What is Whole Body Vibration (WBV)?

Its the action of exposing the whole body to low frequency vibration through a vibrating platform. This allows the user to gain all the physiological benefits of exercise in a shorter amount of time.

How it works: The idea is the fast vibration of the platform causes the muscle fibers to expand and contract very rapidly therefore increasing the blood flow through the entire body and strengthening muscles. This is also beneficial to the cardio system as it increases the heart rate during the exercise. Finally the skeletal system benefits as the bones react to physical stress which helps increase bone density.

The exercise: is a series of short on and off segments on the vibrating platform. A WBV machine can be used in a variety of positions. Most popular is the squat where the person stands on the vibrating platform with the knees bent at 30 degrees while holding to the handrails. There is not much effort needed to use a WBV machine. The muscles react automatically to the vibration in an effort to keep you balanced.

Exercise time: a session on a WBV machine is anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes. Generally 10 to 15 minutes is the recommendation.

There are three types of vibrating platforms:

  1. Vertical, which is also thought to be the most effective, is where the entire platform vibrates uniformly in an up and down motion. This is suited for increased muscle strength and bone density.
  2. Oscillating, which is like a teeter-totter motion and is suited for weight loss.
  3. Elliptical, similar to a hand massager, offers more of a surface stimulation that can feel tingly, but fails to offer deep penetration like Oscillating or Vertical.

The four variables that make the exercise:

  1. Frequency – measured in Hertz refers to the amount of repeated vibrating cycles per second. The higher the frequency, the more vibration. The frequency settings are generally between 1Hz to 20Hz for Oscillating machines and 20Hz to 60Hz for vertical machines.
  2. Amplitude – is the distance the platform travels up and down usually between 1mm to 15mm. The higher amplitude creates greater intensity during workout.
  3. Position – your position on the platform determines the focus of the vibration whether you are standing or using straps, or only have a specific body part on the platform (i.e.: only your arm, etc…)
  4. Duration – is how long the workout segment lasts and is usually measured in minutes or seconds. Its generally between 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

What to look for in a WBE machine:  The cheaper machines usually fall in the category of oscillating or elliptical. The vertical category tends to be more expensive and better made because they offer a better exercise and are more popular.

  • Features:  Look for high “user weight” rating. Sturdy frame and overall construction – does the machine feel stable? Does it have solid handle bars? What program options and features does it have? Is the machine intuitive and easy to use? Is it noisy or quiet? Is the brand well reviewed?
  • Price: Range is between $200 for garbage up to $20k for the over-hyped commercial grade ones. The average quality home unit sells between $2k to $3k, and average commercial quality unit sells for $4k to $8k.
  • Warranty: Longer warranty is a major plus.  Find the machine with the longest warranty for both parts and labor.

Precautions:   A WBV machine is not a replacement for regular exercise and is not a significant means for weight loss without a proper diet. It is also not for everyone. Always consult with your physician when beginning any new exercise program.