Whole-body vibration benefits in the short and long term

Heather Campbell
 min read

Whole-body vibration benefits in the short and long term have been the subject of several studies.

Whole-body vibration benefits in the short and long termThese studies showed increased strength and explosiveness thanks to vibration training in both untrained participants and professional athletes.

As a general rule, vibration training provides benefits in terms of muscle strength and explosiveness when paired with traditional training. Several studies showed that vibration training caused a notable increase in maximal strength and power versus subjects only using traditional training methods.

Interest in vibration training has been on the rise, and the present findings suggest that vibration training may positively affect muscle strength and explosiveness in both the short and long term.

Read on to learn more!

Whole-body vibration benefits in the short and long term: Introduction

The effect of vibration training depends on the exercises performed and on the different vibration parameters such as:

  • Amplitude
  • Frequency
  • Vibration duration

The amplitude, frequency, and vibration duration determine the intensity of the vibration, and the intensity of the vibrations must be high enough to provoke an increase in muscle strength or explosiveness.

Related post: Effects of whole-body vibration therapy on muscle & explosive strength

Several studies indicated that the optimal frequency is around 30 Hz (for trained athletes).

There is still uncertainty about the optimal amplitude. Still, too low an amplitude may be insufficient to elicit improvement.

In addition, we must not forget that the vibration method affects the magnitude of both the amplitude and frequency of the vibrations when they reach the muscles.

Too long a vibration session can lead to over-fatigue and, therefore, a reduction in strength.

Short-term benefits of whole-body vibration training

Only a handful of studies have examined the effects of whole-body vibration on short-term dynamic movements.

Here we looked at the influence of the intervention on maximum dynamic contraction, namely concentric flexion of the elbow.

In these studies, participants had to hold a vibrating lever that indirectly stimulated the biceps through vibration.

Increase in maximum power and strength

And what where the results? Maximum power and maximum force were significantly increased in the vibration group compared to the control group.

Another study found that vibration induces a significantly greater increase in maximum power in elite athletes (+10.4%) than amateur athletes (+7.9%).

Several studies showed that vibration training caused a significant increase in maximal strength and power, while the control group did not achieve substantial results.

This gain due to vibration depends on 3 factors:

  • The activation of the motor pool
  • The frequency of vibration
  • The initial length of the muscles being stimulated

Two other studies reported significant results after vibration:

  • In the first study, 12 international boxers received indirect biceps stimulation via vibration. The power developed during an elbow flexion after five 1-minute vibration sessions was found to have increased by 13% (while no increase could be observed in the control group).
  • In the second study, the researchers looked at power and also measured the developed speed and strength during a dynamic leg press. Six female volleyball players were administered vibration via whole-body vibration for ten 60-second sessions while standing with their knees in 100° flexion on the vibration plate. After the sessions, it was seen that power, strength, and speed had increased significantly for a “leg press” performed with various sufficiently high weights. However, this is only a strength gain of 0.5%, 0.3%, and 0.22% for different weights, respectively. In comparison, the gain in power looks a lot more spectacular at 6.1%, 8.2%, and 5.8%, respectively. Thus, one should not only focus on the gain in power obtained but also ask what the net gain in power would be.

Increase in jump height

Another team of scientists studied the influence of vibration on 18 elite field hockey players. In doing so, they had to adopt different body positions on a vibration plate for 5 minutes.

These 18 participants were also the control group, where they had to take the same positions but on a non-vibrating plate. They also had to do a third trial where they had to cycle for 5 minutes.

After the whole-body vibration session, the height at the countermovement jump had increased significantly by 8.1%, while in the other two groups, no significant changes were noted.

In other words, there was a significant increase in jump height when participants received vibration training.

The improved jump height by whole-body vibration suggests neural enhancement through increased sensitivity of the stretch reflex mechanism.

