Compression Garments are something that is starting to become a must have in and around triathlon.  Compression garments have become increasingly popular amongst athletes with suppliers claiming enhancements in recovery and performance. Some people are convinced of the benefits, others very precarious, and some completely against how they could help enhance performance. However I am now simply going to talk about the claimed benefits of compression garments, their popularity, some science and studies and then leave it up to you to decide in the poll at the bottom.

With many manufactures now offering compression garments for all of the body, with ranging costs up to around £100 depending on how much of the body you buy for and the brand. It is therefore important to understand what they are meant to do. 

Suggested benefits of compression garments based on current research findings, listed below are potential areas where an advantage may be gained through the use of compression garments:
  • enhancing blood circulation to peripheral limbs
  • reducing blood lactate concentration during maximal exercise
  • enhancing warm-up via increases in skin temperature
  • improving repetitive jump power
  • reducing muscle oscillation upon ground contact
  • increasing torque generated about joints, improving performance and reducing the risk of injury, e.g. assisting the eccentric action of the hamstring at the end of the swing phase in running
  • enhancing recovery following strenuous exercise by aiding in the removal of blood lactate and improving subsequent exercise performance
  • reducing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness in the days following strenuous exercise
  • increasing feelings of positive leg sensations both during and following strenuous exercise.


A 2009 study in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found compression stockings improved running performance at sub maximal intensities in moderately trained male runners. And a 2008 study on lower-body compression garments on cyclists in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance reported increased power output and enhanced muscle oxygenation efficiency during shorter-duration cycling tests in well-trained male cyclists, but the same study found no performance gains in a one-hour time trial. In two studies of 10K time trial runs and 40-minute submax runs, the researchers in the 2007 Journal of Sports Science study measured many variables but showed only recovery benefits—no gains in performance. The evidence therefore is inconclusive, due to the nature of the product being fairly new to the market of sport; despite being used medically for around 60 years to help with venous return. 

Many however suggest it is more down to a placebo effect on the mind and therefore this is why we see this heavy trend in people wondering around in compressions garments. Not even all pro triathletes are convinced, however once again due to the nature of compression garments in sport being a fairly new phenomenon the evidence is not concrete either way and we will have to wait for more research to be done to make more significant claims either way. 

In conclusion, according to the literature, compression garments may offer several ergogenic benefits for athletes across many sporting backgrounds. In particular, some studies have reported that compression garments can improve muscular power, strength, enhance recovery following intense exercise and improve proprioception. However, caution should be taken when choosing the correct compression garment for your sport and ensuring the garment provides enough pressure to promote venous return. There currently is no right or wrong answer to whether to where compression garments or not. Some athletes now will not compete without them. It is once again down to personal opinion and giving it a go! 

Ciaran

Please leave you opinion using the poll or/

Further reading and citing:
http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2011/07/01/does-compression-clothing-really-work
 





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