Over the past several years, the gimmicky gadget known as the Whole Body Vibration platform has come on the scene.  This expensive piece of equipment has been advertised as offering people a revolutionary way to get into shape, when in effect WBV machines offer nothing more than a new way to separate people from a lot of their hard earned money.

The big marketing push surrounding WBV revolves around some research that was allegedly done by the old USSR space program and work done by NASA that studied the effects of WBV to combat the effects of weightlessness. 

Cosmonauts, astronauts and mice were studied and there were some very preliminary results – results that didn’t include observations of subjects in a weightless environment – to indicate that WBV could provide an effective treatment for those who spent time in space.

The fact that studies had yet to be conducted in a zero-gravity environment didn’t stop WBVers from advertising the efficacy of WBV based on these yet to be conducted studies.  To read the advertising materials from some of these companies a person would have thought that NASA had rows and rows of astronauts standing on WBV platforms humming along and rebuilding bone strength.  The reality is that the state of the research was that these studies were actually proposals and hadn’t been done.

At the time, these WBV manufacturers were telling people that NASA research indicated that these machines worked, the real research still hadn’t been completed.  And what is even more ridiculous is that people thought that because WBV might work in a weightless environment, or combat the effects of being in a weightless environment, that this method of treatment would have any use for the 99.99999% of us who will never be exposed to zero-gravity.

This equipment has been marketed in an extremely deceptive manner in a field where deceptive tactics are all too prevalent.  Units that cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of dollars have been marketed and sold to people despite a remarkably thin volume of research that, if anything, indicates that WBV will do nothing for the vast majority of the population.

In May of 2007 the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research contained the details of 4 WBV studies.  In reading the details of these studies it is clear that WBV training is not an effective strategy to use for members of the general population.

The study titled, Whole Body Vibration Induced Adaptation in Knee Extensors; Consequences of Initial Joint Strength, Vibration Frequency and Joint Angle found that improvements from WBV were limited to the weakest subjects and that limited improvements were seen in the stronger participants.  The researchers conclude that WBV therapy “will” be ideal for the frail and elderly, and otherwise extremely incapable people. 

As an aside, the fact that the researchers decided to use the word “will” instead of “is” in their conclusion speaks volumes as to the true efficacy of WBV therapy even as it pertains to a segment of the population that supposedly can benefit from its use.

When you consider the expense and likelihood that there are other less expensive, effective methods that can serve as an alternative, this conclusion does not mean that WBV is the ideal therapy for these people.  All this study shows us is that WBV treatment is suited for the infirm, not even that it’s the best treatment for the infirm. The research certainly doesn’t show that WBV is appropriate for members of the general population and people should steer clear of these gadgets and absolutely should not spend money on any WBV machine.

12 COMMENTS

  1. My experience as a certified fitness professional for 16+ years, and current Acceleration Training certified trainer, totally contradicts your article debunking wholebody vibration training. The results that I have seen with my clients (members of the general public), have been obtained in a fraction of the time obtainable with a traditional training regimine, and with sessions ranging from 20 to 40 minutes two or three times a week. Like the old saying goes “if you haven’t tried it don’t knock it”

  2. your experience and anecdotal tales do not serve to counter the research that indicates that WBV is not suitable for the vast majority of the population and certainly doesn’t justify that people spend time and money on it. there is no substitute for movement.

  3. if you visit the nsca-lift.org site you can access the feature to search the research journals. however, unless you are a member you will only get the abstracts. unlike the positive research touted by WBV hucksters, these researchers actually provide details of their studies and conducted studies with valid controls. the four studies mentioned were all published in the May 2007 edition.
    the three studies that showed WBV to have no effect were conducted by independent researchers. The study based on subjects’ Perceived Exertion and Energy Expenditure is flawed in that the researchers did not include a control group that involved subjects performing squats on another type of unstable platform, such as a balance board. this blatent exclusion of a logical control group is illustrative of how studies are constructed to produce a desired conclusion.

  4. I am no professional athlete but work out a lot and am reasonably fit. I tried this powerplate thing and despite the best efforts of the salesman er sorry make that “fitness consultant” at the gym I was not convinced. The whole experience was unpleasant and afterwards I felt exhausted but that kind of exhaustion you feel after having driven for 5 hours in a car… I enjoy my exercise and the 45 minutes or so I spend in the gym every day is not just to lose weight etc but also gives me time to think and focus on myself. The dodgy scientific evidence aside – the powerplate thing is not my idea of a good workout.

  5. Sal,
    I have written this once before and will write it again. Cal State Fullerton has one of the NitroFit Deluxe WBV machines. The program director is none other than the President of the NSCA who’s website you mention earlier refutes WBV claims. We have no ties to the school other than we gave them a machine to test the effects on athletic performance. I am confident that we will se positve results as they are due late in November. Here in Arizona, the State director for NSCA has our machine in his pro-training facility in Tempe,AZ. He has incorporated the machine into most of his training programs and loves the results. It seems odd that you back your argument with the NSCA website when some members of that organization support the technology and are more experienced than you are.

  6. I back my arguments not with the NSCA website but with legit research that is published in the NSCA – and other legitimate – publications. Proponents of WBV can make all the claims that they want regarding WBV’s efficacy, and even gain the support of visible and high-ranking individuals. However, this is no substitute for research that shows WBV to provide less than stellar results. There’s no research to indicate WBV provides benefits not offered by other, less expensive and proven methods of exercise.
    Perhaps at the Division 1 collegiate level where money is no object, programs can afford to invest time and money in suspect methods. However, for people who are interested in expending money and effort wisely WBV is a loser. Spending thousands of dollars on a single machine that one person can use at a time is not a wise investment in money, time or effort.

  7. I used a WBV machine in an exercise program offered at a gym and it resolved a frozen shoulder so I didn’t have to have the surgery recommended by my orthopedic dr.

  8. Sal is obviously not an expert in sports training.
    Also he has not tried WBV. A good platform can be purchased for under $1000.
    Only 1 person can use it at a time, of course. How many people can use a barbell at the same time? WBV can be used by anyone to get your body active without any stress to the joints, heart, ligaments, tendons or bones. Inactive and injured can exersise without worry and anyone can get a full workout in 10 minutes a day. The majority of us don’t have 1 -2 hours a day to workout. I, personally have been using WBV platforms, 10 minutes a day for 3 years. I have lost 20 lbs. and 2 inches off my waist and kept it off. I haven’t been sick in the 3 yrs. I am flexible, lean and can do any sports( windsurf, kiteboard, snowboard, surf) without exhaustion. I use WBV before a sport to warm up and right after to cool down and get the lachtic acid out.
    Sal would have been one of the fitness experts in the 1930’s who tried to have indoor exersise banded because it did not work.

    • Thet research titled, “The Effect of Whole-Body Vibration Training and Conventional Strength Training on Performance Measures in Female Athletes,” published in the September 2011 edition of the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concludes, “These results indicate that the inclusion of WBV as part of an off-season strength and conditioning program has no apparent benefit over conventional strength training methods for college softball players.”
      In a research paper titled, “Effects of a 6-Week Periodized Squat Training With or Without Whole-Body Vibration Upon Short-Term Adaptations in Squat Strength and Body Composition,” in the July 2001 edition of the same research journal concludes, “The study found that WBV did not enhance 1RM squat strength above squat training alone; however, trends were seen favoring WBV application during the first three weeks…These large increases after only 3 weeks of training (4 workouts) are considerable but not uncommon. The application of WBV after week 3 may have partially impeded natural strength improvement.”

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