THE SCIENCE OF COMPRESSION by Nick Morgan, SKINS expert
posted on 19/12/2015 2:52:00 AM
How long has it been around?
Compression isn’t a new technique. It can be traced back to the early 1900s, when it was used in medicine and aviation. Compression in the form of a compression aid would reduce limb volume and drive blood flow.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that research began to determine the benefits of compression for sportspeople. These days, athletes around the world are wearing compression gear before, during and after sporting events to reap a variety of benefits.
Traditionally, the benefits of compression have been linked to blood flow and the impact this can have on endurance performance. Put simply, compression helps to speed up the rate at which blood is moved through the body, so that more oxygen can be transferred to the working muscles. As compression has developed, so too has the research behind it in areas such as running economy, muscle support, proprioception and injury.
What do we know?
We know that there are various benefits to wearing compression garments, the first being improved endurance performance. Studies show that runners wearing compression tights use less oxygen and therefore require less energy, which allows them to push harder and run for longer.
Compression garments are also known to improve team sport performance, with athletes covering a greater distance at faster speeds while also maintaining higher lower-leg power throughout the game and towards the end of the game when muscles tend to become more fatigued. Athletes on their own were also able to demonstrate an ability to maintain higher work rates for longer periods of time.
The area where the most research has been conducted is recovery. Improved oxygenation reduces the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and accelerates muscle repair. So engineered gradient compression and dynamic gradient compression play a big part in helping you recover from exercise.
What does this mean for you?
Basically, we know that compression helps people perform with better endurance, for longer periods of time and to recover faster. So, whether you’re a marathon runner, heavy lifter or someone who’s simply trying to incorporate a regular strength and cardio routine into your life, you could benefit from compression gear. Compression gear can help you achieve better results, but also to aid in your recovery (particularly after leg day)! However, this comes with two requirements. Firstly, the garment must fit correctly – saggy bunches around your thighs won’t really help. Secondly, there are a lot of garments out there on the market, so choose wisely. You shouldn’t assume the garment is effective unless it’s been demonstrated under research conditions.
McMannus, C. et al, ‘The Influence of SKINS A400 Lower Body Compression Garments on Running and Neuromuscular Performance’, Human Performance Unit, University of Essex UK CO4 3SQ, 2015, http://issuu.com/skinscompression/docs/a400_skins_study_v3/1?e=16420276/12088857
Higgins, T. et al, ‘Effects of wearing compression garments on physiological and performance measures in a simulated game-specific circuit for netball’, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2007, http://www.jsams.org/article/S1440-2440%2807%2900207-1/abstract
Jakeman, J. et al, ‘Lower limb compression garment improves recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage’, European Journal of Applied Physiology’, 2010, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-010-1464-0
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