Every footy club down here is flooded with a sea of Skins long sleeve compression tops, or 2XU tights, right through from the start of April to the end of the season, to help get the players through the long, cold season.
So, are these magical compression garments turning all of these weekend warriors into supreme elite athletes? Or do they just feel good and arguably look good?
I’ll confess to being on the team of these tights wearers. And worse, on the side with no shorts over the top back in the days when I used to play footy a few years ago. This is an extremely vigorous debate amongst fellow players when involved in local level footy. You either wear your tights on their own and leave very little to the imagination, or you wear a pair of footy shorts over the top to leave people guessing… Either way, this is off topic and not really addressing the key question here. So yes, I have worn and still am a fan of compression garments. But why?
Do compression garments really work for the purpose they are intended or are they just an expensive excuse for men to get away with wearing tights?
Firstly we need to examine what are these garments trying to achieve?
The answer is they are aiming to speed up your recovery from exercise by aiding in circulation of the extremities and increasing veinous return of blood and metabolites.
As we know, blood is pumped away from your heart, but returned to your heart via contractions in your muscles squeezing blood back to your core with much less pressure. Your veins have one-way valves preventing blood from traveling in the wrong direction. A genius design by whomever you believe did the designing. Compression garments increase the pressure around the muscles at the extremities and aid your circulation to bring the used blood back through your lungs for oxygenation. Graduated compression is the key, with greater compression at the extremities becoming less firm and tight as it moves closer to the core, otherwise arterial (or blood on its way out to your working muscles), may become compromised and therefore impede performance.
The benefit compression garments are trying to achieve is an increased rate of veinous return and to increase the rate at which metabolic waste product, caused by exercise, is cleared from the working or worked muscles. By aiding in the clearing of this waste product from the muscle back into the blood stream, recovery is faster as less damage is caused to the muscles tissue by the waste product post exercise. Also when used during competition the compression can reduce the negative effect this waste product may have on your performance. Think of it as helping to reduce that lactate burn you sometimes feel when exercising intensely.
Nathan and I were lucky enough to have a meeting with exercise scientist and developer of the new Skins A400 range a couple of years back when we were given some free product to trial (always a handy little perk of our job). He gave us a great run down on how the garments work and how a hell of a lot goes into there design. Here is there run down from their website:
“When you apply compression to specific body parts in a balanced and accurate way, it accelerates blood flow. This gets more oxygen to your working muscles – and boosts your performance.
Better blood flow also helps your body to get rid of lactic acid and other metabolic wastes – which helps you work at a higher rate for longer. Plus, improved oxygenation reduces the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness and accelerates muscle repair. So BioAcceleration Technology™ plays a big part in helping you recover from exercise too.”
So in my opinion and as proven in various studies, yes compression garments do in fact work and can achieve at least some of what they claim to achieve. They will aid in increasing your performance in certain scenarios and they will also help you to recover quicker post exercise. So join the men in tights!