The use of compression garments are becoming more and more common at all sporting levels, with skins, body armour and generally all major sporting companies (Nike, Adidas, Puma etc) inventing their own prototype. The question is what do these garments aim to do, and more importantly do they actually achieve this goal?
The garments generally consist of high Lycra content, which supplies the elastic/stretchy feel. Therefore, the more Lycra in the clothing the more compression it supplies, 70% levels have been found to supply consistent and encouraging results. This is believed to be optimal percentage. If too much compression is applied it will restrict the muscles throughout the body and will typically hamper performance of these muscles.
The advertised advantages associated with wearing these garments are as follows:
- Injury Prevention.
- Increased Recovery. (Optimise blood flow, reduce blood pooling and reduce swelling.)
- Increased performance. (Enhanced proprioception and lactate removal, and reduced muscle oscillation)
Recent research shows that, in relation to high intensity exercise and competitive exercise, the above statements are correct. This is shown through increased pumping of blood through the body during exercise, this results in better oxygen utilisation as well as removing blood lactate from appropriate muscles, it can also help increase the efficiency of the sweating mechanism. In recovery the blood lactate levels are considerably lower when wearing the garment, this is a result of increased clearance and removal of CK after exercise (this is debilitating substance to recovery).
This research is all well and good but only applies to high intensity exercises, therefore unless you are performing high intensity sessions with a large work rate and large recovery, compression garments will not overly enhance your performance and/or recovery. The same is apparent for competitive sports, the garments help in recovery, reducing effects of body contact, increasing performance and sometimes are simply used to help thermoregulate (keep warm or cool). Therefore they can be applicable to people in local gyms and sporting clubs, but be aware the majority of benefits are from high intensity and/or competitive sport. So do not except large benefits if you are working at low intensities!
Peak Performance #235.