Cold Therapy For Strength
Some findings at Stanford University indicate that keeping cool might provide serious boosts to muscular endurance and strength. Please not that this is not from research but some ad hoc testing done in the lab. They found that one bodybuilder went from 160 pullups max to 620 pullups over a 6 week period using this “cool-therapy”, thats a lot more improvement than can be explained away by placebo effect.
In 2009, it was discovered that muscle pyruvate kinase, or MPK, an enzyme that muscles need in order to generate chemical energy, was highly temperature- sensitive. At normal body temperature, the enzyme is active – but as temperatures rise, some of the enzyme begins to deform into the inactive state. By the time muscle temperatures near 104 degrees Fahrenheit, MPK activity completely shuts down.
There’s a very good biological reason for this shutdown. As a muscle cell increases its activity, it heats up. But if this process continues for too long, the cell will self-destruct. By shutting itself down below a critical temperature threshold, MPK serves as an elegant self-regulation system for the muscle.
This is crying out for some real research but it seems to make sense as the above excerpt from the Stanford publication indicates. So, whats the take home message? Its probably a bit pre-mature to do ice cube baths between sets but its certainly worth doing the following (which I personally have always done anyway):
- Drink *lots* of water and make sure you are fully hydrated before you start working out
- Drink ice water during your workout
- If you have control of the thermostat, turn it way down
- Wear loose fitting shorts and a loose fitting tank top if you workout in a gym. If you workout at home, wear as little as you can without the neighbors starting rumors.
- If your gym is hot, like many are then find a fan or find a different gym
- Do *not* wear “fat suits”, sweat shirts, or sweat pants!
I’d like to reiterate not going overboard with this as I mention, there is no research on this – its just one experiment they did with one bodybuilder. The ice cube bath is a really bad idea. Getting that cold and then working out is a recipe for muscle pulls.
Thanks to Ben Lowman on facebook for bringing this to my attention.