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Vibration Training: Foolish Fad or the Real Deal

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It’s been around for 100 years and it’s still going strong but does it do anything, at all, apart from extract hard earned dollars from user’s wallets?

DecisionAs people cut back on unnecessary expense, in hard economic times, serious questions are asked about the worth of fitness training methods; gym membership, pilates, private training, and more.

A Little History
Massage for the treatment of medical ailments — to stimulate blood circulation, aid relaxation, and improve muscle tone — has always been part of the human experience.  It’s probably the oldest complete therapeutic system in the world.  Affecting the mind as well as the body, acting as a rejuvenator, relieving stress, and aiding in re-balancing hormones it is accepted even when some discomfort is felt in the process.  Hippocrates, the physician, learned massage along with gymnastics and the practice was held in high regard among the ancient Greek and Roman physicians.

Dr. John Kellogg (of Cornflake fame) designed some of the earliest mechanical vibration massage machines. These “Vibro-Therapy” contraptions included mechanical massage beds, chairs and foot massagers and were in use in the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Michigan U.S.A., around 1895.  One such device accommodated up to five persons and provided hand, foot and body massage treatments simultaneously. Vibration Therapy was heavily used up till the time of the First World War and The Depression which saw many fitness centres and gyms having to close.

Move forward to the 1960’s, hyper-gravity loading principles were used by the Russian Space Program as it looked to combat the effect of zero gravity on its cosmonauts.  NASA also began using Vibration Therapy devices to help prevent the loss of bone mass in its astronauts because, although you can’t do weights in space, vibration therapy doesn’t rely on weight; it relies on energy.  In the 1970’s, Russian Scientists worked with dancers, rowers and Olympic athletes and found that vibration therapy, properly used, had potential to increase strength and flexibility. 

Around thirty years later commercial interest began. Vibration machines became available in studios, gyms, and beauty clinics, with home models for sale in stores and on eBay, all accompanied with hype and advertising suggesting that no matter what type of machine (plastic, steel, lightweight, see-saw or upright motion), this exercise method that gave amazing results ranging from weight-loss to achieving a six-pack in a very short time. 

In Auckland, New Zealand, a mortician, Mr. Lloyd Shaw, became disillusioned at the number of people dying of obesity-related ailments, so he set out to do something about it. He became PowerPlate N.Z. Product Manager and brought these machines to New Zealand.  In 2004, having left PowerPlate, he opened New Zealand’s first Vibration Training studio, specifically to provide morbidly obese people with exercise they can do.  Even those for whom a ten-minute walk was laborious were able to use the machines.  With his working knowledge of the human body, along with skills in engineering and being an avid gym goer, knowing the complexities of the body building equipment, Mr. Shaw then designed a series of Vibration Training Machines and a specific safety program for customers to use. 

The new Vibra-Train machines, although sharing some features, differed from most other brands.  They were high force machines providing upright (lineal) vibration and the specific design, having bio-mechanical markers — exact places to put feet, hands, knees, and even where to look at — meant that even the slowest learners soon got the positions correct; a meld of user and machine to give exact results.  These same machines remain in use today in Vibration Training studios in New Zealand, Australia, and London.  Mr. Shaw also provides education and guidance for owners of other vibration machine companies worldwide to ensure their machines and training programs comply to quality standards for customer safety and good training results.

As an emergent training method, Vibration Training has not always been welcomed by the fitness Industry.  Some Personal Trainers, who don’t understand how it can possibly work have been very outspoken in their opposition despite having never tried a training machine.  Others feel somewhat threatened by the vibration studio setup, fearing it might take away their clients. In his Auckland City studio, Mr. Shaw works closely with personal trainers and other sports coaches by providing free training sessions and teaching them how Vibration Training works to improve muscle tone and health.  He encourages trainers to include vibration training in their client's programs. Also by reaching out to medical and disability care providers, Mr. Shaw and Vibra-Train have earned respect within this community.

Facts Vs. Fiction
Academic studies using varying grades of machines have in the past shown mixed results, but newer studies performed with greater understanding of matching the type of machine used with the study purpose are producing exciting conclusions. There’s much anecdotal evidence of excellent results, of strength and fitness gains, fat loss and muscle gain, but could other factors be involved in the successes people tell about? 

