Is Cold Water Immersion and Cryo Really Worth It?

  • By Dynamic Sports Training
  • 08 Jun, 2017

Kevin Poppe, Director of DST North

Recovery is a difficult topic to research. Often times, there are conflicting studies and conclusions, because so much of the recovery process is measured anecdotally. So what’s one to do? For one, start with defining the terms. Next, read the methods of the study to see if they are actually addressing the topic at hand. From there, we can get a better picture of truth outside of the spectrum of opinion.

Defining Recovery

So what is recovery? Is it at the cellular level? Is it in reference to perceived soreness or recovery of specific and relevant range of motion? Is it recovery from an injury? Is it recovering strength? For this blog we will define recovery as being at the cellular level, referencing perceived soreness decreases and strength recovery. Relevant range of motion is a tricky topic to try to throw in here because of all the factors and mechanisms that could lead to lost mobility and the reacquisition thereof. It would be irresponsible to reduce that topic to whether or not cold-water immersion aids recovery of that nature. Same goes for recovering from injuries.

Finding Applicable Studies

While researching this topic, you will find numerous studies pointing in all different directions, most of which deal with recovery from highly metabolic activities like running or playing soccer. We acknowledge these, but for our purposes, we want to look specifically at resistance training. With how much traction cold-water immersion has had for decades and with the more recent surge of cryotherapy, one would think resources would be plentiful on this topic. This is simply not the case. Very few research papers and studies get into the specifics of recovery, especially as it relates to resistance training.  I was able to find some, however, and they are cited throughout this blog.

Effects on Perceived Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness is a common, yet not always a reliable, indicator of recovery. However, the effects of cold-water immersion therapy are pretty clear. Pretty much every study ever done on this topic has shown that cold-water immersion significantly aids in a reduction of muscle soreness. However, there are very few studies that even attempt to find out why this is the case. There needs to be more research on this topic, but I believe there hasn’t been because we already have a decent hypothesis on this. The cold has the ability to numb the area and provides relief of pain. In-short, if you only care about reducing soreness, then cold-water immersion or cryotherapy is definitely a viable option for you.

Muscle Recovery at the Cellular Level

This topic specifically lacks applicable studies to indicate viability. However, a 2016 study by Peake, et al. does a pretty good job of attacking this. They used single-leg resistance strength training in three groups. One performed cold-immersion, another group performed active recovery and the third group used a passive (sedentary) recovery. The study controlled nutrition and even bathing schedules to eliminate the heat from the showers and baths from affecting the results. They monitored the results using muscle biopsies and blood work. Without getting into the entire study that you can read yourself, the results were not necessarily what you might expect.

Cold-immersion therapy showed no significant (statistically, not my determination) difference in muscle recovery when compared to active recovery. One could stop there and make a claim that active recovery would be superior because of its ability to be broadly applied in a group setting. It also comes with zero monetary cost. Not so fast. The study also showed that the benefits of either method were minimal when compared to the passive or sedentary group. So now what? Is this a referendum on all recovery methods? Well, not exactly. Methods are important.

The active recovery method was pedaling on a stationary bike, so all we see here is that, for recovery purposes, hopping on the bike for a warm-down seems to be a waste of time. It is not an indicator of the effectiveness of other active recovery modalities. Each would need to be studied or observed independently. In fact, I read another study that showed tremendous backing for active recovery over static or passive recovery. The problem is that they do not detail what the active method consisted of. My opinion is that it more than likely depends on the method itself.

It is important to note there are many studies that seem to indicate real benefits with cold-immersion. However, they don’t really apply very well to strength training. The studies base the findings on activities with a high metabolic stress and moderate mechanical stress. When it comes to strength training, we typically see a reduced metabolic stress with a heightened mechanical stress. That is an important difference. In the end, this study shows that the biological indicators at the cellular level do not support cold-immersion being used as a primary recovery method.

**Note: The study also references a 2003 study by Roberts, et al. that seemed to show a loss of muscle mass and force production when cold-emersion was implemented post-workout over a 3-month period. That is significant.**

Strength Recovery

This is where people could easily get lost. The studies seem to show contradictions rampant, but when observed more closely, there seems to be more of a bell curve. One study by Pfeiffer, et al. seemed to show drastic decreases in strength when using cold-immersion methods. However, the method to determine this was repeating high-intensity exercise with a quick turnaround (within an hour). As I stated before, there is a 2003 study by Roberts, et al. that indicates a loss of strength over a 3-month period of using cold-immersion in comparison to other recovery methods.

