The interventions consisted of exposure to WBV provided by one of the devices for either 15 or 40 seconds. Because experts from Power Plate and Galileo advised different durations (15 and 40 seconds, respectively) to activate the TVR physiologically, we decided to use both durations. The order of the interventions for each participant was randomly determined. The participants stood on the platform with bare feet, with 90° knee flexion and a straight trunk. They kept their balance by holding the device handle with their hands. During this study, comparable platform frequencies were chosen for all 3 devices. In Table 1, the physical properties are summarized for each platform used, that is, the platform frequencies, average platform displacements (peak-to-peak), average platform accelerations in units of g (= 9.81 m·s−2) and the applied duration of vibration in each subject.
Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare devices for effects on JF and JRFD. In addition, paired-samples t tests were used to compare JF and JRFD measurements from before the WBV intervention with data acquired (a) immediately after WBV and (b) after 5 minutes of rest after WBV. In all statistical analyses, we considered the average of 3 jumps in each set. Two-tailed p values ≤ 0.05 were taken as significant. Data were analyzed with SPSS 16.0.1 for Windows.
All the 12 participants completed the sessions successfully. There were no reports of adverse effects of exposure to WBV, although 3 of the participants declared having a temporary (10 seconds) tingling sensation in their toes after the WBV intervention.
To our knowledge, this is the first study to compare the acute effects of different WBV devices on muscle performance. We expected that, because the devices generate vibration in different directions (Figure 2), they would exert different effects on muscle performance (23). However, we found that the exposure to WBV produced by these different devices did not have significantly different acute effects on JF and JRFD. Therefore, our hypothesis was not confirmed.
Exposure durations in this study (15 and 40 seconds) were short compared with exposure durations reported in previous studies (4–10 minutes) (6,14,31). Therefore, it is difficult to compare our results with those of the earlier studies. Because it has been reported that short exposures to vibration can activate TVR physiologically (16), we chose relatively short exposures to avoid excessive muscle fatigue.
In our study, compared with pre-WBV values, JF tended to be lower immediately after exposure to WBV, and JRFD tended to be higher. It is interesting to know why short exposure to a single bout of WBV affected JF and JRFD in opposite directions. Reduction of JF might be related to the inhibitory effects of vibration on recruitment of motor units. In this context, electromyography studies of leg muscle have shown increased signals after exposure to WBV of only 10–20% of maximal values, which is not adequate to recruit additional muscle fibers during WBV (26). The JRFD increased likely because of the firing rate of motor units in the initial few seconds of exposure to WBV.
There are a number of possible explanations as to why we did not detect a clear favorable effect of WBV on JF and JRFD. First, motor neuron recruitment in response to direct muscle tendon vibration is rather limited, probably because vibration also elicits a certain level of presynaptic Ia inhibition, which brakes the further recruitment of motor neurons (14). Second, during WBV, the vibration is applied to the soles of the feet, and each foot joint will have a dampening effect on the vibration stimulus in the distal to proximal direction of the leg (14). Additionally, WBV causes the reciprocal inhibition of antagonist muscles. During WBV, agonist and antagonist muscles are simultaneously impacted, which may further enhance the inhibitory effects of vibration (14,20).
Our study has 2 potential limitations: First, we could not apply equal amplitudes and frequency settings for the 3 devices because of their different designs. However, we attempted to choose the most comparable device settings. Second, we are aware that the study sample was relatively small. However, the results do not suggest that a larger sample would result in different conclusions.
In contrast to what we expected, there were no significant differences in acute effects of WBV on JF and JRFD among devices with different mechanical behaviors. Furthermore, there were only minor acute effects. Long-term effects of training programs by using WBV devices have to be evaluated in longitudinal studies. The findings of this study imply that as yet, to improve muscle performance, both professional devices and the home-use device may be used. This is an important finding, because home-use devices have the advantage that they are considerably less costly than professional devices are and that they can be used in the natural surroundings (more time efficient). However, one should realize that loading the PM platform can increase vertical accelerations; this makes the device less suitable for scientific purposes.
The authors thank all the study participants for their cooperation. We thank Power Plate and Galileo for providing test devices and technical advice. We certify that no party having a direct interest in the results of the research supporting this article has or will confer a benefit on us or on any organization with which we are associated and, if applicable, we certify that all financial and material support for this research (National Institutes of Health, Welcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Health Service grants, or others) and work are clearly identified on the title page of the manuscript.
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