Contrast Bath for Recovery

Contrast Bath for Recovery

Most of us don’t think about recovery.

If we do, we think stretching is the only thing needed for recovery. I find trying to help, but there are other things you can do to help you and your clients recover from a workout or activity.

Here are the 47 exercises that I used in my Recovery Workouts.

A few days back, I got a question from Mike Whitfield on my opinion on contrast baths for recovery.

Here, we go with a bit of research to back things up.


Contrast Bath as a Recovery Strategy

When it comes to contrast baths, there are a lot of different definitions. Let’s define contrast baths as a period in hot water followed by a period in cold water for several repetitions. Whether contrast baths are beneficial or not depends on the situation.

It has little or no benefit if we look at the effect on performance after a contact bath.

Let’s look at some of the research highlights:

  1. The physiological effects may not be significant regarding the contrast bath, but there are perceived benefits. People that do contrast baths feel it is helping them. (Coffey 2004).
  2. There is an improvement in a decrease in lactate accumulation after running when performing a contrast bath. Still, lactate levels return to normal after 4 hours from the end of the exercise (Coffey 2004).
  3. There is improved blood flow if you spend a long time in the warm bath compared to the cold bath (Shih 2012).
  4. There is an increase in superficial blood flow and skin temperature (Breger Stanton 2008).
  5. Contrast baths help decrease blood lactate and heart rate but do not affect sprint performance (Hamlin 2007).

Summing It All Up: The Benefits of Contrast Baths for Recovery

Now that we have those points above, what does it mean? There is little to no benefit if you are performing contrast baths to help with short-term performance.

There are benefits if you look at contrast baths to help you recover from a workout and not plan to perform any activity until the next day or two. The contrast bath has a mental effect that you are doing something good for your body, plus it gives your brain a chance to gear down from the exercises.

The contrast bath helps decrease your heart rate and lactate blood levels quicker than when not performing a contrast bath. Lastly, the contrast bath helps improve blood flow to the muscles and skin.

I hope that all makes sense and happy contrast bathing!

If you are looking for a few workouts that I use to help recovery from workouts and activities, you can check out Recovery Workouts:

Rick Kaselj, MS

Recovery Workouts