Will Putting Your Hands on Your Head Actually Help You Recover?

We all remember at some point in our lives having a coach or trainer tell us to “get your hands off your knees” when we are bent over gasping for air. They probably told you to stand up and put your hands on top of your head so you can open up your lungs and allow more oxygen in. It most likely sounded reasonable to you, so you complied. However, based on a recent study this has proven to NOT be true!

The purpose of this recent study (Michaelson et. al, 2019) was to compare the two different recovery postures after participating in high-intensity interval training. The two different postures are “bent over with hands on knees” and “standing tall with hands on head.” Some may find it surprising, but being bent over with your hands on your knees proves to be the superior recovery posture. If you think about it, the body naturally gravitates into this posture when your winded, because it knows what is best. Why fight it?

To sum it up, results show that being in the “bent over position” produces an improved heart rate recovery, greater tidal volume and increased carbon dioxide elimination.

When coaches yell at their athletes to get their hands off their knees, they are actually taking them out of the optimal recovery position. Now, the question is do they care more about efficient recovery or “looking tired?” Lots of coaches seem to think that being bent over is a sign of weakness. I’m not here to debate that. But, when it comes to deciding between the two, I want my team recovering faster and being ready for the next play, while the other team is still trying to recover because coach is yelling “get your hands off your knees!”

Thanks for reading!