Float Tanks: Trending Fad or the Real Deal?

NBA point guard Steph Curry floats. So does his teammate Harrison Barnes. You would too, lying in a tank filled with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt dissolved in skin-temperature water. These sensory-deprivation pods or “float tanks” have been gaining popularity in the athletic community for their purported physical and psychological healing properties. The pod is a human-sized tank of water and salt that, when you’re secured inside, blocks out all noise and sound to create a truly sensory-deprived experience. Steph Curry spends an hour in the float tank at least once a weekand, as of now, his Golden State Warriors have not lost a single game this season.

“It’s an opportunity to just relax,” he says about his regularly scheduled float appointment, “And get away from all the stresses on the court and in life. But it obviously has some physical benefits as well.”

Soaking in an Epsom salt bath (otherwise known as magnesium sulfate) has been prescribed to athletes for relieving muscle soreness and promoting soft tissue healing. But the float tank was originally invented in 1954 by a neuropsychiatrist in order to study the human brain when deprived of external stimuli. Of course, the original studies involved the psychedelic drug LSD, but today’s float tanksometimes called an “isolation tank”is a drug-free, light-free, sound-free experience created to enhance whole-body relaxation.

Float tanks in the Patriots' locker room?

Float tanks in the Patriots' locker room?

While there are no studies to date on the efficacy of float tank use in relation to athletic success, the psychological component seems important. Mental focus and resiliency are key to crucial to competitive success at a high level, and you can’t get much higher than the NBAexcept, perhaps, the NFL (the New England Patriots reportedly house a float tank in their locker room).

Is the float tank trend just thata trendor is there something to this alternative method of recovery? What do you think?

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Christye Estes, CSCS, ACSM-CPT, is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog. She is a CSCS-certified strength coach, a certified personal trainer through the ACSM, and a Sports Performance Specialist at Volt.
Learn more about Christye and read her other posts | @CoachChristye