Compression garments help or hype?


I am a firm believer in using the right gear for training and for sports. Your enjoyment and performance depends on it. There’s nothing worse than wearing ill fitting garments; tights falling down, leg chafing, tight underwear, and headache causing crop tops, it’s enough to put you right off your training session.

Compression garments is on those list of things that some believe we need it, whereas others think we don’t. I am not talking about medical grade compression garments either, I am talking about the recently fashionable full length or half-length leggings footballers and runners typically wear these days. I’m talking about the commercial sports compression garments.
Although companies market the benefits of compression gear to increase blood flow and keep muscles warm to prevent injury. The benefits haven’t really been shown in the literature, studies have been either inconclusive or non-existent in this area.
Study: Positive effect of lower body compression garments on subsequent 40km cycling time trial performance – Showed a slightly better 1-3% performance in 40km cycling timed trial then the placebo group wearing no compression garments. This test group only consisted of 14 trained athletes
Study: Effects of wearing graduated compression garment during eccentric exercise– Showed that there was no change in DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) or recovery when a small group of 18 males wore compression garments during a running and jumping exercise session.
Study: The effects of wearing lower-body compression garments during endurance cycling – Showed no performance benefit in 12 male cyclists wearing compression garments during a cycling exercise session. 
I could put more links to studies but I really don’t see the point…
As seen in just 3 random studies I picked to demonstrate the studies have used small test groups and either showed little improvement or none at all. Is it worth paying close to $100-150 for compression leggings?
In medical terms compression stockings help improve circulation and reduce fluid swelling in the extremities, however in sports if we where to use this type of stuff it would potentially restrict movement.
Compression tights aren’t tight or thick enough to do this. Besides, our body has pretty good circulation from exercise alone and being healthy. You will not get “extra” circulation than what you already have, unless you have an underlying medical condition you are trying to correct.
I do believe marketing claims about improved performance, injury prevention and injury rehabilitation are a sham. If benefits have been shown it’s probably due to the 1-2% the placebo effect creates in itself- psychological benefits only.  
As for injury prevention and supporting joints which some believe is the role of compression garments. Fabrics are not stiff enough to support joints, and if it were it would restrict movement. Garments support soft tissue, which is essentially fat tissues and that is all.
If your joints need support, then you’re probably looking at a bad injury that you shouldn’t be exercising on anyway. I recommend you see a physiotherapist and use proper strapping on your injury. You need something to stop movement in the joint, training on it is not a good idea. 
Now if you have already invested in expensive compression garments, don’t fret using them won’t do you any harm. In fact I have two pairs of my own purely for practical and fashion purposes.
The first pair I bought was because it was full-length leggings and hot pink, although I had to get them a size larger than normal to feel comfortable. The second pair was knee length I bought because the fabric doesn’t hold on to too much water, which was perfect for my first triathlon event. I could easily run and swim in them without being dragged down by heavy garments or over heating.

What else do I use to run and train in?

My choices are purely fashionable, I order mine from Brazil all my leggings are thick Brazilian lycra which shape the legs really well and have fabulous colours and prints.  
If your thinking about getting gains in your training performance, parting with your cash is not going to help you.  Unfortunately, I think you will do a lot better if you concentrated on the training itself or better yet concentrate on your nutrition around training.

Comments are closed.