Over the past couple years, there has been a dramatic increase in the body of international research supporting the positive influences of Whole Body Vibration (WBV) technology on everyone from collegiate athletes to senior citizens. With this, there has also been a rise in the number of people interested in opening a Vibration Training studio. What has become obvious however, based upon the growing number of conversations I have had with people considering studio ownership, is that they are too blinded by dollar signs to take the time to understand not only the industry and the marketplace, but the human body and how it responds to Vibration Training.
With nearly 5 years of experience working with WBV equipment, including almost two years of Vibration Training studio ownership, I have learned many lessons in what works and what doesn’t work (in the US at least). While I am far from being an expert, it is my intention to share my experiences thus far and provide the following tips to assist you in successfully operating a Vibration Training studio. More importantly, however, is to help you successfully make a positive impact on the lives of the people you are serving.
Tip #1 – Know Who Your Clients Are!
Although it is certainly tempting to open your business with an emphasis on providing a quick fix, it is time to retire the “10 minutes is 1 hour in the gym” tagline! This nonsensical statement, along with its countless other manifestations, is not only inaccurate, but the biggest recipe for failure in the Vibration Training studio business.
While there can be some profound changes with 10 minutes of training on PROPER equipment (see Tip #3 below), “weight loss,” or rather, positive changes to your body composition, requires a greater commitment. Not just in terms of the actual physical intensity of a given training session, but consistent participation in the training program. And let’s not forget the most important thing, supportive changes in clients’ diet to maximize the body’s response to training.
Without controlling these variables, which is extremely difficult with the majority of clients (especially those who respond to the gimmicky statement above), you will just wind up with a bunch of dissatisfied customers and a failing business. This is not to say that Vibration Training is not effective for weight loss, quite the contrary, but without making it a part of a multi-disciplinary approach, it can prove a quite challenging goal to achieve.
More importantly however, is that while you are beating your head against the wall out of frustration over your clients lack of discipline, you will be failing to realize who does, in fact, stand to benefit the most from Vibration Training.
What Populations Benefit Most?
In my opinion, there are two primary populations that stand to benefit most from Vibration Training:
Individuals with “limitations”
I use quotation marks here because the most frustrating “limitations” I see in my studio are not physiological, but involve either a.) the lack of time to dedicate to exercise, and b.) the lack of interest in optimizing health over beauty.
However, those who have the most to gain from Vibration Training are individuals who, for a host of physiological reasons, have been unable to fully participate in other exercise programs because of poor health.
Whether it is moderate to severe obesity, chronic pain or fatigue issues (i.e., fibromyalgia, CFS, autoimmune diseases, hypermobility syndromes etc.), age-related physical limitations (i.e., osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, mobility and balance issues, cardiopulmonary problems, etc.), neurological diseases (MS, Parkinson’s Disease, etc.), muscular dystrophies, or other physical issues, this is where your studio’s emphasis needs to be.
These people are vastly underserved when it comes to fitness and wellness and are the biggest beneficiaries of Vibration Training. There is certainly some education that you will require to work with these individuals, but no one will be more grateful for your efforts, or more loyal to your business.
On the other side of the spectrum are athletes. There are two areas to focus on with this group. The first is Performance Enhancement. Although the data is still a bit mixed due to issues pertaining to the study designs themselves, it is only a matter of time before it becomes clear that Vibration Training is a powerful means to enhance muscle power and therefore improve multiple aspects of athletic performance. Getting a head start on understanding how Vibration Training works to achieve this effect and how to properly implement sports performance enhancement training programs is a good business decision.
The other value of Vibration Training with athletes, and where the real potential lies, is for assisting with Recovery From Training and Competition. Whether it is for improving flexibility after a race, mobilizing stiff joints and connective tissue after rigorous training, improving circulation and reducing inflammation in overused tendons or just reducing overall injury risk, nothing else is more efficient or as easy to implement.
With the growing rise in triathlon training and marathon training worldwide, there has been an equal rise in athletic injury. Being able to offer a quick, painless, cost-effective, and potent means to improve recovery and greatly reduce injury risk has tremendous potential.
Tip #2 – Understand How WBV Technology Works
This seems like a no-brainer, but it is mind-blowing to see how little aspiring studio owners (not to mention several of those that own studios already) know about the way WBV technology works and how to use it to achieve the numerous benefits it has been shown to provide. Can you imagine opening a Pilates or Yoga studio without knowing anything about the theory behind them? Neither can I, yet this is exactly what’s happening across the world at the moment. I guess that’s why so many people choose to have people just stand for 10 minutes and call it a day.
