Today, people are so focused on what they put into their bodies that they don’t pay much attention to what they put on their bodies. Since fitness clothing is now more important than ever, we’re going to discuss compression clothing – what it is, how it works, and whether it really enhances one’s performance.
With all the advertised tools and high-tech activewear for treating sore muscles in addition to fitness influencers and Instagrammers always telling you what to do, it can get really hard to decide what information is valid. Every other cyclist, marathoner, gym-goer or basketball player is wearing some sort of sleeve these days. Let’s dive into it and see whether it can really help you.
What is Compression Clothing?
If we’re to believe certain scientific research, true compression clothing does have a purpose and benefits. Although the term “compression clothing” has become an umbrella term for fitness garments that are super tight, real compression wear is designed to improve performance, increase lymphatic and blood flow to the specified limb, and shorten recovery time after exercise. With regards to the science of how compression clothing actually works, the evidence may not be entirely conclusive. However, studies have shown that when compression garments are worn after exercise, there is a reduction in blood lactate levels and an increase in the oxygen uptake to the working muscles. They are not just tight fabrics, but wear that’s graded in its tightness and features wicking properties. The benefits of compression wear are widely accepted by almost everyone in the sports realm (even if the science behind them isn’t entirely conclusive).
Studies Behind Compression Clothing
According to a 2013 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, compression clothing had some modest positive effects on the performance of certain movements, such as jumping and sprinting. It also had slight positive effects on the recovery of power and strength, and it helped blood lactate removal as well as delayed the onset of muscle soreness.
Other studies, such as the one published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, focused on the effects of posture improving shirts for cycling. Namely, cyclists who wear posture-corrective compressive shirts reported a positive experience when it comes to their riding posture, spine discomfort and post-ride posture and recovery, though, no physiological or physical variables were tested.
Types of Compression Garments
In order to find yourself true compression clothing that really applies the necessary compression, you need to do your due diligence. Look for wear that offers graduated compression, and make sure that the sizing is measuring the body part being compressed.
Upper body compression wear is most often worn by gym-goers and footballers who want to stay warm during their early morning training sessions. In spite of mixed evidence for its use, wearing a compression shirt in the cold will definitely keep you comfortable, dry, and warm. Also, wearing a compressive shirt after weightlifting or other sports can apply pressure, which has been proven to cut down on inflammation and swelling.
Some compression shorts provide padded protection around the joints for impact-risk sports, such as skiing, cricket, or martial arts. It has been shown that cyclists who wear compression shorts had a greater power output and recovered faster. Athletes are known to wear compression shorts while sleeping during training camps, as it helps with their fatigue and preserves their explosiveness.
Compression socks (calf length) are a standard accessory trend when it comes to marathoners. They have been shown to counteract muscle soreness and improve recovery. Wearing these compression garments helps marathoners keep their legs warm and preserve maximal power during their endurance training.
We have concluded that compression clothing doesn’t improve performance in a direct way. You won’t be able to lift more by wearing a compression shirt, or run faster thanks to your new compression socks. However, compression garments do accelerate blood flow when applied to specific body parts in an accurate and balanced way. Better blood flow helps your body to get rid of some metabolic wastes, such as lactic acid, thus helps you train longer and more intensively. It is up to you to determine how long you should wear compression clothing for post-workout recovery. You may feel comfortable wearing them for the rest of the day or just for a few hours, until you notice that the body parts in question are starting to loosen up and feel better.