As compression leg sleeves and compression socks continue to be seen at mainstream triathlons and marathons, athletes and even non-athletes begin to wonder if and how compression garments work. Compression garments are not just a fad in the athletic community as they offer a lot of benefits to athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all kinds and levels, including injury prevention, improved performance, and faster recovery.
Graduated compression offers the greatest amount of compression in the part of the garment farthest away from the heart and the least amount of compression is found in the part closest to the heart. With compression socks, the greatest amount of compression is found in the ankle area and the least amount in the calf. Compression improves circulation and oxygenated blood flow to improve performance and enhance recovery. Enhanced blood flow causes deoxygenated blood to return back to the heart at a faster rate, which then allows oxygen rich blood to flow back throughout the body. This improved circulation reduces the buildup of lactic acid so that muscles do not experience stiffness or delayed onset muscle soreness that may occur in the days following strenuous exercise. Without the negative effects of lactic acid buildup, athletes can increase endurance and muscles feel more energized and rebuild muscles sooner.
Compression also reduces muscle oscillations, which occurs upon ground contact. Compression socks decrease the rate of these vibrations while providing additional support to the muscles to improve muscle efficiency and decrease energy. They also help to enhance athlete’s warm-up by increasing the temperature of the skin and the muscle, as improving circulation. When muscles are loose and warm, the chance of pulled muscles decreases.
Compression socks and compression sleeves provide an extra support to stabilize the muscle tissue, reducing inflammation and micro trauma. Swelling is kept to a minimum and the muscle fibers are left at a manageable level, leading to shorter recovery times after training or competition. Reduced oscillation and increased oxygen maximizes muscle performance and prevents injuries, such as shin splints and calf cramps. Athletes are able to benefit from compression for reasons that affect not only their performance and endurance, but also how they recover after activity.