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.

Conclusion

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.

Sources

  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

CrossRef

  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 12 Dec, 2017

The Lateral Med Ball T-Position Throw is the second exercise in our T-Position progression with our athletes. The concept is the same: to coordinate the body to be more explosive in rotation, load it. However, the amount of rotation is over a longer arc than the linear position, resulting in higher speeds and more force that must be absorbed.


THE SET UP

  1. The athlete will set their feet wider than shoulder width and perpendicular to the wall with knees bent.

  2. The elbow should be up and in line with the ball on the driving arm.

  3. Fingers turned up toward the sky.

  4. The ball should be at or just under chin height (shot put).


THE MOVEMENT

  1. The athlete will rock back (limited rotation) to the side of the drive arm.

  2. Spending as little time as possible at the end of the load, the athlete should rotate to throw the ball violently against a wall (think start throwing the ball before the load is able to stop).

  3. Let your body follow through in rotation. If you catch the ball off the wall, back up and let it bounce to you.


Pro Tip

Make sure that the athlete's head stays with the back hip. Often times, athletes want to lead with their head which results in poor rotational mechanics. That isn’t to say that there is no forward movement. As the hips move into the front leg, the head just rides the back hip. Focus on firming up the front leg for maximal power output.

By Josh Graber 08 Dec, 2017
We're so excited to bring back our Ping Pong 4 Charity Tournament in 2018. Last year, we were able to raise thousands of dollars to help our community.

This year, we have our sights set on a   much bigger impact! Our cause this year hits home for many of us in the Houston area. When Harvey hit Houston this past August, our city was turned upside down. We don't have to tell you how much damage was done or how rebuilding efforts are far from over. 

Some of the most meaningful stories of community in the wake of Harvey were from those who came from out of state to help -- not because they had friends or family here, but because they wanted to help their fellow man. We want to return the favor.Our neighbors in surrounding cities, states, and countries have been through pain and heartache this year as well. That's why we're partnering with some of our athletes from these surrounding areas and communities to help as many people as possible with this event.

We'd love to have you join in and help us put the FUN in fundraising with the 2018 Ping Pong 4 Charity event presented by Premier Baseball of Texas. Registration is now open !

If you can't join us on January 27th, support our cause by purchasing a Houston Strong tee - all proceeds from the shirt will also go toward hurricane relief efforts.
By Dynamic Sports Training 07 Dec, 2017
Integrity
There are a couple different definitions of integrity we'll be looking into this month: 

(1) The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles

(2) The state of being whole and undivided. 

Instilling integrity into athletes is a daily demonstration. Three main areas to focus on are: Fair play, good sporting behavior and character. Character development is not just an instruction, it is a consistent mind set.

Josh Graber will be writing more about Integrity later this month. Keep an eye out for it on our blog on Friday, December 15th!

Supplements
Supplementation is to be used when an athlete is unable to get sufficient nutrients from their daily meals, or in some cases, add more calories when they cannot be consumed. Essentially, supplements serve to bridge the gap in one's diet. Supplements are used to pick up the slack if anything is lacking in the diet or to “shortcut” meal prepping and just taking nutrients directly. In addition, supplementation could help improve meal timing (i.e. meals before and after workouts).

Sammy Knox will be writing more about Supplements later this month. Keep an eye out for it on our blog on Friday, December 22nd!

Periodization
Stated simply, Periodization is looking at the big picture and the end goal, and then breaking it down into actionable, day to day steps to reach that goal. When we create our programs for our athletes, we like to start from the end and work our way to the beginning. Every exercise and movement we program is designed to help our athletes reach their goals. 

Kevin Poppe will be writing more about Periodization later this month. Keep an eye out for it on our blog on Friday, December 29th!
By Dynamic Sports Training 07 Dec, 2017
Ryan Henry is a Business Operations Associate at DST. He 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 kind of the jack of all trades for us. He works really hard, and he makes sure that day-to-day operations run smoothly for the rest of our staff while also managing all of our accounts [at DST North]." - Kevin Poppe , Director of DST North
By Dynamic Sports Training 05 Dec, 2017
The Linear Med Ball T-Position Throw has been a staple in all of DST's rotational programs for years now. The concept is simple: to coordinate the body to be more explosive in rotation - load it. This “load” is light enough to be at a high-velocity profile while heavy enough to create adaptations in the body and in rotational mechanics. Enough with the boring stuff! The video is pretty detailed but here are the main points:

The Set Up

  1. The athlete will set their feet wider than shoulder width, facing the wall with knees bent.
  2. The elbow should be up and in line with the ball on the driving arm.
  3. Fingers turned up toward the sky.
  4. The ball should be at or just under chin height (shot put).

The Movement

  1. The athlete will rotate back to the side of the drive arm.
  2. Spending as little time as possible at the end of the load, the athlete should rotate to throw the ball violently against a wall (think start throwing the ball before the load is able to stop).
  3. Let your body follow through in rotation. If you catch the ball off the wall, back up and let it bounce to you.

The #1 Rule

As with all of the medicine ball work we do, I tell everyone that the number one rule of med ball work is to throw the heck out of it. No “off” reps. You want to be explosive? Move as explosively as possible on these types of exercises.
By Dynamic Sports Training 01 Dec, 2017

Plyometrics involve repetitive power jumping with quick force production. When muscles lengthen, then immediately shorten, they provide maximal power for an athlete. Plyometrics are an ideal style of training for athletes looking to improve speed and power with varied intensities. When you immediately follow an eccentric contraction with concentric, or “muscle-shortening” contraction, your muscle produces a greater force. This is called the “stretch-shortening cycle.”