It has been suggested that performing a set of exercise positions on the machine is no different to performing them on the floor.  I can understand that someone might see some changes in their body shape and strength if they were holding each position for five minutes or moving dynamically through a range with a spotter ensuring they “get it right” and taking 60 minutes overall to complete the session, but the Vibra-Train safety program takes a mere 10 minutes two or three times a week under the guidance of an instructor. Results can be seen as changes to the body shape take place, along with users reporting increases in stamina, strength and overall health. 

There are many brands of vibration machine available: in vibration studios, gyms, beauty or fitness centers, and hotel lounges along with home machine sales from sports and department stores, Internet Web sites and “As seen on TV” home shopping.  Intending buyers need to make themselves aware of the types and brands of machines available in their region and “try before they buy,” carefully matching their needs or anticipated results with what the brand is promising, and asking serious questions of salespeople. Those who visit a Vibration Training studio should also ask questions, making sure that it’s the right place for them to achieve their desired goals.

Foolish fad or the real deal?  Time has already proven this training method is not going to go away any time soon.  Only those who investigate and really “give it a go” can honestly answer this question. 

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About Di Heap

  • LAW

    Trust me these vibration plates work brilliantly.

    You have to follow the exercise DVDs to the T, and push yourself.

    We had the vibrapower pro(Oscillate & Vibrate), which burnt out, and now have the JTX 6000(Oscillate & Vibrate), way better machine.

    I also agree with the other articles, it is always best to mixup your exercise. We also have a pilates power gym and a mini trampoline. Alternate each workout gets better results.
    Sound like alot of money, but it really wants!

  • Vibra Trainer Lloyd Shaw

    As predicted. You took facts and quotes right off your own website and deleted them as ” personal attacks”.

    You let a writer lie and make up facts to suit his own agenda. Even telling people Vibration Training machines will give you electric shocks. IN HIS ARTICLES. Even when you knew this to be made up.

    He did everything possible to scare people off ever trying this technology.

    Now it is proven safe and effective. You STILL protect him. They use it on athletes, people recovering from strokes. And to help fight obesity. To stop amputations. No marketing. All science.

    And you still protect him.

    People like you make me sick to the stomach. . Zero accountability for all the people YOU lied to and mislead. As a mortician I hate the fact people like you print articles knowing them to be full of lies and scare tactics. All to prop up some neanderthals ego. Because people trust what they read from a self professed “expert”…

    And you did “advertise” Sal as an expert…….. Always remember that.

    But as I stated years ago. Nothing will stop me naming and shaming those involved. And highlight how personal effort was put in by some individuals to not only protect Sals scam experts status. But censor his critics.

    You even let him delete the lies you published. But don’t worry, all was copied for just that reason..

    I take helping and saving lives very seriously. And I also take personal accountability very seriously.

    A list of journalists involved in this scam and allowing Sal to openly bully people online will be published. You are about to find out how much people hate bullies and their supporters. And Sal used terms unacceptable in today’s society.

    Calling one older lady “simple minded”…. really ?

    You are about to find out the world has changed.

  • Vibra Trainer Lloyd Shaw

    Another new study validating Vibration Training. As not a scam, but a useful form of training. ( If done properly )


    Just a reminder of how fake experts once had such an influence over the publics opinion on this very subject…

    Once again to clarify Sal Marinello’s comments regarding the development of these
    machines….. Quotes off this site …

    “Vibration Training shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

    “Vibration Training does nothing to improve muscle tone and balance”

    “it doesn’t matter what company makes this type of machine, as they are all junk.”

    “in an effort to clarify, I think Vibration Training is garbage. the different machines are just different brands of garbage.”

    ” the fantasy of Vibration Training.”

    “Vibration Training is useless “

    ” Vibration Therapy is a gimmick, plain and simple, I cant see one positive about it ”

    For anyone thinking putting in effort to expose Sal Marinello for what he is, is unprofessional or over the top.

    This guy singled out people by name, called
    them liars and simple minded, if they had anything positive to say
    about Vibration Training. Using his power and friends at Blog-Critics to
    bully and censor all those who questioned his expertise. He did some
    very unethical things to stop people finding out the truth.

  • Nicked

    I would like to state for the consumer. I strongly disagree with the company HyperVibe using these terms in their marketing.

