Young man taking a cold shower as part of recovery technique called contra therapy

Dipping in a cold water after workout ? Really?

Vit Muller Physical Fitness, Rehab and Recovery Leave a Comment

Have you ever wondered how you could improve your recovery rate post workout? Wouldn’t it be great if you could reduce the duration of your muscle soreness every time you do a more intense workout at the gym?

You may have seen or heard about professional athletes using doing this thing where they dip in the bath tub after a workout, but have you ever thought of trying it yourself? After a tough workout, it’s pretty comfy to just dive in the sofa, drink your favourite protein shake and watch Netflix, right? But how often do you come to your next training session still feeling sore?

…Like that time you trained your back muscles at the start of the week and later one that week had pull ups in your program but your lats were damn sore you struggled do finish the workout.. remember that one?

It’s not fun when you aren’t fully recovered and it does affect your performance too. I mean in the grand scheme of things this is just another piece of the puzzle you should consider if you really desire to achieve your fitness goals in the timeframe you expect.

Let’s learn about how you can go about implementing this pretty easy and cost effective recovery method.

About Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is the use of pressure caused by water to relieve pain, treat injuries, and improve recovery following exercise. There are 3 different types of water recovery methods but understanding which one to use can make the biggest difference how fast and well you recover.

Let’s get a little smarter about how water therapy works overall and then dig in deeper into each type.

The main reason hydrotherapy works are due to 2 key factors, pressure and temperature and how both together affect the physiology of the body.

When you submerge into water it exerts pressure on your body which helps circulation. Your cardiac output will have improved delivery of important nutrients in your bloodstream throughout your body while your lymphatic system (system responsible for getting rid the body of toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials) will work more effectively too, all thanks to this pressure.

These explained benefits of water pressure are further accelerated by the use of different water temperatures.

Hot vs cold water benefits

You get different benefits between the cold and hot temperatures.
Cold water will cause the flow of your circulation to be directed more towards the internal organs whilst more warm water will do the opposite.

Alternating between hot and cold temperatures will make your circulation to alter the priorities where the flow is directed which will ultimately improve the effect of unblocking some stuck circulation, move nutrients around the body more readily and improve the rate of getting rid of waste products generated from all the different stresses caused on your body.

There are times when you might want to do just one or the other type (just cold, just hot or contrast) depending on your needs. Sometimes you don’t really need to submerge into the water at all and a quick cold shower will do it.

It all depends on you recovery needs here.

We generally recommend to do following protocol after those tough sessions:

Do 3 to 6 alternations between heating and cooling as follows:

  • about 2 minutes of heating: comfortably hot
  • about 1 minute of cooling: cool, not cold (unless you’re tough)
  • about 2 minutes of heating: go little hotter!
  • about 1 minute of cooling: go little colder!
  • about 2 minutes of heating: hot as you can handle
  • about 1 minute of cooling: cold as you can handle

That’s total of 9 minutes and you are done and dusted!

More contrast cycles are optional but probably not going to do much more difference, do any less than 3 contrast cycles and you might be wasting time here.
Do this after each time you did more intense exercise (you lifted some weights to point of muscle fatigue – we refer to these as progression sessions). Other that that just stick to quick cold shower or just do 2 quick contrast cycles if you’d like.


You must also be aware that if you are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease (you are overweight, too much excess body fat around your waist, high blood pressure, low immune system etc.) you should be more cautious on the temperature contrasts on any the methods as they can put you at higher risk of cardiac arrest! We recommend to take it easier and start with less cold and less hot temperature contrasts and build from there.

Here is some science stuff to wrap it up!

The benefits of hydrotherapy for post-exercise recovery have been proven by various studies such as the one in 2006 study done in Japan where they put 10 long distance runners through 3 sets of 5 mins sets of downhill running followed by 30 mins light water exercise while control group of other 10 did only the downhill runs but no water. The outcome? The ones who did the hydrotherapy have reported decreased muscle soreness, improved their performance and felt much less stiff than the control group.


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About the Author

Vit Muller

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Vit is a fitness professional with over 7 years of experience in the industry. His passion is helping people to achieve long lasting active, healthy and happy lifestyle. Vit is experienced in a successful setup of new fitness initiatives, implementation of standard operating procedures and effective systems. He is creative, results driven and passionate entrepreneur.

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