Does whole-body vibration improve human performance?

The dramatic effect of warming muscle by passive means was established by Professor Anthony J Sargeant in an earlier research paper (which in itself built on a classic paper by Asmussen and Boje in 1945). The present paper looks at this in relation to the claims for the efficacy of whole body vibration to improve exercise performance. [see also

Effect of muscle temperature on leg extension force and short-term power output in humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology 1987;56(6):693-8]
European Journal of Applied Physiology
2008 Jul;103(4):441-8

This study compared the rate of muscle temperature (Tm) increase during acute whole-body vibration (WBV), to that of stationary cycling and passive warm-up. Additionally we wanted to determine if the purported increase in counter-movement jump and peak power cycling from acute WBV could be explained by changes in muscle temperature. Eight active participants volunteered for the study, which involved a rest period of 30 min to collect baseline measures of muscle, core, skin temperature, heart rate (HR), and thermal leg sensation (TLS), which was followed by three vertical jumps and 5 s maximal cycle performance test.

A second rest period of 40 min was enforced followed by the intervention and performance tests. The change in Tm elicited during cycling was matched in the hot bath and WBV interventions. Therefore cycling was performed first, proceeded by, in a random order of hot bath and acute WBV. The rate of Tm was significantly greater (P < 0.001) during acute WBV (0.30 degree C min(-1)) compared to cycle (0.15 degree C min(-1)) and hot bath (0.09 degree C min(-1)) however there was no difference between the cycle and hot bath, and the metabolic rate was the same in cycling and WBV (19 mL kg(-1) min(-1)). All three interventions showed a significant (P < 0.001) increase in countermovement jump peak power and height. For the 5 s maximal cycle test (MIC) there were no significant differences in peak power between the three interventions. In conclusion, acute WBV elevates Tm more quickly than traditional forms of cycling and passive warm-up. Given that all three warm-up methods yielded the same increase in peak power output, we propose that the main effect is caused by the increase in Tm

Training variability for endurance exercise

This research used a technique developed by Professor Anthony J Sargeant in the 1970s where the response to one-leg exercise was studied.
Experimental Physiology
Exp Physiol. 2009 Jun;94(6):684-94
Anthony J Sargeant , Jones DA.

Considerable variability exists between people in their health- and performance-related adaptations to conventional endurance training. We hypothesized that some of this variability might be due to differences in the training stimulus received by the working muscles. In 71 young sedentary women we observed large variations in the ratio of one-leg cycling muscle aerobic capacity (V(O2peak)) to two-leg cycling whole-body maximal oxygen uptake (V(O2max); Ratio(1:2); range 0.

58-0.96). The variability in Ratio(1:2) was primarily due to differences between people in one-leg V(O2peak) (r = 0.71, P < 0.0005) and was not related to two-leg V(O2max) (r = 0.15, P = 0.209). Magnetic resonance imaging (n = 30) and muscle biopsy sampling (n = 20) revealed that one-leg V(O2peak) was mainly determined by muscle volume (r = 0.73, P < 0.0005) rather than muscle fibre type or oxidative capacity. A high one-leg V(O2peak) was associated with favourable lipoprotein profiles (P = 0.033, n = 24) but this was not the case for two-leg V(O2max). Calculations based on these data suggest that conventional two-leg exercise at 70% V(O2max) requires subjects with the lowest Ratio(1:2) to work their legs at 60% of single-leg V(O2peak), whilst those with the highest Ratio(1:2) work their legs at only 36% of maximum. It was concluded that endurance training carried out according to current guidelines will result in highly variable training stimuli for the leg muscles and variable magnitudes of adaptation. These conclusions have implications for the prescription of exercise to improve health and for investigations into the genetic basis of muscle adaptations

Physical exercise in the treatment of depression

Supervised by Dr David Veale and Professor Anthony J Sargeant this study based at The Royal Free Hospital Medical School in London (UK)
Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine
J R Soc Med. 1992 Sep;85(9):541-4

Two clinical trials have been conducted in a sample of depressed patients to determine whether the addition of an aerobic exercise programme to their usual treatment improved outcome after 12 weeks. In the first trial, an aerobic exercise group had a superior outcome compared with a control group in terms of trait anxiety and a standard psychiatric interview. A second trial was then conducted to compare an aerobic exercise programme with low intensity exercise.

Both groups showed improvement but there were no significant differences between the groups. In neither trial was there any correlation between the extent of change in the subjects’ physical fitness due to aerobic exercise and the extent of the improvement of psychiatric scores

Bone health in Master Athletes compared to a normal population


Mechanical loading is thought to be a determinant of bone mass and geometry. Both ground reaction forces and tibial strains increase with running speed. This study investigates the hypothesis that surrogates of bone strength in male and female master sprinters, middle and long distance runners and race-walkers vary according to discipline-specific mechanical loading from sedentary controls.

