Roberts, L. A., Raastad, T., Cameron-Smith, D., Coombes, K. S., & Peake, J. M. (2014). Cold water immersion reduces chronic resistance training-induced adaptation. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(5), Supplement abstract number 904.

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“Cold-water immersion is a widely used recovery therapy. It is purported to reduce signs and symptoms of muscle soreness and increase a sense of well-being, partly by acutely reducing or delaying the inflammatory response. However, inflammation is an important component of muscle regeneration and adaptation following muscle injury. Therefore, by reducing inflammation in skeletal muscle, regular cold-water immersion may inhibit adaptation to training.”

This study investigated the effects of regular cold-water immersion on strength and muscle hypertrophy following long-term resistance training in resistance-training experienced young men. Ss were matched for body mass, strength, and muscle mass, and formed into two groups. Both groups performed progressive high-intensity resistance training twice a week for 12 weeks. Immediately after each training session, the cold-water immersion group (N = 11) immersed their lower body in 10°C water for 10 minutes, whereas the activity-recovery group (N = 10) cycled at a low-intensity for 10 minutes. Training adaptation was assessed by measuring changes in maximal isometric torque and rate of force development, isokinetic dynamic strength, leg press and knee extension strength, and thigh and gluteal muscle mass.

There were significant increases due to training in the following variables in both groups: leg press strength, knee extension strength, maximum isometric torque, rate of force development impulse, and isokinetic and lean muscle mass. Training-induced changes in isometric torque and isokinetic torque, rate of force development, and knee extension strength were significantly smaller in the cold-water immersion group. Changes in leg press strength and lean muscle mass were not significantly different between the groups.

Implication. Regular cold-water immersion restricts improvements in strength and lean muscle mass following progressive high-intensity resistance training. The value of cold-water immersion as a recovery-procedure for resistance training would seem to be a false assumption.

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