by Angela Daley

Vibration platforms are the latest body toning tools, but with prices ranging from $199 to well over $20,000 making the right choice can be confusing for a beauty therapist considering the technology for their business. Like the difference between a Ferrari and a billy-cart there are also substantial differences between machines. Here are some tips on what to look for when purchasing a vibration machine:    

Vibration training gained attention when Russian scientists began to use it to combat loss of muscle mass and bone density in cosmonauts. It became a commercially available technology in 1999 in Europe when Dutch engineer, Marcel Tamminga, released the VibroGym to enhance body toning and fitness (VibroGym was formerly referred to as the Powerplate in research prior to March 2004).

Vibration platforms work by making the muscles contract by reflex, which increases the number of muscle fibres you are using. The movement of the plate effectively multiplies the force of gravity, which makes you work harder. A good way to think of this is to imagine that the ground drops out from under you and as you land your muscles work to keep you balanced and upright. This is happening 30-50 times each second so your muscles are getting an intense workout in a very short space of time.

The end result is that you achieve benefits such as body toning, cellulite reduction, increased circulation, improved bone density, and muscle relaxation with much less time than traditional methods. The research on vibration training suggests that you can achieve the benefits of an hour workout in a gym in around 15 to 20 minutes.

Last year Business Review Weekly’s (BRW) top 20 predictions for 2007 stated vibration training was predicted to be the hot new fitness device and the magazine noted the substantial body of research behind the best machines. The prediction on vibration training ranked number four and came in above Apple releasing the iPhone. The growing acceptance of vibration training in 2007 certainly proved their prediction true.

Up and down vibration (vs) side-to-side vibration

There are two types of platforms – ones that go up and down (vertical vibration platforms) and ones that rock from side to side like a see-saw (oscillating or rotational vibration platforms). The majority of professional quality platforms are vertical vibration platforms.

Each platform has individual strengths but in a beauty business vertical vibration platforms are arguably more consistent and versatile and will allow you to do more with your clients.

Both platforms work well for toning the legs. The versatility of vertical plates make them ideal for arm and abdominal exercises, for massaging body parts for cellulite reduction, muscle relaxation and increasing skin circulation. An additional advantage of vertical vibration platforms is that for certain exercises more than one client can use the machine at the same time.

The motion of side-to-side platforms is arguably better for balance and mimicking walking action but side-to-side vibration is not as comfortable for arm exercises and for lying body parts over the plate.

What is frequency and amplitude?

The force generated by a vibration platform is related to the frequency, or how many times it is going up and down every second (measured in Hertz), and the amplitude, how high the plate goes up and down (measured in mm).

As a rough guide the frequency on a vertical vibration plate is generally double that of a side-to-side plate. Therefore, any benefits found at a particular frequency in research on a vertical plate cannot necessarily be attributed to the side-to-side platform, and vice versa. It is suggested that some side-to-side platforms are quoting findings on vertical vibration platforms, which may not be applicable to their machines.

Amplitude is also different between plates. Amplitude on a vertical plate is generally the same across the plate, whereas simply moving the placement of your foot on the side-to-side platform changes how far you are going up and down, and therefore changes the forces being applied to the body. This makes it harder to judge the strength and consistency of the workout.

A clear guide to whether you are buying a professional grade machine is if the frequency and amplitude are openly stated. If simple speed settings are used to control the machine rather than clear frequency settings you can be almost certain you are buying a low-quality platform.

Does the machine work above 20 Hz?

The natural resonance of the human body’s organs is less than 20hz. If a vibration platform is working at the same frequency as the human body’s organs the effect is similar to when you hit a bell and then the bell keeps on ringing, which can have a detrimental effect. In the workplace frequencies below 20hz can be found in situations like vibrating truck seats and floors of machinery and can be related to lower back soreness and other conditions.

The safe range for training is above 25 Hz. As an example, VibroGym is one of the most researched platforms on the market and works between 30-50 Hz. The research has been performed since 1999, and the results achieved in practical settings have shown this to be a safe frequency range.

Does the machine have TGA registration?

Just like IPL devices and other beauty technology there are TGA registered and non-TGA registered vibration platforms. By satisfying the registration process the manufacturer has produced research to back up the claims being made and demonstrated that the company conforms to rigorous manufacturing standards. This should give you confidence that you are purchasing a quality device.

Is the research the manufacturer quotes performed on their platform?

There are really only three platforms on the market that have a substantial body of research on them. While other manufacturers claim that their devices work in the same way you have to be sure that firstly, it is the same type of vibration (vertical or side-to-side), and secondly, it has to work at exactly the same frequency and amplitude to deliver the same force.

If you really want to ascertain whether a plate is performing properly ask a manufacturer to put a strobe light on their machine at the frequency that they suggest it is working at. If they are both in sync then the plate will appear to be not moving. If not in sync you can visually see it.

What is the plate made of?

The material the plate is made out of is an extremely important factor. If the material can flex then the vibrations will not be transferred correctly and won’t be consistent across the plate. Steel is the ideal material as it won’t crack or flex over time. If it is not steel, be sure the material is not likely to flex as this will affect transmission of vibrations making it prone to cracking or bending over time.

The shape of the plate can affect the versatility of the massages you can perform and also how the vibrations are transferred to your body. If the plate is too wide and large it can be difficult to get certain muscle groups in position for correct contact with the plate for massage. This is particularly true of the back of the thighs.

How Can You Use It In Your Business?

In a twist of irony vibration training platforms are allowing salons to add body toning and fitness services to build extra revenue in much the same way as fitness centres have added day spas to complement their core services.

One of the most important things a vibration platform can do for your business is to bring clients in more regularly, as the ideal way to use vibration training is three sessions a week of fifteen to twenty minutes. The appeal of a fast body toning session will not only attract new clients to your salon but will encourage existing clients to walk through your door more regularly, opening up opportunities for other treatments or product sales while there.

Vibration training platforms can also enhance the results of other beauty services. Businesses using better-known cellulite reduction systems that use an intake massage as part of the system, such as Deka Triactive, Endermologie, or Velasmooth will generally find enhanced body shaping results by combining vibration training with the treatment.

What Price Would You Expect To Pay For A Professional Quality Platform?

The three most researched platforms on the market all fall within the $14,000-20,000 range. Platforms cheaper than this generally have a flimsier construction and are only suitable for home use. If implemented into an existing business with an established client base a professional platform should pay for itself quite comfortably.

Vibration training will add a unique and complimentary treatment to your business. Be sure to do your homework, check that the research is done on the platform and was the same type of vibration, and that the company you are dealing with is an established supplier. Once you have selected the correct plate you and your clients can get started on your path to a more toned and healthy body.

Angela Daley is the National Sales And Training Manager of VibroGym Australia. She is a qualified exercise physiologist with over 10 years experience and she has operated successful fitness businesses in Australia and London. For more information on vibration training she can be contacted on 1300 88 77 63 or at ad@vibrogym.com.au.