JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Sprint cycling performance is maintained with short-term contrast water immersion

David Crampton, Bernard Donne, Mikel Egaña, Mikel Egana, Stuart A Warmington
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2011, 43 (11): 2180-8
21502898

PURPOSE: Given the widespread use of water immersion during recovery from exercise, we aimed to investigate the effect of contrast water immersion on recovery of sprint cycling performance, HR and, blood lactate.

METHODS: Two groups completed high-intensity sprint exercise before and after a 30-min randomized recovery. The Wingate group (n = 8) performed 3 × 30-s Wingate tests (4-min rest periods). The repeated intermittent sprint group (n = 8) cycled for alternating 30-s periods at 40% of predetermined maximum power and 120% maximum power, until exhaustion. Both groups completed three trials using a different recovery treatment for each trial (balanced randomized application). Recovery treatments were passive rest, 1:1 contrast water immersion (2.5 min of cold (8°C) to 2.5 min of hot (40°C)), and 1:4 contrast water immersion (1 min of cold to 4 min of hot). Blood lactate and HR were recorded throughout, and peak power and total work for pre- and postrecovery Wingate performance and exercise time and total work for repeated sprinting were recorded.

RESULTS: Recovery of Wingate peak power was 8% greater after 1:4 contrast water immersion than after passive rest, whereas both contrast water immersion ratios provided a greater recovery of exercise time (∼ 10%) and total work (∼ 14%) for repeated sprinting than for passive rest. Blood lactate was similar between trials. Compared with passive rest, HR initially declined more slowly during contrast water immersion but increased with each transition to a cold immersion phase.

CONCLUSIONS: These data support contrast water immersion being effective in maintaining performance during a short-term recovery from sprint exercise. This effect needs further investigation but is likely explained by cardiovascular mechanisms, shown here by an elevation in HR upon each cold immersion.

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