Using Ice / Cold Water Immersion After Workouts Will Impair Muscle and Strength Gains, as well as Vascular Adaptations
|4x fail - if you look at the latest cold-water immersion science.|
The studies from Japan (Yamane. 2015) and Norway + Australia (Roberts. 2015) were conducted independently and published almost simultaneously in the International Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Physiology, respectively. Therefore, I'd like to discuss them one after the other, before I finally tie the knots between the studies in a conclusion some of you are not going to like.
"Does Regular Post-exercise Cold Application Attenuate Trained Muscle Adaptation?" that's not only the title but also the central question in a recent study by Yamane et al. (2015). In the corresponding experiment, 14 male subjects did 5 sets of 8 wrist flexion exercises at workloads of 70–80% of the single repetition maximum, 3 times a week for 6 weeks. Of the total of 14 male subjects,
- 7 subjects immersed their experimental forearms in cold water (10± 1°C) for 20min after wrist flexion exercises (cooled group), while
- the other 7 who served as control subjects (noncooled group) refrained from putting their forearms into the 10°C cold water
|Figure 1: Rel. changes (%) of forearm diameter (muscle size), muscle strength (of the wrist flexors), brachial artery diameter (vascular adaptation) and local muscle endurance (Yamane. 2015).|
That this is not a question of post-exercising swelling, only, can be inferred from the fact that the maximal muscle strength and brachial artery diameter did not increase in the cooled group, either. That's much in contrast to the non-cooled group where both variables, as well as the local muscle endurance, increased significantly. If we assume that similar effects occur for other muscle parts, it would thus not be a good idea to join Peer Mertesacker in the ice-tub that made him world-famous after the quarter-finals of the soccer world cup, last year.
|The satellite cell activity of which SV readers know that it is driven - at least partly - by the inflammatory response to exercise is blunted in the cold water immersion (CWI) vs. active recovery (ACT) trial (Roberts. 2015).|
If we add the results Llion A. Roberts et al. present in their accepted article in the The Journal of Physiology, however, it does no longer look like any of the findings were coincidental. After all, Roberts et al. conducted not one but two studies to investigate whether and why "regular cold water immersion influences muscle adaptations to strength" (Roberts. 2015). More specifically, the two experiments the researchers from Norway and Australia conducted were...
Table 1: Overview of the RT-program in study 1 (Robert. 2015)
Strength training was progressive and included 45° leg press, knee extension, knee flexion, walking lunges and plyometrics exercises. The plyometric component comprised countermovement drop jumps, slow eccentric squat jumps, split lunge jumps and countermovement box jumps. All strength training was supervised and was performed at normal room temperature (23–25°C).
- study 2 - 9 active men performed a bout of single-leg strength exercises on separate days, followed by CWI or ACT to elucidate the acute effects and potential mechanisms that explain the reduced gains in the chronic training study
|Update from 2017: When I wrote the article at hand in 2015, I still speculated that if cold water immersion was bad hot water immersion may turn out to do the opposite: promote the gains. Unfortunately, that is not the case.|
|Figure 2: Training-induced changes in type II fiber count and size (left, top), myonuclei per fiber (left, bottom), leg press strength (A), knee extension strength (B), isometric torque (C) and RFD impulse (D | Roberts. 2015).|
If you want to know something about the reasons for these statistically significant and practically highly relevant difference are concerned, I suggest you take a closer look at the red box - it may also help you to fully understand the bottom line.
- Peake, Jonathan, et al. "Chronic and Acute Effects of Hot Water Immersion on Strength, Recovery and Hypertrophy." The FASEB Journal 31.1 Supplement (2017): lb735-lb735.
- Roberts, et al. "Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signaling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training." The Journal of Physiology (2015): Accepted article.
- Yamane, M., N. Ohnishi, and T. Matsumoto. "Does Regular Post-exercise Cold Application Attenuate Trained Muscle Adaptation?." International journal of sports medicine (2015).