The era of figure hugging gym outfits is upon us. Rewind a decade and you would find workout clothing to be baggier in nature. Nowadays, it is not only females wearing physique revealing lycra outfits. In fact, you will be hard to find a male gym goer who doesn’t own at least one skin tight muscle hugging item of clothing.

Is this sudden burst of bare all workout wear a way to feed egos OR is there a more scientific reason behind compression?

Now before anyone reading this gets on their high horse, I am a huge fan of wearing compression garments. I find them comfortable and non-restrictive whilst also providing stability and aiding my recovery after workouts (yes I wear them when I am not working out). But is this purely placebo or are there actually any benefits to these items of clothing?

A lot of research has gone into compression clothing and the science behind how compression can be an effective performance and recovery enhancer. The science behind compression gear demonstrates that when you apply a balanced surface pressure over specific body parts, you can increase oxygen delivery and accelerate blood flow to the muscle groups being worked. This improvement of circulation can help to reduce the build-up of metabolic waste (such as lactic acid) and allow you to work at a higher rate for longer periods of time.

There have been several studies looking into the effectiveness of compression garments on athletic performance. Bringard et al. (2006) and Kemmler et al. (2009) demonstrated an improvement of 2.1% in aerobic capacity and 6.2% in anaerobic capacity of runners when comparing not wearing compression gear and wearing compression gear. The research suggests that wearing compression clothing can positively impact your performance by enhancing your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. In basic terms this means that you are able to work harder and longer without fatiguing as quickly when you wear compression clothing.

A meta-analysis by Hill et al. (2014) showed that wearing compression clothing while exercising can improve muscle strength and power. A meta-analysis is conducted by taking all available research on a particular subject and then combining the results of this research to strengthen arguments for or against the subject matter. Hill et al (2014) also demonstrated that wearing compression clothing after working out can lead to improvements in recovery by reducing the severity of DOMs (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). The results indicated that compression garments were effective in enhancing recovery from muscle damage. The compression clothes aid recovery by facilitating blood flow to deliver nutrients to the muscles that have been worked. Wearing compression clothing can also help to reduce swelling around the parts of the body worked during exercise sessions and this has also shown to speed up recovery.

Although the majority of research has shown that wearing compression clothing will help in reducing DOMs and speeding up recovery, there a few studies that have shown compression to have no positive effects on recovery. Studies conducted by Berry et al (1990) and Ali et al (2010) both concluded that wearing compression socks had little physiological benefits to recovery. Now these studies were mainly conducted on runners and only looked into compression socks. The vast amount of research that has shown compression clothing to be beneficial to recovery and performance has been conducted on leggings and tops that are manufactured with a very high quality material. I just wanted to provide details on what the science shows. Maybe compression socks are not a wise investment of your money and you will be better off purchasing a high-quality pair of compression tights and a couple of tops instead. These types of compression garments have been scientifically shown to help both performance and recovery.

Compression clothing is not only a fantastic performance and recovery enhancer it can also help keep you cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. It does this through its ability to draw moisture (sweat) away from the skin. Some compression garments are actually made with an anti-bacterial material that reduce the potency of the undesirable smell of body odour.

So, the benefits of compression clothing are clear to see;

– A performance enhancer.

– A recovery booster.

– A body temperature controller.

– A hygienic item of clothing to reduces the smell of body odor.

I am not going to discuss whether you should be wearing baggier items of clothing on top of your compression clothes as I think that comes down to personal preference and the environment of where you train. Bare all or cover your crown jewels – it’s up to you!

I am going to discuss my favourite items of compression clothing that I currently wear. Many of you may know the sports performance company Rehband (if you don’t know them then get to know www.rehband.com) for their awesome support based products (knee sleeves, elbow supports, back supports, weight lifting belts etc.). But they have also just released an extremely high quality catalogue of compression clothes. Rehband does not skimp when it comes to researching their products. Everything is scientifically backed and this is shown through the quality of what they produce.

A few of my favourite compression items from there selection are:

– Athletic Long Tights = I use these after working out and when I am coaching clients. They are an extremely comfortable pair of leggings that I use to prevent pain and reduce stiffness.

rehband-athletic-tights

– Raw Compression Tights = These are hands down THE BEST LEGGINGS I OWN! I have worn all of the big brands when it comes to compression leggings (Skins, Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, Reebok etc.) and nothing comes close to the quality of these. They fit like a dream as they hug your legs and bum and don’t slide or move when you perform exercises. The material used to create these leggings makes them breathable yet supportive. They provide a lot of stability and keep your lower body warm and mobilised.

rehband-raw-compression-leggings

– Raw Compression Short AND Long Sleeved Tops = I never used to wear compression tops as I found them to be far too restrictive, especially around my armpits and my neck. I was told to try these tops created by Rehband by a friend. I wasn’t disappointed with my purchase. They were extremely comfortable, non-restrictive and they made you look like a Greek God (well nearly) when you worked out.

raw-compression-top

These are just a few of the products that I have tested from Rehband and am now recommending to my family, friends and clients. They do the exact same specification of products for males and females. If you enjoy wearing high quality compression clothing that will enhance your athletic performance, keep you warm during the colder months and boost your body’s ability to recover post exercise then do yourself a favour and invest in some of these items available from Rehband. I have tested a vast amount of compression clothing over the years and nothing has come close to these products. I have also learnt the hard way that you really do get what you pay for in life and the cheapest option is not always going to be the best. Invest your money in quality and you will get repaid in the long term when the items of clothing lasts for a long time.

If you have any questions on anything I have covered in this article, then please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanks for reading.

Written by: Adam Wakefield

I have been working as a personal trainer for over 9 years. I began my career in the fitness industry after completing a degree in Sport Science where I graduated with Upper Class Honours. I have always had a thirst for all things related to health, fitness and nutrition and it wasn’t before long that I owned my own gym.

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