For years, standard fitted sportswear has been the first choice for athletes worldwide however; due to scientific research and the innovation of sports clothing companies, in recent years compression garments have become increasingly popular with athletes trying to improve their performance.
So why have compression garments become so popular and how can they improve your performance?
Blood flow is important during exercise as red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. Higher compression isn’t necessarily better for you. It’s about having the right amounts of compression in the right places. The further away from the heart, the slower the flow of blood is. If levels of compression are higher at the calves and forearms, blood flow back to the heart is increased. This is known as gradient, or graduated compression. The best way to think of it is by squeezing a tube of toothpaste at the base.
Research has suggested one of the benefits that compression garments can have is focusing the direction of the muscle fibres by reducing muscle oscillation, which can hinder the alignment of muscle fibres when moving, reducing the function of the muscle (Kraemer et al., 1998). Therefore reducing muscle oscillation can prevent injuries and keep muscles functioning for longer periods of time.
Proprioception is your awareness of how your body moves, whether it’s running, cycling, playing golf or simply walking up a flight of stairs. Compression garments help to activate the proprioceptors which are specialised sensory receptors found in the muscles, tendons joints and inner ear. These receptors relay information back to the brain about what exact movements are being carried out by your body.
Enhancing proprioception can improve your balance, technique, and can also prevent your body from getting into awkward positions that may lead to injury.
Compression garments aren’t going to make you into an elite athlete overnight. What they will do is support your muscles, improve your blood flow and generally make you feel more athletic. This is what will keep you going that little bit longer.
Kraemer, W.J., Bush, J.A., Bauer, J.A., Newton, R.U., Duncan, N.D., Volek, J.S., Denegar, C.R., Canavan, P., Johnston, J., Putukian, M. and Sebastianelli, W. (1998). Influence of a compression garment on repetitive power output production before and after different types of muscle fatigue. Sports Medicine, Training and Rehabilitation, 8,163-184.