Long-term benefits of whole-body vibration training

Isometric strength

A 2005 study by Delecluse et al. examined the chronic effects of vibration plate therapy on isometric strength in 20 professional athletes.

One had the amplitude and frequency of the vibrations gradually increase, as did the duration of the vibration training. The vibration training was given on top of their regular training.

There were no significant results after 5 weeks of vibration training in terms of isometric knee flexion and isometric knee extension.

Increase in dynamic force or power

A handful of studies looked at the chronic effects of vibration training on dynamic strength and power.

Four studies found a significant increase in dynamic strength or power:

Fagnani et al., 2006

This research studied 26 female athletes undergoing an 8-week whole-body vibration training program.

After the training, they found a significant 8.7% increase in height on a countermovement jump and an 11.2% increase in weight that could be moved on a leg press.

In contrast, no significant improvements could be observed in the control population.

Mahieu et al., 2006

This study focused on 17 competitive skiers doing 6 weeks of whole-body vibration training. They found a significant strength gain of:

  • 27.2% and 17.8% with plantar flexion at 30°/sec and 120°/sec, and
  • 51.6% and 28.5% with dorsiflexion at 30°/sec and 120°/sec.

In knee flexion at 60°/sec and 180°/sec, they found significant strength gains of 11.9% and 13.6%, respectively. In knee extension, they noted 24.4% and 23.6% gains for 60°/sec and 180°/sec, respectively.

However, it should be noted that during vibration training, one also had to perform specific exercises and that the control population who only performed the exercises and did not receive vibration also achieved significant results (except for dorsiflexion at 30°/sec).

This allows one to question whether the gains made are due to the vibration training or the additional exercises.

It must be said that the gain for the vibration group was much more significant than for the control group for the high-box test (25.3% versus 10.9%) and for plantar flexion at low velocity (27.2% versus 12.5%).

Annino et al., 2007

These researchers examined 11 professional ballerinas to determine the impact of 8 weeks of vibration training on their height on a countermovement jump and their developed strength and power on a leg press.

Good to know: One had to do ballet training in addition to the vibration training.

Results:

  • One found a significant increase (6.3%) in height reached for the countermovement jump.
  • For the leg press, they found no considerable strength gain at 110 pounds, while at 154 and 220 pounds, they could observe gains of 2.3% and 5%, respectively. However, it is noteworthy that with a leg press of 220 pounds, they recorded an increase of 18% for power and a gain of 26% for speed. In contrast, no significant results were found in the control population.

Ronnestadt et al., 2004

These researchers observed a significant 32% increase in one-repetition maximum in 16 recreational athletes who were required to perform squats at the maximum weight for 5 weeks and received vibration in addition.

The control population who received no vibration training and only had to perform squats also saw a significant increase of 24% in terms of one-repetition maximum.

For height at the countermovement jump, the researchers did see a significant increase of 8.8% only in the vibration group. In comparison, they could observe a non-significant increase of 4% in the control population.

Whole-body vibration benefits in the short and long term: Conclusion

Vibration training can provide benefits in terms of muscle strength and explosiveness, when paired with traditional training.

Both vibration parameters (amplitude, frequency, duration, and method) and exercise intensity (duration and type of exercise) influence the effects of vibration training.

Working individually and looking for the optimal combination of amplitude, frequency, and vibration duration for your body and goals makes sense.

Not everyone responds in the same way to vibration training, so it is helpful to apply vibration training individually.

One can aim for the optimal combination of frequency, amplitude, and duration using electromyographic measurements, among others.

However, such an approach should not lose sight of the cost-benefit ratio. Indeed, there is no way to decide whether vibration training is superior to other training methods.

In other words, vibration training provides a pleasant variation in the training regime when combined with traditional training methods.

Good to know: While these studies focused on athletes, whole-body vibration training is also beneficial for mere mortals like us, as well as for the elderly, as discussed in our other article Whole-body vibration for fall prevention in elderly people living at home

About Heather Campbell

As a dietitian, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More