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Using whole body vibration for rehab

For this article I took a look at the research around whole body vibration to see if it actually works and if so, how should it be done.


In this article:

  • Does whole body vibration work?

  • How should it be done?

Here's a video I did about this topic:



Does whole body vibration work?


The research on this topic is still a bit sparse, but it does seem that training with whole body vibration can hold added benefit compared to strength training on its own.


One of the main problems with the research is that they tend to all use machines that vibrate at different frequencies and amplitudes and it’s therefor no real surprise that you can find studies that show positive effects on strength and performance as well as studies that show no extra benefit.


It also appears to be able to improve your flexibility more effectively compared to doing static stretching, with the added benefit that it activates the muscles while improving your flexibility.

A benefit that may be of interest to athletes who have suffered fractures is that the vibration can help to improve your bone density. Lastly, it also appears to improve proprioception or position sense which is important for injury prevention.


How should it be done?


From the research, it seems that training with frequencies around 30 to 35 Hz appear to be optimal.


There’s no real pattern with regards to amplitude that stands out yet, but I would argue that you would want 3mm or more. The strength training study that I mentioned above that didn’t show any benefit, used a machine with an amplitude of less than 1mm. One of the theories of how this type of training works, is through stimulating the stretch reflex in your tendons so would argue that you would need a bit of an amplitude.



It does seem to be important to do loaded exercises on the machine – not just stand. In a study where they compared a regular strength training programme with doing the programme on a vibration machine vs. just doing the moves without extra weight on the vibration machine, they found that the group where they did weighted exercises + vibration improved their running performance significantly more than the other two groups.


You should also work for progressive overload through either making rest periods shorter or weights heavier or adding in more reps.


Let me know if you have any questions. Need more help with an injury? You’re welcome to consult me online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

Best wishes

Maryke


About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.




References:

  1. Aman, J. E., et al. (2015). "The effectiveness of proprioceptive training for improving motor function: a systematic review." Frontiers in human neuroscience 8: 1075.

  2. Dolny, D. G. and G. F. C. Reyes (2008). "Whole body vibration exercise: training and benefits." Current Sports Medicine Reports 7(3): 152-157.

  3. Gerodimos, V., et al. (2010). "The acute effects of different whole-body vibration amplitudes and frequencies on flexibility and vertical jumping performance." Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 13(4): 438-443.

  4. Gregov, C. and S. Šalaj (2014). "The Effects of Different training modalities on bone mass: a Review." Kinesiology: International journal of fundamental and applied kinesiology 46(Supplement 1): 10-29.

  5. Hammer, R. L., et al. (2018). "Effects of Heavy Squat Training on a Vibration Platform on Maximal Strength and Jump Performance in Resistance-Trained Men." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 32(7): 1809-1815.

  6. Osawa, Y., et al. (2013). "The effects of whole-body vibration on muscle strength and power: a meta-analysis." J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact 13(3): 380-390.

  7. RøNNESTAD, B. R. (2004). "Comparing the performance-enhancing effects of squats on a vibration platform with conventional squats in recreationally resistance-trained men." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18(4): 839-845.

  8. Wang, H.-H., et al. (2014). "Whole-body vibration combined with extra-load training for enhancing the strength and speed of track and field athletes." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(9): 2470-2477.

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