First of all, what is compression gear, you ask? It’s specially designed clothing items that are engineered to conform around specific muscles or body parts and provide a certain level of pressure. It can be t-shirts, tights, arm or calf sleeves. You’ve probably seen pro athletes wearing them during competition or weekend warriors wearing them for all kinds of events. They can come in bright colors or sometimes have distinct design patterns criss-crossing the fabric.
Calf sleeves were probably the first of these products and they were originally for people with circulatory issues in their lower legs. It didn’t take athletes and fitness-minded people long to decide these products could be helpful for training.
One of the claims is that compression garments improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles. Hopefully, I don’t have to explain how that can be good for athletes! An active.com* article describes how compression garments MAY reduce vibration in skeletal muscle during training which could improve muscle contraction and reduce muscle trauma. Again, pretty good potential benefits for any exerciser!
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence from athletes that these sleeves, tights and shirts provide a training benefit and aid in recovery. Some athletes say the compression adds a level of pressure that provides a feeling of stability and support during strenuous or lengthy exercise. This feeling can help them go longer and stronger in their workout.
Abigail Stickford, a post doctoral researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas did a small study to determine if there was any measurable beneficial training effect from wearing calf sleeves during running**. The study concluded that there was no positive effect while wearing the sleeves during training. Some larger studies have backed this up, however, there is evidence from a number of studies that there is a positive effect on muscle RECOVERY from wearing sleeves during and after training. The compression helps keep swelling down that occurs from blood flow during training which helps limit muscle soreness and speeds recovery.
While the majority of studies show little to no evidence of improved performance benefit there is evidence that these products help with recovery. For many people, improved recovery can be almost as valuable, if not more, as improved performance. And, there’s certainly no evidence of harm so if you want to spend the money, compression gear might be worth it.
Consider them just one more piece of equipment in your fitness arsenal. Like anything else, overuse will diminish benefits or have unintentional consequences. As always, do your own research and be an informed consumer.
Here are a few companies that sell compression gear but I’m sure you can find it almost anywhere athletic clothing is sold:
Source: * Is Compression Gear Really Effective?