Ice baths are getting more and more popular in the last few years. Many UFC fighters spend a lot of time in very cold water, regenerating their muscles after hard workouts. There are many videos of Jasmine Jasudavicius, Gilbert Burns, Andre Ewell, and many other high-level MMA names surrounded by the ice after hard workouts, especially on Sundays (day off in many dojos).
But how important is an ice bath for Muay Thai? Can a Thai boxing warrior recover his body quicker and decrease the tension in his muscles by spending some time in extremely cold water? Can packages of ice help a fighter boost his performance or it’s just a myth?
How long should I stay? What if my body cannot tolerate extreme cold? I’m a beginner, what’s next for me? I understand that you have tons of questions, but please, be patient! I’m going to get to know you with every single secret of an ice bath for Muay Thai.
Please keep reading and let’s deep dive into the connection between ice and elite Muay Thai heights. Oh, my guide can help newbies and intermediates too!
Table of Contents
Why Do Fighters Get In Ice Baths?
There are many reasons for undergoing ice baths for Muay Thai, but I will try to explain the most important ones. Many people believe it’s just a way to recover your body after putting it on fire, but don’t judge the book by its cover. Listen to me, there is a massive connection between ice therapies and high-level performance!
CNS (Central Nervous System)
It is one of the best ways to stimulate your CNS. When you hop into cold water, your CNS gets alerted and reacts defensively. You will learn to tolerate surrounding changes and new stimuli as time goes by. What does that mean?
The cold shower offers a similar effect to a caffeine boost in the morning. For example, try to take a cold shower in the morning and you might skip your cup of coffee because you will alert the receptors on the top of your skin. The stimuli will travel faster from your peripheral (hand, arm, leg, foot) to your central nervous system (brain or spine). When the brain resends the stimuli to the effector (arm or leg), your body reacts and performs the move swifter.
The point is – the stimuli will travel way faster, which leads to a better level of alertness, reaction time, and the ability to do more training sessions on the same day. You’d be able to perform two high-intense workouts with an ice bath in between with ease.
Your body regenerates faster from cramps, inflammation, achiness, and swelling. I will describe the muscle recovery benefit of an ice bath for Muay Thai in depth later in this article.
The adipose brown tissue in your body is going to be put on fire when you enter the ice bath. It is responsible for converting your energy into heat – it keeps your body warm.
This is a sudden surrounding change that forces your adipose tissue to react and try to adjust. When you undergo the next cryotherapy, your body will be able to keep your body warm for a longer period because of a better hormonal response.
If you’d like to endure an ice bath for a longer period, you must train your breathing skills. You should slow your pulse down and focus or you’ll have to exit the ice bath screaming after a minute or two.
Good breathing keeps you calm and helps you get out of your comfort zone. Try it out and you’ll see!
Have you ever heard of the syntax “the mentality of a warrior”? Do you know how SEALS or any other special ops train? They constantly put their body on fire and exit their comfort zone, which leads to better toleration and ability to endure.
Humans are not designed for ice baths. It’s normal to sweat during the workout, but when you enter the cold water, your body has to defend itself because it is unnatural.
When you learn your body to endure such “torture”, you’ll also be able to eat more shots to the head, body, or legs. Your brain develops better pain tolerance, which consequently leads to better stamina, endurance, toughness, and recovery under pressure, especially in the dying seconds of the round.
If the two are evenly matched, the fighter with a better mentality mostly outlasts his opponent in the final moments of the bout. Think about it before you say “no” to the ice bath for Muay Thai!
How Long Should You Ice Bath?
This question is very tricky, so I will have to analyze a few aspects of the game. I have some questions for you. Are you a beginner? Have you just finished your training session? Do you live at cold or warm geolocation? Can you give me more details on wind and air humidity?
Wait, why the heck am I asking you so many questions? Because the length of your ice bath for Muay Thai heavily depends on your answers. I will try to describe some situations and give my recommendations:
- Beginner – thirty seconds will get the job done, but try not to go over one minute;
- I have a training session later today – one to three minutes is perfectly fine, two or three times with at least a one-minute break between the rounds;
- I have just finished my evening session – 5+ minutes is ok, it depends on how much damage your body can take;
- I am having a day off – listen to your body… you can stay for 20 minutes if your body doesn’t protest;
- It is very cold outside – I don’t recommend more than three minutes unless you grew up in Alaska;
- I live in Thailand, and the temperature rarely drops under 20 Celsius – 5-10 minutes could get the job done (you can stay longer if you want to);
- It is windy outside – greater wind speed decreases the time spent in the ice bath for Muay Thai;
- The humidity is huge (above 80%) – greater humidity leads to more sweating and stronger hormonal response… you should decrease your time in the bathtub.
