I was able to score a Soloflex Whole Body Vibration (WBV) contraption from a client whose husband had been impressed by Soloflex’s fantastic claims with regard to what their vibrating platform could do. After using the WBV for a couple of weeks, he abandoned the platform and it had been collecting dust in the garage. As my client was complaining one day about how he wasted his money on two – two! – of these things and wasn’t using either of them, I pounced and asked if I could borrow one.
Of course, she said yes.
Let’s start by talking about the platform itself. The WBV’s dimensions are similar to those of the old school Reebok step-up platforms that hit the scene in the 80s – though not as high off of the ground – and are smaller than I would have imagined. From the images in the manual you get the impression that the platform is bigger than it actually is. With my size 9.5 feet, my shoes are longer than the platform is wide, so when I stand on the device my feet hang off in front and in back. The length is also on the short side, so anyone that’s over 5’ 8” won’t be able to perform a proper lunge, or many other of the recommended moves, on the platform.
Speaking of the manual, it is a tribute to misinformation. On the front page the Soloflex folks provide us with a lesson in “over-extrapolation” when they tell us that, “Gravity is acceleration. Gravity can be induced by resisting a load (e.g. lifting weights), and now, by mechanical means (WBV). That means you can stand still on a WBV Platform and get a good workout.” Stand still and get a good workout? Research certainly does not back up this statement.
The back page – under the bold heading “It works for doggies, too,” – the manual tells us that, “The Soloflex WBV Platform ($495) along with static exercise, works like a moderate weightlifting program.” Taking into account the results of recent research, it’s being kind to say that this statement is a stretch. Unless of course Soloflex is referring to dogs lifting weights versus standing, or sitting, on the platform.
On the inside of the manual it says, “Just standing on a WBV platform will make you sweat.” I can tell you flat out that I stood on this platform for 10 minutes and did not break a sweat. In contrast, when I perform dynamic flexibility exercises I start sweating at around the 4-minute mark, as do my clients.
The manual also recommends visiting the Soloflex website to learn more about WBV but all that is provided are the same inconclusive and flawed studies that have been touted by the other WBVers as proof.
Here’s a little tip. When you read about a study in which positive results were achieved, be less impressed by the results if “older,” “untrained “ or “sedentary” individuals were the subjects and if the study lasted 10 weeks or less.
Older, untrained and/or sedentary individuals are often used as subjects in studies because they are almost certain to show improvement when any kind of regular exercise or activity is introduced into their lives. The human body will always respond to exercise and activity regardless of how long it has been deprived of it. Older untrained/sedentary subjects will show more relative improvements than their younger counterparts, as older folks have had more time to fall into disrepair. Some of the most startling improvements have been found in studies involving the oldest and most sedentary members of the population.
Studies that last less than 10 weeks should be viewed with a discerning eye, especially if the study also employed the above mentioned older/sedentary group. With the introduction of any new activity, any improvements found during the first 2 months are due to neural factors – learning – not increased muscle mass/strength. Simply put, as people learn new tasks they get better at doing them. Only after this initial learning phase can the impact of an activity or exercise on an individual be judged. By the way, this study from the University of New Mexico that discusses the adaptations to exercise serves as a great rebuttal to the folly being perpetrated by the pro- WBV crowd.
It really should be no surprise that the manufacturer of a WBV device would use the results of studies in this manner. If you’ve read my other pieces on this subject, you’re familiar with that old chestnut.
The WBV platform produces an awful vibration and sound when you plug it in and turn it on, and depending on where you have the platform it’s varying degrees of god-awfulness. On a wood floor, upstairs on a wood floor or anywhere upstairs for that matter, on ceramic tile or on carpeting. Pretty much any where you put this thing it creates quite a racket. Even in my basement on a thick rubber mat the sound was ridiculously unpleasant.
As a matter of fact, one of the reasons that my client’s husband stopped using the WBV was because of its inconvenience of use.
So for the sake of my continued domestic bliss I brought the platform to my training facility where the larger area and rubber flooring can somewhat dampen the sound produced by the WBV. In my totally non-scientific sampling of opinions, the results are unanimous in that people would never buy this equipment knowing that it produced this vibration/sound. It’s really that loud.
To stand on this platform is an extremely unpleasant experience. The vibrations rattle your teeth and are every bit as unpleasant – if not more so – than the sensations encountered when doing real exercise. Ten minutes stretching on the Soloflex WBV seems like 2 hours, and for the Soloflex people – or any WBV proponent – to make the case that sedentary individuals would find this method of “exercise” appealing is to be totally unaware of the nature of people who dislike exercise.
The person who is turned off by the idea of walking around the block or climbing steps several times a day is NOT going to stand on this platform for 10, 20 or 30 minutes, let alone perform flexibility moves or weight lifting exercises on it.
For anyone who is over 5’ 8” and can handle a decent amount of weight while performing exercises, the Soloflex WBV platform won’t get the job done. I can’t see how anyone using dumbbells of 50 pounds or more will feel comfortable standing, squatting, lunging or pressing this weight while standing on the smallish platform. Given the research that indicates the vibrations need to be closer to targeted areas for there to be a chance for WBV to have any effect, there’s no reason to bother with any upper-body exercises anyway.
But despite all of my reservations regarding the Soloflex WBV, I will continue to use it and report back on my experiences. And if I can get any of my staff or clients to give it a shot, I’ll be sure to include their comments in future entries. Although for what it’s worth the Soloflex WBV, thanks to the noise and sensation, has turned off several clients and all staff alike. And these folks aren’t even aware of the shaky research grounds on which its use is based.