Water Therapy: Darren Barnes’ Secret for Improving Training and Recovery

Given that sibling rivalry and tension seems to be more common than ever nowadays, it almost seems unusual to find some pairs that truly get along. Darren Barnes and his brothers Derrick and Darrel, are even more unusual than most. All three train together as professional weightlifters, with Derrick, the oldest, coaching the younger twins.

It was also his oldest brother that introduced Darren to the sport, which became a positive escape from his impoverished neighborhood. He’s been lifting for 14 years, and currently finds himself at his career high as he becomes eligible for the Olympic trials for the first time. Given that Darren holds more weightlifting records than any current member of Team USA, it really isn’t a surprise.

Hydrotherapy and pool training are an integral part of of Darren’s training regime and we asked him to share.

Training: The Real Deal

More advanced than powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting requires greater coordination and technical prowess. When asked about his training and recovery habits, Darren didn’t hold back.

“Hydrotherapy is very important as a lifter mostly because of how important mobility and flexibility are. I like to use hot tubs to increase blood circulation and muscle elasticity. Most people don’t love to stretch and without proper recovery, the body can become stiff even after doing massage therapy.”

He certainly has the brains to match his brawn, with a bachelor’s in sports therapy and a secret confession that he honestly loves school. That knowledge allows him to be very specific about his routine.

“I find it most effective to use hot and cold contrast for about 30 minutes with cold being the last, before and after training if possible. This contrast has always helped me feel rejuvenated and less inflamed. Upon consistent recovery, training will get much easier. I usually like to use my supplements while in heat recovery to speed up the absorption process. Using heat therapy is very useful because the whole warm up process before training becomes faster.”

More Than Just a Warm Up

But the benefits of hydrotherapy aren’t contained just to warm ups and stretching, Darren tells us.

“When I injured my shoulder labrum, I would often get in the hot tub or the sauna to increase blood flow not only in my shoulder, but throughout my whole body… With that being said however, knowing the benefits of cold and hot treatments and when to use them is important.”

Heat has been shown to improve circulation by causing blood vessels to expand, thus giving your skin that flushed red color we associate with hot tubs. But caution should be used, as heat can aggravate already inflamed injuries. Professional advice from a chiropractor or physiotherapists should always be sought when dealing with injuries.

Gets Your Heart Rate Up

Darren’s last point on the benefits of hydrotherapy is on an entirely new topic: cardio.

“Swimming is something I like to do to get my heart rate up. In weightlifting, we don’t get a lot of conditioning. Swimming is a way for me to get a good cardio workout that’s better than running since there’s no stress on knees that way. It can also aid recovery and inflammation reduction if the water is cold enough.”

Weightlifting squats can place much more force on your knees than usual. As much as 7 or 8 times the force. Giving these precious joints a break by using the pool for training makes a lot of sense.  

Recovery is Essential

In addition to his excellent advice on the benefits of hydrotherapy, Darren also had some parting words for aspiring athletes.

“My advice would be to remember that recovery is a major part of training. Injury prevention is crucial to the future and success of any athlete.”

Thank you for the advice Darren, and we hope it helps you as you continue to pursue your Olympic dreams. We hope to see you on Team USA 2016!

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