    ” Designed in Australia by an electrical engineer ”

    ” designed in Australia by a team of health and fitness experts ”

    ” A product of Australia ”

    ” Origin: Imported (Australia) ”

    I urge the consumer to get written clarification on what these terms actually mean before you purchase a machine.

    Note; As far as I am aware, Mr Murray Seaton is in charge of all marketing decisions. So he would be the one to ask.

    (1) When was this machine released and by whom. Did you design it from scratch or modify an existing model. How many parts did you modify from the original. Where did the original come from ?

    (2) What does a “product of Australia mean ? Is this the same as “Made in Australia ”

    (3) What does ” Origin Imported Australia mean ?

    If you feel as though you have been misled through implied claims that may or may not be illegal in your country. Go with your instincts.

    Note: These purchases are similar in price to a small car and pertain to a device you are about use on your body. Some of you may have health concerns. You have a right to some straight answers.

  • Vibro Gym must be desperate

    This from their own website…..

    ” delighted to announce the appointment of industry innovator Guus Van der Meer to its management team ”
    ” Guus left Power Plate International after its recent fall into administration “,.

    “When production for Power Plate machines was subsequently transferred to China ( by Guus himself ) , the initial manufacturer in the Netherlands continued to produce, develop and sell the original design under the name Vibrogym.

    Guus now says…… ” I am delighted to be going back to our roots, working again with the original manufacturer, who uses the very best materials, technology and design to deliver a machine that excels in durability, performance and quality”.

    So lets spell this out folks …..

    (1) The guy who got fake machines made of the Dutch machine. All of which broke.

    (2) High-jacked the goodwill of the original steel machine for marketing purposes.( fake awards etc… ) .

    (3) Then goes on to “design” a machine worse than anything else ever produced ( real plastic piece of crap ) .

    (4) Started the whole fake specification issue, which has widely effected hundreds of research papers.

    (5) Then proceeded to oversee the biggest failure of any Vibration Training company,( putting Power Plate into administration ).

    Vibro Gym just committed suicide taking this guy on.

  • R Goldman

    I have a Pro 5 machine from powerplate that will not start up. The timer counts down but the motors only turn over for a second before coming to a shuddering halt. Powerplate have been no help. Anyone have any experience with this ?

  • Nolan

    Be wary of this site vibrationtraining.net

    It poses as a evidence based website. But when I took their advice literally and visited them they trashed power plate but their machines are just as cheap and underpowered.
    Been on a real machine before. So I was only playing dumb:)

  • Update

    Power Plate Int goes into in administration. Global breakdowns, failure to get returns on celebrity endorsement, and court settlements tip company over the edge. All lending cut off.

    It’s arch nemesis Vibra-Train expands into Asia and has busiest year since its launch in 2004.

    Industry leader Lloyd Shaw asks for charges to be laid against Power Plate Int. for fraud for breaking multiple consumer laws.

  • Beauty of an opinion piece here.

    With the technology proving itself not to be a con, but some work better than others. It would seem some people are resorting to scare tactics to sell whatever type they have.

    Makes you wonder what they were selling before vibration training came along. USANA ?

  • Warning vibrationtraining.net is no longer a consumer protection website. Marketers have high jacked the forum and deleted years of Lloyd Shaw’s consumer protection advice and answers to peoples questions. The site as a result is only one tenth the size it was, and is missing huge chunks of information. Why would they go to this trouble, because they can not sell you lies if you are educated.

    All relevant articles have been moved to Vibration-Training-Advice This site is far more secure and completely controlled by Lloyd Shaw and the Vibration Training community.

  • Hi Healthygirl

    Did you read the article? Not all vibration = Vibration Training! Not all vibration will cause you to lose weight. I encourage you to read more articles on this site or at vibration-training-advice website.

    How did using a machine make you sick? Please provide more information so know the machine brands well can tell you what really happened.

  • I have to say that i have tried them and they simply make me sick. I wonder how vibrations alone can work against your fat though.

  • I know what you mean. I thought it was complete BS because I could not figure out how it could work. My husband who is a very well known personal trainer and someones knowledge I really trust was dead against it. We had both put our foot on some contraption at a home show thinking, and being told by the salesman it was vibration training. Turned out to be a lie. It did nothing so seemed to confirm our suspicions. But a friend of mine whom I also trust, and works out harder than me, said she was doing it and it was very hard.

