The use of compression clothing in today’s day and age is becoming increasingly popular during both training and competition. Many top sporting brands have designed their own line of compression styled sportswear such as; Hilly, CEP, Nike, Canterbury, the list goes on… but why do we, and elite sports performers across the world choose to wear such products? Surely it doesn’t just serve as an excuse for people to wear tight fitting apparel in a vain attempt to show off their well-trained physiques? Well, maybe there is some truth in that with some cases, but I like to think that the performance enhancing benefits well outweigh the aesthetic purposes and I am now going to try to explain why:
Thermoregulation (maintaining body temperature)
The body operates best when kept at a specific temperature. Too cold and the muscles generate less force, tighten up and you become more susceptible to injuries such as strains and sprains. However, too hot and your reaction times slow and increased stress is placed on the heart.
Reduced Muscle Oscillation (reduces micro damage caused to the muscles)
Small tears appear in your muscle tissue every time they contract, it is a combination of this and the build up of lactic acid that create muscle soreness during and post exercise. Through reducing the rate of micro damage to the muscles, muscle soreness is reduced allowing us to work harder for longer.
Increased Circulation (blood flow around the body)
Increasing the rate of our blood flow means we can get oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles at a faster rate, as well a quicker removal of waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. This will help increase your rate of recovery during rest periods as well as prolonging the effects of fatigue.
Increased Proprioception (your awareness of the position of your body in space)
Proprioceptors are found within the muscles, they provide us with feedback upon our positions (e.g. your arm position compared to the rest of your body). Compression clothing effectively acts as a second skin, heightening such senses. As well as making the user more aware of their ranges of movement, it also gives added support and helps by reducing the risk of injury.
Increased Muscle Power Output (elastic and supportive properties)
The stretch in the fabric is designed to aid power input by assisting the stretch reflex / shortening cycle. As a result, the muscle power output is increased as the elastic material helps the muscles to contract with greater force.
Fashionable and Concealing (designed with appearance in mind)
Performance apart there are a couple of other added benefits of compression clothing also, such as; it’s comfortable to wear, it hides any imperfections, it maintains an image, allows you to feel your muscles working, and it can also increase confidence.
So next time it comes to buying your technical apparel, whether it be for training or competition purposes, or maybe just to help brave the harsher elements of the winter months? It may well be worth considering compression clothing as another alternative! The physiological and performance benefits are there to be exploited by everyone when it comes to training, no matter how good you are or what level you train at!