Why You Should Dress Like A Superhero In The Gym
A pair of compression leggings will boost your performance pre- and post-workout.
For the uninitiated, compression clothing is that ultra-tight sportswear you’ll often see on track athletes and cyclists. Despite its superhero-esque leave-little-to-the-imagination appearance, compression clothing is not just there to make you look like you’re auditioning for the Black Panther sequel, and it is not a bogus concept cooked up in a boardroom to sell more activewear. It can be a real asset to your sportswear arsenal and can take your athletic performance up a notch. And as compression specialist brands such as 2XU and Under Armour develop more and more effective products, the compression and shapewear market continues to grow. It is projected to reach a rather lofty $5.6bn by 2022. But how does compression clothing work, and why should you invest in it? To try and understand it a little better, we asked the guys at Melbourne-based compression specialist 2XU for a crash course.
How it works
You might be surprised to learn that compression is backed by science. “Compression started a few decades ago in the medical arena,” says Mr Mike Martin, UK sales and marketing director for 2XU. “It is used extensively in hospitals to help patients post-surgery, and it was adopted by the sporting world about 25 years ago. It works by improving blood and lymphatic flow, which increases delivery of oxygen to the muscles for improved performance and faster recovery.”
What it does
“First, compression improves circulation, which reduces muscle fatigue and soreness,” says Mr Martin. “Other benefits include less muscle movement, greater body awareness and reduced swelling.” If that makes it sound like compression sportswear is only for the pros, think again. “It’s often thought compression is just for elite athletes, but it may be even more beneficial to everyday athletes, who are less highly trained and have more room for performance and recovery gains,” says Mr Martin. So, for instance, if you wear a decent pair of compression shorts while doing a hard spell on the squat rack, your thighs will thank you the next day.
What you can use it for
“Compression is beneficial across all sports and activities, from endurance sports such as running and triathlon to high-intensity training and team sports,” says Mr Martin. It’s versatile, yes, but it will also provide a little extra security against muscle damage if you want to push yourself on a run, for example. “For athletes, compression improves performance, helps guard against muscle injury and speeds up recovery,” says Mr Martin. But compression has benefits outside sport, too. “In everyday life, the circulation benefits provided by compression garments mean they’re also beneficial when travelling to minimise the risk of blood pooling and deep-vein thrombosis, or if you’re on your feet all day for work,” he says.
When you should wear it
“Experts recommend wearing compression garments as soon as possible after a workout and keeping them on for at least an hour, or as long as possible,” says Mr Martin. “Some athletes even choose to sleep in compression. Wearing compression [on the area of your body that you'll be working out] is an effective way to warm up the muscles before exercise, as the garment pressure increases muscle temperature. Faster muscle warm-up helps athletes achieve optimal flexibility and muscle firing before their workout. Wearing compression post-exercise reduces swelling and increases fluid removal via improved blood flow. By reducing muscle movement during exercise, compression also helps prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness. Another post-exercise benefit of compression is faster muscle repair and removal of toxins from the bloodstream.”