Compression clothing & garments are becoming increasingly popular on the sporting scene, but is there any scientific evidence to support their use? In this article we’ll be looking at the benefits offered for performance and recovery, and the potential underlying mechanisms.
Compression garments – characterised by their highly elastic properties – have recently been developed by a number of manufacturers like 2xu, Under Armour or Speedo these brands have created a whole new category of sports clothing. Compression garments typically focus on the lower limbs (including full-length leggings and socks) or the upper body (including sleeves and various tops).
Whilst the compressive functions themselves are very similar, the mechanical properties may
vary from garment to garment. For example,leggings are often graduated – exerting the highest degree of pressure at the ankle with the pressure gradually decreasing towards the top of the leg. The pressure exerted by the average graduated lower limb compression garment is approximately 22 mmHg at the ankle decreasing to about 18 mmHg at the thigh.
The key benefits associated with the use of compression clothing & garments were initially recognised in clinical settings where tissue compression is used in the treatment of a number of circulatory and inflammatory
disorders, including chronic venous insufficiency, lymphodema and deep vein thrombosis. The compressive force of some medical stockings is considerably higher than the compressive force of commercially available sports garments with a degree of compression ranging between 30-40 mmHg, however these should be worn only as advised by a doctor. Due in large part to commercial promotion, the use of compression
garments is growing in popularity in sport and exercise settings, where it believed that the compressive properties of the garments will enhance performance and aid recovery following strenuous training and competition.
Evidence for improved performance
Manufacturers claim that compression garments provide ergogenic benefits during training and athletic performance, these proposed benefits include an increase in strength and power as well as improved endurance performance. Advantages are thought to be achieved via a number of mechanisms, which include increases in muscle oxygenation resulting from improved blood flow to the muscle and reductions
in muscle, oscillation thought to reduce the severity of fatigue.
Evidence for improved recovery
Exercise-induced muscle damage is a common experience for athletes from a wide range
of backgrounds undertaking unaccustomed exercise comprising eccentric contractions and is
associated with a number of negative symptoms, which include a reduced ability to produce force, a decreased range of motion, inflammation and pain. It is claimed that compression garments
can attenuate the negative symptoms associated with muscle damage by providing dynamicim mobilisation
achieved though mechanical support to the injured tissue and a reduction in motion of the limb