But let’s slow down a bit. There are also studies that seem to indicate strength recovery increases over a three day period in comparison to other methods. Some point to this as a proof-positive for cold-water immersion. Others point to it as misleading. I tend to fall into the latter camp. We know cold-water immersion reduces perceived soreness. That three day period seems to be in a typical soreness window, so a study taking place in that window seems to exploit that effect. While it is important to those looking for a quick turnaround, it also could be detrimental. This is only my opinion.

As an example, we know that to cause actual changes in soft tissue by stretching takes at least 2 minutes of constant stretching. However, we see increases in joint range after 30 seconds, at times. This is because we have affected the stretch tolerance of the muscle. This can give an appearance of increased soft tissue extensibility, but it is misleading. In the same way, because of decreased soreness, we should be able to tolerate more load than while experiencing soreness. Some need that from time to time, but I am in the business of developing long-term athletes. I don’t really care too much about a false two or three days of perceived recovery. I really want to see more studies attacking this topic, but until then, I can only go on this. For these reasons, it is my current opinion (which could change), that not only is cold-immersion not beneficial for strength recovery, but it can be detrimental in the long-run.


Please make your own determinations. Don’t blindly listen to what I’m saying, but these are the conclusions that I’ve come to with the current information available. There are simply not enough studies out there on this topic. The ones that are out there, when looked at as a whole, do not seem to support to the use of cold-immersion as an efficient or effective recovery method post-workout. This is especially true when it comes at a monetary cost to you. Alternatively, active recovery is going to depend on the specific method.


  Thibaut Méline, Timothée Watier, Anthony MJ Sanchez, Cold water immersion after exercise: recent data and perspectives on “kaumatherapy”, The Journal of Physiology , 2017, 595, 9, 2783

Wiley Online Library

Gillian White, Jessica E. Caterini, Cold water immersion mechanisms for recovery following exercise: cellular stress and inflammation require closer examination, The Journal of Physiology , 2017, 595, 3, 631

Wiley Online Library

Chris Mawhinney, Helen Jones, David A. Low, Daniel J. Green, Glyn Howatson, Warren Gregson, Influence of cold-water immersion on limb blood flow after resistance exercise, European Journal of Sport Science , 2017, 17, 5, 519


  R. Allan, C. Mawhinney, Is the ice bath finally melting? Cold water immersion is no greater than active recovery upon local and systemic inflammatory cellular stress in humans, The Journal of Physiology , 2017, 595, 6, 1857

Wiley Online Library

  Angus Lindsay, Sam Carr, Sean Cross, Carl Petersen, John G. Lewis, Steven P. Gieseg, The physiological response to cold-water immersion following a mixed martial arts training session, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism , 2017, 42, 5, 529

  Pearce, et al.   Journal of Physiology . Volume 595, Issue 3
1 February 2017 
Pages 695–711

  Jeremiah J. Peiffer et al. Journal of Sports Sciences , Published online: 21 Aug 2009

Dynamic Sports Training Blog

By Dynamic Sports Training 20 Sep, 2017
Being able to achieve an effective hip hinge is a foundational movement pattern any athlete must be able to demonstrate. The hip hinge is the best way to train the posterior chain, which we all know is vitally important to athletic development. The posterior chain or backside of the body (hamstrings and glutes) are the primary muscles involved in sprinting. Look at any high level sprinter and I'd bet they have a very well-developed posterior chain. The kettlebell swing is a great exercise to progress your hip hinge after you master a basic RDL at slower speeds.

The swing is more of an explosive movement with lighter weight. You might think that heavier is always better, so why use the swing? Heavy lifting is very important, but at a certain point we must teach the body to produce that force much faster as there is no time to waste on the field or court. The swing is a great option to achieve this increased rate of force production.

1. Hinge through your hips while maintaining a neutral spine posture (flat back).

2. Lock in your lats which will increase thoraco-lumbar stiffness and help protect your back.

3. Hike the weight through your legs like a long snapper in football.

4. Snap hips forward into full extension making sure to stand tall and squeeze your glutes fully at the top of the movement.

5. Let the weight fall back down between your legs and repeat in a smooth rhythmical fashion for 10-15 repetitions.
By Dynamic Sports Training 15 Sep, 2017
Dynamic Sports Training is growing as a company, making a few staff changes in the 2017 calendar year. Two of those changes have included hiring on Business Operations Associate Ryan Henry and Digital Content Manager Rachel Owens to the DST Business Department. Both hires have been a valued addition to Team DST.

