Looking to bounce back quicker from your workouts and training? Then you should definitely be making use of compression for recovery.
Finding time for an ice bath or a good session with the foam roller is a wonderful way to help your body recover from a hard session at the gym, but it can also be pretty time-consuming.
You might not always be able to find the time to fit them in during busy days when you've barely managed to squeeze in a workout. For those days, compression clothing is a great way to get some of the same benefits.
Compression gear is an excellent method to help relieve sore muscles and get you back in the gym for your next training session. In this article, we'll talk about how compression for recovery works and how you can use it to recover faster and boost your performance and training.
What is compression?
The first thing to understand about compression for recovery is what compression is and how it works. Compression refers to the use of tight-fitting clothing that applies pressure to specific areas of the body to improve blood flow.
It's designed to provide light but steady pressure to specific parts of the body while allowing a full range of motion. Generally, compression garments are designed to provide the most compression at the distal end of the limb and gradually decrease in pressure moving toward the heart.
This is because the goal of compression is to help improve circulation, which is best achieved by applying pressure in a way that helps send blood back up to the heart.
Different types of compression gear are available that can be used for different parts of the body depending on what your needs are.
- Compression socks - designed to provide compression to the lower legs and feet.
- Compression sleeves - worn on the arms.
- Compression shirts - provides compression to the torso and shoulders.
- Compression shorts and tights - worn on the lower body and abdomen.
- Compression calf sleeves - designed specifically for the calf muscles.
- Compression gloves - worn to improve circulation in the hands.
- Compression bodysuit - provides compression to the entire body.
- Compression knee sleeves - provide compression to the knee.
Compression for Recovery: How it Works
So let's talk about how compression for recovery works. First, we'll talk about what actually causes muscle soreness and then talk about how compression gear can help.
What causes muscle soreness?
Muscle soreness is pain, stiffness, or fatigue felt in the body after a workout. It's most commonly felt when you start a new exercise program or when you increase the intensity or duration of your workouts.
It can be caused by a few factors. One type of muscle soreness, referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is caused by small tears in the muscle fibers. This exercise-induced muscle damage is that painful feeling you experience 24-48 hours after a tough workout.
This happens when you lift weights or do other forms of exercise that cause your muscles to work harder than they are used to. It's a normal and necessary part of the muscle-building process, but it can be uncomfortable and impede your performance.
Another cause of muscle soreness is a build-up of lactic acid. Lactic acid is a byproduct of cellular metabolism that can build up in the muscles during intense or prolonged physical activity, leading to muscle fatigue and soreness.
And lastly, muscle soreness can be caused by inflammation. Inflammation is triggered when the muscles are overworked, causing them to become inflamed and sore.
Benefits of compression garments for muscle recovery
Muscle soreness from a tough workout might be inevitable, but compression clothing can help reduce that muscle soreness and speed up your recovery. They help by increasing circulation, which helps to remove waste products from the muscles.
The extra blood flow helps bring in nutrients the muscles need and flushes out waste and toxins to help speed up muscle recovery. This, in turn, can help you to get back into the gym faster and improve your performance by allowing you to push harder during your workouts.
A study in 2015 found that performance recovery was improved by the use of compression tights. The study also noted that DOMS was found to be decreased by tights or compression garments in 4 additional studies.
The pressure provided by compression garments can also help to reduce muscle vibration and movement, which can lead to muscle soreness.
When to Wear Compression Garments for Recovery
Now that we understand how compression for recovery works, the next question is - when should compression garments be worn?
Compression gear can be worn post-exercise or after a competition to help reduce muscle soreness, improve circulation, and speed up recovery. It's also beneficial to wear compression garments during physical activity as they can help provide support and stability.
If worn before exercising, the increased circulation can help warm the muscles up, allowing them to work more efficiently. Compression garments can also be worn for rest and recovery throughout the day to provide compression and support for the muscles.
Tips for Wearing Compression Garments
Compression garments are great for helping speed up your recovery, but like most tools, they need to be used correctly. Here are some tips for purchasing and wearing compression garments for recovery:
- Choose the right type of compression garment: Make sure to choose a compression garment that is specifically designed for the area of the body you want to target, such as compression socks for the lower legs or a compression shirt for the torso.
- Buy the right size: To be effective, compression garments should fit properly and provide the right amount of compression for your needs.
- Consider the material: It's also important to choose high-quality, well-made compression garments to ensure they provide the intended benefits and don't cause discomfort or injury.
- Start slow and experiment: Buy compression gear for whichever area you notice the most soreness after your workouts. Then try different areas or body parts to see what type of compression gear benefits you the most.
Other Benefits of Compression Gear
Compression gear is clearly great for recovery, but there are also other benefits that make them worth using. As well as improving circulation, here are some other perks to wearing compression garments:
Compression gear helps to provide stability to the muscles, which can lead to better posture when worn during physical activity. This can help to reduce fatigue and strain on the back, shoulders, and neck areas.
