Compression Wear – Is it just about the look?

Published: 09 Mar 2015

Compression Wear – Is it just about the look?

The companies that manufacture compression wear claim the benefits of wearing them include:

  • Improved recovery and injury reduction
  • Increased muscular power, strength, endurance and proprioception
  • Enhanced athletic performance in all sporting environments

However, when we actually look at the available research, the results are conflicting and inconsistent. They often claim the use of compression wear improves lactate removal.

Lactate is a waste product that is created during intense exercise. An early study showed that athletes who wore compression wear during exercise at a maximal capacity on a bicycle had reduced blood lactate concentration. Lower blood lactate concentration is said to be associated with faster recovery, reducing the amount of rest time required before the next bout of exercise. Another study demonstrated that athletes wearing skins during vertical jumps, achieved greater jump height, jumping power and endurance. The reasons for the improved jumping ability are unknown; however researchers suggested that these improvements were linked to an improved warm up via increased skin temperature and reduced muscle vibrations.

The other suggested benefit of using compression wear after exercise is less symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness.  Some studies do confirm that wearing compression wear after exercise improves waste and lactate removal. A Finnish study found that subjects using compression wear following maximal weight training exercise reported decreased soreness, and a perception of reduced swelling and therefore an improved recovery.

It is notable that all of the studies that showed benefits had athletes working a maximum loads. When you are looking to purchase these products for yourself or your family, consider just how hard you train.  You may not be receiving much benefit when exercising at low or moderate intensity.

It is important to note that many other studies showed that generally that there is no benefit from the use of compression wear. However, on a positive note for those who sell this product, there have been no studies reporting any negative side effects from the use of compression wear during and after exercise.

So, although the jury is still out, there is no risk of using compression wear during or after exercise. These garments may provide benefits for athletes who are training at maximum levels or very frequently.