The effects of contrast bathing and compression therapy on muscular performance

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jul;40(7):1297-306. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31816b10d5.


Contrast bathing (CB) and compression garments (CG) are widely used to promote recovery.

Purpose: To evaluate CB and CG as regeneration strategies after exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD).

Methods: Baseline values of muscle soreness, serum creatine kinase (CK) and myoglobin (Mb), joint range of motion, limb girth, 10- or 30-m sprint, countermovement jump (CMJ), and five repetition maximum squat were completed by 26 young men who then undertook a resistance exercise challenge (REC) to induce EIMD: 6 x 10 parallel squats at 100% body weight with 5-s one repetition maximum eccentric squat superimposed onto each set. After the REC, subjects were separated into three intervention groups: CB, CG, and control (CONT). Forty-eight hours after REC, the subjects exercise performance was reassessed. CK and Mb were also measured +1, +24, and +48 h post-REC.

Results: CK was elevated at +24 h ( upward arrow140%; upward arrow161%; upward arrow270%), and Mb was elevated at +1 h ( upward arrow523%; upward arrow458%; upward arrow682%) in CB, CG, and CONT. Within-group large effect sizes for loge[CK] were found for CB at +24 h (0.80) and +48 h (0.84). Area under the [Mb] curve was lower in CB compared with CG and CONT (P < or = 0.05). At +48 h, significant differences from baseline were found in all groups for CMJ (CG, downward arrow5.1%; CB, downward arrow4.4%; CONT, downward arrow8.5%) and soreness ( upward arrow213%; upward arrow284%; upward arrow284%). Soreness transiently fell at +1 h compared with post-REC in the CB group. At +48 h, midthigh girth increased in CB ( upward arrow1.4%) and CONT ( upward arrow1.6%), whereas 30-m sprint time increased in CG ( upward arrow2%).

Conclusion: No hierarchy of recovery effects was found. Neither contrast bathing nor compression acted to promote acute recovery from EIMD any more effectively than passive conditions, although contrast bathing may transiently attenuate postexercise soreness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Baths / methods*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Myoglobin / blood
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pliability
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Resistance Training*
  • Stockings, Compression*
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Myoglobin
  • Creatine Kinase