I believe that health and wellness technology is an important part of a smart home. With people trying to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get in shape, I thought it an appropriate time to write about a fitness aid that is almost too good to be true.
In combination with a regular exercise program, manufacturers claim that this device, called a vibration plate, provides the following benefits:
- Stress relief
- Prevents muscle atrophy
- Assist with muscle pains and injury recovery
- Treatment of muscle and tendon issues in the low back
- Strengthen tendons and assist in recovery from tendon injuries
- Improve core strength
- Improve your balance
- Improve blood circulation
- Improve lymphatic circulation (the collection of fluids from cells in the body and their return to the bloodstream)
- Assist with diet and exercise program in weight loss
- Assist in the treatment of osteoporosis or low bone density
- Assist in the treatment of Fibromyalgia
- Assist in the treatment of high blood pressure
- Assist in the treatment of restless leg syndrome
- Assist in the treatment of Autism
- Assist in the treatment of neurological diseases including Parkinson’s Disease and Cerebral Palsy
- A treatment for many health issues faced by seniors and the elderly including improved balance for fall prevention
Finally, the device is easy to store and won’t require you to take a second mortgage out on your home.
At this point, you must think that we’re back in the early 20th century and I’m selling some magic elixir on the sidewalk where I can make a quick getaway when the police show up. However, there are studies that have shown that integrating a vibration plate into an exercise program can indeed have the above benefits.
What is a Vibration Plate?
A vibration plate is a fitness device that typically consists of a platform that vibrates at varying frequencies, amplitudes, and intensities. Users stand on the platform and perform exercises while it vibrates. This can stimulate the muscles and improve strength, flexibility, and circulation.
The precise mechanisms by which a vibration plate improves health and fitness are not fully understood, but it is believed to work through a combination of neuromuscular and metabolic effects. The vibrations generated by the plate cause muscles to contract and relax, which helps to improve muscle strength and tone, flexibility, and balance. The vibration can also increase blood flow and oxygenation to the muscles, which can enhance recovery after exercise and reduce muscle soreness.
Features and Choices in Selecting a Vibration Plate
As you would expect, there are a great many vibration plates on the market from which to choose. They are available with a wide range of features at varying price points. There are a few important things to consider when choosing a vibration plate:
- Amplitude and frequency: These determine the intensity of the vibrations and can affect the type of exercises and benefits you can achieve.
- Platform size: A larger platform may offer more stability and versatility, while a smaller one may be more portable and easier to store.
- Weight capacity: Make sure the plate can support your weight and the weight of any additional equipment you may use.
- Display and controls: Look for a clear, easy-to-use display and intuitive controls that allow you to adjust the intensity and duration of your workouts.
- Noise level: Consider the noise level of the vibration plate and whether it will be disruptive to your home or gym environment.
- Workout guide: A workout guide should be included so you can learn to use the device properly and integrate it with your overall exercise program to achieve your fitness goals
Contraindications for Using a Vibration Plate
Just because vibration plates are being used by professional sports teams as part of exercise and recovery programs for their athletes doesn’t mean it is going to be an appropriate tool for everyone. Manufacturers, as would be expected, are very conservative and caution that people diagnosed with any of the following medical conditions should check with their physician before beginning or continuing, an exercise program with a vibration plate:
- Kidney or bladder stones
- Cancer or tumors
- A pacemaker
- Myocardial Infarction
- Metal or synthetic implants (including: some types of pacemakers, artificial cardiac valves, recent stents, intrauterine device, joint replacements, spine implants/plates/screws, implanted contraceptive device, or brain implants), cochlear implants.
- Heart failure
- Irregular heart rate or arrhythmias
- Untreated orthostatic hypotension.