    I have since tried it at a vibratrain studio and was blown away. Now I just have to convince my husband. Which will be hard because he hates admitting he doesn’t know or understand something.

  • Di,
    Im glad you liked that bit I wrote about the FDA classifications. I spent about 3 hours on the phone today navigating through one of the largerst insurance companies in the United States. I’m close! I do now know that its all a game of jumping through bullsh*t hoops. I found out that an MD can prescribe a machine to a patient who then has to buy the machine and ask for partial reimbursement from thier insurance. I’ll have more details when I know more.

    On a side note- after reading about the post where some you clinic owners still encounter critics– heres a funny story from the toughest critics on the planet- My parents!

    I have been involved in this industry for about 5 years now. Everyone I know thought I was crazy when I began doing research and working for a vibration machine company. After years of taking on criticism from my family for what I was doing, I finally got my time in the sun. My parents visited me at my home where I keep my own Nitrofit Deluxe. My mother was complaining about severe back pain that had not let up in over a week. My father who is a bit of hypochondriac wanted to push her to go see a Chiropractor. My Dad jokingly said ” why don’t you put her on your vibration machine”. I shot up and said “great idea”. My mom was in so much pain that she was willing to get on my WBV machine and look past the 5 years of criticising me. I had her go through a few minutes of just sitting on the platform.(Note: she has very old pins in her hips from an accident and really bad knees so I couldn’t let her perform any standing positions.) She got up off the machine and was amazed that her back pain had completely dissapeared. A few days later I got a call from her begging me to send her a machine. My dad having witnessed this immediate pain relief has since been telling every Chiropractor and Physiotherapist he knows about this machine.

    Its frustrating to hear people degrade the things we are pouring our hearts into. But remember, for every ten skeptics who criticise us, there is at least one person who’s life we have changed through WBV therapy or vibration training. For now the “thank you for helping me” testimony from my customers is all that I need to keep at it.

  • This is a reply to a question asked about classification of some vibration machines by FDA

    To answer your question about Vibraflex being approved as a Class 2 Medical Device in Canada–
    The FDA Classifies Medical and wellness devices in the following order
    Class 1 = General exercise or wellness equipment
    Class 2= Durable Medical Equipment( Think Wheel Chair, Walker, Crutches,Commode, Cool Pads, TENS units etc)
    Class 3= Pharmacueticals

    Bassicly its a huge success for them becasue it means the governemnt is recognizing the equipment as an effective method of rehabilitation by moving the machine to class 2 status.

    Think about it! A doctor can now prescribe one of thier machines to a patient and the insurance company( in this case Canadian government) will pay for some or all of the unit. The other thing that can happen is that the machine can be rented for a period of time by the insurance company on behalf of the patient. This is common for things like CPM( Continuous Passive Motion)Machines that get rented for patients to rehab after Shoulder and Knee surgeries.

    Currently in the US– a doctor bills insurance companies with numeric codes known as CPT codes. Doctors can bill the use of WBV in thier office if they administer it but can’t prescribe the purchase of a unit to a patient becasue insurance companies will not cover it.

    Give it a few years. All the research coming out now and you may soon see WBV accepted by the Medical community in United States as an effective treatment for things like, diabetes, obesity, osteopenia, osteoporosis, Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, MS, and more.

  • I did not believe this worked until I tried a few machines. I had seen a product at a trade show in 2005 I have since found out was only a cheap copy. That settled the argument for me it was rubbish which I repeated ever since. I recently got dared to go on another brand and I got my ass kicked. What an eye opener that was on all levels. Mainly how even someone like me can be sucked in by flashy marketing at trade shows.

  • Philippa Church

    It’s so frustrating as a studio owner to hear what should be educated intelligent people like Physios and personal trainers writing off vibration training when they have never stepped foot on a decent machine! As Mike says earlier – people are not that stupid that they keep coming to something that doesn’t work. Our UK studio has Vibra-train machines. Having tried a whole range myself from cheap pivotals to Powerplates to other good steel machines such as Hypergravity, Bodyshaker and Vibrogym I can say without doubt these knock spots off the rest. We have a number of customers who have come to us from Powerplate who all recognise how much better these machines are. Vibration Training is no fad when done on good machines and a good programme and my very loyal and ever growing customer base is testament to that. I would defy any one who wants to knock this technology to try a good programme on a good machines and then come back and say it doesn’t work. As Oscar Wilde said “Ignorance is like a delicate fruit; touch it, and the bloom is gone.” Think maybe the lemons that rubbish our industry should try it properly first. Thanks Di for bringing these points up. 🙂

  • An explanation of Keith’s comment: “I haven’t received any electrical shocks as yet”

    This is a response to the writer of a previous article on Vibration Training suggesting that vibration machines worked by giving small electric shocks.

