T Nation

How Do You Do Contrast Showers?


I'm willing to try anything that can't hurt, so I've been giving contrast showers a shot. Can anyone explain how to use them and what they are supposed to do?

I've just been turning the shower to cold during the last 3 minutes of my shower. I'd say it does stimulate my CNS. The neighbors would probably agree too.


I first wash off and get clean as fast as I can.. then I start 30 seconds of cold water, 1 minute hot.. I usually do this 3-4 times and end on Cold water


They have a good effect on the blood circulation and cardiovascular system, as well as on the ability of the blood vessels (correct english?) to contract.
Why they should train the CNS is beyond me.


Contrast showers are great. Works very well as to flush out waste product, carry fresh blood to muscles, etc.. Aids in circulation.. What I do is start off with cold; you go as cold as you can take it for 30-45 seconds, then start a 3 minute hot water cycle as hot as you can take; repeat that 2-3 times, and end with cold water. I love contrast showers, I dont do them as much as I should, but they do help alot IMO.


I think you're right on with your assessment. I think there is a CNS effect because it puts your body in a sort of "shock" mode. Like someone slapping you in the face 3or 4 times.

But, make no mistake about it hot/cold therapy works!

Here's what I do:

20 min in 83 degree pool. Then 5 min in 103 degree hot tub, and then back again in 83 degree pool.

When the facilities are not available I simply try to duplicate that in the shower. However, I go a bit colder in the shower 70 degrees or so.


Contrast showers: 6 rotations of warm and cold. The warm part is not as important as the cold, for many people the warm will be a typical shower temperature or maybe a little bit warmer. But on the cold side, go as cold as you can take. Each rotation is 30 seconds long. Possible mechanism by which the nervous system is stimulated is afferent muscle thermoreceptors which stimulate the medullary cardiovascular centers in turn causing vessel constriction, (cold water). I am not sure if the motor cortex or motor neurons are also stimulated during this process...


I think they're great and you can tell you've done it right (atleast i can) because when you get out your skin will be flushed.

Its good for kinda building up mental strength aswell. When i first started out i was like: 'dude, if you can't take a bit of freezing water then forget about any other achievements you want to get. If i can't cut it for a few seconds what will i be like when the going gets tough in real life'

Wap the dial right down to zero and wait for the huge surge of freezing cold water and just keep telling yourself that in 20 seconds or so you can spin all the way back up to boiling hot. You will really appreciate it then! It also seems to release endorphines. Dunno if that is true? I'm thinking something to do with higher oxygen conc in blood or soemthing i've heard.....

Anyway it supposedly helps recovery via consecutive vaso-constriction and vaso-dilation causing a pumping effect.

Though i'm not sure if the arterioles in the muscles are effected or whether its just skin arterioles.


I find that my sweating is temporarily halted using contrast showers and ending up with really cold water on the nape of my neck and traps area. Very soothing and invigorating.

Then I start sweating after I've put my clothes back on as I am leaving the gym :stuck_out_tongue:

btw contrast showers are very effective on leg day; hitting the hamstrings, quads, & calves as well as lower back. Helps my recovery immensely and shortens the time recovering.

Can't recall if it was this site but I do recall that some Canadian Olympic Winter athletes do their training and then right after cooldown jump into a large ice bath to shock their system (think it was biathlon athletes but of course anyone training can do this, I guess)


OK, interesting, i have a question.
So where does the water hit? Solar plexes, rain over the head, or back?

Just curious.



My personal super-scientific take on timing:

1) Cold: initial shock

2) Hot: apply shampoo

2) Cold: rinse shampoo

3) Hot: apply soap

4) Cold: rinse soap

5) Hot

6) Cold

At each step, I try to hit the whole body with the water. Getting the nape of the neck, arm pits, and head seems to send the "strongest signal" to the rest of the body. I also spend a little extra time on whatever hurts that day.

Temperature: as cold/hot as you can take it. Sometimes (if it is very cold outside), I'll end on "medium" instead of super-cold.



It's funny because I once tried to explain contrast showers to a couple of my friends and they looked at me like I had a second nose.


Very interesting? Can someone post more info on this please or give me a link to a website on this


If you like contrast showers, try an epsom salt bath. Very relaxing, and helps with soreness.


Personally, I try to hit every muscle I've worked, but I tend to focus on the traps/neck. I find that I really get chilled or warmed throughout my body this way. If I hit something particularly hard in the gym, I might devote a cycle or two to just that muscle.

I don't know how effective my method or any method really is as far as recovery, but what I do definitely feels great!


Is this something you should do immediately after lifting, or can you do it hours after?



I usually do hot/cold a few hours after training.


Would you guys that have tried it say that contrast showers are less, as or more effective than an icewater bath?


contrast showers are awsome. i love them. i just put it as cold as it goes then back to warm for 3-4 cycles. and i wash ymself when its on warm. its the only time you can get out of the shower when its cold in the house and still feel warm lol


They are brutal but awesome. Grow to love the pain of them.

Its one of those as we train harder we have to rest and restore just as hard or harder things.

oh and CT touches on them and other recovery methods in this.

Have fun,


Loofah has similar effect on circulation and metabolism.

Basically you buy one of those loofahs (the "skeleton" of a gourd), and rub your body in circles starting at each foot. Go from the foot to your heart. Then go from each of the hands to the heart, so that the entire body is covered in four passes.

You'll end up real flush and tingly, especially in the chest. I've heard a loofahing as the equal of 20 minutes of cardio, as far as the circulation of lymph fluid.