European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 108, Issue 5, pp 877–904 | Cite as

Vibration as an exercise modality: how it may work, and what its potential might be

  • Jörn RittwegerEmail author
Invited Review


Whilst exposure to vibration is traditionally regarded as perilous, recent research has focussed on potential benefits. Here, the physical principles of forced oscillations are discussed in relation to vibration as an exercise modality. Acute physiological responses to isolated tendon and muscle vibration and to whole body vibration exercise are reviewed, as well as the training effects upon the musculature, bone mineral density and posture. Possible applications in sports and medicine are discussed. Evidence suggests that acute vibration exercise seems to elicit a specific warm-up effect, and that vibration training seems to improve muscle power, although the potential benefits over traditional forms of resistive exercise are still unclear. Vibration training also seems to improve balance in sub-populations prone to fall, such as frail elderly people. Moreover, literature suggests that vibration is beneficial to reduce chronic lower back pain and other types of pain. Other future indications are perceivable.


Mechanical oscillation Training Rehabilitation Physical medicine Safety ISO standard 



Acceleration, m s−2


Peak acceleration, i.e. largest acceleration within one vibration cycle. For sinusoidal oscillations given by ω2 A (Eq. 1), m s−2


Mean acceleration, i.e. average acceleration over an entire vibration cycle. For sinusoidal oscillations given by a Peak/√2 (Eq. 2), m s−2


Amplitude of the oscillation. In other words, the displacement of the oscillating actuator is between −A and A, m


Bone mineral density


Damping factor, given by the ratio of the attenuation coefficient and ω0




Frequency of the oscillation, i.e. the number of vibratory cycles per unit time. Therefore, 1/f gives the duration of a single cycle, Hz, which is equivalent to s−1


Gravitational acceleration on Earth, 9.81 m s−2


Stiffness, i.e. the resistance to deformation, N/m


Mass that is inert to acceleration as well as being accelerated by gravity, kg




Angular frequency. ω is proportional to f, as it is given by 2πf, Hz, which is equivalent to s−1


Resonance frequency of the resonator, i.e. frequency at which mechanical energy will be accumulated, expressed as angular frequency, Hz


Angular frequency of the actuator, Hz



I would wish to express my gratitude to Dag Linarsson for inviting me to write this article—complying with his request has been even more enjoyable (but also more exhaustive) than anticipated. I am also grateful to friends and colleagues in the IRM Institute up in Manchester, whose presence compensates me for the daily driving hour(s) on the M6 and on the trains. Most importantly, thanks to the two Hans’ (Schiessl & Degens), who are entirely different characters, but equally good characters, and who hopefully will continue to en-Hans me.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Aerospace MedicineGerman Aerospace CenterKölnGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Biomedical Research into Human Movement and Health (IRM)Manchester Metropolitan UniversityManchesterUK

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