Ice-cold showers - it seems like they’ve been all the rage since Wim Hof burst onto the scene a few years ago. You may have tried them yourself and found them immediately unbearable. You may be an aging former football player who fondly recalls the golden days of freezing ice baths after practice.
But do they really work? Are they really the key to enhancing recovery (and sleep)? Why are people so enamored with this ancient recovery technique? Is it just an issue of everything old becoming new again?
Here in the Den of Hibernation, we love cold showers. I’ve taken one every morning for years, and I consider it more important than my morning cup of coffee. (I’m also the only person in my family who hasn’t gotten a cold in the last decade, but that’s probably another story entirely.)
But don’t listen to me. Instead, let’s hear what the experts have to say. Here are quotes from 8 world-renowned experts in strength and conditioning who love their ice cold showers in a big way.
I've always been intolerant to cold temperatures, and my feet were usually cooler than they should've been. Since I started ending my showers with cold water therapy, I've experienced three benefits:
- Better tolerance to cold temperatures
- Improved circulation (indicated by warmer feet throughout the day)
- Deeper sleep and faster recovery from workouts
Give cold water therapy a try. It'll probably increase your health and recovery, and it's much cheaper than those expensive cryo chambers.
Dr. Chad Waterbury is a physical therapist and neurophysiologist. He specializes in helping athletes and non-athletes develop the ideal combination of muscle, power, and mobility.
Myth or not, I don’t know, but the combination of hot tubs and icy showers is the best combination I have ever read about or practiced for recovery. The Bulgarians explained the benefits of both in the Seventies and I find the combination wonderful for joint recovery as well as a chance to simply “chill.” Cold showers have even been touted as a fat loss tool, so maybe you get an extra boost for doing them. I am convinced of this combinations ability to help recovery.
Dan John is an elite-level strength and weightlifting coach. He is also an All-American discus thrower, holds the American record in the Weight Pentathlon, and has competed at the highest levels of Olympic lifting and Highland Games.
I have a picture of myself dousing in a speedo knee deep in snow. In the 5 years that I have been dousing, I have not gotten ill. My kids and wife, who do not share my passion for cold water treatments, have all gotten sick during the winter. The body adapts to the stress of the sudden cold dousing. Interestingly, after the initial shock, the sensation is one of intense heat, not cold. The body builds a tolerance to the cold weather. You will find that you won't need to wear as heavy as clothing during the winter. I highly recommend this treatment. Cold showers are not the same and do affect the body in the same way as a sudden 'whole water' dousing. If you wish to try it, here is how. Go outside with a heavy robe and fill a five gallon bucket. Quickly disrobe and grab the bucket.
Start by slowly pouring the water over abdomen, chest, head and down the back. This must be done slowly to induce the gasp reflex. Now massage yourself with your hands and shake the water from your body as you hand dry as much water as possible. Finish by giving yourself a vigorous rub down with a coarse towel.
Go back inside and warm up. You will feel like a million bucks.
Steve Maxwell is an American fitness coach, physical educator, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor. Maxwell was named one of the top 100 trainers in the United States by Men's Journal.
Cold showers or ice baths: These things suck but can sometimes alleviate soreness.
Ice bags: Icing your shoulders, elbows, and knees (and other problem areas) is a great way to get rid of joint soreness. Also a good excuse to sit your ass down in front of the TV and not move.
Jim Wendler is the creator of the 5/3/1 Training Program. This program has been used by millions of athletes of all ages and abilities. Jim played football for the University of Arizona, went on to squat 1,000 pounds in competition and is an Elite Lifter with a 2,375 pound total. He has coached high school athletes, collegiate athletes, trained general populations and spoken globally on the topics of strength training, conditioning, fat-loss, performance and program design.
In advising cold baths I speak, of course, for persons in the enjoyment of ordinary health. The bath should be begun in the summer and continued every morning throughout the year. In the winter, if the room is cold, light the gas and close the door. If your hair is not injuriously affected by cold water--and in many cases, I believe, cold water will be found to strengthen it--begin, as you stand over the bath, by splashing the water five-and-twenty times over your head. Next, whilst still standing over the ath, splash the water fifteen times against the chest and ten times against the heart. Then jump into the bath, going right down under the water. In the summer you may remain in the water from ten to fifteen seconds, but in the winter let it be just a jump in and out again.
Eugen Sandow was a German bodybuilder and showman from the "Golden Era" of Physical Culture. His herculean physique is still celebrated as the Mr. Olympia statue.
I'm a week in and I'm not sore anywhere. And before I came here to Iceland, since I've started training ten years ago, I've been sore after every workout no matter how easy or intense it is. But, I'm here a week in, going heavy, you know killing myself with these new movements and I'm not sore anywhere, even two weeks later, then realizing I've been doing the hot and cold after every single workout with Thor and his friends, and it's just been completely eliminating any soreness.
Larry "Wheels" Williams is an American bodybuilder, world-record holding powerlifter, and social media personality. Having totaled 2,285lb in competition, he is currently considered the strongest bodybuilder in the world.
I have never done a formal ice bath. I know many pro athletes swear by them. The science makes sense: after an intense, ball-busting workout or training session, the body is inflamed (true that) – and what could be better to counter inflammation than dousing the entire body in ice-cold water? Bye, Bye inflammation! I like the science, but my refrigerator doesn’t hold enough ice cube trays and buying 30-pounds of ice after every training session sound like a complete pain-in-the-ass. But wait! The techno-geeks have invented a hi-tech ice bath that provides all the results of an ice bath but without the ice. The athlete walks into a booth and somehow the inside the booth is made as cold as an ice bath. By Bye inflammation! The problem is this booth costs $100,000. The Russians would replicate all this hi-tech stuff by scalding themselves in the sauna, whipping each other with birch branches, then leaping through a hole in ice. Bye Bye inflammation!
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time.
Nearly every article I’ve read on improving sleep mentions hot baths or showers. But that does nothing.
To sleep deeply you want your core temperature to be as low as possible. So a cold dip works a thousand times better.
Think about how you feel after swimming in a frigid lake or ocean. You’re napping an hour or two later.
Jason Ferruggia is a highly sought after, world renowned strength & conditioning specialist and muscle building expert. Over the last 17 years he has personally trained more than 700 athletes from over 90 different NCAA, NFL, NHL and MLB organizations. He has also worked extensively with firefighters, police officers, military personnel, Hollywood stars and entertainers. Most importantly, Jason has helped over 53,000 skinny guys and hard gainers in 126 different countries build muscle and gain weight faster than they every thought possible.
Like it or not, scientifically verifiable or not, strong men have been taking advantage of “ice therapy” for well over a hundred years. (Or far, far longer if you consider those Icelandic monsters). Either way, when the top strength coaches and athletes in the world all agree that something as simple as a cold shower can greatly benefit your sleep and workout recovery, we listen. It’s not rocket science, but it may be just the ticket you need to staying fresh, staying sharp, and waking up ready to conquer your training.