Ellington Darden’s Cold Plunge Protocol – CT Power

Ellington Darden's Cold Plunge Protocol - CT Power


Honestly, I don’t know much about Ellington Darden. I kept his latest book on my reading list for a couple of months until I recently picked it up.

His strategy to losing weight and building muscle at the same time is from a multiple perspective, which I cannot but sympathize with.

His book includes various case studies and pictures of his clients and research subjects. I cannot attest the validity of those results and I’ll admit that some of the before/after pictures seem suspicious to me.

Anyway, part of his approach to helping people lose weight and build muscle at the same time involves the use of cold exposure. If you’ve been following my blog you know that I use CT since late 2012, and I’ve been doing it almost daily since 2013. I didn’t write much about it yet though…

Ellington’s CT Protocol

Darden’s primary motivation for using CT was seeing the post-training accelerated recovery of some sports professionals:

But on the stadium-run day he decided to really push himself, so he ran up and down the steps seven times. By the time he made it back to GHF and the cold plunge, he could barely walk.

As he eased into 52°F (~11°C), a couple of friendly members joined him and engaged him in conversation. Before he knew, 20 minutes have elapsed. By that time his teeth were chattering, so Joe staggered out, took a hot shower, and drove home – where, he said he had to put on a heavy coat, and drink a couple of cups of hot tea just to stop his shivering.

But guess what, when he got out of bed the next morning, he felt no soreness. Not the next, either, nor the day after. Cold also minimizes the microtrauma in the muscle fibers following a workout.” [5]

Darden thinks that once the chilled tissue gets warmer, there’s an increased blood flow that accelerates circulation, leading to a more efficient and faster recovery.

“Reducing the inflammatory process seems to reduce the residual soreness associated with intense exercise, especially negative versions.” [5]  (He refers to negative/eccentric training).

He also mentions recent studies (see the resources) involving pyruvate kinase:

“At normal body temperature the enzyme functions well, but as temperature rises, the enzyme begins to deform. At a muscle temperature of 104°F (~40°C), there’s no enzyme activity.

It shuts down completely. As more stress is placed on a muscle fiber, it registers more internal heat. If the process continues for too long, the fiber will self-destruct.” [5]

He thinks that the ability of the muscle to contract stops before reaching the critical point, providing the individual with a safety net (no longer being able to continue with the movement). This is like a self-regulating mechanism for the muscle. Moreover:

“According to Heller and Grahn, your muscle fibers are saying that you can’t work intensely anymore because if you do, you’re going to cook from the inside out and die! But when you cool the muscle fibers, you return the enzyme to the active state by resetting the muscle’s state of fatigue.” [5]

This is a good research starting point. Though we need to drive more people into the field…I know, cold makes you feel miserable. But once you get used to practicing cold thermogenesis, it’s not exactly like that…

To keep things simple and short, Ellington’s protocol relies on a few key pointers. In/during your cold bath/plunge:

1. Keep water temperature at 52 – 54°F (10 – 12°C).

Mine is colder, as I put ice in it.

2. Using water that is colder than that is not necessarily better.

I may suspect that if the cold water increases shivering thermogenesis faster and it makes it last longer, it may lead to significantly more energy usage (burning more kcals). But you’ll also feel more miserable 🙂

3. Hands and feet must be underwater.

In my CT experiments I keep my hands and feet underwater. I also hold ice packs in my hands. The only part that’s out of the water is the face. But at a certain point during each cold bath, I turn around (face down) and hold my breath underwater for 2-3 minutes. I suspect hypoxia and ketosis may increase longevity, given that a well formulated approach is considered.

4. Stay for at least 5 minutes. Work your way up until you reach 10 minutes. Do not go above.

“Ease out of the cold plunge and wait 5 minutes before you shower”. [5]

I’m not sure if he talks about a warm or a hot shower. I wouldn’t see it logical to wait 5 minutes after the cold plunge to take a cold shower. I usually end my cold baths with a 5-7 minute cold shower. There’s no pause in-between.

For those who find this practice too extreme, Ellington proposes simply taking a cold shower or putting an ice pack on the neck. For the specifics of these strategies, I’d recommend reading his book.


I have to mention that if you try any of these practices, you do it on your own risks.

Ellington’s approach is very similar to mine. I’m really positive that in the near future we’ll see a lot more research and applications of cold thermogenesis for medical purposes, sports performance enhancement, and even for increasing life span. I’m excited to see those times coming.

Photo: here


1. Grahn, D. A., Cao, V. H., Nguyen, C. M., Liu, M. T., & Heller, H. C. (2012). Work volume and strength training responses to resistive exercise improve with periodic heat extraction from the palm. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(9), 2558-2569.

2. West, R. J. (2013). Effect of Peripheral Cooling on Interval Work Performance in Ambient and Hot Conditions. University of California, Davis.

3. Carey, H. V., Andrews, M. T., & Martin, S. L. (2003). Mammalian hibernation: cellular and molecular responses to depressed metabolism and low temperature. Physiological reviews, 83(4), 1153-1181.

4. Heller, H. C., & Grahn, D. A. (2012). Enhancing thermal exchange in humans and practical applications. Disruptive Science and Technology, 1(1), 11-19.

5. Ellington Darden – The Body Fat Breakthrough – Tap the Muscle Building Power of Negative Training and Lose up to 30 Pounds in 30 Days.

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