Coleman Childers, MS
How many of you have felt personally victimized by a coach or athletic trainer screaming, “Stand tall! Hands on your head!” while you’re recovering in between sets of a sprints workout in the blazing late-July heat? You may be in luck as a recent study by Michaelson et al. (2019) is suggesting that leaning over to recover with your hands on your knees may be acceptable after all.
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The study recently making waves in the sport science headlines is providing an alternate approach and explanation to the seemingly common phrase, “Stand tall! Hands on your head!” that is often ingrained into an athlete’s mind as they’re recovering between sets in a workout. This study set out to analyze the effect of using two different standing recovery postures amidst a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. Specifically, these researchers wanted to know whether having your hands on your head or having your hands on your knees really made a difference.
The study used NCAA women’s soccer athletes and had them complete a treadmill workout, while they were hooked up to various machines monitoring three different physiological functions that indicate how well (or not well) an athlete is recovering. The first component the researcher wanted to know about was heart rate recovery, or how quickly your heart slows down and returns to resting after you finish the run. The second part is something called carbon dioxide elimination, or in other words, the rate in which an athlete is exhaling. And finally, the researchers were interested in the participants’ tidal volume, which is the amount of air the lungs displace while inhaling and exhaling.
The athletes were randomly assigned in a “hands on knees” group or a “hands on head group”, but after they all went through a fairly detailed screening process to ensure that all of the athletes were arounds the same baseline fitness levels. The athletes did the same exact treadmill workout with identical work to rest ratios, the only difference being in how they positioned their body and placed their hands during their rest periods.
The results are fascinating! Athletes that recovered with their hands on their knees showed that their heart rates recovered more quickly, they had a greater tidal volume (amount of air the lungs displace while inhaling and exhaling), and they exhaled carbon dioxide at a quicker rate than compared to the group that recovered with their hands on their heads.
The results of this study may seem counterintuitive to everything you have ever been taught, so it’s understandable if you are taking this with a grain of salt. However, if you have questions or doubts, or simply want to read the research for yourself, you can check out the link below.
If you’ve ever felt personally victimized by a coach or athletic trainer screaming, “Stand tall! Hands on your head!”, or by this point in your life have an inner voice yelling those same words at you, feel victimized no more! Recover with your hands on your knees, focus on your breathing, and engage in positive self-talk to hype you up for the next interval.
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