Cold water immersion enhances recovery of submaximal muscle function after resistance exercise


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Sø 2. Physioblog Andreas Bjerregaard 3.SøernesfysioterapiSkærmbillede 2015-12-01 kl. 21.19.31

This study investigated the effect of Cold Water Immersion (CWI) on the recovery of muscle function and physiological responses after high-intensity resistance exercise.

Randomized 10 physically active men performed high-intensity resistance exercise protocol followed by one of two recovery interventions:

The protocol:

  • 6 sets of front and back squats at loads corresponding to 8, 8, 10, 12, 10, and 10 RM;
  • 3 sets of 12 walking dumbbell lunges with a total mass corresponding to 40% of body mass;
  • 3 sets of 12 countermovement drop jumps from a height of 50 cm.

Recovery time between sets was 90 s, with 120 s between exercises and  strong verbal encouragement was provided where required to maintain repetition tempo, form, and recovery periods.

Intervention protocol. 

  • 1) 10 min of CWI at 10°C or
  • 2) 10 min of active recovery (low-intensity cycling).

After the recovery interventions, maximal muscle function (four tests; countermovement jump, an unweighted (with a wooden bar) squat jump, a weighted squat jump (30% of RM with barbell), and an isometric squat (a modified back squat in a smith machine)). They performed these tests in random order at 2 and 4 h after the recovery interventions.

) was assessed after 2 and 4 h by measuring jump height and isometric squat strength. Submaximal muscle function was assessed after 6 h by measuring the average load lifted during 6 sets of 10 squats at 80% of 1 repetition maximum.

Furthermore intramuscular temperature (1 cm) was also recorded, and venous blood samples were analyzed for markers of metabolism, vasoconstriction, and muscle damage (Samples were collected before and after the initial resistance exercise and 15 min, 30 min, 45 min, 1 h, 1.5 h, 2 h, 4 h, and 6 h after the recovery intervention) and subsequentlig DOMS was measured under two conditions: 1) standing with feet shoulder-width apart and 2) squatting to a 90° knee angle, so that the quadriceps muscles were under tension. Perceived soreness was rated on a horizontal visual analog scale from 0 (no soreness) to 100 (maximal soreness).

  • Result
    CWI did not enhance recovery of maximal muscle function. However, during the final three sets of the submaximal muscle function test, participants lifted a greater load after CWI compared with active recovery.
  • During CWI, muscle temperature decreased 7°C below post-exercise values and remained below pre-exercise values for another 35 min. Venous blood O2 saturation decreased below preexercise values for 1.5 h after CWI.
  • Serum endothelin-1 concentration did not change after CWI, whereas it decreased after active recovery.
  • Plasma myoglobin concentration was lower, whereas plasma IL-6 concentration was higher after CWI compared with active recovery.

Skærmbillede 2015-12-01 kl. 21.53.46

Cold water immersion did not alter recovery of maximal strength or countermovement jump performance. However, it did enhance recovery of submaximal muscle function during a high-inten- sity resistance exercise test. Cold water immersion also sub- stantially reduced muscle temperature, muscle soreness and swelling, venous O2 saturation, and plasma myoglobin concen- tration compared with active recovery. Surprisingly, cold water immersion did not alter serum ET-1 concentration, whereas it induced a greater increase in plasma IL-6 concentration com- pared with active recovery. These findings add to the existing knowledge of the performance benefits and physiological effects of cold water immersion after exercise.

These results suggest that CWI after resistance exercise allows athletes to complete more work during subsequent training sessions, which could enhance long-term training adaptations.

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