At best, the efficacy of ice baths is up for debate. A 2019 study published in The Journal of Physiology claimed that cold water immersion actually impairs muscle repair and growth rather than aiding it. Still, knowing that at least two out of three of the Hemsworth brothers favour the recovery method, I gave them a go after a couple of pretty gruelling leg sessions.
Full disclosure: this wasn’t my first time doing an ice bath. My position as a free-loading journalist has afforded me many opportunities, one of which was to experience cold water immersion under the guidance of ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof, who, among other icy escapades, once spent almost two hours in an ice bath.
It won’t surprise you to learn that doing an ice bath guided by Wim Hof on a sunny day in Lisbon is a very different experience to doing them in my one-bedroom Brixton flat during the coronavirus lockdown. For starters, getting enough ice is an issue. Inevitably, you’ll end up coming back from the supermarket laden with bags of party ice, but no matter how many bags you can carry, you’ll never have enough.
Having sourced my ice-bath ingredients, and put myself through a ten-minute preparatory breathing session, I was ready to submerge myself in the ice. But just as I found with my ice-bath experience in Lisbon, the recovery technique looks more impressive than it feels. Once, the initial shock has subsided it’s really not an unpleasant experience, but it’s also not something that, I find, either gives me more energy or drastically improves my recovery. All in all, an ice bath from prep, to breathing to actually sitting in it, takes about 30 minutes, and I know there are better ways to use that time than sitting in an ice bath. I’m not saying I’d never subject myself to cold-water therapy again, but next time a cold shower will suffice.
Sign up to the Men’s Health newsletter and kickstart your home body plan. Make positive steps to become healthier and mentally strong with all the best fitness, muscle-building and nutrition advice delivered to your inbox.
For effective home workouts, uplifting stories, easy recipes and advice you can trust, subscribe to Men’s Health UK.