In this day and age of fitness and exercise we focus so much on what we put into our body. How much of it, what’s in it, and what effect it’s going to have, be it positive or negative.
But what about what we put ON our body? Fitness clothing is more important than ever with ever advancing technologies coming in to play, it’s a way we can enhance our performance without any extra effort or training.
This week’s PhysioRoom blog is going to take a look at Compression Clothing. We’ll talk you through what it is, and give a rundown of some different pieces of clothing.
What is compression clothing?
Compression clothing has become somewhat of an umbrella term for items that exist somewhere on a spectrum of super tight and super revealing, often hilariously coloured garments. True compression wear does have a purpose and, if the science is to be believed, true benefits. Designed to increase blood and lymphatic flow to the specified limb, compression wear is said to improve performance and shorten recovery time in both athletes and workout warriors when used post exercise. Though they may have started life in the endurance circles of runners and triathletes, athletes such as The Rock and even Wayne Rooney have become synonymous with bulging (though for different reasons) out of compression tops in expertly marketed campaigns for the modern man.
The evidence may not be entirely conclusive with regards to the science of how it all actually works, but studies do exist in which an increase in oxygen uptake to the working muscles, a reduction in blood lactate levels and improved warm ups have all been seen when compression wear is worn post exercise. Compression clothing isn’t just a case of tight fabrics. It is graded in its tightness to ease blood flow, it features wicking properties to reduce sweat pooling and keep the athlete warm, whilst still allowing freedom of movement. The benefits of compression clothing, no matter how circumstantial, are not only flaunted, they are widely accepted by pretty much everyone in the sport. So much so, that even if the science isn’t conclusive with regards to recovery rates, I wear compression wear during all of my workouts – both in and out of the gym. Long sleeves and wicking fabrics keep me warm and dry on rainy days and tight tops keep me squeezed in when training in the gym. Simply, I’m sold.
Socks: Calf length socks have become a standard accessory fitness trend on the race course from 5k’s to ultra-marathons. Post-exercise compression socks have been shown to improve recovery and counteract delayed-onset muscle soreness. They feet and calves have the anatomical disadvantage of being far away from the heart and having to fight the laws of gravity to pump blood away from the area. Therefore wearing compression socks help improve the circulation without having to lie with your legs in the air! Wearing lower limb garments such as these will keep your legs warm whilst you wait for the starting gun and though they won’t actually make you faster they have been shown to aid in recovery and help preserve maximal power during endurance training so you can sprint to the finish like Mo himself.
Shorts: Focusing on the upper leg and the glutes, some compression shorts feature padded protection zones around the joints for impact risk sports such as skiing alongside cup holders for martial artists and cricket players. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that cyclists who wore compression shorts during a 24 hour rest window between two 40km time trials recovered faster and had a far greater power output than those using a placebo.
PhysioRoom.com suggests the Elite Core Stability Shorts which offer all of the benefits of compression wear with additional support systems to assist with sports hernia, Gilmore’s Groin and many other upper leg injuries.
Upper Body: Upper body compression apparel is most commonly worn by footballers and gym goers wishing to keep warm during those early morning sessions. Again, evidence for its use during exercise is mixed but one thing’s for sure, wearing a compression jersey whilst out in the cold winds of blighty will keep you warm, dry and comfortable on the pitch.