Don’t freeze your gains | Biolayne
  1. Reps
  2. Issue 16
  3. Don’t freeze your gains

Don’t freeze your gains

Throwing cold water on muscle growth: A systematic review with meta-analysis of the effects of post-exercise cold water immersion on resistance training-induced hypertrophy
Pinero et al. (2023)
REPS: Volumes 2 - Issue 16

We’ve previously looked at how cold water immersion compares with other recovery methods and know that it’s not a magical recovery modality by any means, although it has its uses. We also know that it may not be the best recovery modality for muscle growth. But is this supported by the totality of current available scientific evidence?


What did they test? The authors reviewed the current literature to explore the effects of post-workout cold water immersion on muscle hypertrophy.
What did they find? The combination of resistance training and post-workout cold water immersion led to worse gains than resistance training alone.
What does it mean for you? Although cold water immersion won’t destroy your gains, you’re probably best using it sparingly and not immediately post-workout if muscle gain is among your goals.

What’s the Problem?

One of the first things one learns upon embarking on a muscle gain journey is that recovery is extremely important and that growth cannot occur without adaptation. The main pillars of recovery are rest, food, and load/stress management. They cannot be replaced by any supplement or alternative recovery method, despite what some people will try to get you to believe. However, when trying to maximize muscle recovery, one may experiment with additional recovery methods to further improve their recovery time and thus potentially experience greater gains. 

This review will focus on cold water immersion, a recovery method that involves one immersing their body under very cold water (10-15°C) for anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes after a training session. 

Cold water immersion remains a “hot”, pun intended, topic in the fitness world. For recovery purposes or as a self-improvement/discipline practice, cold water immersion is often presented as a potential “must-use” recovery modality if maximizing performance and muscle growth is of interest.  We’ve previously looked at cold water immersion and how it compares to other recovery methods while briefly mentioning that its potential negative effects on muscle hypertrophy may limit its use and effectiveness for people actively trying to grow muscle 1. Cold water immersion is supposed to help promote recovery post-exercise by reducing inflammation, which may negatively affect the building process, especially when done immediately after a workout. Previous systematic reviews have looked at the effect of cold water immersion on strength gains, finding that cold water immersion may negatively affect strength adaptations. Still, until now, no studies have looked at the totality of current scientific evidence on the effect of post-workout cold water immersion on hypertrophy. 

The previous article focused on whether cold water immersion is more effective than other recovery methods (e.g.: massage), but as mentioned, this time, we will be looking at the first systematic review & meta-analysis to explore the effect of post-exercise cold water immersion on muscle hypertrophy.

Purpose & Hypothesis

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About the author

About Dr. Pak
Dr. Pak

Pak is the Chief Editor of REPS, an online coach and a researcher. Pak did his PhD at Solent University in the UK on “the minimum effective training dose for strength”. As a Researcher, Pak is a Visiting Scholar in Dr. Schoenfeld's Applied Muscle Development Lab in New York City. Pak's research focuses on all...[Continue]

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