Building mass and getting stronger are two different things. Below are some recommendations that may be helpful when your goal is to optimize strength. This article will explain the difference between building muscle vs. building strength, how ice baths may be helpful, and other suggestions on how to optimize both.
Increasing Strength vs. Building Muscle: Two Very Different Goals
Making your muscles bigger and effectively increasing their size, called hypertrophy, is a much different end goal than getting stronger by building strength.
Becoming stronger relates more to the function, mobility, and performance of a muscle.
It is important to determine your goals before beginning a resistance training program. Is your goal to get bigger muscles? Or does your goal involve an outcome of building strength, mobility, and functional ability, leading to increased athletic performance and recovery?
For many, achieving bigger muscles is the primary objective. That’s a solid goal, and the most effective way to achieve bigger muscles is by using variable resistance, training more frequently, and isolating muscle groups more than focusing on compound movements.
Variable resistance involves using bands or chains for strength training so that your muscle is not limited by the weakest part of the lift, as would happen using weights alone. Ice baths may limit hypertrophy but not overall strength. So, ice baths probably are not going to be helpful if hypertrophy is your only goal at the moment. Using an ice bath during your period of active training may not benefit you. However, during non-muscle growth periods, you may want to consider using ice baths in order to help maintain the growth you have achieved.
But making a muscle bigger does not always equate to increased strength and performance of that muscle. The majority of athletes, and others who work physically demanding jobs that require increased strength, should focus their exercise routine on specifically building that strength and mobility/flexibility rather than size.
Increasing strength will certainly also make you look more muscular, just like hypertrophy training, or getting bigger muscles. Focusing on building strength will have many other long-term benefits, such as increasing your metabolism, increased ability in the performance of activities, better utilization of sugar, stronger bones, and more.
How Ice Baths May Help You Build Strength
The majority of research regarding the beneficial effects of cold water immersion for athletes is on recovery. It has been shown that engaging in an ice bath for up to 15 minutes will help with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The decrease of pain aids in speeding up the recovery process and will help you return to your exercise, athletic, or weight training regime more quickly.
The Science on Ice Baths: Muscle Recovery and Performance
Ice baths can be especially beneficial if you are participating in two exercise sessions in one day. Cold water immersion treatment may increase the available oxygen in muscles, leading to less fatigue and more perceived muscle recovery, leading to faster and increased readiness to participate in the second bout of exercise.
The conclusions in the scientific literature on whether performance-enhancing benefits having to do with elements beyond speeding up the recovery process after exercise are mixed. As stated before, the vast majority of evidence has to do with the benefits to the recovery process. That being said, there is evidence that ice baths are useful for building strength and function of a muscle because of factors other than improving recovery time.
In analyzing blood levels, researchers found that different physiological responses related to muscle function occurred after using an ice bath following a workout. The measures tested were muscle temperature, venous blood oxygen saturation, and more. It was concluded that “These results suggest that CWI after resistance exercise allows athletes to complete more work during subsequent training sessions, which could enhance long-term training adaptations.”
Other Factors That Promote Increasing Strength
Combining non-strength training practices in your journey to increase your strength will promote the most optimal results. Focusing on one thing, such as only focusing on strength training and nothing else — will probably not lead to the results that you are looking for. It is the culmination of several other lifestyle factors that will help the most. Nutrition and sleep are two of the most important strategies that you should pay attention to.
You can’t out-train a bad diet. If you are consistently weight training and not seeing the results you want, poor nutrition may be the cause. Are you eating enough protein? Have you curbed your sugar intake? Is your intake of calories where it should be?
You need adequate sleep in order to recover properly. You need adequate sleep to heal properly. Your body needs time every day to shut down the brain to allow other functions to take priority. This includes muscle healing and recovery from workouts. There is evidence that ice baths may help with getting a good night’s sleep.
Ice Barrel: A Great Addition to Your Strength Building Routine
Overall, know that every individual’s body will respond in its own unique way to a stimulus. Adding ice baths to your strength training routine may just be the key you need to unlock the next level of your game. When pursuing a new goal or modality, you need to consider your individual needs and concerns: try Ice Barrel for yourself and determine if you like the results.
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