Ice baths have been a popular recovery method among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. It’s not only a trend on social media, they can actually offer a range of health and wellness benefits.

Whether you’re looking to recover from a high-intensity workout, improve your overall health, activate your nervous system before a workout, or boost your hypertrophy and strength gains, ice baths can be a valuable tool.

To get the most from your ice bath, you need to understand the rationale and protocols for different goals.

Recovery from High-Intensity Exercise

Ice baths can help to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after intense exercise. A good protocol for recovery involves immersing yourself in ice-cold water for 5 minutes.

The water should be around 50°F (10°C) or colder. Research shows this can be an effective way to improve recovery time and reduce muscle damage after high-intensity exercise.

your ice bath protocol should match your specific goals
To be effective, your ice bath use needs to match your goals

Long-Term Health & Wellness

Regular use of ice baths has also been linked to long-term health benefits. Cold water exposure can stimulate the body’s natural defense mechanisms. In turn, this strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of chronic diseases.

Therefore, to see the best results, it’s recommended to take ice baths for 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times a week, with water at 50°F (10°C) or colder.

Pre-Workout Activation

If you’re looking to get a boost of energy and activation before a workout, a short, very cold ice bath can help.

A good protocol for pre-workout activation involves immersing yourself in ice-cold water for only 2-3 minutes, with water at 50°F (10°C) or colder. This can help to stimulate the nervous system and increase your focus and energy levels before a workout.

Hypertrophy and Strength Gains

While ice baths can be beneficial for recovery, they may not be the best option for those looking to build muscle and strength. Research has shown that cold exposure can blunt the hormonal response to strength training, reducing the potential for hypertrophy and strength gains.

It’s recommended to limit the use of ice baths if your primary goal is to build muscle and strength. Skip it until your training goals change or consider jumping in beforehand as activation.

Understand the Rationale and Choose Wisely

In conclusion, ice baths can be a valuable tool for recovery, health and wellness, pre-workout activation, and hypertrophy and strength gains.

However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different, and what works best for one person may not work for another. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional before starting a new health and wellness regimen.

Check Out Vive’s Guide To Effective Ice Bath Protocols


Chen, T., Lin, Y., & Lee, C. (2016). The effects of whole-body cryotherapy on recovery from high-intensity exercise: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(3), 813-820.

Sionko, M., & Waskiewicz, Z. (2018). Health Benefits of Whole-Body Cryotherapy: A Review. Frontiers in Public Health, 6, 255.

[Pritchard, H. J., Gass, G. C., & Hopkins, W. G. (2015). Cold-water immersion and recovery from high-intensity exercise: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(17), 1161-1167.

Moore E, Fuller JT, Buckley JD, Saunders S, Halson SL, Broatch JR, Bellenger CR. Impact of Cold-Water Immersion Compared with Passive Recovery Following a Single Bout of Strenuous Exercise on Athletic Performance in Physically Active Participants: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis and Meta-regression. Sports Med. 2022 Jul;52(7):1667-1688