- Gallstones, kidney stones, or bladder stones
- Rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of arthritis from autoimmune diseases
- Osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis
- Recent surgery
- Recent thrombosis or hernia
- Serious cardiovascular disease
- Severe diabetes
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Movement disorders or Parkinson’s
- Chondromalacia of the joints of the lower extremities, osteonecrosis, and chondrosis
- Arterial circulation disorders
- Venous insufficiency, especially with skin ulcer
- Chronic regional pain syndrome / Morbus Sudeck Stadium II (CRPS)
- Lymphatic edema
- Postoperative wound
- Joint replacements — no use of vibration plate for minimum six months after joint replacement surgery, after that, check with surgeon regarding whether the device can help strengthen the bone to implant bonding
- History of spine disorder including fracture, disc disorders, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, or spondylosis
- History of spinal cord injury
- Osteoporosis or low bone density
- Inner ear problems including: dizziness, headache, lower-limb spasticity
- Hardware loosening (plates, rods or screws as a result of previous surgery)
- Currently taking blood thinner medication such as anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications
Most manufacturers caution that people with the following diagnosis should NOT USE A VIBRATION PLATE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES:
- Recent Inflammations, infections and/or fever
- Recent arthritis flare
- Recent migraine
- New or severe epilepsy (i.e., needs to be controlled with medication and with physician approval)
- Retinal detachment (or a high risk of retinal detachment)
- Recent hernia
- Recent injury
- Fresh (surgical) Wounds, recent surgery of any type.
- Recent fractures (Always check with physician after minimum 6-8 weeks of healing for physician approval regarding timing of beginning or resuming use)
- Implants of the spine
- Recent or chronic deep vein thromboses or other thrombotic disorder
- Recent spine or disc related problems, spondylolysis (a stress fracture of the vertebrae), gliding spondylolisthesis (misalignment of the vertebrae from front to back) or fractures
- Severe osteoporosis or low bone density with BMD < 70mg/ml
- Spasticity (after stroke/ spinal cord lesion…)
- Tumors with metastases in the musculoskeletal system
- Vertigo or positional dizziness
- Recent myocardial infarction
- Organ failure
- Recent Joint replacements (check with surgeon minimum of six months post-surgery for approval before beginning or resuming use)
Other than that, you’re good to go! All kidding aside, if you have any reservations about using a vibration plate, given any health issues you may have, please check with your physician first.
Benefits of Adding a Vibration Plate to Your Exercise Program
If the above list of contraindications hasn’t completely scared you off, vibration plates offer significant benefits when included in an exercise program along with separate medical benefits.
To use a vibration plate, you stand, sit, or lie on the machine as it vibrates. You can do this as a separate activity or perform standard toning, strengthening, or stretching exercises while using the machine. While using the machine, the vibration forces your muscles to contract and relax 10 to 60 times per second.
Correct use of a vibration plate as an addition to a proper diet, aerobic exercise, flexibility exercises and strength training program can improve muscle strength and power, improve lean muscle mass, muscle flexibility, improve recovery after a workout, and increase calories burned for the same workout routine.
The above benefits can be optimized by performing your strength training exercises while standing, sitting, or lying on a vibration plate to make the exercise more difficult. The benefits are not dramatic, but are still significant. Remember to gradually increase the length of time and the intensity of the vibration when using a vibration plate. Research has shown that a vibration plate significantly increases the energy expenditure needed to perform a given exercise when compared with the same exercise without the vibration plate. It is recommended to use the machine for shorter durations, often a maximum of 15 minutes, three to four days a week. It is also recommended to keep the knees slightly bent when standing on the machine to minimize head vibration.
LifePro is a manufacturer of highly rated vibration plates, exercise, and wellness devices. They manufacture 18 different vibration plates varying in price from $150 to $500. Based on my wife’s background in kinesiology and sports medicine, we chose the LifePro Waver. It is one of their most reasonably priced models at only $200 (LifePro runs frequent sales so you can probably find one for less than this price) but includes all the basic features you need.
The Waver is 30” wide x 15” deep x 6” high. This provides a stable platform for exercise but still allows the device to easily be stored under a sofa or bed. The top of the unit has an anti-slip rubber mat for safety and a user-friendly display. It also includes:
- Two resistance cords with handles for use in resistance exercises. Some examples of exercises are shown in the user manual
- Four color-coded loop resistance bands for resistance exercises
- A remote control, so the intensity of the vibrations can be adjusted while using the unit
- A user guide
- Free access to an online video library that covers multiple training topics for a number of goals and recommendations regarding specific medical and injury problems
- Free professional training e-book that covers more detailed information on the use of the loop resistance bands and an outline of an overall exercise program including a variety of exercises targeting the major muscle groups for stretching, strengthening and core work.
Hands on with the LifePro Waver
The user guide made it simple to set up the LifePro Waver. The unit weighs 31 pounds, but there are rollers at one end that make it easy to move.
I would suggest that you place a mat under the unit. There are suction cups on the bottom to minimize movement against the floor while the unit is vibrating, but you will want to do as much as possible to protect your flooring. Further, be careful to regularly clean underneath the mat you use. Small pieces of grit that may work their way under the mat over time. These pieces of grit, combined with the vibration of the Waver, could act like power sander and damage your floor.
There are speed settings ranging from 1- 99. Within these 99 settings, the speed and intensity of the vibration changes. Unlike some very expensive vibration plates there isn’t the ability to independently adjust the speed of vibration and the intensity. For simplicity, LifePro has combined these together.
After turning the unit on and choosing your desired preset program or manual settings, you stand, sit or lie on the machine to use it. Even greater benefit is gained by performing “muscle loading” activities while on the platform. This can be done by standing on one leg, using resistance cords, resistance bands, or hand weights for upper body exercises or lunges.
There are three different foot positions used during exercises, center, middle, and at the ends of the platform. The wider your stance, the more intense the rocking of the unit.
In my experience, you should always wear shoes when using the machine and keep your knees/hips slightly bent when using the machine and your keep body weight centered on your feet or towards the balls of your feet. You should never lock your knees/hips straight when using the machine or stand on the heels of your feet. If you stand with your knees or hips locked straight or with your weight on your heels, a large amount of jarring force will be placed on your joints. In addition, the vibrations could cause dizziness or headaches.
In general, upper body exercises, where you place your hands or arms on the platform, are difficult with vibration machines. A very low amplitude of vibration setting (height of the rocking) would need to be used and the vibration may cause dizziness or headaches. It is also recommended to wear gloves while doing upper body exercise to avoid the risk of getting blisters.
Similarly, standing exercises are far more comfortable than exercises performed lying down on the machine. The vibration to the head and neck is uncomfortable in a lying position and can also cause dizziness or headaches. A very low amplitude vibration setting (height of the rocking) should be used. In addition, it may help to put a small folded washcloth over the control panel when lying on the machine. I found that my body weight kept pushing the buttons to change the settings or turn the unit off. Perhaps future models will have a recessed panel that may help with this issue or LifePro will include the ability to lock the buttons on the panel, so it is only operated using the remote control. A person with larger feet may also have this issue when changing foot positions on the unit.
It is likely best to start by using the platform for 1015 minutes or less and only three days a week with a rest day in between. It is also probably good to start with your feet in the center position of the platform. Allow yourself to adjust to using the machine by gradually increasing your settings and total time week every week or two. Use of this machine is very different than other exercise forms. If you are using the machine while doing an exercise that you are used to doing, realize that the machine makes your “usual” workout much more difficult and strenuous for your muscles.
I was quite surprised that despite working out daily for years, only 15 minutes of vibration therapy on my first use left me with some significant muscle fatigue the next morning in my feet, legs, and core. I am thrilled to use this as a great adjunct for my home gym. A short, gentle stretching session with the machine at night seems to really help with my recovery for the next day.
Overall, the LifePro Waver is a great adjunct to an exercise routine. It doesn’t offer as wide a range of settings as more expensive machines but will gives you 80% of the enhancement to your workout for a fraction of the cost.