The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Do Compression Garments Enhance Exercise Recovery?

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Monday, Jul 19, 2010

Each exercise workout and sport competition can result in various magnitudes of physiological and psychological changes such as increased soft tissue damage (causing muscle soreness), increased fatigue, increased core temperatures, and altered mood.  How rapidly one recovers is influenced by factors such as genetics, diet, fitness level, sleep, environment, and winning or losing.  The exercise demands and the recovery processes are specifically related to the stressors the athlete is exposed to.  Recovery is so important that historically legal and illegal restoration techniques have been used by athletes; anything to get an edge. Examples are the use of anabolic drugs, over-the-counter medications, electrical stimulation, dietary supplements, vibration, massage, and hypnosis therapy. Recently compression garments have been viewed as a potential “tool” in the wide array of restoration techniques.

Study Focus: In this particular study conducted at The University of Connecticut, the objective was to evaluate the influence of a whole body compression suit on recovery from a typical heavy resistance training workout.1 The subjects were 11 men and 9 women who were highly resistance trained for the past 2 years.  They were given an 8-10 repetition maximum load for each exercise.  Furthermore, subjects were trained with the protocols and loads for several workouts during the familiarization phase to reduce novelty and assure similar physiological responses each day.  Three sets of the following 8 exercises (in order) were performed: back squats, bench press, stationary lunge, bent over row, Romanian dead lift, biceps curl, sit-up, high pull from a hang. The Control Group would not wear a compression suit post exercise.

Pre-Study Details: A registered dietitian screened each subject for dietary habits and instructed them on replicating diet profiles for the 2 days before the study and during the 24 hour recovery.  Proper water behaviors were address to ensure normal hydration status for all testing as hypohydration (low hydration) has been shown to impact physiological responses and performance.

A variety of testing was performed such as Ultrasound Analysis to discern swelling, Psychological Questionnaire and Corresponding Scales for (soreness/pain, sleep quality, fatigue, vitality, and mood), Blood Samples, Circumference Measurements, Movement Reaction Time, Countermovement Vertical Jump, Bench Throw and Squat Jump. Each subject was fitted for a whole compression body suit. The compression suit was applied after a shower post exercise and keep on for a 24 hour period. The control group took a shower post exercise and put on non compression clothes like a t-shirt and running shorts.

Results: In both the men and the women the 10 point generalized muscle soreness scale, ratings were significantly lower with the use of compression garments. The amount of swelling was significantly lower as measured by ultrasound, and the test results demonstrated that fatigue was also significantly lower in the compression garments groups. Vitality ratings were significantly higher with compression use compared to control group. No differences were statistically significant in any of the mood states, nor were the sleep quality differences compared to the control.  There were also no significant differences in the countermovement vertical jump of peak power, average power, and maximum performance decrement. 

It is important to remember that these were trained subjects accustomed to hard training and the experiment protocol was used to elicit both mechanical and chemical stressors to the body’s recovery process.  Yet this was thought to be the populations most in the need of recovery enhancements (e.g. training athletes and active individuals).  The women’s compression suit was Women’s Recharge ™ Suit and the Men’s Recharge ™ Suit.

1 William J. Kraemer, Shawn D. Flannagan, Brett A.Comstock,Maren S. Fragala, Jacob E. Earp, Courtenay Dunn-Lewis, Jen-Yu Ho, Gwendolyn A. Thomas, Glenn Solomon-Hill, Zachary R. Penwell, Matthew D. Powell, Megan R. Wolf, Jeff S. Volek, Craig R. Denegar, and Carl M. Maresh. Effects of Whole Body Compression Garment on Markers of Recovery After A Heavy Resistance Workout in Men and Women. J. Strength Cond. Res 24: 3 804-814.