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Better than steroids, says Stanford professor

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Strength & Conditioning Research

Much of the initial research into the efficacy of palm cooling for strength, conditioning and performance enhancement was carried out at Stanford University by Dr Craig Heller and Dr Dennis Grahn.

Professor Heller and Dr Grahn have decades of experience in researching mammalian temperature regulation and working in conjunction with the US Military Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) they developed the Stanford Glove, the first commercial palm cooling device.

A substantial body of peer reviewed fitness and conditioning research was published by Stanford University and others over a decade.

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palm cooling graph

How Palm Cooling helps Conditioning

Abstracts

Palm cooling and heating delays fatigue during resistance exercise in women.

Kwon, YS, Robergs, RA, Mermier, CM, Schneider, SM, and Gurney, AB. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2015.
In this study, we hypothesized that palm cooling (PC) or heating during rest intervals between high-intensity weight training sets will increase total repetitions and exercise volume load (kilograms) in resistance trained female subjects.

METHOD: Eight female subjects (mean ± SD, age = 25 ± 6 years, height = 160 ± 6 cm, body mass = 56 ± 7 kg, 1-repetition maximum [1RM] = 52 ± 6 kg, weight training experience = 6 ± 2 years) completed 4 sets of 85% 1RM bench press exercise to failure, with 3-minute rest intervals. Exercise trials were performed in a counterbalanced order on 3 days, separated by at least 3 days in TN, Palm heating (PH), and PC conditions. Heating and cooling were applied by placing both hands in a hand cooling device with the hand plate set to 45° C for heating and 10° C for cooling. Data were analyzed using a 2-factor repeated-measures analysis of variance and Tukey’s post hoc tests.

RESULTS: Palm cooling repetitions were significantly higher than TN repetitions during the second set, and PH repetitions were significantly higher than those of TN during the fourth set. Total exercise volume load (kilograms) for both PC (1,387 ± 358) and PH (1,349 ± 267) were significantly higher than TN (1,187 ± 262).

CONCLUSION: In women, both heating and cooling of the palms between sets of resistance exercise increased the total exercise volume load performed. This ergogenic response to a peripheral sensory input is consistent with the central governor theory of muscular fatigue.

Work volume & strength training responses to resistive exercise improve with periodic heat extraction from the palm.
Dennis A Grahn, Vinh H Cao, Christopher M Ngyyen, Mengyuan T Liu & H Craig Heller, Stanford University. The Journal of Strenth & Conditioning Research 2011
Body core cooling via the palm of a hand increases work volume during resistive exercise. We asked: (a) “Is there a correlation between elevated core temperatures and fatigue onset during resistive exercise?” and (b) “Does palm cooling between sets of resistive exercise affect strength and work volume training responses?”

METHOD: Core temperature was manipulated by 30-45 minutes of fixed load and duration treadmill exercise in the heat with or without palm cooling. Work volume was then assessed by 4 sets of fixed load bench press exercises. Core temperatures were reduced and work volumes increased after palm cooling (Control: Tes = 39.0 ± 0.1° C, 36 ± 7 reps vs. Cooling: Tes = 38.4 ± 0.2° C, 42 ± 7 reps, mean ± SD, n = 8, p < 0.001). In separate experiments, the impact of palm cooling on work volume and strength training responses were assessed. The participants completed biweekly bench press or pull-up exercises for multiple successive weeks. Palm cooling was applied for 3 minutes between sets of exercise.

RESULTS: Over 3 weeks of bench press training, palm cooling increased work volume by 40% (vs. 13% with no treatment; n = 8, p < 0.05). Over 6 weeks of pull-up training, palm cooling increased work volume by 144% in pull-up experienced subjects (vs. 5% over 2 weeks with no treatment; n = 7, p < 0.001) and by 80% in pull-up naïve subjects (vs. 20% with no treatment; n = 11, p < 0.01). Strength (1 repetition maximum) increased 22% over 10 weeks of pyramid bench press training (4 weeks with no treatment followed by 6 weeks with palm cooling; n = 10, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: These results verify previous observations about the effects of palm cooling on work volume, demonstrate a link between core temperature and fatigue onset during resistive exercise, and suggest a novel means for improving strength and work volume training responses.

Palm cooling delays fatigue during high-intensity bench press exercise. Kwon YS, Robergs RA, Kravitz LR, Gurney BA, Mermier CM, Schneider SM. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2010.

Local cooling can induce an ergogenic effect during a short-term intense exercise. One proposed method of personal cooling involves heat extraction from the palm.
HYPOTHESIS: In this study, we hypothesized that local palm cooling (PC) during rest intervals between progressive weight training sets will increase total repetitions and exercise volume in resistance-trained subjects exercising in a thermoneutral (TN) environment.

METHOD: Sixteen male subjects (mean +/- SD; age = 26 +/- 6 yr, height = 178 +/- 7 cm, body mass = 81.5 +/- 11.3 kg, one-repetition maximum (1RM) bench press = 123.5 +/- 12.6 kg, weight training experience = 10 +/- 6 yr) performed four sets of 85% 1RM bench press exercise to fatigue, with 3-min rest intervals. Exercise trials were performed in a counterbalanced order for 3 d, separated by at least 3 d: TN, palm heating (PH), and PC. Heating and cooling were applied by placing the hand in a device called the rapid thermal exchanger, set to 45 degrees C for heating or 10 degrees C for cooling. This device heats or cools the palm while negative pressure (-35 to -45 mm Hg) is applied around the hand.

RESULTS: Total exercise volume during the four PC sets (2480 +/- 636 kg) was significantly higher than that during TN (1972 +/- 632 kg) and PH sets (2156 +/- 668 kg, P < 0.01). The RMS of the surface EMG with PC exercise was higher (P < 0.01), whereas esophageal temperature (P < 0.05) and RPE (P < 0.05) were lower during PC compared with TN and PH.

CONCLUSION: PC from 35 degrees C to 20 degrees C temporarily overrides fatigue mechanism(s) during intense intermittent resistance exercise. The mechanisms for this ergogenic function remain unknown.

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