Vibration Training is something that has been getting plenty of attention the last few years. In recent times vibration platforms have started appearing pretty much everywhere. They are found in many homes, commercial gyms, all the way up to the training centres of professional sporting teams. So what is all the fuss about? In this article I will discuss what exactly vibration training is, what it is supposed to do, and whether or not it can be used to help improveyour vertical jump.
WHAT IS VIBRATION TRAINING?Vibration training is pretty simple. Basically you stand on the vibration platform and perform your desired exercise. In the case of trying to improveyour vertical jump the obvious exercises are squats, lunges, and split squats. These can be performed in either a dynamic or isometric fashion.
Some of the claimed benefits of vibration training are that it can be used to enhance stretching, improvestrength, power and endurance, it can increase bone density, elevate metabolic rates, testosterone, and HGH output, and reduce blood pressure.
In terms of vertical jump performance the key benefits promoted are the improvements to strength and power. This is supposedly achieved via two mechanisms. The first is that the speed of the vibrations causes your muscles to contract and relax at high rates preferentially recruiting the fast twitch muscle fiber’s.
The second mechanism is that the speed of the contractions from vibration training triggers a stretch-shorten response and helps train your body to reduce golgi tendon inhibition. This is one of the same benefits often cited for why depth jumps produce such excellent gains in jump height (less golgi inhibition allows for your muscles to contract more forcefully resulting in higher jumps) and is the basis for Bosco's famous claim (see below).
DOES VIBRATION TRAINING WORK?
A Bosco vibration machine.
The science is inconclusive on this. Research conducted by the well known Italian sports scientist Carmelo Bosco (1998) showed great potential for the method as an alternative to traditional weight training and plyometrics. Bosco was actually very effusive about the potential benefits.
Some of his more well known (some would say ‘outlandish’) claims are that 10x10 one minute sessions is equivalent to doing either 150 reps of squats with 3 times your body weight, twice a week for 5 weeks, or doing 200 depth jumps twice a week for 1 year.
Of course Bosco now sells his own line of vibration platforms so his stance on the subject may not be as unbiased as you might hope from a scientist.
Other research however has concluded that the benefits are minimal or non existent. Why the disparity? Like a lot of scientific research the control variables were often quite different between each study.
Some studies performed using untrained athletes, whilst others used trained subjects, some used long isometric holds whilst other used short burst dynamic work, and finally different research used different types of vibration motion (different frequencies and amplitude of vibrations resulting in different degrees of adaptive response).
ATHLETIC USES of VIBRATION TRAININGAccording to its proponents athletes can best make use of vibration training as:
In my own experience I have found vibration platforms to be useful in a few specific situations. The first and most common use I have for using vibration work is as an excellent way to warm up before a leg workout. Spending 5-10 minutes performing a combination of isometric and dynamic squats really gets the joints flowing with synovial fluids and the muscles warmed.
The second benefit of have found is in the reduction of strength losses during periods of injury. It is a low impact form of exercise so it is fairly joint friendly, plus you do not necessarily need to use particularly heavy loads to generate a decent training response.
A Few Simple Vibration Training Ideas
Actually the use of external loads brings up an interesting point about vibration training. Much of marketing material talks about how it has the same benefits or more as regular weight training but without the need to lift heavy weights. This may be all well and good if you are an elderly person with joint issues who doesn’t actually do much weight training, but for a young athlete in the prime of life, do not expect to get a 2.0x BW squat without lifting heavy at some point.
I have found that you can in fact use vibration platforms with moderate to heavy loads to get a better training response. You have to be careful how you do it and how much weight you put on the platform, but there are definitely ways to safely and comfortably add extra resistance so that fit and strong people can still enjoy the benefits of vibration training.
My favourite method for adding resistance is through the use of weight vests as they still allow you to keep your hands free to help with your balance. Oddly a lot of vibration machines have handles to hold on to make it easier to maintain your position. For me this defeats the purpose somewhat. One of the key benefits of vibration training is that it helps develop stability, balance and proprioception. Holding onto something to steady yourself just seems to be counterproductive.
