Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University College Dublin (2009) Proc Physiol Soc 15, PC110

Poster Communications

The effects of alternating hot and cold water immersion on recovery of muscle function after resistance training in humans.

L. A. Algar1, K. M. Doyle1, L. P. Conan1, L. M. O'Sullivan1, A. E. Donnelly1

1. Physical Education and Sports Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.


  • Figure 1. Normalised isometric MVC force. Pre values (0) were 820.6±217.4 Newtons for CWI, and 751.1±217.4 Newtons for Control. * = P<0.05 (ANOVA with 95% confidence intervals).

Eccentric muscle contractions may result in temporary repairable damage to human muscle. This is associated with muscle soreness and a prolonged decline in muscle force production. Contrast Water Immersion (CWI) has been reported to accelerate recovery of muscle function after intense exercise (Vaile et al., 2007). CWI involves repeated alternate immersion in hot and cold water. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of CWI treatment on muscle force recovery after resistance training. Thirty-five active human volunteers (mean±S.D.; height 173.9±7.4 centimetres, body mass 72±9.6 kilograms, age 22±2.6 years) participated in this study. The volunteers were randomly assigned to either a CWI group (n=18) or tepid water immersion control group (n=17). Each volunteer performed a familiarisation session, a pre-test session to record baseline measures, a 45 minute resistance training protocol, and four post-testing sessions at 24, 48, 72 and 96 hours after exercise. Measures were: knee extensor isometric Maximum Voluntary Contraction (MVC) force and electrically stimulated force at 20 and 50 Hertz measured at an internal knee angle of 120 degrees, concentric and eccentric torque measured during knee extension at 0.87 and 1.74rad.s-1, and muscle soreness measured by questionnaire. The CWI group completed 4 cycles of a 1 minute immersion at 9±1°C alternated with 4 minutes of immersion at 39±1°C. The control group completed 20 minutes immersed in water at a temperature of 29±1°C. Subjects were seated in the tanks, immersed to the level of the anterior superior iliac spine. Treatments were administered immediately after resistance training and 24, 48 and 72 hours later, after post tests were completed. A repeated measures ANOVA was used to compare results of the two treatment groups over five time points and 95% confidence intervals were used to compare individual points. All measures changed over time (P<0.05) except for torque at 0.87rad.sec-1. Soreness (arbitrary scale) increased to a maximum at 24 hours of 34.8±13.4 (CWI) and at 48 hours 37.7±14.9 (Control), and 20:50 Hertz ratio declined to a minimum of 0.65±0.09 (CWI) and 0.65±0.08 (Control) at 24 hours. There was a significant effect for differences between treatment groups only for the isometric MVC measure (P<0.05, see Figure 1). Muscle soreness and reduction in muscle force suggest that the resistance training protocol induced delayed onset muscle soreness and damage. Contrast water therapy had a significant effect on the recovery of isometric force, but not on other markers.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements