Compression clothing has been embraced by athletes and sportspeople over the past few years, and there have been claims that the garments can aid recovery, improve performance and even boost power. Compression gear is designed to work by promoting blood flow towards the heart, thereby getting blood and oxygen to muscles faster. But do they really help? And if so, how?
In an article for the Australian Sports Commission, Angela Calder explained how research indicated that compression garments reduce swelling in muscles and joints, reduce the feeling of post-exercise muscle soreness and even help soft tissue injuries to recover. In certain studies athletes have also reported feeling less fatigued after training when they wore compression garments. A 2004 study confirmed previous research results by showing that compression stockings promoted the removal of lactic acid in the blood after strenuous exercise.
According to Calder, compression garments work in a similar way to other methods of recovery like hydrotherapy, which provides hydrostatic pressure. There has also been evidence to show that compression garments help to clear the biochemical indicators of muscle fatigue and damage, suggesting that they really do go some way towards aiding recovery after exercise.
It has also been claimed that compression garments can be worn during a session to improve performance. There has been some research done that support these claims by showing that wearing compression gear improved repeated jump power. The studies suggested that the compression gear improved the participant’s warm-up and reduced their muscle movement when they landed from the jump, thus leading to their improved performance.
This all depends on the type of sport or training you do, the frequency with which you engage in physical activity and your personal goals. If you only train a few times a week, with a day or two of recovery between session, then your body will do a great job of recovering on its own. However, if you do intense sessions that leave you very sore, have a demanding training schedule or need to maintain optimum performance and recovery, then compression garments (properly used) can aid your recovery. The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) uses compression garments as part of their Performance Recovery discipline for Australian athletes.
Get the right fit: Calder explained There are significant differences in compressive pressures between the clinical garments prescribed by physiotherapists and the commercial sports clothes sold in shops. Compression clothing that is tailored to each part of a person’s body and is of the right compression grade will therefore provide the most benefit.
But don’t go too tight: However, compression garments that are too tight can inhibit circulation and reduce recovery instead of aiding it. TIP: when purchasing your compression gear, asked to be measured to ensure you get the optimal size.
Wear them for hours: Calmer recommends that both sports people and officials could wear compression garments after an event, preferably for several hours afterwards, even overnight. Wearing compression garments overnight is a commonly recommended practice for athlete recovery.