Have you ever seen a vibration exercise machine in the gym before? If so, you may have wondered to yourself what in the world that was. I was doing research the other day and came across one for home use and it got me thinking if people know what vibration machines are and if they actually use them. So, I decided to do a little more research and see what I could find. The purpose of this article is to discuss what a vibration exercise machine is supposed to do and then decide whether or not they are worth using.
What Is A Vibration Exercise Machine Anyway?
A vibration exercise machine, or whole body vibration machine, is a device with a vibrating platform that you can stand (or sit) on. Most also have a handlebar to help you maintain your balance while standing. Decent vibration machines will have a console of some kind so that you can set your speeds and times, etc.
The idea is that as the machine vibrates, it causes the muscles in your body to contract rapidly in order to absorb the energy produced by the vibrating platform. These muscle contractions are automatic and reflexive- that is, the muscles are working without you telling them to.
The idea is, that with all of these rapid muscle contractions happening multiple times per second, the user would burn calories, as well as improve circulation and increase muscle strength.
You can imagine why people would be drawn to this idea. It does sound great. Simply stand on a vibrating platform and enjoy the benefits of a more traditional workout. But do they work? That is the real question.
What Are The Benefits Of A Vibration Machine?
I should ask what are the “possible” benefits because there really isn’t a lot of research to back up whether or not these devices are beneficial. I’ll get back to that in a second though.
Possible benefits of using a vibration machine regularly include:
- Weight loss
- Burning fat
- Improving strength
- Improving circulation
- Improving flexibility
It’s hard to prove whether these benefits are legit or not. There isn’t a lot of research on the topic, with humans anyway. There was a pretty decent study done on mice that came out last year. The study was trying to see if whole body vibration could produce the same health benefits as running on a treadmill for mice that were obese (and had diabetes).
How do you know a mouse has diabetes you may ask? Well, kinda the same way you know a human has it. They can check the mouses blood glucose levels and insulin levels, as well as other hormones that indicate the disease.
Anyway, for 12 weeks they exposed one group of mice to 20 minutes of vibration and another group to 45 min on a treadmill. There was a control group of mice that just sat around in a cage. They compared the results between all 3 groups over several different criteria and found some pretty interesting results.
The mice in the vibration group and exercise group put on less weight and had more muscle in their legs than the sedentary control group. The mice in the vibration group had decreases in their insulin levels as well as other improvements in their metabolism that were similar to the exercise group.
If interested in reading the full study, click here.
These results are pretty promising, but this doesn’t mean the same results would occur with humans. We are much different than mice, but this is a good start. It would be interesting to do a similar study with humans.
This study suggests that using a vibration machine could help with weight loss and improving leg strength, but there is no evidence that it would improve circulation or flexibility. I can’t imagine how you would assess these things on a mouse anyway.
Since we don’t have a lot of research to back it up, it’s up to us to use logic and what we know about exercise to decide whether or not a vibration machine is worth the effort.
Is A Vibration Exercise Machine Worth The Effort?
So far we’ve only discussed using a vibration machine to statically stand on while it…um…vibrates. This alone may help burn calories and lose weight. It may strengthen your legs a little. But would I spend 20 minutes standing on a vibrating machine at the gym? Would I purchase a home vibrating platform for this purpose? Absolutely not.
And I wouldn’t recommend my readers do that either. If pain or immobility doesn’t allow you to perform any other exercise, than maybe. But if you can’t tolerate any other form of activity, I find it hard to believe you will be able to tolerate standing on a vibrating platform for any given amount of time.
Even if standing on the vibrating platform does burn calories, there is no way it burns as many as more traditional forms of exercise (such as riding a bike or running on a treadmill). It also wouldn’t give you the same cardiovascular benefits.
But, as a physical therapist, I do see another use for the vibration machine that could add value to your workout. I like the idea of performing exercises on the vibrating platform! Ah, now we’re talking. Ever seen folks using the BOSU ball or exercising on a Swiss ball?
These devices add an element of instability to whatever exercise you are doing and this makes the exercise more difficult, which in turn, makes you work harder. Working harder means you get better results. I think the vibration machine could be used the same way.
In this manner, the vibration machine could be used to increase the difficulty of a wide range of upper and lower body exercises. It could also be used for killer core stabilization exercises and balance exercises. How about some examples:
- Push ups with your hands on platform
- Push ups with your feet on platform
- Squats on platform
- Single leg stance on platform
- Plank with hands (or elbows) on platform
- Plank with feet on platform
- Bridge with feet on platform
- Calf raises on platform
There really are a ton of possibilities. Doing any of these exercises on a vibrating platform is going to make your muscles work harder because your core (and smaller stabilizing muscles) are going to have to kick in. And this small list is just an example. You could even do resistance exercises while standing on the vibrating machine.
Oh, I just thought of a good one. How about standing on the platform (knees slightly bent) while holding a pair of dumbbells statically overhead? Sounds tough.
Check this video out for an example of a complete 10 min workout on a vibration exercise machine. Sorry in advance for the background music…
We’ve gone over what a vibration exercise machine is and what it is supposed to do. Although there isn’t a lot of research to support the potential health benefits, there have been studies with animals that are showing some promise. In time we may see more human studies.
In the meantime, I do believe vibration machines can be useful as a workout tool. Using them to increase core activation and increase the difficulty of strengthening exercises makes a lot of sense. In this manner, I believe vibration machines can be very helpful.
If you are interested in learning more, check out my favorite home vibration machine review.
I hope this article was helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Have you ever used a vibration exercise machine before? Leave a comment below and I’ll get right back to ya.