Compression clothing is extremely common to come across in gyms, sport centers and pretty much anywhere where physical activity takes place. Previous studies have shown that compression garments may be beneficial for recovery but more research was needed to really understand their effect on strength recovery following lifting. Are compression garments a potential recovery tool that gym goers can utilize to boost their strength recovery or are they just a piece of comfortable clothing?
What did they test? The authors systematically reviewed and meta-analyzed the literature to see if compression garments can reduce the negative effects of exercise on muscle strength.
What did they find? Compression garments did not have a significant effect on muscle strength recovery regardless of when or how long they were worn for.
What does it mean for you? The literature still points at potential positive effects for compression garments as a whole but nothing in the realm of “game changing”. If wearing compression clothing is something that allows you to feel more comfortable inside and outside the gym, then you’re totally safe to do so, although you shouldn’t expect any extreme recovery benefits from it.
What’s the Problem?
You’ve probably heard about the importance of recovery following strenuous training and how your “muscles grow when you rest”. Although somewhat cliche, it’s true. Training hard is the stimulus that tells your body “hey, here’s some stress, adapt to it by growing/getting stronger” but it’s the resting & recovering that allows it to adapt.
The main pillars of recovery are sleep, nutrition and fatigue management. Unless those are in check, anything extra will offer very little, to no benefit towards your overall recovery. Unfortunately for a lot of people it seems like “sleep well and make sure to eat enough” is not as sexy as the latest recovery method or tool being presented as the “next best thing” for your recovery.
Foam rolling, cupping, cryo-therapy, and massage guns are some of the “recovery” tools out there that are often given more credit than they deserve, regardless of the paucity of scientific evidence for their effectiveness. As far as science is concerned, most available recovery tools may be able to somewhat reduce soreness and improve range of motion but nothing crazy beyond that 1.
One extremely famous recovery and performance improving tool is compression garments (>45 million dollars in sales in 2019 2). Compression garments are tight elastic garments that compress the limb they are worn on to promote tissue regeneration through the use of pressure. Compression clothing is something you see in multiple sports as well as in most commercial gyms or athletic facilities. Aside from the supposed recovery benefits, compression clothing is often just used as exercise clothing due to its tight fitting and stretchy material.