Vibration training maturing, not slowing down

Eight years after vibration training came to the U.S. fitness world, the genre has matured, toned down its hype about all-things-to-all-people, and begun to penetrate the home retail market. As the market grows, SNEWS has taken the time to talk to three players in different price categories to find out what they see.
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Eight years after vibration training came to the U.S. fitness world, the genre has matured, toned down its hype about all-things-to-all-people, and begun to penetrate the home retail market.

At the Health & Fitness Business show, for example, there were six different companies with equipment compared to none five years ago by SNEWS’ count. At the IHRSA show in March 2010 there were, by several counts, six companies offering trainers, all very high-end.

As the market grows and matures, different brands are still trying to find the best way to approach potential users and sell the training modality, while finding their own niche within the category.

“It’s a technology that can be of extreme benefit to tons of people,” said Christian Reichardt, founder and president of PowerVibe USA (www.powervibeusa.com), which recently partnered with the former Teutonic Sales.

“Yes, whole body vibration can give you all the physiological benefits of exercise, but in a very short time frame,” he said. “Yes, it does that, but that’s what all exercise does. The message has to be rescripted.”

For example, as Power Plate (www.powerplateusa.com), the company that first introduced whole body vibration (WBV) to clubs in late 2002, continues to focus on the club and athlete’s market, companies like PowerVibe are eyeing the medical fitness segment and special populations, and DKN (www.dkn-usa.com) sees a lot of promise not only in the rehab area but also in the overall fitness and personal training market. 

“Personal training studios love it,” said Chip Zielke, president and partner, who joined DKN earlier this year after a stint at Power Plate. He said it partners well in that situation in warm-ups and to complement stretches or other routines.

“Clubs just aren’t comfortable putting it on the floor unattended,” Zielke told SNEWS®. “There’s nothing intuitive about it. You have to understand how to use the product.” 

Despite all the players trying to find the best direction, ideal market and fine-tuned marketing, one thing that has continued to push the category is its relative newness.

“Everybody always is looking for something new,” said Mark De Gorter, president of Power Plate North America, which calls the training mode “acceleration training.”

He said he agreed that the biggest challenge is communication and education.

“It was a different category to pin down,” De Gorter said. “Is it rehab? Is it individual? Is it group exercise? Is it strength? The industry struggled to find out where it fit.”

And then there’s, yes, price. Even Power Plate’s lowest-priced consumer piece is about $2,500 (going up to about $4,500). DKN drops down to about $1,250 (and up to about $4,000), while PowerVibe has pieces that go all the way down to $900 from a high of $2,500. Most equipment is simply a platform with various configurations of consoles and programming, although Power Plate introduced a piece this year with cables incorporated for additional functional training options.

Health & fitness benefits

Nobody really argues that WBV offers benefits to health and fitness. However, the debate continues -- including in peer-reviewed, scientific journals -- to what extent and for whom.

“Whole body vibration can be an asset in your quest for health and well-being,” Reichardt said. “We never say this is the only thing you need.”

Reichardt noted he believes that the populations that are best-suited for WBV are inactive people who need to get started exercising, but may find other forms too difficult. WBV can be a step into other forms of exercise.

“It’s not a panacea,” he added. “But it can be a tremendous asset if used correctly.”

Over the last few years, SNEWS has reviewed various medical and fitness studies and summarized them in articles.

>> In a Health Notes article from Aug. 22, 2008, we found one study that noted it may benefit older adults and unfit people but less so the younger or more fit.

>> In our then-annual summer magazine in 2006, we analyzed the benefits and pieces and also reviewed some of the recent literature. We found there are – or were at that time – a lot of holes in the studies. Click here to see that “web extra” that accompanied our July 2006 GearTrends article. 

>> In a study that we summarized in a March 2006 Health Notes column, researchers found the training modality may actually be too strong for many people although it did offer stimulation. 

To learn more, PowerVibe has a large library of research studies open to consumers http://www.powervibeusa.com/learning-center/research-studies, as does Power Plate on its website http://www.powerplate.com/us/benefits/research.

Building, educating

Already a well-grounded training technology in Europe, De Gorter said it is Power Plate’s goal to increase its acceptance in North America.

“Our objective is to build acceleration training as a legitimate category right alongside cardiovascular training and right alongside strength-training,” De Gorter told SNEWS. “By building the category, we’ll be opening the category to others, too. It’s true that rising tides float all boats and we’re fine with that.”

For Power Plate, the process has four steps: Generate awareness, add points of presence at malls or clubs so more can experience it, make training available to trainers and teachers, and create community among both trainers and consumers.

DKN noted that education is vital as well as pre-set workouts on machines to help simplify understanding and use for consumers. PowerVibe is reaching out via its website and its retailers to create an interactive community on its website.

But Reichardt said he thinks the training segment has a long way to go still for true acceptance and awareness in North America: His forecast is that it will take 4-5 years for a real foothold. It has launched a website aimed at retailers to help them find resources, called GetHealthUSA

“We want to make our retailers’ lives easier with whole body vibration, not more difficult,” he added.

One thing all companies agreed on: The market is vast, the potential unlimited, and more players isn’t a bad thing.

Said DKN’s Zielke, “Having more than one competitor in the marketplace will only help.”

Said PowerVibe’s Reichardt, “The market is huge.” 

Said Power Plate’s De Gorter, “The more the industry recognizes it as a legitimate category, the better. May the best man win.”

--Therese Iknoian 

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