The purpose of this study was to compare three 6-week intervention strategies on changes in AROM and PROM in a dance population. It was found that AROM was positively affected by both the strength and low-intensity stretch training compared with the moderate-intensity or high-intensity stretch. These findings are in line with published reports which stressed the benefits of strength conditioning (14) and low-intensity stretching (34) on improving lower-limb AROM; the strength group experienced the greatest percentage increase. PROM also significantly improved in all 3 groups with the conditioning group demonstrating a greater increase than the 2 stretching interventions (Figure 4).
The observed significant changes, as a result of the conditioning intervention, may partly be due to the direct strengthening of the agonist muscles and second due to the training of reciprocal inhibition of the antagonist muscles (11). The later has an effect on the AROM by allowing the antagonist muscles to relax thereby reducing the force needed by the agonists to overcome the internal resistance of the antagonist muscles, as previously noted in activities such as running and walking (17); these benefits may also be carried over to PROM (23). Resistance training has also been shown to have a positive effect on flexibility with both resistance and vibration training interventions reporting improvements in passive and active ranges of movement, respectively (12,29,35). Indeed, it has been reported that strength training has a myogenic response whereby an increased muscle fascicle length can be achieved by augmenting the number of sarcomeres in series (26). Furthermore, the end of AROM training movements utilized within this training intervention mimic the AROM test by targeting the iliopsoas complex (27) that allows the dancer to learn to engage the correct muscles within the hip in co-ordination with the core and the support leg, rather than isolating the hip complex (14) or using full range of movement exercise (29) as in previous studies. It should also be stressed that the adopted strength training protocol involved a considerable element of eccentric muscle action, due to the effects of gravity, and that training with eccentric exercise can lead to greater muscular strength improvements compared with other form of muscle conditioning (25).
Stretching is used to modify muscle length and to avoid disabilitating events such as muscle damage, which may lead to decline in muscle performance (24). It has been reported that both static stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation training are effective in attenuating muscle damage and that flexible muscles are less susceptible to the damage (7). It has been further suggested that the milder symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage in children compared with adults include greater muscular flexibility leading to less overextension of sarcomeres during exercise (22).
The observed changes in the moderate-intensity or high-intensity stretch group are concurrent with previous research on adaptations in PROM (2,4,10,28) with the intervention either causing reduction in the muscle’s passive tension by instigating adaptations within the muscles myofibrils (19) or by increasing the tolerance to pain during the stretch (5,20,21). The lower improvements in AROM are potentially due to passive stretching not causing adaptations in the parasympathetic system as highlighted by Apostoploulos (3); therefore, during active ROM, the antagonist muscles are still providing tension against the agonist activity.
The data collected in this study indicated that the less traditionally used interventions of targeted strength training and low-intensity stretching are superior at increasing active and passive ranges of movement than the more normal moderate-intensity or high-intensity stretch. Overall microStretching or low-intensity (3/10 intensity) stretching has the greatest effects on both passive and active ROM. The combined increases in AROM and PROM were greater than the moderate-intensity or high-intensity stretch and the end of range strength interventions.
The targeted end-of-range resistance training is beneficial for dancers that have a large PROM (grande battement) but a limited AROM (développé). By using the suggested intervention of working in centre with a partner not only are the agonist muscles developed, thereby increasing the height of the développé, but also the stabilizing muscles of the core and the supporting muscles. This makes the training much more functional than similar exercises at the barre or on the floor. These exercises can be carried out as part of a technique class but will produce local muscular fatigue and therefore their incorporation needs to be considered in context with the class’s overall goals.
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