If I do want to add further weight beyond a vest then I really like to use sandbags. The way the sandbag moulds around you means that even with the vibrations coming up through your body it doesn’t cause any pain at the point of contact. Dumbells, kettlebells or simply holding weight plates would also work well.
ALL VIBRATIONS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL...APPARENTLYAnother interesting point about vibration training is that not all of the machines vibrate in the same way. There are some that vibrate vertically where the plate moves up and down and then there are other machines where the plate vibrates from side to side (pivotal vibration).
As you would expect the makers of both types of vibration machine claim their method is superior. One of the disturbing things you will find when looking into this type of training is manufacturers of one type of vibration machine citing beneficial research performed on another type of machine. Does it really matter?
When I was researching this article I found an interesting vibration training forum where one maker of a cheaper machine claimed all vibration was the same and that your body can’t really tell the difference.
He was then pretty much set upon by the makers of more expensive machines saying he gives the industry a bad name and that as a maker of a cheap machine he would say that all vibrations were the same. When I was reading these aggressive comments it did occur to me that these sorts of statement are a two way street. Makers of more expensive machines would obviously say the opposite – all vibrations are NOT the same. If they were the same why would you ever buy the more expensive one?
And here in lies the problem with vibration training at this stage of the game. Although lots of research has been done on the topic, very little of it seems to have been done in a way to determine with any certainty what actually is the best way to use it. Manufacturers on one hand claim that the type of vibration does matter, but then on the other hand cite research not done using their type of device. It smacks of salesmanship to me.
CONCLUSIONThere are certainly a lot of people in the fitness industry who believe very strongly that vibration training is highly beneficial for athletes, particularly those wanting to improvetheir vertical jump. However there are also just as many coaches and trainers who remain unconvinced.
My own experiences probably reflect that of the wider sporting community in that more research needs to be done. The sports scientists need to do a lot more testing to determine the most beneficial form of vibration, the types of training parameters, the benefits of additional loading, etc before I would recommend it whole heartedly.
In the meantime, well, there is no harm in trying. If you have access to a vibration platform, give it a go, experiment on your own and see what happens. I would loveto hear your experiences so if you have used this type of training with some success (or not) please share your feedback below.
RELATED ARTICLESPlyometrics Introduction - Plyometrics is to many uninformed people almost another way of saying vertical jump training. Here is the introductory section of our 2 part article on the topic that may enlighten your knowledge of this often misunderstood form of training.
A Closer look at Depth Jumps - A closer look at this highly effective but sometimes misunderstood exercise.
Fast Twitch Muscle Fiber - Fast twitch muscle fibers! What are they and how do you develop them.
Low Impact Training - Jumping is hard work on your body but it doesn't have to be. Follow a few of these simple low impact strategies and give your joints a break without sacrificing your gains.
OTHER RESOURCESVibration Training
VIBRATION TRAINING: AN OVERVIEW of THE AREA, TRAINING CONSEQUENCES, AND FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 19(2):459-466, May 2005. JORDAN, MATTHEW J. 1; NORRIS, STEPHEN R. 2; SMITH, DAVID J. 2; HERZOG, WALTER 2
ACUTE EFFECTS of WHOLE-BODY VIBRATION ON MUSCLE ACTIVITY, STRENGTH, AND POWER. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2006, 20(2), 257–261 PRUE CORMIE, RUSSELL S. DEANE, N. TRAVIS TRIPLETT, AND JEFFREY M. MCBRIDE
THE EFFECTS of 4 DIFFERENT ACUTE WHOLE BODY VIBRATION EXPOSURES UPON INDICES of COUNTER MOVEMENT VERTICAL JUMP PERFORMANCE Hugh S Lamont, Mike G Bemben, FACSM, Joel Cramer, Adrien Gayaud, Luke S Acree, University of oklahoma, Norman OK
EFFECTS of WBV ON MUSCLE POWER. Bosco et al, 1998, Biol Sport, 15:157-164
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