Let’s begin the first part of this article by stating that all vibration platforms on the market have some, albeit limited in many cases, health value. It’s not about pivotal, lineal, sonic, triplanar etc., they all are capable of helping people improve their level of health. As will be discussed later however, some platforms have evidenced through research that they can provide these benefits. Other respectable manufacturers, having not enough research behind them yet, offer quality construction and superior engineering (as demonstrated by proper engineering tests performed on their platforms) to support their technology’s capabilities. These manufacturers, with time, will all likely demonstrate their efficacy through research. For the most part however, the majority of manufacturers simply choose to avoid making an effort. Instead, they resort to “piggybacking” on these other companies’ time and effort. These manufacturers, chasing the almighty dollar, make false claims and sell inferior equipment to the unknowing consumer. The majority of this equipment, often sold for “affordable” prices (and often made for pennies), is the primary factor behind the unfortunate slow growth of, and the increased skepticism held by others towards, the Vibration Training industry.
Putting that aside for the moment however, the fact is that regardless of whether it is a vibration platform, a bicycle, a particular strength training method etc., what qualifies as “the best” is all about SPECIFICITY. This is what ultimately points us towards what we need and is being increasingly supported by our growing understanding of the positive response to specificity in the human body, in particular that of the nervous system which directs all traffic in the body. Returning back to Vibration Training technology though, the selection of the most suitable platform for an individual, a question that is endlessly posed on this forum, depends on several often interwoven factors. Chief among these are:
- What the individual’s SPECIFIC goals are?
- What factors contribute to the determination of those goals?
- What may be overlooked by the individual when determining those goals?
- What the person can, or in most cases, IS WILLING to invest in their health.
This last factor brings to mind the saying, “you would spend anything to eliminate a disease, but how much would you spend to prevent it?”
Understanding What You Really Need
As an example of how these above factors are interwoven and how the final choice of platforms is ultimately driven by them, consider the following. Many people seeking vibration training technology claim “balance” is their main problem because they have fallen or experienced an increasing amount of instability when walking. Therefore, their goal is to improve their balance. If I want to recommend a platform to help only with balance reactions, I can recommend almost anything on the market since just vibration (sensory input) and a moving platform (unstable surface) alone can help train several components of the balance system. However, due to the reductionist mentality bred by western medicine, these people are often failing to see the “big picture”. They are failing to consider the role of muscle power and spinal flexibility in efficiently reacting to a fall and therefore potentially preventing it. They also fail to understand the need to improve bone density so that if they should fall, they can minimize the risk of fracture that could result from the fall. If someone searching for a platform is aware of this more comprehensive view and has this wider array of goals, they have now significantly reduced their options as we have to consider other variables in finding a platform to meet their specific goals.
In another example, perhaps the most common, people are looking to “lose weight” and “tone their muscles”. Well, realistically, they can purchase any platform since exercise, with or without a vibration platform, can promote these benefits. This is assuming they acknowledge the larger role of nutrition in achieving this goal of course. Having that been said, to maximally influence the metabolic (weight loss) and neuromuscular systems (tone) of the body, you need to be able to not only push the body, but also have the ability to progress the intensity of your program once you have gained strength. This is necessary no matter how limited by age, weight, disease etc., you think you may be. High Intensity Training, although sounding scary, can be performed by anyone when properly designed and supervised. So now, this individual looking to purchase a platform for this purpose needs not only a platform that delivers strong forces on the body (discussed in part II), but one that allows for a maximal amount of training progression. This now, as in the example above, reduces the options available.
Lastly, I have people that want a recommendation for “circulatory problems”. These individuals, typically with a history of diabetes, cardiovascular impairments, or mobility limitations fail to consider the influence on improving muscle strength and flexibility so that they become more functional and therefore influence their natural ability to enhance circulation. Not to mention their ability to move better, exercise more effectively, and improve the multitude of systemic issues tied to not only their disease, but to the general reduction of circulation in the body. If I only care about blood flow, I can recommend any of the platforms on the market since vibration alone can improve blood flow. However, if they want to maximally improve muscle strength and develop a better ability to perform functional activities such as walking, stairclimbing, getting out of a chair or bed etc., I now, once again, have a limited number of options because I have to consider other variables.
So what must we use to direct these recommendations? What are these other “variables” that need to be considered? There is only one answer, evidence! Evidence provided by the current body of research or the willingness of manufacturers to back their claims by subjecting their platforms to proper engineering tests. Now don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the issues that surround research and appreciate the potential errors technicians can make, but in the end, in order to stop people from continuing to waste their money and reduce the continued negativity that exists around the Vibration Training industry, we need to start somewhere. I can tell you from experiencing over 25 platform systems that those systems that have evidenced themselves through one of the two criteria stated above provide an experience that is untouchable by their money-hungry counterparts. Although the experience still differs between them (discussed later), once you’ve tried them, it is unlikely that you will question the benefits of using them. So let’s discuss some of the basics of Vibration Training technology.
Continued in Part II