This is not to say that you need to study physics or neurophysiology, but take a moment to at least grasp the basics. Outside of that, understand the different training parameters used with Vibration Training (frequency, amplitude, acceleration, and duration of training) and how they may be used to achieve different results for your clients. When you can grasp the basics, the rest comes quite naturally.
Having this knowledge allows you to customize your programs, which makes your clients happier and more likely to make greater progress. It can also open up more opportunities for private training, effective program designs that are benefit-driven, and higher profits that come with the hard work you put it to learning. Not to mention the incredible word of mouth you get from these motivated and satisfied clients!
Although this industry is tough to navigate, there are sites where useful information can be found. This website is one example and if something doesn’t make sense, just ask and we’ll do everything we can to help clarify it.
Tip #3 – Invest In Your Equipment
For more specifics on this tip, which is absolutely the MOST IMPORTANT, please refer to the article linked below (2 sections) entitled, “How to Properly Select a Platform.” .
In the meantime, the bottom line is this: the majority of both pivotal and lineal platforms on the market (including several of those that are the most heavily marketed!) have fake specs. This means that they do not do what they say they do. Whether it is moving slower than they are supposed to or losing amplitude when loaded, both affect the acceleration output of the platform and therefore its potential to influence the most important component of the body when it comes to Vibration Training, the MUSCLE SYSTEM.
Why would manufacturers deceive you like this? The answer is simple. They know you don’t know enough about how WBV technology works and are hoping to profit from your ignorance. Or, in some cases, they themselves don’t know enough about how Vibration Training works. With better consumer education and the demand for better equipment standards, they will gradually disappear, or change their manufacturing practices to survive.
Once you understand the way WBV technology works, you will know that you cannot have access to the wide range of clinically supported benefits of WBV, or a successful studio for that matter, without having PROPER equipment that performs to spec. I can’t emphasize this enough. This is the center of your studio and requires an investment.
Improperly built equipment also results in problems with the durability of these devices, poor customer support, and eventually a room full of “out of order” signs. If you are planning on being successful, you will require commercial-grade equipment supported by companies that care about their products.
Tip #4 – Remove All Obstacles For Your Members
Whether it be investing in a reliable business management software program or spending a little extra cash to pay a qualified healthcare or fitness professional, the quality of the experience your members have at your studio is of utmost importance.
Let’s look at some of the common pitfalls of studio ownership:
Hiring unqualified staff in order to save $$$ – It is tempting to go with the most “business-minded” employees in your studio, but the bottom line is that you will eventually be confronted with people seeking knowledge in order to feel comfortable using something that is unfamiliar to them. As I mentioned above, it is inevitable that you will have a large number of individuals with various medical and health conditions looking to you for guidance. You are also going to have a learning curve as you learn how differently people can respond to training. Having qualified, knowledgeable, and caring staff will guarantee success and a high level of comfort and excitement for your members.
Overly Complicated Programs - The wide array of benefits of VT might make it tempting to develop too many programs for your clients or too many exercises as part of their customized program. Keep it simple. Most benefits are available within the same program. Better to educate your members on this fact than deal with them getting upset that they missed the “ab blaster” class and have to repeat the “total body conditioning” class once again instead.
Making Your Members Think About $$$ Rather Than Health – This can reflect the methods by which they are required to pay for your services (accept credit cards and use auto-renew), the fees you are charging them (remember most programs are no more than 20 minutes) or even failing to educate them on how much they will likely save in healthcare costs by taking care of themselves.
I realize that you are making a big investment in your studio, but this is a very new concept and by making it as easy as possible for your members to pursue, you will certainly profit in the end.
Tip #5 – Offer Cardio!
I put an exclamation point on this one because it is my biggest regret. Unfortunately, once I realized how much it was needed, I had already built out my space and had no room left.
Whether you feel you need it or not, unless you are specializing in a particular population (athletes, for example), people will continue to demand their cardio! Until the collective intelligence on health and fitness evolves, people will still associate sweating and an elevated heart rate with a “good” workout. While this can certainly be achieved with a high intensity resistance program in a much shorter period of time, most people are not up for that type of intense training and even if they were, the injury risk would be quite high. Instead, they prefer to waste time with a submaximal effort on ellipticals and stationary bicycles.
Nonetheless, cardio is still considered by many to be the most vital component for achieving substantial weight loss. For this reason, whether you disagree (hopefully you do) or not, make it available to them. On the other side, as health clubs continue to meet their inevitable demise (can’t last too long when you build your business model on people not exercising), having cardio options will help convince many individuals that they can give up their membership without “losing” anything.
As the Vibration Training studio concept continues to grow, there will be much more to learn. Hopefully these tips will make the process less painful for those of you who plan to open a studio.