Compression clothing is popular with professional athletes and recreational athletes alike, and it is not uncommon to see the leisure Sunday cyclist or runner from wearing some form of compression.
I too wear compression clothing on occasions (abnormally longer distances, or just another layer to keep warm in winter!), in the chance that it will have a benefit.
The claimed benefits to compression clothing is that it will:
- Improve performance
- Increased muscle strength and power
- Increase blood flow to muscles
- Reduced DOMs (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
- Better recovery
I have scoured studies to find out if they actually work – in review of a range of meta analysis and systematic reviews – here is what I have found:
Some studies have found some improvement in muscle strength, power, DOMs, and CK (marker of inflammation and damage to muscles) when using compression clothing.
Others agree that strength and power improves, however doesn’t show any changes to CK – interestingly this analysis showed perceived improvements in recovery (possible placebo effect??)
Compression use in the recovery from strength training had the largest effect – which occurred 2-8hrs post, or at >24hrs, with endurance exercise only having a recovery benefit after 24hrs.
Wearing compression garments during exercise may have an improvement to jumping performance, however limited evidence in other exercises – and recovery is inconclusive, although, self ratings of post activity soreness is better with compression (placebo?).
Compression clothing or not?
To summarise – there is no concrete evidence for the use of compression in performance or recovery, however strength and power may be enhanced – but the evidence isn’t very strong (and often open to interpretation).
The placebo effect may actually be the real winner and responsible for many of the benefits – and any improvement is a win, even if its just a placebo!
If I were a professional athlete looking to get the edge of my competition – I would be wearing them daily, but as a recreational “keep fit” type person, it may not be that beneficial – but as compression clothing is a fairly low expense – why not give it a go!