There are many benefits of contrast showers, and regularly taking contrast showers can help athletes and non-athletes feel better each day.
Contrast showers are a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to speed up your recovery after working out and keep your body fresh. Not only are contrast showers effective for keeping your body physically fresh, but they can do wonders for your mental freshness as well!
As a professional basketball player, muscle recovery is essential for performing well and remaining healthy, so I have a lot of experience with various recovery methods.
I take contrast showers often because I know I will feel fresher and more lively every time I do. For me, this can make the difference between playing a good game or having a bad game, and it can also help me put in a bit of extra work to improve for the future. For you, taking a contrast shower could help reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), so you aren’t in pain all day, or it could make you feel a bit more energetic throughout your day.
Keep reading below to learn more about contrast shower benefits and why you should utilize contrast hydrotherapy!
What is a Contrast Shower?
A contrast shower is a form of hydrotherapy during which the flow of the shower water is cycled between hot water and cold water, usually three to five times over the course of 15 to 20 minutes.
The temperature of the hot and cold aspects of your contrast shower can change based on your personal preference, but a general rule is that the hot water should not burn your skin or cause excruciating pain, and the cold water should be as cold as your shower will allow.
If you want to take a contrast shower, you will simply stand under your shower for two to three minutes with the water on the warm setting, then switch to the cold setting and stand for another two to three minutes.
I believe the best option is to do three minutes of warm water and then two minutes of cold water for about 3-4 total “sets.”
You can do contrast showers as often as you would like, but I believe twice per week is a good goal.
It is simple enough to do contrast showers in my shower, and it only takes a little bit of mental toughness!
Benefits of Contrast Showers
Contrast shower benefits include:
- Reducing Muscle Soreness
- Improve Your Perceived “Freshness”
- Faster Muscle Recovery
Contrast shower therapy has positive impacts on your nervous, circulatory, and immune systems, leading to various health benefits.
Check out a few of the evidence-based benefits of contrast showers:
Contrast Showers Improve Perceived Freshness
One of the most prevalent and most important benefits of contrast showers is improving how fresh you feel. Whether you are worn down from work, exercising, your family, or any other aspect of life, contrast showers can reduce the weight of your days and help you feel fresher.
A study published in 2014 that analyzed elite netball players compared passive recovery methods with contrast showers. Although no direct physical changes occurred, players felt significantly more fresh and well recovered after contrast shower therapy (Juliff et al., 2014).
Cold water therapy alone has demonstrated positive effects for reducing feelings of burnout from work and reducing the number of absences from work, and contrast showers appear to have distinct benefits even compared with cold showers (Buijze et al., 2016). For these reasons, office workers may experience as many benefits as an athlete from taking a contrast shower!
If you are feeling worn down, regardless of the cause, taking a contrast shower may help a lot!
Contrast Showers Reduce DOMS
One of the main reasons athletes take contrast showers after a workout or day of training is that contrast showers effectively relieve delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) or general muscle aches.
The mechanism by which contrast showers reduce DOMS is not entirely clear, but it may be due to its ability to decrease lactic acid build-up. Although it does not directly affect athletic performance, contrast shower therapy has been shown to decrease blood lactate concentration (Hamlin, 2007).
Research has demonstrated that contrast showers reduce some markers of exercise-induced muscle damage, which can also account for the reduction of DOMS (Bieuzen et al., 2013).
If you feel especially sore the day after a workout, try a contrast shower to see if it reduces your soreness and helps you train at a high level again quickly!
Contrast Showers Can Improve Muscle Recovery
Although research has not concluded whether contrast showers are better than other forms of active recovery, it has demonstrated that contrast water therapy is associated with smaller reductions and faster restoration of strength and power after training compared to passive recovery (Vaile et al., 2007).
If you want to recover as fast as possible from your training sessions, you might want to give contrast showers a try!
Concluding Thoughts – Should You Take Contrast Showers?
Contrast showers are a simple, cheap, and effective way to help yourself feel better and recover fast from exercise. I use contrast showers often as a professional athlete, and they can be beneficial for many people ranging from elite athletes to office workers.
If you want to amplify the benefits of your contrast shower, you can try adding a few drops of essential oils to your shower. Just sprinkle a few drops of your favorite essential oil around the floor of your shower, and let the oils work for you.
Personally, I enjoy eucalyptus oil in my contrast showers the most. Essential oils have been used for years as a natural way to improve overall health.
Adding essential oils to your contrast shower is a quick tip for anyone who wants to make their recovery treatment slightly more beneficial without much effort.
Contrast showers can provide a fantastic addition to your recovery process for any athlete who feels that their recovery is lagging! The pillars of recovery from physical or mental stress or adequate sleep each night and proper nutrition, but taking contrast showers are a great addition to your routine as well!