Rachel Owens  is a former DST athlete (2010-2017). She graduated with a degree in strategic communication from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2015, where she played division 1 soccer and won four Southland Conference Championship rings. After graduation and before joining the DST team in January of 2017, she played a season of professional soccer for IA Akranes FC in Iceland. She now plays for a Houston team in the UWS, a competitive semi-professional women's soccer league in the U.S. and Canada.

Rachel manages DST's digital content, which includes our blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our YouTube channel. She also helps with day-to-day business operations at our DST West facility out of Houston Christian High School.

Ryan Henry  received a bachelor of arts degree in multidisciplinary studies with focuses in business, communications, and math, graduating in December of 2016 from the University of Texas in San Antonio. He was president of the club baseball team for three years where he managed, coached, and played. He was named pitcher of the month in May of 2012 where he led his conference in strikeouts and ERA. He joined the DST team in 2017.

Ryan is our "video guy", working closely with Rachel to create video content for our digital channels. He also helps with day-to-day business operations at our DST North facility out of Premier Baseball of Texas in Tomball.

Dynamic Sports Training welcomes these new additions to the team! #DSTstrong 
By Dynamic Sports Training 12 Sep, 2017

The kettlebell windmill is a great exercise that improves many traits at once. We all know that mobility, stability, and strength are vital to optimizing sport performance. Any time we can accomplish all these physical attributes at once is ideal to maximize training time.

Thoracic spine rotation is something that many athletes lack and is necessary for optimal sports performance.  As a throwing athlete, thoracic spine mobility is imperative to attaining separation and fluidity in the throwing motion. Elbow and shoulder health is also very much dependent on the thoracic spine doing the job it is intended to do.

Shoulder stability is also very important as the shoulder joint is the most unstable joint in the body.  Good control and alignment of the joint can help to prevent many common injuries that athletes face in sports like baseball. Throwing a baseball is the fastest motion in sports, and therefore extremely stressful. Proper stability will ensure that the shoulder can withstand the repetitive stresses and avoid the common overuse injuries.

The windmill also helps to improve lateral core stability where the oblique’s resist against unwanted movement of the spine. When sprinting, many athletes lack the necessary core stability to maintain posture. This is evident when the athlete exhibits a lateral hip hike or an unnecessary side bend of the torso. Stability through the core will ensure that all force is being put into the ground as it should and not lost, thus achieving maximum velocity.

By Dynamic Sports Training 12 Sep, 2017
Mindset Principle: Relentless
By Josh Graber

“A river cuts through rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” —James N. Watkins

Have you ever known one of those people who just refuses to give up? Has to play "just one more game" until they win? Sometimes you love them, sometimes you hate them, but you will always respect their tenacity and never-say-die attitude. That mindset of relentlessness is exactly what we'll be focusing on this month.

Last month , we discussed resilience and the importance of bouncing back after getting knocked down. Relentlessness and resilience are definitely closely related, but there's also a distinct difference between the two: the resilient person withstands all sorts of setbacks and doesn't falter while the relentless person fights through all obstacles no matter what they may be.

Still sound the same? Think of it in terms of the proverbial meeting between an immovable object and the unstoppable force. The immovable object is the resilient athlete and the unstoppable force is the relentless athlete.

Let's go back to that person you know who refuses to quit. What's always the end result? They win. They accomplish their goals. Always. Why? Because the narrative is never over until they're on top. It doesn't matter if they lose 19 games before finally winning one. At the end of the day, they won.

Have a goal? Be relentless. Don't stop until you reach it. Babe Ruth had it right when he said, "You just can't beat the person who never gives up." Be that person.

Nutrition Principle: Nutrient Timing
By Chelsea Bellinger

Nutrient timing is all about the dispersion and distribution of calories and macronutrients throughout the day. This is a complicated concept because, like most things regarding diet and exercise, there is no "one-size-fits-all" guideline on how someone should consume their nutrients throughout the day. The type of athlete, intensity of the training program (or performance days) and time of day the athlete is expending the most energy are just a few factors that go into evaluating an individual's nutrient timing. Nutrient timing is important to ensuring the athlete's body is fueled properly during training sessions, competition time and also during recovery time.

Physical Principle: Tempo

By Sammy Knox

When discussing tempo in training, we are referring to the speed at which we execute the exercise. Training with different tempos is important because it will provide the athlete with a different stress, therefore causing a specific adaptation to that stress. There are three different tempos we utilize in our training because there are three different types of muscular contractions.

  1. Eccentric – a muscle that is lengthening while contracting
  2. Isometric – a muscle that does not change in length while contracting

  3. Concentric - a muscle that is shortening in length while contracting

Let's use a squat exercise as our example:

- The better you are at eccentric strength (a slow descent in the squat), the better you will be at absorbing force. This is important for both preventing injury and increasing performance. When sprinting, we want to spend very little time on the ground while still being able to apply enough force to be fast. The stronger the athlete is eccentrically, the better they will be able to achieve this.

