Short-term recovery from muscle damaging training can directly affect subsequent performances. This has implications for situations where repeat performances are required, such as in tournament play. There is still considerable debate as to what the most effective recovery interventions are to mitigate performance decrements during subsequent training sessions or competitions. Cold water immersion and contrast water therapy (alternating cold and hot water exposure) have been well studied for recovery over a period of days and less so for short term performances. Therefore it remains unclear whether either form of hydrotherapy should be used to speed up recovery between intra-day performances.
A new study published ahead of print in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance assessed the effects of cold water immersion or contrast water therapy on performance markers tested within 4 hours of a muscle damaging workout. The sample included 13 males (~26 years old) that were tested for perceived ratings of fatigue and soreness, maximal voluntary isometric contraction of the quadriceps as well as weighted and unweighted countermovement jump before and after a muscle damaging resistance training session. Ratings of fatigue and soreness as well as performance markers were reassessed immediately following, 2 hours following and 4 hours following the recovery intervention. The recovery strategies tested were 14 minutes of cold water immersion, contrast water therapy or control (passive rest).
The results showed that peak force derived from maximal voluntary isometric contraction testing along with jump performances were all significantly reduced after the training session and remain suppressed at each time-point thereafter. Neither of the recovery intervention protocols impacted perceptual or performance measures within the 4-hour time period. Thus, it appears that either form of hydrotherapy is ineffective for accelerating short-term recovery of perceptual or neuromuscular performance following muscle damaging activity. Back to the drawing board.
Argus, C. K., Broatch, J. R., Petersen, A. C., Polman, R., Bishop, D. J., & Halson, S. (2016). Cold Water Immersion and Contrast Water Therapy Do Not Improve Short-Term Recovery Following Resistance Training. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 1-21.