Does vibration training work in athletes?

The Introduction

vibroFor those of us that follow the latest trends in the health and fitness industry, there has been a lot of hype around lately about vibration platforms. Many studies have shown increases in strength and power in untrained and/or older people but very few studies have examined the effects of vibration training in athletes. Vibration causes an increase in the g-forces acting on the muscles, increasing the loading of muscles when exercises are done while on a vibrating platform. Increased loading should aid muscle hypertrophy (enlargement), and some authors have suggested that vibration may enhance neuromuscular potentiation (nervous system input to strength and power).

The Research

Four New Zealand-based sport scientists conducted a literature review to determine whether vibration training could produce improvements in the strength, power and speed of trained athletes. They found that only six studies had been conducted using trained athletes or people doing strength training regularly.

The Results

Considering the 6 studies on trained athletes, the researchers concluded there was some evidence to suggest that vibration may provide a small benefit to maximal strength (1-repetition maximum) and power (jumps) of trained athletes. However, speed does not seem to be enhanced by vibration training. They also concluded that there is a lack of evidence to support the theory that long-term vibration training increases neuromuscular potentiation in trained athletes.

The So What?

Because whole-body vibration does not seem to be detrimental to performance when used in a controlled manner, it could provide an additional training stimulus for masters athletes who need jumping or throwing power and strength. However, further research is required to determine optimum vibration training protocols and to clarify whether vibration training produces performance benefits greater than those of traditional training methods.

At present, the suggested procedures are to:

  1. Use a vibrating platform and do the exercises on that platform
  2. Vibrate at a frequency of approximately 30 Hertz (movements / second) with no need to go above 100 Hertz

Be aware that long-term exposure to vibration can lead to cardiovascular problems and that masters athletes with health issues should chat with their family doctor before undertaking such training.

Wilcock IM, Whatman C, Harris N, Keogh JW. (2009). Vibration training: could it enhance the strength, power, or speed of athletes? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 23(2):593-603.