It seems that every professional athlete these days is wearing some form of compression garment. Whether it is a pair of long tights or a long sleeve top to keep them warm whilst training or competing, the rise of compression garment usage has grown immensely in the last decade. However, is it really worth the expensive price tag for the amateur? Or are we just spending money on glorified tight fitting tops and bottoms?
In order to answer this question, we need to look at the science. The main advertised uses of compression garments are improving recovery times, enhancing power and improving overall performance. Do these claims live up to the hype? There are various studies circulating concurrently that suggest compression garments do all of the above - but to what extent do they really work?
Initially improvements in power and athletic performance have been linked to an increase in skin surface temperature. It has been suggested that compression garments increase skin temperature whilst on an individual who is training. This means that the muscles are able to work at a more optimal level and therefore an individual can see a residual improvement in their performance. Furthermore, it has been investigated that compression garments reduce muscle oscillation when limbs come into contact with the ground e.g.: Running and jumping. There is also further evidence that there is a reduction in blood lactate accumulation whilst exercising which can greatly affect performance - especially at higher training intensities.
With performance advantages stated, the greatest training outcome of using compression garments is actually during the recovery phase of a training session. Once a training session has ended, blood flow returns to the same levels it was prior to training. However your cells (particularly muscle cells) continue to respire at a rate similar to that of the training session itself. What does this all mean though? Essentially it means that there is still a high amount of metabolic waste that ends up in the blood stream that is very hard to clear out via normal venous return.
This is where the benefits of a compression garment (particularly in the lower limb) can become very beneficial. Working with your body's natural muscle pumps, compression garments allow an increase in blood flow away from the site of respiring cells and back towards the lungs and heart - allowing efficient removal of waste products, whilst also increasing the delivery of fresh oxygenated blood to the cells to decrease the ongoing impact of 'free radicals' from attacking the cells.
In simple terms - compression garments increase blood flow allowing it to be cleaned a lot more efficiently and aiding cells in shortening their recovery times. So does this justify the hefty price tag? Despite the idea of a large investment in such a seemingly simple piece of clothing, the benefits - particularly in the recovery phase - can be significant. However; choose with caution. Not all garments are created equal! Generally the more expensive garments are more effective, as they do use more science in their creation. Some high quality trusted compression clothing brands I would recommend are 2xu, Under Armour and Body Science.
William McAndrew is a VisionPT Randwick personal trainer and weight loss coach. Book a free consultation with William or one of our other friendly personal trainers by calling: 02 9399 5050*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.