Take a moment to properly evaluate the professionals in the next sports game you watch - regardless of whether it's a 100-metre sprint, marathon, basketball game, or football game. The chances are that you're bound to see a common accessory used in all of them - the compression garment. From tight calf compression sleeves for runners to knee sleeves, and more, almost every athlete swears by these tools as a way of boosting both recovery and performance.
The question of "How do Compression Garments Boost Performance?" has led to a number of impressive claims from competitors and brands alike. Manufacturers suggest that compression wear can help increase blood flow, speed recovery, and boost athletic performance, while sportsmen say they help them achieve their best on the track or field. But what's the science behind all of this? How do compression garments boost performance?
Understanding the Garments
First of all, before we get into how compression garments boost performance, we need to address how these accessories actually work. Compression clothing is typically made up of various materials, including spandex, neoprene, and nylon. These materials are intended to maintain a specific structure which places the appropriate amount of graduated pressure on the chosen limb or area - while still being stretchable enough to wear. Through pressure, these garments compress the tissue, prevent edema, and promote blood flow.
Most compression sleeves for the calf are made to place greater pressure on the lower part of the leg, loosening gradually as they move further up the limb. This graduated solution helps to fight back against gravity and promote circulation in people with vascular problems or inflammation. As scientists continued to look at the effects of compression on blood flow, a new form of thinking emerged - if compression garments can improve circulation, maybe they can actually promote better performance? After all, our muscles need oxygen to perform, and that oxygen is obtained through blood flow. In other words, increased blood flow, equals improved oxygen levels leading to better athletic performance.
The Science Behind Compression Garments
The idea that compression garments boost performance is simple enough to follow, but the actual studies are somewhat lacking. While some research supports the idea that better recovery, combined with better circulation leads to improved performance, others suggest that the biggest benefit may actually come from the placebo effect. In some people, the biggest perk of wearing compression gear is that they truly believe it works for them. What's more, other people simply like the level of snugness and support they are provided with by these garments when taking part in sports or athletics.
Because compression garments automatically push extra oxygen throughout the body, the most supported idea in science is that they have a bigger role to play in recovery. However, it's fair to say that better recovery could actually make a significant difference to overall performance too. As if you recover faster from injury and pain, you'll be more likely to push yourself further and train harder in the future.