Cryotherapy for recovery

Cryotherapy, or rather Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is an alternative to cold water immersion or ice packs, has become really popular recently as a recovery method to help athletes to deal with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) post training. The more common form of Cryotherapy uses Partial Body Cryotherapy (PBC) devices or ‘cryosaunas’ are cylindrical chambers, typically having an aperture at the top, with the patient’s head remaining outside and not subjected to the cold stimulus.

The basic idea is that exposure to extreme cold causes a variety of reactions in the body, chief of which is the reduction of blood flow and therefore inflammation. Whilst less extreme, putting an ice pack on an injured area or taking an ice bath post workout has a similar though less extreme effect, having said that, there’s nothing (that i could find) that suggests Cryotherapy is more effective than an ice bath for recovery.

Having said that, anecdotally, exposure to cold and reducing inflammation both have benefits, post-training for most athletes, naturally it needs to be safe, but otherwise, generally the benefit to reducing DOMS is worth the hassle, Cryotherapy is actually quite quick given how low the temperature drops so it can typically last only a few seconds, ice baths and ice packs take longer.

Planes of Movement

planes of motion in crossfit

There are three planes of movement – transverse, frontal and sagittal, and all movements in Crossfit (and in generally really) fall into one of these three planes of movement. Bio-mechanically, we’re built so that the predominant amount of movements are performed in the sagittal plane, with some degree of movements in the frontal plane; from a fitness and exercise perspective there are very limited movements that occur in the transverse plane.

All of this doesn’t really matter to the average beginner Crossfitter, but as the athlete progresses from beginner to intermediate and onto advanced, these planes of motion become increasingly important, in two specific ways. Firstly, neglecting the transverse and frontal planes by only focusing on the sagittal plane invariably leads to weaknesses in muscle development and endurance, which naturally leads to muscular imbalances which in turn can lead to injuries. Secondly, the body was designed to work across all three Planes of Movement neglecting one simply means you’re creating a weak link in the change which can inhibit training progress.

The good news is that because Crossfit focusess so much on Constantly varied, functional fitness, at high intensity, that is universally scalable over broad time and modal domains, this generally means that all three Planes of Movement are generally being trained across  broad time and modal domains, even then however, I’d still argue the transverse plane in particular is notably neglected more than the others, however this can be supplemented with plenty of unilateral kettlebell, clubbell and macebell work.

3min daily mobility sequence

(Credit to bar bend as i read it here)

This mobility sequence was designed as a daily sequence just to get your body primed for the day, consisting of 4 movements that passively stretch. these four movement shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone who’s doing lots of stretching and mobility work, and you’ll notice they focus on the lumbar/hip region and the upper back – probably the two areas that need the most work and attention in our 9 to 5 seated lives, these two areas are also particularly important for Crossfitters given the amount of focus Crossfit gives to the posterior chain and hip extension.

  1. lying leg rotation lumbar stretch

lumbar stretch

being by lying face-up on the bed/floor, then lifting one leg 90 degrees to the floor and rotating it across your body to the opposite floor, you can also do this with your knee bent. you should feel the stretch in your back. Make sure to keep your upper back in contact with the floor/bed.

  1. Cobra post stretch

cobra pose

lying face towards the floor/bed, get into a push up position and push up whilst keeping your hips in contact with the floor/bed, you should feel the stretch along your front from the lower ribs to your abs.

  1. standing thomas stretch

standing thomas stetch

This is a standing and stretching variation of the thomas test. As a test this is designed to look at the range of motion in the hip socket, as a stretch its designed to help improve the range of motion in the hip socket, the standing variation allows for some body weight pressure to be applied which helps make the stretch more effective. being by raising one foot onto a surface ideally higher than knee height, without rotating the torso through the movment, begin to lean into the raised knee, you should feel stretching and change around the ankle, knee and hip of the raised leg.

  1. overhead tspine stretch

over head tspine stretch

This stretch focuses on the tspine, upper back, simply place your hands high on a wall or on the back of a chair, bend forwards keeping your back straight and arms straight, you should feel it stretch your pecs and shoulder region.

Flexibility, mobility and stability

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine today who has a really interesting sports background, unlike most people his background is is Indian Clubbells and unconventional training methods. He was recalling to me about how he’d only just recently started to do barbell back squats and was really surprised by how much he was able to lift even though  its not part of his typical training. The conversation then progressed to the topic of flexibility, mobility and stability; and which is most important.

here’s my take, which probably isn’t unique or mind blowing, but its certainly how i view it.

Flexibility looks at the range of motion of a joint, so being very flexibly means that the joint has the capacity for a full or greater range of motion. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in control through out that range of motion, think of a calf stretch, you can get further range of motion by leaning your body into the wall so that the wall helps you stretch.. increasing your range of motion.

Mobility adds another layer to flexibility, by apply motor control over the range of motion, in this sense, your mobility will always be less than your flexibility, but the closer the two are, the more control you have over the range of motion. which has tons of benefits in injury prevention. as an example, if you were able to hold your foot up in the same position as a calf stretch without the assistance of the wall, thats the muscles working over the range of motion, in other words, mobility working over flexibility.

Stability looks at the ability to maintain a stable position in space limited by the body’s ability to cope with external factors such as weight, time, gravity etc. greater stability therefore means the ability to hold a chosen position without compromising on form, or compensating. So your range of stability, or more accurately, your ability to be stable in a given position, is limited by your range of mobility. So Stability can be seen as muscular endurance over mobility (i.e. muscular control) or Flexibility (i.e. range of motion)

In terms of Crossfit and other sports, really this means that we should be trying to extend our flexibility (stretching) and supporting that with mobility (assistance work and low weight work) before finally developing progressive levels of stability (either via weight load or time under tension)