A recent review of Whole Body Vibration (WBV) research by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) doesn’t provide any reasons to include this mode of training into your routine, whether you are a personal trainer or a fitness consumer. 

WBV has been studied for over 50 years and its proponents claim that using these platforms can improve general health and performance.  Recently the NSCA published a paper titled, “Vibration Performance and Athletic Performance,” authored by Jeffrey M. McBride, PhD, CSCS, PNSCA, that reviewed existing research on the effects of WBV.  Personal trainers, strength coaches and consumers alike can benefit from this report and its implications with regard to practicality of WBV training.

According to Dr. McBride’s conclusion, “WBV may be a viable alternative for increasing athletic performance when used as a warm-up procedure (and that) data indicates that WBV training may provide a viable alternative to standard types of strength training.  However, adding WBV to an existing strength training program does not appear to be more beneficial than standard types of strength training (my italics).”

There’s no doubt that some WBV marketers will seize upon these statements and spin Dr. McBride’s words so they sound like an endorsement of WBV training.  However, when you look at Dr. McBride’s paper in the context of all the research dealing with WBV, this review provides reasons not to bother with Whole Body Vibration.

Even if vibration training provided bona fide benefits as a warm-up/preparation protocol – according to the research WBV may provide these benefits – the incredibly impractical nature of this training modality renders WBV useless, especially in group or team settings.  WBV platforms are prohibitively expensive and can be used by only one person at a time, and given the fact that there are other demonstrably more convenient, effective and cost-free options to the noisy platforms there is no reason to engage in WBV training for warm-up.

Calisthenics and other dynamic flexibility exercises are more efficient, effective and practical than WBV and are have a long track record of providing benefits and improved performance without any expense or clumsy implementation. Given the massive impracticalities associated with WBV training, Dr. McBride’s comment that WBV training may provide an alternative to standard strength training shouldn’t have anyone running out to purchase a multi-thousand dollar WBV platform. 

“Whole body vibration training may provide a viable alternative,” doesn’t mean WBV is better than traditional strength training or even delivers the same benefits, just that it is another mode of exercise that may be of some use. We know from decades of research that standard weight training delivers guaranteed benefits with minimal risk, expense and inconvenience. On this count, WBV doesn’t deliver for those of us who make practical considerations a priority in their decision making process.

Another nail in WBV’s coffin is Dr. McBride’s statement that WBV offers no benefits when added to an existing strength-training program.  The expensive, noisy and questionable benefits offered by WBV disappear for people already engaged in a traditional strength-training program. With regard to the risks associated with WBV training, there have been no long-term studies on the risks associated with WBV.

However, according to Dr. McBride a study titled, “Variation in Neuromuscular Responses During Acute Whole-Body Vibration Exercise,” published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise,” in 2007 by Abercromby et al, found that exposure to WBV during a workout may exceed the recommended limits of exposure to vibration. In cases where WBV exposure resulted in acute (short term) benefits, these same benefits have been attained by using less cumbersome and less expensive methods. 

For instance, some studies have shown WBV exposure to improve short–term vertical jump performance and increase in joint range of motion, when the same short-term benefits can be experienced by performing plyometrics, flexibility work and strength training – all bona fide training methods with a proven track record of success – that also provide long-term benefits.

WBV training has been shown to increase adrenaline levels and the levels of other hormones, but ingesting caffeine in responsible doses and engaging in regular exercise is a superior method for increasing hormone levels.  WBV is alleged to increase rate of perceived exertion, energy expenditure or metabolic rate, but traditional forms of exercise, or doing something simple like wearing a weighted vest, can do the same things at a fraction of the cost with exponential efficiency.

The bottom line is that while WBV training may be able to elicit some training responses – and given the dearth of legitimate data, this is a stretch – these responses can be derived in a more efficient, effective and authentic manner by using traditional, less-expensive methods of exercise.


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