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 RecoverySo 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 StudiesWhile 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 SorenessMuscle 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 RecoveryThis 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.
ConclusionPlease 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.
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
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.
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.
Isometric – a muscle that does not change in length while contracting
Concentric - a muscle that is shortening in length while contracting
- 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.
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.
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:
"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
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.
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.
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.