  • Late yesterday two ladies came into the studio where I work; one was obviously athletic and well toned and her mother, well she had multiple problems and being very overweight was the least of them. My initial judgment was that this lady would not cope with the safety program and probably wouldn’t like the sensation of the machine. So I put them side by side using machines with side handlebars so the mother would be more easily able to support her body weight when in a semi-squat position.

    Surprise, surprise, the large lady with knee and ankle problems and 6months after a large surgery, on various meds etc, absolutely loved using the Vibra-Train machine and was so easy to work with, she kept position really well. Her athletic daughter struggled, her mind not grasping the concept of exercise without movement. Both ladies completed the safety program, the daughter moving onto a light sports model machine as she relaxed and grasped the concept, her mother using the side handlebar machine and the regular level 2 beginners machine. And I learnt a lot, firstly not to be too fast to judge and also I gained even more experience in managing people of differing abilities as there was also other customers in the studio who needed attention.

    This experience is even more proof that vibration training is suitable for suitable almost everyone and especially suitable for people who simply cannot walk 1/2 a mile for exercise.

  • Deb Pelletier

    Fantastic article Di!

    Your wisdom along with others that contribute to the evolution of this industry have been been invaluable to those of us trying to raise the bar here in North America.

    Operating 2 years in our studio has proven to us and many of our clients that this is no fad. It is an industry of the verge becoming mainstream. It is the future…and I love going to work every day! What will I learn today? What new faces will I see? Nothing is more rewarding that seeing the look on someone’s face when they have their first experience on a quality machine.

    For those of you who doubt? Takes Di’s advice, find a quality studio if you have access, and try for yourself. You have nothing to loose, but much to gain.

  • Keith

    I have purchased all manner of home fitness equipment over the years trying to get the body the photos promised ha ha ha.

    Want to buy some unused but fancy clothes hangers anyone?

    Two years ago I took a leap of faith and bought a good quality lineal trainer having read a lot of pros and cons prior to buying. Thankfully the pros won and I have a machine that I prize and use regularly 2 years on. I have stopped going to the gym because I cant come close to achieving there what I get from vibration training and cardio exercise in a fraction of the time at home. I also dont have to put up with machines dripping with other users sweat.

    Please dont knock this system until you have tried it and can comment on it based on personal experience.

    You might just be harming someone who might have benefitted from it but gave it a miss because of negative comments.

    There are just too many doctors, scientists, therapists and personal trainers coming aboard for it to be a passing fad.

    Be a part of the future and embrace good technology.

    Btw. I haven’t received any electrical shocks as yet 🙂

  • The first time I got on a vibration machine it was at a shop that sold cheaper copies of many fitness machines. It was a see-saw motion machine and it made me dizzy, gave me a headache and was just plain scary.

    But it was obviously not a fad. I could see that if that was a copy machine I wanted to try out a real one. Even the copy had enough force (very uncontrolled though) to elicit a muscle response.

    I immediately recognised the potential (and the dangers I guess as I never wanted to use that cheap machine again).

  • Mike Hair

    Good article Di..

    I think you are right in saying this type of training is not going away, after 3+ years of running our own studio i am more excited today than i was when we started.

    I have been to see Lloyd Shaws studio in operation twice and the machines he has created are amazing. Having the right machine makes all the difference.

    As an ex bodybuilder I was totally blown away how holding a pose for 60 seconds bought my muscles to fatigue, normally with weight training i would work out hard for 45 minutes to get that stuffed feeling with sore muscles, on Lloyds high energy machines 10 minutes and i was knackered to the point of wanting to curl up in the corner and go to sleep.

    I can not count how many people have benefited from this form of training.
    It is not a fad. My customers are not that stupid that after 3 years if the results were not there that they would continue to waste money.

    With a proper high energy machine people will continue to get results for years to come.