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Cold water bath vs. hot water bath after training

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Hold and Cold Water

Do post-exercise pains go away by an ice bath or a hot shower?


This depends on the kind of exercise performed and medical conditions of the individual.


Taking a cold shower after an intense workout is a common practice among many athletes. It helps them to recover faster, and reduce muscle pain and soreness. From elite runners to professional rugby players, a cold bath is a standard practice routine. In addition, many athletes follow the practice of water therapy, which is alternating between hot and cold water baths.


So, how does cold water work for your body?


The theory behind a cold shower after training is the fact that intense exercise causes micro trauma which really means, tears in the muscle fibers after an intense workout session. This muscle damage stimulates muscle cell activity and helps repair the damage and strengthen the muscles. It is also associated with delayed onset of muscle pain and soreness, which occurs to heavy lifters between 24 and 72 hours post- workout.


A good and long Water therapy is beneficial as it….


  • Helps in constricting blood vessels and flushing waste products, like lactic acid, out of the affected tissues
  • Decreases metabolism and slows down the physiological processes
  • Reduces swelling and further breakdown of muscle tissues


Then, with re-warming¦

  • The increased blood flow speeds circulation and improves the healing process.

Cold Water Bath = Vasoconstriction (limiting blood flow)


Cold water bath is believed to be much better for you within minutes after an intense workout session. Some people even go for the extreme and do ice water baths after their workout. This does have a few known benefits such as repairing swollen and inflamed muscles fibers and numbing of pain receptors. A heavy exercise routine stresses your muscles and connective tissue which causes micro tears and inflammation deep within. Cold water can help with reducing inflammation, also reducing the soreness, toxins, and stress. One needs to be careful about a few things when going for a cold water bath as it makes the tissues go stiff. It’s very easy to injure tissue once it is cold, so movement needs to be very careful and limited and slow. The best time to go for a cold water bath is right after the intense workout session, when the body has cooled off and is ready to be repaired.



Hot Water Bath = Vasodilation (increasing blood flow)


If you are going to take a cold water bath, you also need to make sure that you do take a warm or hot water bath later or apply any heat to the muscles that you worked upon during the workout. As it is advised to warm up before any kind of heavy lifting, it is also a wise choice to apply heat after your workout session. Most of us jump into the shower after a heavy training session to relieve muscle and joint aches. No one will argue against the fact that a good hot shower or a nice steamy bath feels great on tired muscles. The best practice is to do so within minutes after your workout and cool down. Several hours later, heat is generally applied. Cold shows are good but only for a few minutes. Heat, later that evening and next day. This post-workout shower also helps to wash away sweat and harmful bacteria off your skin. It promotes the much needed blood flow later to remove waste and toxins, initiates healing, and re-growth of muscles into stronger tissue. As a word of caution: Heat can cause inflammation, so painful swelling and arthritis may not be ideal cases for heat application.