Physiological Strategies to enhance recovery


Hydrotherapy is using water to assist recovery. It is thought to assist recovery as water provides buoyancy and reduces stress of the muscles and joints. This allows for the movement of fluid out of the joint reducing inflammation. Water also has a greater weight than air this provides a massaging effect to the muscles helping with the movement of blood and removal of metabolic by-products out of the muscles.

Salt water can also be used and is thought to perhaps be beneficial to plain water as the salt has increased buoyancy meaning the muscles and joints are under even less stress allowing for greater drainage of fluid surrounding the joint.

There are three different types of hydrotherapy that can be used.

Hot water immersion therapy

Is the use of hot or warm water (around 37 degrees) in recovery. The heat of the water increases blood flow due to dilation of blood vessels. This is useful for helping to remove  by-products produced from exercise and preventing venus pooling. However should not be used when there are soft-tissue injuries that could be caused by bumps as the heat will increase swelling and inflammation of the area.

Cold water immersion therapy

Involves the use of cold water( 12-15 degrees) in recovery. It works the opposite to heat water therapy as it causes contraction of the blood vessels this is especially important if there are soft-tissue injuries as this will reduce swelling and inflammation allowing the injury to heal better. It can also reduce general muscle swelling and stiffness caused by high intensity exercise.

Contrast water therapy

Involves the alternation of hot and cold water. The contrast between the hot and cold water creates a pumping action within the blood vessels this is perhaps the most effective hydrotherapy technique to remove metabolic by-products produced during exercise. It usually involves 1-2 minutes immersed in hot water followed by 1-2 minutes immersed in cold water and repeated.


The use of ice packs or baths works much the same as cold water immersion therapy it works by constricting the blood vessels which helps in reducing swelling and damage caused to muscles and joints.

Compression Garments

Compression garments are tight light weight materials that insulate the skin and provide content pressure to the muscles and skin that has many perceived benefits. Examples may include brands such as skins and 2XU.

Are thought to work by

  • Increasing blood flow to working muscles as the constant pressure ensure that blood is continually pumped from the veins back to the heart so it can again be pumped to the working muscles.
  • Decreased blood lactate levels
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Reduces muscle vibration
  • Reduces delayed onset muscle swelling(DOMS)


Massage is thought to help recovery as it increase blood flow and promotes the removal of harmful metabolic by-products.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Hyperbaric chambers are specialised chambers that contain 100% oxygen levels within the air compared to the normal 21% in normal air. It is thought that the extra oxygen in the atmosphere will promote oxygen getting into and used by the body this is thought to help recovery as it means metabolic by-products are more easily broken down with the excess oxygen and tissues are recovered faster. Hyperbaric chambers are often used with athletes that have soft tissue injuries.

Altitude Training

Is training that occurs at 1500-2400m above sea level. At this high above sea level there is a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. By training in this type of environment the body will have to adapt to a greater extent to provide the muscles with the required oxygen, when the individual returns to normal oxygen levels within the atmosphere they will have a greater capacity to get in, transport and utilise oxygen.

Altitude training leads to an increase in the number of red blood cells, therefore the blood has a greater oxygen carrying capacity. The effects are thought to last for up to 2 to 4 weeks.

However there are some disadvantages of this type of training

  • There is a decrease in VO2 max at altitude meaning there is a decrease in the intensity of truing.
  • Altitude sickness
  • The benefits only last for a limited time.


Sleep is extremely important for the repair of damaged muscle tissues and for the brain. It is recommended that people get 7-9 hours sleep a night. It is thought to lead to an increase in reaction times, concentration, coordination and athletic performance is adequate sleep is achieved.