Cold water immersion enhances recovery of submaximal muscle function after resistance exercise

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2014 Oct 15;307(8):R998-R1008. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00180.2014. Epub 2014 Aug 13.


We investigated the effect of cold water immersion (CWI) on the recovery of muscle function and physiological responses after high-intensity resistance exercise. Using a randomized, cross-over design, 10 physically active men performed high-intensity resistance exercise followed by one of two recovery interventions: 1) 10 min of CWI at 10°C or 2) 10 min of active recovery (low-intensity cycling). After the recovery interventions, maximal muscle function was assessed after 2 and 4 h by measuring jump height and isometric squat strength. Submaximal muscle function was assessed after 6 h by measuring the average load lifted during 6 sets of 10 squats at 80% of 1 repetition maximum. Intramuscular temperature (1 cm) was also recorded, and venous blood samples were analyzed for markers of metabolism, vasoconstriction, and muscle damage. CWI did not enhance recovery of maximal muscle function. However, during the final three sets of the submaximal muscle function test, participants lifted a greater load (P < 0.05, Cohen's effect size: 1.3, 38%) after CWI compared with active recovery. During CWI, muscle temperature decreased ∼7°C below postexercise values and remained below preexercise values for another 35 min. Venous blood O2 saturation decreased below preexercise values for 1.5 h after CWI. Serum endothelin-1 concentration did not change after CWI, whereas it decreased after active recovery. Plasma myoglobin concentration was lower, whereas plasma IL-6 concentration was higher after CWI compared with active recovery. These results suggest that CWI after resistance exercise allows athletes to complete more work during subsequent training sessions, which could enhance long-term training adaptations.

Keywords: blood gases; cryotherapy; muscle damage; performance; recovery; thermoregulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Endothelin-1 / blood
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immersion*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Lactates / blood
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Myoglobin / blood
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Resistance Training*
  • Time Factors
  • Water*
  • Young Adult


  • Endothelin-1
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lactates
  • Myoglobin
  • Water
  • Oxygen