- Isometric strength (holding the bottom of the squat) is beneficial to being a well-rounded athlete, as you are required to hold static postures under high forces and velocities while sprinting. Our core muscles must be strong isometrically during sprinting and other athletic feats to transfer force in the most efficient and effective way.

- Concentric strength (standing up from the bottom of a squat) is all about force production and can also be referred to as  “starting strength.” This is very important in the acceleration phase of sprinting, which is the first 10-20 yards. This is the case since we are not able to utilize the stretch reflex as effectively to propel us in the direction we want to go; therefore, we must use more concentric strength to get us going.

As you can see, all three tempos are important and useful for athletes to develop maximum strength.

By Dynamic Sports Training 07 Sep, 2017
These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, emotion, stress, dejection and hope. When the Houston area was hit by Hurricane Harvey a little over a week ago, it left many without power, transportation, and ruined homes along with everything in them. The images of the devastation have been heartbreaking to see. However, the response by neighbors, strangers, communities, and churches has been a bright light in the darkness.

At DST, we were mostly unaffected by the Hurricane. A couple of lost possessions and an evacuation were the extent of the toll on our DST family. Our good fortune gave us the opportunity to help those who were not so fortunate. This was the main reason we were closed all of last week - we were out in our communities helping those affected. At the end of the day, there are much greater things in life than sports and training. We should always strive to keep this perspective. The hurricane is over, but the storm is hardly gone as many are still in desperate need. While we have returned to work, our work in this city is far from over.

As Christians, we know that we are called to first love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and secondly to love others as we love ourselves . Jesus made it very clear that the second of those commandments is like the first, in that loving others is akin to loving God (Matthew 22). In 1 John 3:18, John tells the church that we should not love with mere words, but with action . That is what I, and DST, plan to do. If we, as believers, expect Jesus to work in this darkness, then we must be ready to do his work, as we are members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).  If God is to go to work, one of us will be holding a hammer. Let’s let God use us in this.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul clearly states that our true act of worship to God is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. It’s time to offer ourselves, sacrificing personal comfort and gain for the good of others. Why should we do this? Not simply because we should, but in response to God’s mercy on us. The actions from DST will be not be of self-service, but a response to God, intended to do nothing more than to show love for others and love for God.

We are excited to have resumed normal training and to continue serving the needs of others as the DST family. Please let us know if you or someone you know is in need as a result of this storm. We are also looking for any way to contribute as a company, so if you would like to work with us, please email me at .

As I’ve stated several times, there is still currently a ton of need out there. With many organizations doing great work, there is a lot of opportunity to give. One close to me is my home church at Bayou City Fellowship. I’ve been witnessing first hand the great work of the church through this entire process. I know 100% of the donations are going straight to victims in need, and not one cent is going toward funding the church. If you would like to give to a group that is daily helping those in need, I would encourage you to go to and give to the Harvey relief fund.

We will be announcing several ways that we, and the rest of the DST family, can provide support and aid to those affected by Harvey, so be on the lookout for a series of announcements on ways you can get involved.

Kevin Poppe

By Dynamic Sports Training 06 Sep, 2017
The Pallof series is a series of anti-rotational core exercises. This can be used on any normal core day or as a reinforcement for thoracic mobility.

We are primarily targeting the obliques, but we are also looking at an anterior core exercise. The obliques attach to the aponeurosis of rectus sheath. This means, the rectus abdominis (abs) must act as an anchor for the obilques. This effect makes the exercise multi-planar and extremely effective for core function, overall.

Pallof presses and holds are a great way to add rotational strength without adding reps on the spine. Lets be clear, in order to gain rotational power, you need to rotate powerfully. Having said that, it is all about appropriate volumes and periodization. It is not enough to only do flexion/extension based core work. Try adding this series to your workouts.
By Dynamic Sports Training 06 Sep, 2017
Mindset Principle: Resilience
By: Rachel Owens

Sometimes you just can't catch a break.

Your car breaks down. Do you not go to work or school because you can't drive your car? You find a way to get it fixed, and in the meantime you find other ways to get where you need to go. You burn dinner in the oven. Do you not eat that night because you can't eat the burnt food? You make something else, or order takeout. You find yourself on the bench during games. Do you quit because you aren't getting playing time? You spend more hours in the weight room and on the field on your own to get better to prove you deserve that playing time.

Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. To be resilient means to not let hardship slow you down or hinder your journey. Whether it's in life or in sports, the resilient are the ones who don't take 'no' for an answer.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."
- Winston Churchill

Nutrition Principle: Energy

Eating the right combination of foods can help maximize your energy throughout your day and during training. One key is eating often and eating light. Eating smaller meals every 3-4 hours can help fuel your metabolism while maintaining muscle mass and help to avoid overeating. Keeping the meals balanced with a complex carb, lean protein and vitamin-rich vegetables and fruits can encourage sustained energy through caloric intake.

Energy is an essential part of athletic performance for practice, training, and in-game performance.

Physical Principle: Movement

Of all our physical principles, movement is the most important building block we have. While the concept is simple, the implementation is, unfortunately, often overlooked in many athletic development programs.

We approach movement as a core foundation of everything we do. Before an athlete can excel on the field/court, they must first be able to move efficiently. Because of this, we take all our athletes through an in-depth bio-mechanical assessment in which we look at an athlete's:

  • Flexibility
  • Joint Mobility/Stability
  • Body's Balance
  • Functional Movement
  • Motor Control
From there, we're able to create a personalized workout program that re-educates our athletes' bodies and movement patterns. Only after an athlete is able to move properly and effectively are they able to see improvements in the weight room that will translate to their in-game performance. Sometimes this means taking a perceived "step backward", but it's actually a step in the right direction.

"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

- C.S. Lewis

By Dynamic Sports Training 15 Aug, 2017
Dynamic Sports Training Director of NFL Combine, Kyle Kleeman, takes some of our NFL athletes through various drills working on cutting from all parts of the foot. This is the third and last video in a series of agility drills working on cutting from different parts of the foot.

In this exercise of the week video, we will be going over reaction drills. The athletes don't know which direction they will be cutting before starting each rep, so they will have to react to whichever direction Kyle points. They also won't know if they'll be taking two steps, three steps, or four steps before the cut. We make sure they attack vertically and then react to Kyle's hand, still focusing on being explosive each change of direction. 

Speed and agility drills should focus on explosive movements and cutting from all parts of the foot because, in competitions, athletes are going to cut from all parts of the foot. This is training one part of the foot - the outside edge. We want to train and improve movements that are sport-specific and will improve in-game performance.
By Dynamic Sports Training 08 Aug, 2017
Dynamic Sports Training Director of NFL Combine, Kyle Kleeman, takes some of our NFL athletes through various drills working on the outside edge cut. This is the first video in a series of agility drills working on cutting from different parts of the foot.

In this exercise of the week video, we will be going over the outside edge cut. To start this drill you will only need three cones. We will first work on the three-step cross over with our back leg staying nice and tight to our body as it comes up and over to change direction. After that, we will work in a heiden at the beginning of the drill to work on deceleration and acceleration coming back through that cut. Here we are really focusing on sticking the landing each time and driving out into the outside edge cut drill.

We do this drill to help in our outside edge cuts. More than likely we are cutting and opening up in one direction. The benefits of this drill are to help feel the outside edge of the feet, it teaches athletes how to bring the knee drive up and over, and it helps athletes with motor control/skills.

Speed and agility drills should focus on explosive movements and cutting from all parts of the foot because, in competitions, athletes are going to cut from all parts of the foot. This is training one part of the foot - the outside edge. We want to train and improve movements that are sport-specific and will improve in-game performance.
By Dynamic Sports Training 01 Aug, 2017
Dynamic Sports Training Director of NFL Combine, Kyle Kleeman, takes some of our NFL athletes through various drills working on the inside edge cut. This is the first video in a series of agility drills working on cutting from different parts of the foot.

In this exercise of the week video, we will be going over the inside edge cut on the ladder. To start this drill you will need two ladders set up side by side. If you’re starting on the left side of the ladder your right foot will start in the box. Next, we will cross over with our left leg keeping a high and tight knee to our body into the next ladder. After that, we will step outside the ladder with our right foot. Here we are really focusing on inside edge of the foot.

We do this drill to help in our inside edge cuts. More than likely we are cutting and opening up in one direction. While going through the ladder, we are also focused on body lean - always towards the center of the two ladders. The benefits of this drill are to help feel the inside edge of the feet, it teaches athletes how to bring the knee drive up and over, and it helps athletes with motor control/skills.

Speed and agility drills should focus on explosive movements and cutting from all parts of the foot because, in competitions, athletes are going to cut from all parts of the foot. This is training one part of the foot - the inside edge. We want to train and improve movements that are sport-specific and will improve in-game performance.
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