If you’re a regular sports player, you would have probably invested some money in compression gear of some sort. These form-fitting garments have infiltrated all sorts of sports and come ready in knee-highs, tights and even tight sleeves to taper to every part of your body.
Making its debut more than 60 years ago in the medical field, compression garments were initially used to treat patients that suffer from venous disorders. That has since evolved into our daily lives, said to speed up recovery and improve performance during exercise.
But is it all that it’s made out to be?
The science behind the compression
Firstly, before we determine the functionality of compression gear, we need to understand the technology behind these garments.
According to SKINS Brand Manager Adam Hendler, true technical compression garments aid in the delivery of oxygen to and from the heart and muscles. Wearing compression gear applies pressure to the limbs, which helps to increase blood flow velocity under the compressed area, forcing the movement of blood back to the heart.
“As a result of greater efficiency in the delivery of oxygen to the muscles, compression gear can assist you to train harder and recover faster,” Hendler said.
“It all comes down to blood flow efficiency and muscle oxygenation. SKINS compression garments can benefit all phases of the sporting cycle. That being; training, game day, general recovery as well as injury recovery.”
One kind, two kinds, many many kinds…
But if you’ve ever looked for some compression gear at your local rebel store, you would have been faced with a variety of options to choose from.
Hendler said that even though there are many types of compression gear available, not all are made the same or are appropriate for sports activities.
“For example, high grade medical compression is too restrictive and actually becomes a performance inhibitor.
“At SKINS we play in a few different areas of compression: from elite level Dynamic Gradient Compression all the way through to recovery compression and specially made light/moderate compression garments you can wear to bed or on long haul flights,” he said.
And if you thought compression gear was made of the same stuff as general use Lycra garments and other similar tight-fitting wear, you’re wrong; they don’t possess the same technology or perform as true compression gear.
“General use lycra garments and similar tight-fitting clothing probably won’t give you any of the functional benefits as a true technical compression garment would.
“There is a sweet spot in garment design and construction where form meets function. With compression gear, the science behind dynamic gradient compression is where the garment is tightest on the extremities and gradually eases off closer to the midsection,” Hendler mentioned.
The jury behind the effectiveness of compression gear
However, despite its growing popularity, many have argued that compression gear is not as effective as it’s made out to be.
There have been a number of studies conducted globally, theorising if compression gear actually boosts performance and aids in recovery. Many have insinuated that evidence points more towards compression gear being only effective for recovery, as opposed to enhancing performance.
Hendler supported the use of compression gear, claiming that wearing them whilst training can help to deliver oxygen to the muscles, meaning you can train harder for longer.
“It can also assist with both proprioception (your body’s natural ability to correct form, especially when fatigued) and injury prevention.”
He also said that to measure effectiveness, compression gear first needs to be worn correctly.
“Compression garments are most beneficial when worn on your limbs as these muscle groups are furthest away from the heart; with the calves being a big focus area as they are the largest muscles of the lower legs (furthest away from the heart).”
Choosing the right compression gear
To reap the full benefits of your compression gear, Hendler suggested you buy good quality, made for purpose products that suit your needs:
- For short, high intensity exercise (2 to 3 hours) like CrossFit, HIIT or explosive running, get higher grade compression products, for example SKINS’ DNAmic or the SKINS K-Proprium range.
- For everyday lifestyle activities such as general gym or fitness sessions, social team sports or medium endurance running or walking (4 to 5 hours) use medium compression, for example SKINS’ DNAmic Primary, or DNAmic Core or DNAmic Team.
- For wearing during longer periods of rest or recovery (8+ hours) use the SKINS recovery range.
Hendler added that there’s a skill to picking out compression gear too.
“Garment packaging should provide detailed information about the product and its technology, and look for reputable compression brands that are supported by respectable organisations such as the Australian Physiotherapy Association.”