Thursday, 21 March 2013

Research Update: Warm Up & Stretching

A new study has been published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science looking at the effect of varying stretching protocols during warm-up on dance performance. Warm-up is a much neglected are of dance research and it's great to see work being conducted in this area.

Acute Effects of Warm-up Stretch Protocols on Balance, Vertical Jump Height, and Range of Motion in Dancers (2013)
Morrin N, Redding E. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 17(1), pp.34-40.

Background and Purpose

Stretching is typically a central component of warm-up for physical activity, and is frequently used in dance. Dancers are required to demonstrate prowess in numerous physical skills including power, balance and flexibility. Existing research in exercise science suggests stretching has a negative effect on muscular performance. This study aimed to look at the effect of various stretching protocols on specific physical parameters in contemporary dancers.

The Study

The study looked at the effect of three different stretching warm-up protocols in dancers as well as a no stretching control group, on dancers' vertical jump height, range of motion and balance. The researchers looked at the effect of the following 4 warm-up protocols:
  1. Static stretching
  2. Dynamic stretching
  3. A combination of static and dynamic stretching
  4. No stretching
The participants carried out a cardiovascular warm-up before moving onto one of the 4 stretching protocols. The participants were then immediately tested in the following 3 areas: vertical jump height, hamstring range of motion and balance.

What did the results show?
  • Both dynamic stretching and the combination warm up resulted in significantly better vertical jump height performance than static stretching
  • The combination warm-up resulted in significantly better balance than static stretching
  • Static stretching and combination warm-up resulted in significantly better range of motion than dynamic stretching

What did the researchers conclude?

The researchers concluded that static stretching did not appear to have a negative effect on dancer performance and that although dynamic stretching displayed some benefits, they were not significant in all three areas tested. The researchers recommended use of combined warm-up protocol as an effective method of warm-up for dancers.

What are the limitations of the study?

The study tested the effect of various warm-up protocol on 3 areas of dance performance - vertical jump height, range of motion and balance. The study did not look at the effect of these warm-up protocols on  on muscle fatigue or EMG outputs. Considering the existing body of research in exercise science that suggests static stretching may be detrimental to muscular power output and contributes to an increase muscle fatigue, it would be useful to examine the effects of the various warm-up protocols on these fitness parameters in dancers.

What can we take from this study?
  • An aerobic warm-up followed by dynamic or combination stretching has a positive effect on jump height
  • An aerobic warm-up followed by combination stretching has a positive effect on balance
  • An aerobic warm-up followed by static or combination stretching has a positive effect on range of motion
  • This study reaffirms the position that static and dynamic stretching have differing effects on muscle performance, this suggests a considered approach as to the use of each should be taken to maximise performance. 
  • The study reaffirms the position that static stretching is effective in producing gains in muscular range of motion.
  • The study, in both it's strengths and limitations, show the need for more research on warm-up and stretching protocols on dance performance.

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