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

Document Type

Journal Article


American Physiological Society


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Exercise and Health Sciences




This article was originally published as: Roberts L.A., Nosaka K., Coombes J.S., Peake J.M. (2014). Cold water immersion enhances recovery of submaximal muscle function after resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 307(8), R998-R1008. Original article available here


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.