3 Rules to remember

1. Any Vibration does not = Vibration Training
2. Light Vibration = Therapy
3. Heavy Vibration = Training

The Blacklist

Lloyd Shaw's PTs guide to Vibration Training

And a few ideas to leave you asking questions about "exercise" as we are taught it.

When looking for explanations about Vibration Training health professionals quite often find lots of technical terms and jargon floating around. Probably just written to impress and dazzle you. But unless you have specifically studied in that area ( even top trainers may not have covered it at University level ) , most would find it hard to get their head around and maybe even just boring. Turning you off Vibration Training before even trying it.

So this is a guide to what vibration training really is, in terms all Personal Trainers already understand.

Is it a new form of training....?

Well actually the answer is soon to be an obvious NO. Everyone has done this "type" of training before. People just cant remember learning it because they were very very young. And they did not consciously choose to do it.

The first thing people learnt to do as a child, on the way to learning to what we think of as " traditional exercise" now, is just simply "not falling over" while trying to sit up. This is a learned response that is achieved by your brain communicating with your muscles and other senses ( eye sight, inner ear etc...). Every time you fall over, your body learns to correct itself with very fast and powerful muscle movements. Muscle contractions you do not have to think about laypeople call "reactions".

Trainers know these as a combination of "proprioception" and "eccentric contractions" But no matter what we call them, all trainers and athletes know "reactions" are far superior to "actions"

Over a period of time, children utilize these involuntary contractions in ever increasing intensity to allow them to balance, swing ( called brachiation ) , play on jungle gyms, jump off a chair and land on the ground etc... all fun stuff kids didn't think of as exercise, ( and would do for hours until their parents made them stop ). All this stimulation contributes to healthy bones and joints, healthy muscles, increased circulation and burning energy etc.... In fact you were already quite fit and strong from playing, long before someone told you to "exercise" to be fit and strong.

Instead of sitting a kid down and "teaching" them what exercise is, wouldn't it make more sense to just tell a kid to NOT stop doing whatever it is they were doing in the first place. If the academic cry of " no exercise is an Island " is really true then why is this type of exercise not made a bigger deal of. Where are all the books on this subject and why is only a small part of the gym ever dedicated to this type of training.

Anyone notice "gravity" training is coming back big-time now ?

Maybe kids really know more inherently about exercise than all the academics put together. As after that point of education we are the ONLY animal that has to do "traditional" forms of exercise to stay healthy and strong.

Something to think about.

But alas despite what we know inherently, social anthropology and our education happens, and we get " too smart and too cool" to play on jungle gyms, and we start to shy away from those forms of exercise. If fact its not until you think about it that it stands out how illogical that is. I mean they got you through life so far, why stop now. Especially when you consider these reactions are many times faster and stronger than when you try to "think" to move.

How fast are they ?

Well when you jump off something you get pulled down by gravity at 35 km per hr. A speed your muscles have to match for you not to fall down when you hit the ground.. To put this in perspective, the fastest punches in the world, by martial arts experts who train for years, only travel at approx 45 km per hr. So an untrained kid can almost do the same without thinking.

Or another example is, to catch a ball your muscles have to not only move at the speed of lighting to not let the ball hit you in the face, but they also have to produce the exact right amount of force. No matter if the ball is heavy or light. Or you would end up over-reacting or under-reacting.

How strong are they ?

Again the physics figures are startling. If you drop off something only 1 meter high your legs muscles have to produce approx 6 times your own body weight to catch yourself. The strongest man on earth can not squat 6 times his own weight. Or when you swing on the monkey bars you have to produce 3 times your own body weight at the bottom of the arch, through one arm just to hang on.

The thing is when you were playing like that, it was all about power to weight ratio. The bigger you got the stronger your body had to get and the higher quality muscle you needed to carry. It was a self regulating system that was natural and normal .

