Compression Clothing

Compression garments which include socks, pantyhose, sleeves, etc., are very popular for people doing exercise during last 2 decades. Athletes usually wearing these clothes to obtain a different level of compression. Many people say that this kind of clothing could improve performance, help recover after exercise and reduce swelling. However, does it works for every kind of exercise? How does it work?

Figure 1: Example of a Compression Clothing

Physiological Effect

On one hand, wearing compression clothes could benefit form its physiological effect. Scientists find that wearing compression clothing dose not improve cardiorespiratory performance during endurance training, but it could increase local blood flow and increase the clearance of metabolites and the supply of nutrients. Also, wearing compression clothing during long lasting exercise can improve performance which reduces fatigue level by attenuating maximal lactate concentration in the blood. However, during short lasting exercise such as 60m sprinting, wearing compression garments does not increase speed, but it helps recover by quickly reduce blood lactate level in following 10 minute after exercise.


Physical Effect

On the other hand, wearing compression clothes also have physical benefits. It could be considered as a spring that helps muscle contraction. During our movement, muscle uses contractive force to provide torque at joint in order to move our body. Wearing compression garments results in a considerable torque being generated about the joint at the flexion and extension ranges of motion. This could reduce injury and enhance muscle performance during exercise such as jumping. During swing phase, the risk of hamstring injury is increased the clothes can provide a torque that reduces the burden of the muscle, and during jumping phase, it provides a contractive force, so that the person can jumper higher.

Figure 2: Wearing Compression Garment During Jumping Exercise


While looking at the papers that I found, the studies are made very specific to each exercise. Wear compression clothes leads to different performance improvement and blood lactate and lactate dehydrogenase lever during and after exercise. In general, wearing compression garment is beneficial which helps reduce muscle and blood lactate level and increase blood flow rate. It also helps improve performance by adding torque required for movement at joints. The clothes is also temperature resisting, it helps retain local body temperature as well. However, it does not improve performance for all exercise, so use it wisely.


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3 thoughts on “Compression Clothing

  1. I have used compression clothing in the past for the purpose of keeping myself warm during exercise in cold weather. It is interesting to see that the reason why I stay warm may be due to the ability of compression clothing to increase local blood flow.

  2. I’d be curious to see what sort of materials make up compression clothing and how it is different than normal athletic wear. Is it simply elasticity that changes this or are there other factors as well? After looking into moisture-wicking clothing, I am curious to see if these clothes also share similar properties.

  3. It’s surprising that compression clothing can assist joint movement in such an appreciable way. I wonder if even stiffer/tighter clothes would help even more, and at what point they would be too stiff and limit movement more than assist.

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