Only a short few years ago, the standard workout clothing style was typically loose-fitting or baggy, but nowadays, you're more likely to see super-snug workout garments known as compression gear. This sleek, tight active wear comes in all kinds of forms and configurations, from the standard leggings, shorts, and tops, to the more hard-core arm sleeves, hoods, skull caps, socks, etc.
Designed to enhance athletic performance as well as recovery, compression gear is ultra-popular in professional sports, and is a favorite choice for runners and cyclists. So what exactly do these garments do, and are they all they're cracked up to be? Read on to find out more about what compression gear is all about, as well as how it could even help your workout performance.
The Science Behind Compression Gear
The whole point behind compression gear is to do exactly what its name says it will: "compress" an area of your body by applying a type of balanced surface pressure. This is to boost blood flow and circulation to that area, which will in turn deliver more oxygen to your muscles while reducing the buildup of metabolic wastes (e.g., lactic acid) in the muscles being worked.
While these points have been debated by scientists who study the effectiveness of such garments, many athletes swear by their compression gear, citing increased performance and much speedier muscle recovery when using it. Below are some of the most commonly reported benefits of using compression gear:
- Reduced Swelling - One study reported by the National Institutes of Health reported that compression technology can help limit swelling, especially for people who have to spend long periods of time on their feet. This would definitely hold true for long-distance runners and other endurance athletes.
- Reduced Vibration - Your skeletal muscles (i.e., those muscles that are directly connected to bones) endure quite a bit of vibration during workouts. Using compression gear may reduce these vibrations in skeletal muscle, which in turn would reduce muscle trauma and fatigue.
- Faster Recovery - This is one of the most commonly cited benefits of using compression gear. In another study published by the National Institutes of Health, cricket players experienced reduced muscle damage and less soreness when wearing compression garments during gameplay.
- Moisture Resistance - Compression garments are typically made from special synthetic fabrics that can draw moisture away from the body, which will keep you cooler in hot temperatures and warmer when it's cold outside.
- Basic Protection - When your skin is covered, there's less of a chance that you'll sustain certain abrasions, scratches, cuts, or other minor injuries that might occur during your workout. For example, a trail runner wearing calf sleeves could protect his/her legs from scuffs, nicks, or even poison ivy while out in the elements.
- Psychological Benefits - Many compression gear enthusiasts assert that these snug-fitting garments carry psychological benefits as well--for instance, you might wear compression gear to keep from feeling an unwanted "jiggle" when you're moving through your workout. Not only that, but because compression gear offers such a sleek look, many people feel better about themselves when they're wearing it.