So as a child you were already competing like an Olympic athlete, you just didn't know it. And do you know something else to think about, we are the only primate to stop using our bodies like this. Every other primate does it until the day they die. We are the only primate that does not use eccentric contractions and brachiation as its primary form of exercise and as a result, from the day we give it up, we decondition rapidly to a point were in a few short years, we can not even handle our own body weight effectively. We end up gravitating towards easier forms of exercise we can handle and are taught by academics as "essential"

Anything not sound quite right about that ? .

Result = We end up being the weakest , slowest primate on the face of the planet. And then somehow think we are smart ?

Maybe when we call kids "little monkeys" we are closer to the truth than we realize in exercise terms. Sounds silly but worth a thought.

This is why children seem so fast and strong for their size. And children that continue to do gymnastic type exercise into their teens, seem to keep high quality muscle and little body fat. Because they put their body through a lot more on a daily basis than most fit adults could handle. Most so called "athletic" teens and adults would not last 5 mins on a jungle gym let alone 5 hrs.

So what if this is all true, here is the big question....

" If I stopped using these reactions as a form of exercise years ago, can I still use them now ?"

Yes you can. The good news is these reactions do not degrade with illness or age, or non-use. You developed them as a child and they are yours to keep. The only thing that will change is what type of machine and what level you need to use to start off with. Read below for more details on this .....

How does Vibration Training fit into all of this...?

Well lets face it, gyms are not going to put in massive jungle gyms for adults. And people are not going to start playing in the park jungle gyms any time soon ( they might look silly or get arrested ) .

But there are various types of machines, with various types of vibration directions all designed to simulate different environments you react to involuntarily. But they all work on the same basic principle. Your body is designed to adjust to its moving environment, vibration is just movement being forced on you. These machines just tap into those reflexes we were talking about and work the muscles until fatigue.

Is it hard ? Yes. If doing the right poses on workout machines, it is harder than almost any other form of training. In fact most "fit" people who try Vibration Training give up because it too hard. Not because its not effective. Instead of taking it as a challenge, they get beaten by the machine and slink away. Better to go back to something you are good at for the egos sake, right ?

Note: Determination, is the only determining factor in how well someone does at this form of training. Not previous fitness levels.

Examples of machine types you may see .........

Some are Pivotal ( move under your feet like a see-saw or balance board )

These force you to re-balance over and over again. A reaction people will do without thinking, just like when they were young. Some of these models move slowly and you can just stand on them, so it is very good for people with balance problems or any condition that would stop them going for a walk. They are designed to be very gentle. This is not hard work at all, and as a result is super safe but of course they only do so much. Others move at a faster speed, where you then go into exercise poses and they replicate you jumping from side-to side quickly. Obviously harder work and gives greater exercise benefits.

Some machine are Lineal ( move under you feet with an even vibration all over the plate )

.These feel like doing little jumps over and over again on the same spot, and some even manage to replicate you dropping off a certain height. On these types of machines the energy ( how powerful the vibration is ) makes all the difference in how the machine feels and what kind of results it can give. Some vibrate very very lightly, an almost unperceivable vibration, and you can again just stand there. They will help with certain things like bloodflow and bone health. But if you want to get exercise benefits, you need a more powerful vibration and good strict workout poses.

Note: Some specialized gym machines even have vibration handle bars to hang onto. Causing the brachiation reaction you use to swing. As the industry grows you will see more than just vibration plates enter the market.

As a trainer you should also be aware that some machines have restrictions, these may include....

  1. Weight restrictions.
  2. Some only good for leg poses, not designed for upper body poses.
  3. Some are safer than others for certain injuries or conditions. This is where you really need someone educated in this area to get advice from.
  4. Certain construction materials may not handle gym environments. Steel VS Plastic etc.... Same rules as regular gym equipment
  5. Not everything that vibrates is vibration training. It has to be of a certain level to cause a profound muscular effect. Other slower or lighter equipment may be more therapy based.

So there you have it, a very simple explanation to something that seems quite complicated on the outside. And hopefully offering a different perspective on an idea that far from being new, is older than we imagine.

Always remember. Using Vibration Training as a form of exercise has the same rules as when you were a kid. The harder you play, the more benefits you will receive. No matter how technologically advanced we get as humans, some things never change.

No pain no gain.