Provides compression and support
Another benefit of wearing compression garments is that they provide compression to areas of the body that need it most. This provides support for muscles in order to help prevent injury and reduce muscle fatigue.
Reduces chafing and irritation
Compression garments can also help to reduce friction and chafing when worn during physical activity. The compression helps to improve circulation, which in turn reduces irritation and discomfort.
This can also help to eliminate blisters and other skin irritations that can arise during exercises such as running or weightlifting.
Another benefit of wearing compression garments is that they can minimize vibrations in the muscles. The tight fit of compression garments helps to reduce muscle oscillation, which is the back-and-forth movement of the muscles during physical activity.
This reduction in movement can help to reduce muscle fatigue and improve endurance during prolonged periods of physical activity.
Regulates body temperature
Another perk of wearing compression gear is that it helps to regulate body temperature. It works by wicking away sweat and keeping the skin dry, which can help to prevent overheating during physical activity.
The tight fit of compression garments can also help to trap a layer of air close to the skin, which acts as insulation and helps to maintain body temperature. Not to mention, the improved blood flow, helps distribute heat throughout the body which also helps to regulate body temperature.
Sports Compression Vs Medical Compression
For the majority of this article, we've been talking about how compression gear can be used to help with workout recovery for sports and training. However, compression clothing is also frequently used in medical applications and is often prescribed by doctors for conditions such as venous insufficiency, leg swelling, varicose veins, and lymphedema among others.
It's also common to see compression apparel used for people who are sedentary for long periods of time while recovering from an injury or illness.
Medical compression garments are typically made from a much stronger compression material than what you would find in sports compression garments, and they often have special features such as built-in compression pumps.
These features provide even more compression to help treat medical conditions and are not necessary for sports compression gear. When purchasing compression garments, be sure to check if what you're purchasing is meant for sports applications or medical compression therapy.
I would also advise that you consult a doctor before beginning compression clothing therapy, especially if you're using compression for a medical condition.
Other Ways to Boost Muscle Recovery
While using compression garments is great for recovery, by itself it may not be enough to totally prevent muscle soreness. It's best to combine compression garments with other recovery strategies in order to achieve optimal results.
Here are some other things you can do to boost muscle recovery:
- Don't skip the warm-up and cool down
- Regular use a foam roller after your workouts
- Add cold showers or cryotherapy to your routine
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night
- Reduce stress where possible
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs
FAQs About Compression for Recovery
Here are some common questions about compression for recovery:
What should I look for when buying compression gear?
When buying compression gear for recovery, look for clothing that is specifically designed for compression and sports. Make sure it fits tightly but not too tight - discomfort can be a sign that the compression level is too high.
Also, make sure that the fabric is breathable and sweat-wicking to keep your skin dry and comfortable during physical activity.
Do compression pants work?
Yes, compression pants can work to help reduce muscle soreness and improve performance. The compression provided by compression pants increases blood flow and helps the muscles in your legs recover faster.
How long should you wear compression for recovery?
If your compression gear fits you properly, you can wear them for as long as you like. However, if they don't fit properly, they can cause problems such as pain, discomfort, or possibly loss of circulation.
Can compression garments be worn every day?
Yes, compression garments can be worn every day as long as they fit you properly and provide the correct compression level for your needs.
How do you use compression socks for recovery?
Compression socks work the same way compression garments do - they help to increase blood flow and reduce muscle soreness.
To use compression socks for recovery, put them on before your workout and take them off after you are finished with your exercises. This will help to improve circulation during exercise.
When using compression socks for recovery, put them on after your workout to help reduce swelling and muscle soreness. Also, be sure to practice good hygiene when using compression socks - wash them regularly and keep them in good condition.
Do compression recovery boots work?
Yes, compression recovery boots are often used for rehabilitation because they provide compression to the entire leg and are somewhat easier to manage than compression socks or clothing. They are great for increasing circulation in the lower body, which can help speed up rehabilitation and recovery.
Can compression make an injury worse?
Compression can actually be helpful for treating and rehabilitating injuries. According to WebMD, using compression can help stabilize an injury, reduce swelling, and boost the healing process.
Does compression help healing?
Yes, compression can help speed up the healing process and reduce pain. Wearing compression clothing increases circulation, which helps to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the injured area, allowing it to heal faster. Additionally, compression can reduce swelling and help stabilize injuries.
Conclusion to Compression for Recovery
When used correctly, compression for recovery is a great way to help reduce soreness and fatigue and get you back to training sooner. Make sure to buy compression gear that fits properly and is designed for compression and sports use.
Additionally, don’t forget the other important components of recovery, such as proper nutrition, sleep, and stress management. With compression for recovery in your toolkit, you can get back to training stronger, faster, and healthier!