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Don't Use Cold Exposure for Strongevity
Use Heat Instead
The Highlander helps strength athletes and enthusiasts live stronger for longer. Join fellow Highlanders on our journey:
The Downside of the Ice Trend
People love jumping in a tub of ice. They say it strengthens the mind. It wakes up the body. It’s the toughest thing they do all day.
Well, it might also be killing their gains.
I actually love a cold tub, so it’s disappointing to write this, but there’s strong evidence that cold exposure may blunt some of your adaptations for strength and hypertrophy. Cold should especially be avoided immediately after strength training.
Dr. Mike Israetel from Renaissance Periodization explains that soreness and inflammation from training is part of the adaptive process. We misperceive inflammation as something to be reduced rather than embraced for strength and muscle growth.
That’s a mistake.
Inflammation is an important factor in rebuilding bigger and stronger post strength exercise. Even use of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen may inhibit muscle adaption.
Israetel suggests that you only use things like ice baths and ibuprofen to recover faster from exercise-related stress in cases where you need to compete again very quickly like in a soccer tournament. In those cases, you don’t care about adding muscle strength or size. That’s not the purpose of the sport.
So, use ice for recovering from sports related inflammation but not from the training for sport performance.
How to Use a Bit of Cold
If you really love cold exposure for the mental strengthening, there are a couple of ways you can do it without killing your gains:
Dunk your face in ice water. You likely won’t reduce systemic inflammation via local cold exposure, and putting your face in cold is about the worst part of the exposure.
Turn the shower to cold for just 10 seconds. Don’t go crazy with contrast and time. Just use a very short time and earn the mental points with minimal good inflammation reduction.
Use Sauna Instead
Sauna is superior to cold exposure as a tool for strongevity. In contrast (yes, that was intentional) to cold exposure, heat may actually benefit muscular hypertrophy and bone density.
Use sauna for 15-20 minutes 3x per week. I do it as its own workout or after cardio.
Get hot a lot. Get cold just a little. Stay stronger for longer.
The Highlander helps strength athletes and enthusiasts live stronger for longer by combining strength + longevity.