In the last 5 years compression gear has been rushing into the market. Around for much longer when it comes to sports teams and performance athletes – suddenly us mere mortals can go pro too!
We can run, walk, cycle, sprint and workout in technical gear to enhance our lives. Plus get our hands on some of the best products on the market with just a click of the mouse.
So why would you buy compression gear and how do you know which to choose?
Over the last 4 months I been lucky enough to have tested 2XU, Puma, BSc, Nike Pro, Under Armour and Skins to really see if I could feel the difference…the trick is finding the right compression garment that suits your needs and fits your body.
Here’s 5 quick FAQ’s to help you get informed.
- What actually defines a compression garment
- Are they all created equal
- How to choose the right brand for you
- What do the technical terms mean
- When is it best to use compression gear
Compression gear does exactly what the name suggests – it forms a gentle compression around the muscle to stimulate blood flow which in turn improves the ability to get fresh oxygen into the muscles, aid recovery, repair and support. Compression clothing wicks away moisture from the body as well and keeps muscles warm by helping maintain a regular body temperature during rest as well as training. These are all results of increased blood flow to the compressed area.
2. Are they all created equal?
Like all products on the market you have a base range of products then the elite level. To help give you a guide the most reputable and well-known brands are 2XU, BSC, Puma, Under Armour, NikePro, Skins, CompressSport – they all come in at average to high-end pricing. For example look to pay between AUD $139 and $199 for a full compression tight.
Each brand has its unique point of difference, for example Puma have compression taping on the inside of their garment and come in a slightly heavier fabric weight – for me they were pretty difficult to put on in a hurry and my team tested them out as well. We all agreed they were great for a colder climate and if you had the patience to roll them on 🙂
Body Science do such rigorous testing on their garments I was blown away. They also have something called ‘Targeted Compression’ which provides extra support and stability to areas of the body that need it the most such as the groin (adductors), hamstrings, quads, shins, pectorals and shoulders.
Once again it all comes down to fit and for me the look.
a) Fit – it should be snug but not cutting off your circulation. I walk around in mine all day and often use them for long plane trips or travel. I have learnt that fit is so personal and you really need to try on the garments.
b) Form – Does it suit the shape of your body
c) Function – what do you need it for? Figure out your main training, workout and the environment you train in. Also consider where you have the most muscle pain, lack of circulation or perhaps and old recurring injury. You’ll see many triathletes run in compression socks or shorts for their quads/hamstrings as well as rugby/league/soccer and national football teams. Your quads and hamstrings are your biggest muscle group so having them looked after during or post rigorous training is not a bad idea.
d) Weather – some compression gear are thicker fabric than others and you can get varying fabric weights. Compression gear is not reserved for cool climates – you might opt for 3.4 tights a short or socks in very hot locations but it’s all personal preference and based on what you’re trying to achieve
I even have mine with me in Fiji right now and use them post a big session as well as for flying.
4. What do the technical terms mean
I asked Body Science’s Head of R&D about technical stuff! Here’s some top tips for reading what’s on the packaging and websites:
– An increased number of fibres = means greater durability
– A greater ‘elastometric fibre content = meaning that the material can stretch further and return to it’s original shape without distortion
– Superior wicking qualities = means that the material is able to ‘draw’ sweat away from where it is produced helping to dissipate body heat.
5. When is it best to use compression gear
Using compression gear over time has the best benefits as it provides a consistent environment for your muscles and blood flow to benefit from the garments. This should lead to improved stability and ‘explosiveness’ for those athletes that are really measuring performance optimization.
For us every day warriors it is about better recovery, healthy blood flow and reducing lactic acid build up. They are best used during and post training/racing or working out. As mentioned above compression gear is not just for cold climates!
If you want a technical performance based review then then this article by AusSport might shed some light as to why athletes like to use compression gear.
Note, every body is different, so findings are always general and based upon a those tested, sport, type of compression garment and testing situation.
Buying some compression gear is not suddenly going to give you magic muscles. You still need to train and work responsibility on your condition 🙂 Stretching, flexibility, rest and recovery are still vital for performance and a healthy body to prevent injury.
Thanks for reading and as always I welcome questions!
Special thanks to Sweaty Betty PR who organised the PUMA tights, to my team for trying on all types of gear and running around in it too , and to BSc who answered all my annoying pesky questions 🙂