and more popular in local gyms, so see if your local gym has them.

Thank you for reading gang.

Keep steady, enjoy the journey and love yourself harder,

Simão AP, Avelar NC, Tossige-Gomes R, Neves CD, Mendonça VA, Miranda AS, Teixeira MM, Teixeira AL, Andrade AP, Coimbra CC, Lacerda AC. Functional performance and inflammatory cytokines after squat exercises and whole-body vibration in elderly individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Oct;93(10):1692-700. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2012.04.017. Epub 2012 Apr 27. PMID: 22546535.

Lohman EB 3rd, Petrofsky JS, Maloney-Hinds C, Betts-Schwab H, Thorpe D. The effect of whole body vibration on lower extremity skin blood flow in normal subjects. Med Sci Monit. 2007 Feb;13(2):CR71-6. PMID: 17261985.

Alam MM, Khan AA, Farooq M. Effect of whole-body vibration on neuromuscular performance: A literature review. Work. 2018;59(4):571-583. doi: 10.3233/WOR-182699. PMID: 29733043.


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