I remember about 9 years ago, I saw all of these AFL players wearing those skin colour tights at practice as well as on the field. I had to have a double take and realise that they were ALL wearing them. All of them! Big grown men wearing tights that you’d see ballet dancers wear. I was taken back by the sight of grown-ass men wearing no pants or shorts yet they had on these super tight ball huggers. I had to scratch my head as to why all the while thinking…
Are you kidding me?
I decided to see what all the hype was about and went and picked up a pair of (brutally expensive at the time) compression tights to put them through their paces. I wanted to see what it is that they did. How they could increase my performance and also how much shit my wife (girlfriend at the time) was going to give me for wearing these around the house.
In that 9 years, I’ve had the luxury of working with some real high performers in sport and all of them used compression in their programming (either from me or their head coaches).
Now, as I train and educate mainly trainers and coaches, I often get asked about the tools and the tricks I use to get my athletes performing at their best. I’ve created an infographic for you below which will give you a run down as to some of the things that compression may do for you and your athletes.
Ok, let’s get to it. Here are some reasons why you should be using compression in your training and recovery.
Compression garments may help reduce soreness
There is a growing body of evidence in the field of compression garments of which show a lot of positive signs of performance enhancement but there still are many elements that remain unclear. Much of this is due to the large variation in testing methods used which leaves to a lot of holes in the literature.
I can tell from personal experience (and also from a study done in 2013) that wearing compression can help reduce the perception if DOMS. In an athletic sense, perception and how the athlete feels can play a huge role in what actually happens to the athlete’s body. We know for a fact that the thoughts and feelings of an athlete can carry over to their overall performance. It’s just one of those things!
If you’ve worked with elite athletes before, some of them have rituals that they go through which if left unbroken, can give the perception of success and increased performance (ie: wearing a particular type of underwear during a game).
Silly example but it does make you wonder doesn’t it?
There is evidence to suggest the there is a reduction in the inflammatory response about 48-72 hours post exercise which if compression is applied may help in reducing DOMS as well the inflammatory period itself.
May help enhance the circulatory system
If you’ve ever had surgery, you’ll know that they’ll put you in compression leggings post-op (the white super sexy kind) to help your body increase circulation. This is a practice that has been adopted the world over (I can remember this being the case with my first major knee-reconstruction in 2000). Granted, there is a big difference between the standard hospital issue compression tights and the ones you’ll find at a sports store however the application is still the same.
Increased circulation post training (increased blood flow) is a sure fire way to increase your recovery. Remember, your blood is a liquid highway of nutrients that feeds and fuels the muscle during recovery and there is evidence that compression may help in with this
All in all, anything that can speed up blood flow get’s the thumbs up from me. I’d like to see more research in this area but much of the unpublished findings have shown to be promising.
May help speed up recovery
In reducing DOMS post training, it’s safe to say that speeding up recovery time is the name of the game. If the athlete is suffering from less soreness (coming from the DOMS) then they’re going to be able to train more often and miss less training sessions. There is a large body of evidence suggesting this however there appears to be a lot of these studies actually containing small amount of subjects leading to the fact that we need more research in this area using larger sample size.
So, here is your resource that you can use for when it comes to all things compression. These were always the main points I used in my teachings towards my students and my athletes. That being said, make sure you also download the images below this graphic that gives you
Kramer WJ, Bush JA, Wickham RB, et al, Continuous compression as an effective therapeutic intervention in treating eccentric-exercise induced muscle soreness. J Sport Rehabil 2001;10:11–23.
Photo credit – E.M Sports Science – please visit their page here