What is the Difference Between Regular Sportswear and Compression Performance Clothing?
When you envision training for long distance runs or train hard in any sports disciplines, it is advisable to start considering wearing compression shorts, compression calf sleeves, compression socks or compression long tights, versus non-compression gear. Why?
Wearing compression helps
Compression clothing improves performance and recovery because your blood flow is enhanced, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscle while exercising and removing waste products after exercise for better recovery.1 While we wear active compression, our muscles move less, we have better body awareness and we minimize inflammation post-exercise.
According to Joel Enoch, “Scientific studies reported that runners’ time to exhaustion could be slightly improved by wearing compression wear. Literature also reported improved run biomechanics and running economy, as well as reduced perception of effort, muscle damage, pain and inflammation during recovery. This is in line with research showing that muscle power is better maintained when wearing compression clothing.”2
It is known also that keeping your muscles warm will reduce the risk of injury and you will “use your slow twitch muscles fibers more efficiently”3. The compression shorts, calf sleeves and leggings will contribute to minimize the lactic acid build up in your muscles and the fatigue in your legs.
Wearing compression after exercising “Can augment the movement of blood through muscles after exercising, when blood flow would otherwise slow down,” said Billy Sperlich, professor of sport science at the University of Würzburg in Germany. For instance, the lactic acid is flushed away, thereby reducing inflammation and soreness. Compression will also help to stabilize the muscles and decrease the amount of muscular vibration, resulting in decreased fatigue.
James Broatch also summarizes the mechanisms associated with compression wear to improve performance and recovery as follow:
1. Compression improves blood flow
The mechanical pressure exerted by compression garments are thought to increase both arterial perfusion (i.e., the delivery of blood to our muscles) and venous return (i.e., the delivery of blood back to our heart). During exercise, increased arterial perfusion will enhance oxygen and nutrient delivery to the working muscles, thereby improving their capacity to perform work. During post-exercise recovery, increased venous return will aid in the removal of muscle metabolites and waste products, theoretically reducing exercise-induced muscle damage.
2. Compression improves proprioception and reduces muscle oscillation/vibration
There is some indication that compression can enhance joint awareness during exercise via an improvement in proprioception. Proprioception is the process by which receptors in our skin, muscles and joints provide feedback to the central nervous system regarding the position of our joints. Compression garments may also to reduce muscle oscillation and vibration experienced during dynamic activities (e.g., running, jumping, and contusion). During such movements our muscles are forced to accelerate, decelerate, and absorb shock.
The benefits associated with improved proprioception and reduced muscle oscillations relate to muscle function and movement efficiency. For example, force production and power development rely on effective neuromuscular transmission and excitation-contraction coupling, components of muscle contraction that may be impaired by muscle oscillations. Furthermore, compression-induced improvements in proprioception may offset the detrimental effects of fatigue on technique and joint sense, ultimately improving movement efficiency and preventing injury.
3. Compression reduces exercise-induced swelling, inflammation, and muscle soreness
Compression of an exercised limb during recovery will limit the space available for exercise-induced muscle edema to form. A resultant reduction in limb swelling will improve joint range on motion and alleviate muscle soreness, allowing athletes to recover faster and train sooner. Additionally, compression will result in a shift of fluid from the exercised muscle back to the blood, thereby removing mediators of muscle inflammation and damage.
4. Compression improves psychological well-being
Compression clothing such as Caliloko have been reported to reduce feelings of fatigue and muscle soreness, both during and after exercise. A number of factors may explain the improvements in psychological variables, including a reduction in muscle displacement, a reduction in the number of muscle fibers recruited, less structural damage to the muscle, and/or reduced muscle swelling. Improved psychological well-being as a result of compression may also be a result of positive perceptions and belief in their efficacy; however, these are still benefits nonetheless.
Who should be wearing compression? And when?
Compression sportswear is for everyone, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to choose to wear it. Evidence demonstrates that everyone benefits from wearing compression.
It is important to wear the products before an event. So many people sometimes buy compression the day of their first marathon. No matter if you’re a top athlete or an amateur in your sport, if you are not use to wearing compression, it could get into your head and even affect your performance on race day. It is a must to train before hand in this type of performance clothing so you are ready, strong mentally and prepared physically on the day of your event.
As for age groups, nothing really suggests that any age group would benefit from compression more than another. Given that research shows compression can improve joint awareness and reduce muscle oscillation, it’s possible that older people feel more benefits than younger athletes from wearing compression in their daily lives.
As Joel Enoch said, “Ultimately, the choice is down to your personal preference, but if you do go for compression, wear it during and after more stressful sessions rather than all the time and choose items that offer ‘graduated compression’."4
What makes Caliloko different?
Designed with a body mapping structure and industrially knitted following specific patterns unique to Caliloko, the fabrics apply pressure on the surface of targeted muscles. Consequently it helps to improve the blood flow back to the heart while reducing muscle wobbling.
“Since compression on the market is not all created equal, what distinguishes Caliloko from other compression products is the significant physiological benefits as opposed to a just tight-fitting garment,“ said professional squash athlete Peter Creed. “Those benefits include a better support of the muscles, graduated compression technology to promote good blood circulation and the second skin sensation of the fabrics. Instead of feeling constricted, I feel more powerful in the gym and on court.”
1 According to James Broatch*, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Sport. https://www.vu.edu.au/research/james-broatch
2 Joel Enoch is an award-winning coach and GB age-group Triathlete at World and European Championship level for over a decade with a proven capacity to support athletes to be their best. He has completed the British Triathlon High Performance Coaching Programme and has guided 32 athletes to 70 GB age-group performances between 2013-2019. Prior to the ET Squad, Joel established, built and led the JETS triathlon squad to enormous success with athletes gaining awards and titles at Scottish, British, European and World age group championships. Joel is a nutritional ambassador for global nutrition brand CLIF Bar, a mentor on the True Athlete Project Mentoring Programme, feature writer and ‘Run Expert’ for 220 Tri Magazine and has worked as a personal trainer and applied sport scientist from grassroots to elite level. His passion is helping people to grow, learn and become successful at what they do.