But listen, everybody’s a different individual. Some athletes stay in the ice bath for 2 minutes and exit, while others can relax for more than an hour. It kinda depends on the level of chilliness.
You must acclimate for the first time, do not even think of breaking records. The first minute in the ice bath for Muay Thai is the most challenging. If you succeed to breathe through it, your muscles are going to get numb and it becomes way easier for you.
Start with a few seconds or minutes, then increase the time in the bathtub. Do not kick off aggressively, work your way up gradually. Do you remember the golden rule “fighter’s safety comes first”? Well, that rule applies here – don’t be a hero, let your body acclimate, and adjust!
Are Ice Baths Good For Muscle?
Oh, yeah, it is an excellent choice for your muscles for numerous reasons. I will describe each one of them.
Lactic Acid Neutralizer
When you train or do any kind of vigorous activity, your body creates lactic acid. It will lead to sore muscles and fatigue. As time goes by, you’ll lose the will to train because you’ll feel tired all the time.
When you enter the ice bath, you will at first feel the burn and pain in your muscles. But a few hours after leaving the bathtub, you’ll be able to work even harder.
You don’t have to visit a doctor for every single injury. You can try to recover via ice bath for Muay Thai unless it’s a fracture or an open wound where you must use bandages or stop bleeding. For example, muscle sprains or tears are a piece of cake for your bathtub filled with ice.
There’s nothing better than Thai oil massage but what if you cannot afford it? You know, sometimes pleasure costs a lot of money. Maybe your team has a bathtub with ice, try giving it a shot. It will decrease the level of stress and pain in your back, hips, legs, calves, and even arms (for more experienced fighters).
Better Blood Flow
When it’s too cold outside, the first line of your body’s defense is vasoconstriction. What does that mean? Well, your blood vessels decrease their diameter, which means the blood will start flowing faster through your veins and arteries. Your heart pumps faster as long as you are in the ice bath because it enters survival mode.
Next time you fight a dangerous opponent, your heart will do the same – pump faster and constrict the vessels. But you will get used to it as time goes by and you’ll be able to fight for a prolonged time. Imagine fighting for five rounds without slowing down. Sounds great, isn’t it?
How Often Should I Do Ice Baths?
For example, if you were hitting mitts for two hours, your muscles are gonna hurt like hell the next morning, unless you give them a chance to recover. This way, you’re letting your body deal with lactic acid naturally.
Doing it every single day might be tricky. Why? Well, when your body adjusts, it will recognize cryotherapy as a normal activity, so it won’t help your wounds and injuries heal quicker.
My recommendation is – don’t do it more than three times per week, or your body will acclimate. When you have no time, do it once on a day off. If you take part in two or three cold therapy sessions per week after very hard workouts, you’re doing a great job!
Is Ice Bath Dangerous?
As long as you don’t have health issues, it is a safe way to recover your muscles and push your training sessions to the next level. When you do it step-by-step it’s perfectly fine for your body.
If you have a history of health or psychological problems, please consult your doctor first. In some cases, the ice bath might trigger a natural fear response by telling your brain that it’s unsafe. Everybody reacts differently. Athletes or practitioners with a history of schizophrenia or any kind of psychosis should be very cautious and consult a medical expert.
When Should I Take An Ice Bath For Muay Thai?
Can you do it immediately after a very hard training session? Imagine yourself doing circuits or an anaerobic endurance workout. Get into the bathtub as soon as you finish your sparring or strength and conditioning session.
Some UFC fighters (for example, light heavyweight Octagon warrior Aleksandar Rakic) prefer an ice bath when having a day off. It is technically good because it lets your body recover and helps it heal wounds and naturally deals with lactic acid. It is also a great way to recover. Yet, there is one downside – when you wait, there are more chances of inflammation or swelling.
I’ve heard many “experts” talking about the bad sides of an ice bath for Muay Thai, claiming it will leave consequences to your health, reproductive organs, and immune system. That is false, this training method will turn you into a soldier and indirectly boost your cardio and ability to fight for a prolonged time.
Ice bath offers numerous positive effects on your muscles and bones, plus it decreases the levels of stress in every single area of your body. Fighters who are friendly toward the ice and cold water can train harder and take part in more violent bouts because their bodies recover faster.
I am giving you some advice – please, give the ice tube a shot! Your results will rock. I know you must suffer initially, but when your performance skyrockets, you’ll see that I was right!
Last Updated on July 4, 2022 by Deni