Thanks to Lance Armstrong, Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) are once again to the forefront of sports media. To take a step back, we have to evaluate the name PEDs and why athletes in all sports continue to seek out these methods to improve their athletic potential.
Generally speaking, these efforts seek to do one thing; improve your hormonal profile. Yes, you see pictures of bigger muscles, less body fat, and faster times, but these images are all a result of something you cannot see; the regeneration benefits that allow a better hormonal environment (see Sparta Point).
So the real benefit of PEDs is their ability to make you feel better through a more favorable hormonal environment. The result is the ability to perform at a higher level and more often. The good news is there are ways to improve hormonal profiles without breaking the rules. We can start with vibration.
Vibration, a Quick Recap
As discussed previously (see Sparta Point), vibration can be defined as mechanical impulses directed along muscle fibers. Using this vibration as a training method is usually called whole body vibration (WBV), where the entire body is exposed to vibration, generally through a platform or device to stand on, like the Exervibe we use to the right.
The previous post mentioned above detailed the strength and power benefits of WBV, so today we will remain focused on the topic of hormones, regeneration, and of course, how to take drugs naturally.
Vibration Helps Hormones
One of the world experts on vibration, Carmelo Bosco, has conducted several studies on these effects on individuals’ hormone levels, particularly the ‘Big 3’:
1. Growth Hormone – the major anabolic hormone (see Sparta Point) has a wide array of “building” effects, including:
Increased muscle mass
Increased lipolysis, “fat loss”
Stimulation of the immune system
2. Cortisol – the opposite of GH, is often labeled the “stress hormone” because of its primary function of “breaking down”, particularly by increasing blood sugar and suppressing the immune system
3. Testosterone – In addition to playing a role in health and well being, testosterone promotes increased muscle and bone mass
Using his recommended WBV training protocol of 10 reps of 60 sec, with 60 sec rest, Bosco’s studies have all found increases in Growth Hormone and Testosterone, as well as Decreases in Cortisol. These effects are not small, one Bosco study found a 460% increase in Growth Hormone and 7% increase in Testosterone! These improvements are maximized by using vibration on bigger muscles versus smaller muscles, just like exercise itself (see Sparta Point). So we recommend squatting during whole body vibration.
How does Vibration help the Big 3?
You should know by now that most physical explanations come back to Ground Reaction Force (GRF). Vibrational training is no different, as the concept behind its benefits are based off Newton’s 2nd law, where the force on an object is a function of its mass and its acceleration, seen as F=ma. Vibrations are actually just quick accelerations and decelerations, depending on the frequency and amplitude settings.
However the pathway of hormonal benefits is different than exercise. Exercise increases Growth Hormone with increasing intensity, more lactate and neural activation being the leading causes. With WBV though, authors believe the hormonal benefits occur through a different mechanisms. The vibration excites the spindles of muscles triggering the secretion of Growth Hormone from the pituitary gland in the brain. This process is actually similar to the pathway of muscle reflex testing shown below.
While WBV simulates training, it occurs through a less stressful manner, shown by the decreases in cortisol, which is normally elevated with workouts. There is no replacement for strength and skill training, but WBV can provide a workout for regeneration, certainly greater than “flush runs” or other methods for active recovery that can worsen hormonal profiles (see Sparta Point).
So check your regeneration efforts, no one ever tests positive for vibration.
Bosco C, Iacovelli M, Tsarpela O, Cardinale M, Bonifazi M, Tihanyi J, Viru M, De Lorenzo A, Viru A.: Hormonal responses to whole-body vibration in men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2000 Apr;81(6):449-54.
Di Loreto C, Ranchelli A, Lucidi P, Murdolo G, Parlanti N, De Cicco A, Tsarpela O, Annino G, Bosco C, Santeusanio F, Bolli GB, De Feo P. Effects of whole-body vibration exercise on the endocrine system of healthy men. J Endocrinol Invest. 2004 Apr;27(4):323-7.