A review of research prompts New Zealand-based researchers to conclude WBV training doesn’t increase athlete’s speed.
In a review of existing studies researchers from the Institute of Sport and Recreation Research, Faculty of Health and Environmental Science and Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand conclude that whole body vibration training does not increase speed for trained athletes. This literature is published in the March 2009 (Volume 23, Number 2) edition of the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s, “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.”
According to the NSCA’s Editorial Mission Statement, “The NSCA publishes brief reviews by scientific experts in the field. The reviews should provide a critical examination of the literature and integrate the results of previous research in an attempt to educate the reader as to the basic and applied aspects of the topic.” The title of this review is, “Vibration Training: Could it Enhance the Strength, Power or Speed of Athletes?”
Online access to the journal is provided for NSCA members-only. The authors of this paper conducted a review of WBV research. Due to a variety of problems with the current state of WBV research – small sample size, questionable methodology, lack of long-term studies, prominence of studies featuring untrained subjects and the lack of a standard WBV training protocol – there were only six studies that met the author’s criteria for inclusion in this review.
All of these six studies were underpowered in terms of subjects. With regard to improving an athlete’s speed the authors found only two studies that met their criteria for inclusion in this review. According to the authors, “Both studies observed that WBV training produced non-significant and trivial changes in these speed measures.”
Muscle stiffness has been identified as being beneficial to athletes looking to produce high rates of force development or rapid transmission of force, and athletes who perform short sprints, plyometrics (jumping drills), and power movements will benefit from increased muscle stiffness.
One of these WBV studies measured changes in muscle stiffness over a 6-week period and found that squatting on a vibration platform did not change muscle stiffness when compared to the non-vibration group. This serves to counter the theory that vibration training enhances neural potentiation, and that speed and muscle stiffness should improve more than other performance factors as a result of WBV training.
Many WBV proponents have used short-term studies as the basis for their claims that vibration training enhances muscle potentiation. The authors of this review point out that short-term effects do not guarantee a performance improvement over the long-term, and that “vibration training does not seem to enhance muscular potentiation in well-trained athletes.”
The authors – scientific experts in the field – conclude, “The practicality of vibration training also should be taken into account in terms of time, cost, and reduction of other training for what we have observed to be a small benefit.” The words of these researchers from New Zealand are in stark contrast to the hype, “research” and faux-science presented as gospel by WBV hucksters.
Given the exorbitant cost of WBV platforms, the inconvenience of use and the paucity of reliable and legitimate research it’s clear that vibration training is not ready for prime time.