The Shake Weight

The Shake Weight is a dumbbell with the ability to oscillate. The claim by the company that produces the product is that it has the ability to give more of a work out than a traditional weight. This exercise device was created by Ben Kunz for the company FitnessIQ. There have been many contraptions and machines that are for exercise, but many of them do not work. Then there are products that are minimally effective compared to traditional methods. The reason these products sell well is that advertisements are persuasive and the public has a lack of knowledge about exercise or the human body. Gullibility and a fast solution explains why exercise equipment  such as this sells well. When examined in a scientific manner the shake weight is not effective. There are also some of the common pseudoscientic convictions in regards to female body and fitness. This was originally marketed as a female exercise product, but later release a “male” version. The difference between the female and male version is weight. The female shake weight is 2.5 lbs and the male version is 5 lbs. Again, it seems the frailty myth is presented in a subtle manner. There is no reason that the women’s weight should just be 2.5 lbs. Five pounds is no so immense that women could not handle it. That is about the equivalent of a bag of flour. Anyone who cooks realizes these bags are not that heavy. FitnessIQ claims that the shake weight can tone biceps, shoulders, and triceps. The official comment of the company is ” The product’s technology has been scientifically proven to increase muscle activity more effectively than similar size dumbbells or push-ups.” A general understanding of exercise physiology disproves the effectiveness of the Shake Weight.

         The Shake Weight was introduced to the market in 2009. During its first year being available it sold 2 million units. The following years it reached 4.5 million sales.The Shake Weight is commonly found at Walmart and Walgreens. This exercise product since being introduced has made its way into popular culture. The motions it induces and the way in which it is held has suggested sexual innuendos. Parodies and spoofs have appeared on the Daily Show, South Park, and Saturday Night Live . These references could have increased sales. Exposure is important to the success of a product. The commercials and infomercials are known for their exaggerated claims of effectiveness. They state the Shake Weight can burn calories five times faster than normal weights.  This is simply not biologically possible. Working out with regular weights would require more energy, if done at a longer period of time. The Shake Weight recommends that an individual only exercise for six minutes. They claim six minutes with the product can be more effective than a 32 minute work out. This does not prove to be accurate when testing it in terms of exercise science, physiology, and biology.

          The Shake Weight functions on a series of vibrations. There are spring loaded weights at both ends. The vibrations are designed to “tone ” muscles in a six minute work out. There is a problem with the marketing terminology. The term “tone” is not a real biological process. The fact is toning is building a small amount of muscle. This term is directed at women rather than men, because society still thinks muscles and strength are for men only. The term toning is used to not scare average women away from fitness or ones who are closed minded about muscular women.


It is dubious that a serious woman athlete would even use this device. Looking at its five and two pound versions its clear that this does not build muscle. It uses high repetitions at lower weight. Immense weight with fewer repetitions promotes growth in muscle. Women are normally discouraged from lifting heavy, but this is a mistake. Smaller weights will not produce effective results. The weights have to be heavy enough to provide at least some resistance. Smaller weights at two pounds or less will not be helpful in building strength or burning fat. Lighter weights could possibly be better for muscular endurance, but larger ones at lower repetitions are better for strength.

 The Shake Weight would only be effective for a person who has not had training or exercise prior physical activity. At best they would see modest or minimal gains. A person who weight trains regularly would not see dramatic gains in terms of musculature. The woman who is either a weightlifter, crossfit competitor, or bodybuilder will not see improvements in performance from the Shake Weight. The average woman considering her exercise and strength levels are lower may see some improvement, but not as effective as free weights. Part of the public relations slogan is that the Shake Weight “allows you to exercise without leaving your sofa.”

   Exercise takes effort and consistency. These two values are something people have lost living in modernized society. The desire for results with limited or no effort is what the American public in particular likes the most. That is why there are consumers that are drawn to this product, that clearly does not produce the effects it claims. There are some who even think that it has the ability to burn fat right off the arms of the body. The American Council on Exercise has stated that the Shake Weight does not provide necessary stimulus to the arms. The 2 1/2 pound weight is too light to be effective the council discovered. The added five pounds may not make much of a difference either. Muscle has the ability to burn fat and this device is not inducing the level of muscular hypertrophy to make that possible. This becomes even more humorous as this is also marketed to men. The image that is constantly used in advertisements for exercise equipment usually features a very muscular man. It is clear that the man or woman in question did not develop that upper body through the Shake Weight.

  It is not possible to just burn off fat in a single area of the body. It does not work like a heat seeking missile. Building muscle or losing weight requires a specific diet or certain strength training exercises  bicep curls, tricep extensions, and push ups. These activities should be enough to reduce weight. At this point, an observer should realize that there would be no need for the difference in weight for the product. There are women who could handle the five pound version. Calling it the “male version” is an attempt to market it as something intense and add a machismo to a device seen as feminine. Fitness advertising wants to tap into that male machismo, thinking the product can transform the male buyer into an Adonis like figure. This fantasy is shattered, because there are women out there who are lifting more than 5 lbs.

