While compression socks are not going to cure issues with your limbs, recent trends indicate that they do offer some benefits. Within the realms of elite sports and fitness buffs, you will find these colorful skin-tight garments. Arm, leg and even full body compression clothing are everywhere and are used for a number of reasons.
Even nurses and frequent travelers use graded compression stockings or socks. Graded compression simply means that the tightest squeeze is applied farthest from the heart. This increases the circulation of blood back to the heart and clears away metabolic waste products from the active muscles. This is one of the key factors that aid in improved recovery times for runners.
These graded garments also reduce muscle jarring and movement, which minimizes potential soft-tissue damage or DOMS. DOMS is known as delayed onset muscle soreness and it refers to the aches from an intense exercise or activity.
6 Features of Graded Compression Stockings and Sleeves
- They improve blood flow, which increases the oxygen supply to active muscles in an effort to prolong endurance.
- Some manufacturers use fabric with anti-microbial properties. They also use materials like neoprene or nylon that are used to eliminate sweat and moisture.
- Compression clothing provides thermoregulation, which allows your body to stay cool in hot conditions (so yes you can use them in the summer), and warm in cold conditions.
- Most products used for running or any form of activity are rated SPF 50 or higher for safety in the sun. Like spandex, which is impervious to ultraviolet light, compression socks can protect your skin.
- Socks or sleeves made with graduated compression can help with reducing the pooling of blood in the legs. This is why many flyers wear them during long plane rides, in an effort to prevent lower-leg swelling.
- They constrict the blood vessels in the calf by squeezing the calf muscle. This process, along with the help of one-way valves above and below the calf, pushes blood back towards the heart. So each step you take, that pressure starts the entire process and compression clothing accelerates it.
As we have mentioned numerous times, compression socks probably won’t make you run faster or jump higher. However, this hasn’t stopped the claims or tests from continuing.
For instance, in basketball, the idea is that compression clothing provides physical support. This support helps to reduce unnecessary oscillation and vibration of the muscles. Apparently, this then increases their leaping abilities but that is still debatable based on inconclusive research and tests.
Basically, the key component in anyone, from runners to cyclists, is the calf muscle. The calf muscle acts like a pump, so each footstep or pedal-stroke, the calf muscle clenches and unclenches, sending blood back to your heart. Compression socks or sleeves covering the calf provide an extra squeeze that enhances this pumping action, speeding the flow of much-needed oxygen to working muscles.
While you may experience improved recovery, you will also find that compression sleeves or socks have other benefits. They help to control bouts of swelling, provide cooling or warmth, minimize chafing and absorb excess sweat.
For now, determining the precise pressure needed to improve human performance remains unknown. No two people are built alike with the exact same body composition. Therefore, some socks or sleeves will fit differently on people, with varying levels of compression.
Will Graded Compression Clothing Improve Your Strength & Fitness?
It probably won’t, but it will do everything else we have discussed. Remember, knowing the limitations of compression clothing and taking accurate measurements are factors worth considering.
Don’t be concerned with the science too much because compression garments have been around for decades. If professional athletes and even runners who are a meticulous bunch use the current products, it means that they are beneficial.