The influence of whole-body vs. torso pre-cooling on physiological strain and performance of high-intensity exercise in the heat

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2001 Apr;128(4):657-66. doi: 10.1016/s1095-6433(01)00272-0.


Little research has been reported examining the effects of pre-cooling on high-intensity exercise performance, particularly when combined with strategies to keep the working muscle warm. This study used nine active males to determine the effects of pre-cooling the torso and thighs (LC), pre-cooling the torso (ice-vest in 3 degrees C air) while keeping the thighs warm (LW), or no cooling (CON: 31 degrees C air), on physiological strain and high-intensity (45-s) exercise performance (33 degrees C, 60% rh). Furthermore, we sought to determine whether performance after pre-cooling was influenced by a short exercise warm-up. The 45-s test was performed at different (P<0.05) mean core temperature [(rectal+oesophageal)/2] [CON: 37.3+/-0.3 (S.D.), LW: 37.1+/-0.3, LC: 36.8+/-0.4 degrees C] and mean skin temperature (CON: 34.6+/-0.6, LW: 29.0+/-1.0, LC: 27.2+/-1.2 degrees C) between all conditions. Forearm blood flow prior to exercise was also lower in LC (3.1+/-2.0 ml 100 ml tissue(-1) x min(-1)) than CON (8.2+/-2.5, P=0.01) but not LW (4.3+/-2.6, P=0.46). After an exercise warm-up, muscle temperature (Tm) was not significantly different between conditions (CON: 37.3+/-1.5, LW: 37.3+/-1.2, LC: 36.6+/-0.7 degrees C, P=0.16) but when warm-up was excluded, T(m) was lower in LC (34.5+/-1.9 degrees C, P=0.02) than in CON (37.3+/-1.0) and LW (37.1+/-0.9). Even when a warm-up was performed, torso+thigh pre-cooling decreased both peak (-3.4+/-3.8%, P=0.04) and mean power output (-4.1+/-3.8%, P=0.01) relative to the control, but this effect was markedly larger when warm-up was excluded (peak power -7.7+/-2.5%, P=0.01; mean power -7.6+/-1.2%, P=0.01). Torso-only pre-cooling did not reduce peak or mean power, either with or without warm-up. These data indicate that pre-cooling does not improve 45-s high-intensity exercise performance, and can impair performance if the working muscles are cooled. A short exercise warm-up largely removes any detrimental effects of a cold muscle on performance by increasing Tm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Clothing
  • Cryotherapy*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Thigh / physiology