, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 337–344 | Cite as

Tongue-Strengthening Exercises in Healthy Older Adults: Specificity of Bulb Position and Detraining Effects

  • Leen Van den Steen
  • Charlotte Schellen
  • Katja Verstraelen
  • Anne-Sophie Beeckman
  • Jan Vanderwegen
  • Marc De Bodt
  • Gwen Van Nuffelen
Original Article


Clinical tongue-strengthening therapy programs are generally based on the principles of exercise and motor learning, including the specificity paradigm. The aim of this study was to investigate the specific effect of anterior and posterior tongue-strengthening exercises (TSE) on tongue strength (TS) in healthy older adults and to measure possible detraining effects. Sixteen healthy elderly completed 8 weeks of TSE by means of the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument (IOPI). They were distributed in two different treatment arms and performed either exclusively anterior or posterior TSE (ATSE, n = 9 or PTSE, n = 7) depending on the treatment arm. Anterior and posterior maximal isometric pressures (MIPA, MIPP) were measured at baseline, halfway, and after completion of the training sessions. Detraining was measured by repeating MIPA and MIPP measures 4 weeks after the last session of TSE. MIPA and MIPP increased significantly in both treatment arms. MIPA was significantly higher in the ATSE group compared to the PTSE group across all measures in time. No significant differences were observed in MIPP between the ATSE and PTSE groups. Regardless of treatment arm, there was no significant detraining effect measured 4 weeks after the last TSE session. This study suggests that TSE show partial specificity concerning bulb position. We conclude that especially anterior training results in higher anterior TS in comparison with posterior exercises. Furthermore, we found no detraining effects, independent of bulb location.


Dysphagia Tongue-strengthening exercises Specificity Bulb location 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This study was approved by the Ethical Committee of the Antwerp University Hospital (B300201421549). All subjects agreed voluntarily to participate in this study and signed an informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery – Rehabilitation Center for Communication DisordersAntwerp University HospitalAntwerpBelgium
  2. 2.Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  3. 3.University College ArteveldehogeschoolGhentBelgium
  4. 4.University College Thomas MoreAntwerpBelgium
  5. 5.CHU Saint-PierreBrusselsBelgium
  6. 6.Faculty of Speech, Pathology and AudiologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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