Bone scans were obtained by peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (pQCT) from the tibia and from the radius in 106 sprinters, 52 middle distance runners, 93 long distance runners and 49 race-walkers who were competing at master championships, and who were aged between 35 and 94 years. Seventy-five age-matched, sedentary people served as control group. Most athletes of this study had started to practice their athletic discipline after the age of 20, but the current training regime had typically been maintained for more than a decade. As hypothesised, tibia diaphyseal bone mineral content (vBMC), cortical area and polar moment of resistance were largest in sprinters, followed in descending order by middle and long distance runners, race-walkers and controls. When compared to control people, the differences in these measures were always >13% in male and >23% in female sprinters (p<0.001). Similarly, the periosteal circumference in the tibia shaft was larger in male and female sprinters by 4% and 8%, respectively, compared to controls (p<0.001). Epiphyseal group differences were predominantly found for trabecular vBMC in both male and female sprinters, who had 15% and 18% larger values, respectively, than controls (p<0.001). In contrast, a reverse pattern was found for cortical vBMD in the tibia, and only few group differences of lower magnitude were found between athletes and control people for the radius. In conclusion, tibial bone strength indicators seemed to be related to exercise-specific peak forces, whilst cortical density was inversely related to running distance. These results may be explained in two, non-exclusive ways. Firstly, greater skeletal size may allow larger muscle forces and power to be exerted, and thus bias towards engagement in athletics. Secondly, musculoskeletal forces related to running can induce skeletal adaptation and thus enhance bone strength

Power of human muscle fibres


.We have explored the extent to which the maximal velocity of unloaded shortening (V(max)), the force generated per unit cross-sectional area (P(0)) and the curvature of the force-velocity relationship (a/P(0) in the Hill equation) contribute to differences in peak power of chemically skinned single fibres from the quadriceps muscle of healthy young male subjects. The analysis was restricted to type I and IIA fibres that contained a single type of myosin heavy chain on electrophoretic separation.

Force-velocity relationships were determined from isotonic contractions of maximally activated fibres at 15 degrees C. Mean (+/- s.d.) peak powers were 1.99 +/- 0.72 watts per litre (W L(-1)) for type I fibres and 6.92 +/- 2.41 W L(-1), for type IIA fibres. The most notable feature, however, was the very large, sevenfold, range of power outputs within a single fibre type. This wide range was a consequence of variations in each of the three components determining power: P(0), V(max) and a/P(0). Within a single fibre type, P(0) varied threefold, and V(max) and a/P(0) two- to threefold. There were no obvious relationships between P(0) and V(max) or between P(0) and a/P(0). However, there was a suggestion of an inverse relationship between a/P(0) and V(max), the effect being to reduce, somewhat, the impact of differences in V(max) on peak power. In searching for the causes of variation in peak power of fibres of the same type, it appears likely that there are two factors, one that affects P(0) and another that leads to variation in both V(max) and a/P(0).

Bone health and exercise – athletes and sedentary people

Professor Anthony J Sargeant was the Director of the Research Institute where this research initiated and driven by Professor Joern Ritttweger was carried out by Desiree Wilks (a PhD student under their joint supervision).
Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interaction
J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2009 Oct-Dec;9(4):236-46

Abstract OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether athletic participation allows master athletes to preserve their good bone health into old age. METHODS: Bone strength indicators of the tibia and the radius were obtained of master runners and race-walkers (n=300) competing at World and European Master Championships and of 75 sedentary controls, all aged 33-94 yrs. RESULTS: In the tibia, diaphyseal cortical area (Ar.Ct), polar moment of resistance (RPol) and trabecular bone mineral density (vBMD) were generally greater in athletes than controls at all ages. In the athletes, but not the controls, Ar.Ct, RPol (females) and trabecular vBMD were negatively correlated with age (p<0.01). Radius measures were comparable between athlete and control groups at all ages. The amalgamated data revealed negative correlations of age with Ar.Ct, RPol (females), cortical vBMD and trabecular vBMD (males; p<0.005) and positive correlations with endocortical circumference (p<0.001). CONCLUSION: This cross-sectional study found age-related differences in tibial bone strength indicators of master athletes, but not sedentary controls, thus, groups becoming more similar with advancing age. Age-related differences were noticeable in the radius too, without any obvious group difference. Results are compatible with the notion that bones adapt to exercise-specific forces throughout the human lifespan.

A Review: Human muscle organization, function and fatigue in exercise

Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Adv Exp Med Biol. 1995;384:323-38

Neuromuscular function and fatigue have been studied using a wide variety of preparations. These range from sections of single fibers from which the cell membrane has been removed to whole muscles or groups of muscles acting about a joint in the intact animal. Each type of preparation has its merits and limitations.

There is no ideal preparation; rather the question to be answered will determine the most appropriate model in each case and sometimes a combination of approaches will be needed. In particular, it is important to understand how the mechanical output of whole muscle can be sustained to meet the demands of a task and to take into account the organized variability of the constituent motor units.