Whole body vibration exercise machines

This is a guest page by Paul Atherton.

Over the last few months there has been increasing press coverage of vibration exercise machines. In fact, ever since it was claimed in the British press, in 2007, that Madonna had paid $12,000 for a vibration plate there has been a steady growth in both users and sceptics.

Although it would appear to be a ‘modern’ craze, vibration technology for physical therapeutics has been utilised for over a century. Dr J.H. Kellogg was one of the first recorded adopters, developing a series of vibrating chairs that he used for immobile patients and those suffering from obvious muscle degeneration. His results were largely unrecorded, meaning that little further research was conducted in the West until NASA and the European Space Agency began to investigate the Russian Space Institute’s (RSI) research on biomechanical stimulation and whole body vibration. The preliminary tests were conducted by East German scientist Dr Biermann, with additional research continued by Dr. Nazarov, who had seen the opportunity to use WBV in space training for Cosmonauts. One of the major problems sending humans into space was muscle atrophy and weakening of bones, the whole body vibration helped to stimulate muscular movement, which is decreased in space due to the reduced level of gravity, and therefore enable Cosmonauts to remain in space for longer periods of time than Astronauts.

Whole body vibration has since been developed by former Dutch Olympian Guus van der Meer into vibrating plates, which work by sending vibrations throughout the body, forcing muscles to contract between 25 and 50 times per second. Traditional exercises, including squats, press-ups and lunges are performed on the vibrating platform, which results in increased muscular activity on the targeted muscle groups. Each exercise is performed for between 30 and 60 seconds, with an equal ‘rest’ period in between. A session should last for approximately 30 minutes, with 3 sessions included within a regular exercise regime. One thing that should be made clear is: vibration machines are not a cure for fitness problems, but should be integrated into fitness regimes. University trials have seen marked muscular improvements, in particular in ‘explosive power’ tests and a number of high-profile athletes, along with Madonna, have endorsed the use of vibration machines. Serena Williams used the machines to aid muscle development during her rehabilitation and a range of 2012 Olympians will also be using the technology to help boost their performances.

For more information on the research and results of whole body vibration check out these references.

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