So that all sounds like something a basketball player would benefit from, right? They need to be powerful and explosive when skying for a rebound, contesting a jump shot or even shooting from 3-point range. This is all true. However,  basketball players get the plyometric training they need while playing their sport, so extra plyometric training in the weight room isn't necessary. More does not equal better in this instance.

A major disadvantage of plyometric training with basketball players (or other jumping athletes) is that there is a high risk of injury. These athletes are already jumping enough in their sport, so why should we jump even more during training? One of the biggest issues with basketball players is the overuse injury with the taller athlete who’s already injury-prone due to force production with increased leverage between the joints (simply stated, they have longer legs).

"Examining recent high draft picks reveals that taller players have gone on to miss a larger percentage of games than their shorter peers. The percentage of games missed generally increases as height increases. Players 7’0” or taller have missed nearly 24 percent of their games." ( FiveThirtyEight )
By Dynamic Sports Training 28 Nov, 2017
In our last video of our Snatch Series we are talking all about the Catch. So we have pulled from the floor and avoided our floating bar and we have made nice contact at our hips; now we must catch the bar correctly!

Common problems people have with the Snatch rarely have to do with the technique.  Many people have overhead mobility and stability issues.  First and foremost, if you do not have the required amount of overhead flexion and your shoulder (anterior & posterior) and scap stability is lacking, you should not be performing a snatch. First, I recommend working on gaining the required mobility, add stability on top of it, and then we can talk.  

Now back to the people who are free of overhead mobility and stability issues: One common mistake is flipping the bar at the top of the catch.  This is incorrect as your wrist should already be under the bar at this point.  The catch should involve a push or a punch, not a flip. Side note: you technically never stop pulling on the bar. When we make the mistake of flipping the bar, it causes a lot of forward/backward movement. This causes us to lose the bar behind us or we may end up trying to run under the bar and lose it forward.  

A few coaching cues I like to use are
  1. up 
  2. under
  3. punch
The cues are simple, the execution may take a little more work. I would start with pulling a pvc pipe or empty bar and begin working on your turnover.  Now you have the fourth and final key to fixing your snatch! Watch the video below and get to work!
By Dynamic Sports Training 21 Nov, 2017
Bang!!!

Yes, that is my favorite…drink.  Not something I encourage during your snatch.  I am sure by now you are probably thinking, “what the heck is this guy talking about?” I am talking about when your hips meet the bar in your snatch .  Bar-body contact is a huge topic in the weightlifting world. For today, we are going to keep it simple.  

There is a fine line between what we call the Brush crowd and the Bang crowd.  Let me define these for you real quick. The Brush crowd believes the bar should brush the hips on the way through extension and encourages the bar to stay tight to the body. The Bang crowd believes in more violent hip extension and encourages it. My take? I like both! I believe it’s an in between, like most things in athletic performance.

So you might be wondering, “why is Garrett covering banging the bar as our third mistake in our Snatch Series?” Because most people take it to an extreme! Most people overcompensate by banging the bar so hard it gets out from their body and they aren't able to recover; they end up trying to run under the bar to no avail.  We want the bar to remain as close to the thighs as possible without being in contact, and the shoulders to remain at least very slightly in front of the bar until the bar is up into the hips in the snatch .  Think of the bar as being pushed back into the hips as the hips finish the snap.  The key is not driving the hips through the bar (banging) so far that vertical force is lost and the bar gets pushed away from the body.

Make sense?

Okay, so how do you fix this? Easy - practice variations.  Two variations to work on are the snatch pull from the floor and the high snatch working into the catch as shown in the video. Now get to work!!

By Dynamic Sports Training 20 Nov, 2017

Everything athletes do - from training, to sleeping, to what they are putting in their body - are all small, important pieces to a much bigger puzzle. One vital piece is nutrition and with this month's Trigger Focus being Nutrient Density, I figured I'd address an important question: "Are all calories created equally?" The simple answer is, of course, no. To explain why, I did a comparison case study on what 3,000 calories looks like: healthy, nutrient-dense foods vs. a beloved fast food chain that starts with a 'W' and ends with 'hataburger.' 


Don’t talk to me about recovery when you're living out of a fast food window .”  


I can still hear my collegiate strength coach telling me this as though it was yesterday. He was right, my nutrition habits were trash; I was so used to eating whatever I wanted because I was young, so I thought my body could handle it.  I can probably count on one hand how many of us even knew the term ‘nutrient density’ let alone what it meant. So today we are going to EQUIP you with this knowledge.  


Simply stated, nutrient density means how many nutrients you get from a food, given the number of calories it contains. A.K.A getting the “biggest bang for your buck”. Why is nutrient density so helpful? Because it gives you concentrated amounts of valuable nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fatty acids, and phytonutrients , to name a few. Adequate consumption of foods high in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals is essential for a healthy immune system and for empowering your body’s detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms. This helps protect you from cancer and other diseases. Nutrient-dense foods also provide necessary micronutrients - which are highly overlooked - that are important co-factors in reactions that produce growth, repair tissues, and increase oxygen transport. Being deficient in this will negatively affect performance and could keep you from reaching your athletic potential.


Now let me show you the difference. 3,000 calories at Whataburger looks something like this:

By Dynamic Sports Training 16 Nov, 2017
Jordan is our Off-Site Trainer at DST. He has a CPT certification through ACSM. Prior to working at DST, Jordan played basketball at the collegiate level and coached at the high school level. He received a Bachelor's of Science degree in Kinesiology from Mississippi College. Since joining DST, Jordan has become an expert at prepubescent development and become proficient in training athletes of all ages and all levels. His knowledge and experience continually prepare our athletes for the next level.
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