Weightlifting - Olympics: Day 7





It is also recommended at the very least an individual should try to strength train three times a week. The difference in weight size is based on the notion of the frailty myth. It states that women’s bodies are not strong enough for physical activity. There are still myths that women should not train heavy, because they will get injured. Injury only happens when exercises are not done correctly or a person over trains. There should be consideration in the difference in tendon size, which may make women more susceptible to joint injuries. Women can handle a five pound weight whether it vibrating or not. You certainly do not need to be He-Man to use the five pound version. There is no such thing as men’s muscles and women’s muscles, because at the cellular level they do not differ. The design is awkward and the manner in which it is held. One problem is that users of this device did not go through the full range of motion when using it. The only way to see improvement is to challenge the muscle by adding more weight. Exercising for just six minutes will not produce effective results.

           The defenders of this product say that it can at least improve muscular endurance. This requires an increase in training frequency. That means adding more training sessions to your regimen. Simultaneously, training volume should be gradually increased. The number of sets and repetitions must increase for the body to adapt. Static contractions are also useful. This requires doing a full set of an exercise, then holding the in a fully contracted position. This should be done till the individual can no longer hold it. The Shake Weight cannot do any of these tasks. None of these exercises listed would be compatible with the Shake Weight.

The vibrations are not as powerful as straining against the weight of actual iron. Even if there were no vibrations the Shake Weight would be not even be useful for static contraction. There would have to be added weight to the device, but then it would just be a regular weight. Muscular endurance will not be attained through the use of the Shake Weight product.

       If one were to switch a person who exercises with weights and have them use the Shake Weight, they would lose strength. A woman who regularly exercises and then uses this device solely with see a dramatic reversal. Women could lose muscle in just a month, who are already at a higher fitness level. The advertisements use the term “dynamic inertia” to describe the process of the vibration movements. Anyone with a basic understanding of physics would realize inertia can occur during any form of exercise. Matter can continue in an existing state or follow a path of uniform motion until effected by another force. This is the definition of inertia. Dynamics is merely the analysis of forces and torques which is considered a branch of applied mathematics. Adding this term just glorifies the item being sold, making the consumer think it is doing something incredible.This why the knowledge of science, physiology, and anatomy are important. It prevents individuals from making poor decisions. If you are a person attempting to add mass this exercise equipment would not perform as well as free weights. A woman for example already trained would see a loss in results. Muscle atrophy only occurs when one stops an exercise regimen or ceases to challenge the muscles being worked.

         The American Council on Exercise did conduct a study. The alleged study that Fitness QI did never was peer reviewed in an academic journal or produced by an exercise physiologist or scientist. The study done by the University of Wisconsin by exercise scientists . They wanted to see the amount of muscle activation versus a traditional weight compared to the Shake Weight. The volunteers of the study were between the ages of 18 to 30, which included men and women. They continued to use the five pound for men and the two and a half pound versions for women. Electrodes were then placed on the biceps, triceps, deltoids, and pectoralis muscles.  The utilization of electromyography allowed the intensity of the work out to be recorded. The result was fascinating. The findings by Dr.  John Porcari and Dr. Jennah Hackbarth  were not what one would have expected. Muscle activity was greater 88% in the biceps, 65% greater in the triceps, 50% greater in the chest, and 59% greater in the chest. It would appear that the bicep curls, chest fly, tricep extensions, and shoulder presses are less efficient. This is not true. The physical fitness level of the individuals in the study was not recorded. They may have seen results only because they were at the very low spectrum of physical fitness. The study also found that it worked mostly the triceps rather than the entire arms or upper body.

 The thinner or non-exercising subject would probably benefit from the Shake Weight more than a physically fit woman. 

When conducting an experiment one should be careful when considering factors that effect results. The physical fitness level of the subjects is essential to the results. These individuals of the study were of course healthy, but not at a high spectrum pf physical fitness. There was a 66 % EMG increase, but this was not the increase that infomercials have said claiming a 300% increase. The vibrations from the Shake Weight may not even be safe. They work muscles, but could be causing unnecessary soreness.


The results as shown in the graph are misleading. For a person who does no physical activity anything would induce improvement. Two or five pound weights are simply not heavy enough to cause significant muscular hypertrophy. Subjects of this study did not expect the device to be as exerting. The ratings for perceived exertion were higher for the Shake Weight than it was for traditional weights.

        After explaining the physiological and anatomical basis for the Shake Weight one reaches a conclusion. It is not a useful piece of exercise equipment. This will not target the arms and upper body, but forces the triceps to do more work. Muscle activation was limited in the biceps. The level of resistance is so minimal that a physically fit person would not see any gains in lean body tissue. This would give only diminutive improvements to a person who has never done exercise at all. There are limited benefits to the exercise movement. There are very few times when a shaking exercise is useful, compared to push-ups, sit-ups, and weight lifting. The Shake Weight is something that is a combination of false advertising and hyper-consumerist culture. There are some goals that cannot be achieved by simple short cuts. That means effort, which many people do not want to do. The reason this sells so well is due to the public’s ignorance, lack of consumer advocacy, and the manipulation of human psychology. If statements sound credible enough people will accept it even though it may be mendacious. As long as the consumer knows about basic exercise science, they can make better decisions. The Shake Weight is a product that a consumer should not buy.

Further Reading

Hackbarth, Jenneh. “Does the Mega-selling Shake Weight Live Up to the Hype?” ACE Fitness. American Council on Exercise, 7 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Dec. 2016. <;.

Agondoni, Laura. “Can You Get Muscles With the Shake Weight?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 15 July 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2016. <;.

Wood, Heather. “Does the Shake Weight Take Fat off Your Arms?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 18 Dec. 2016. <;.

The Shake Weight

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