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Interesting new study on compression garments in this month’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning. A team from the University of Connecticut led by William Kraemer — a big name in the field — had subjects do a heavy eight-exercise weights session, then recover either by wearing an Under Armour Recharge suit for 24 hours or by wearing their usual clothing. It was a randomized, crossover study. (I was very critical of the research Under Armour is using to promote its performance mouthpieces, so I have to give credit here: they funded what I see as a high-quality study.) The punch line:
We observed significant differences between [compression garments] and [controls] in both men and women for vitality, resting fatigue ratings, muscle soreness, ultrasound measure swelling, bench press throw, and [creatine kinase, a marker of muscle damage]. A whole body compression garment worn during the 24-hour recovery period after an intense heavy resistance training workout enhances various psychological, physiological, and a few performance markers of recovery compared with noncompressive control garment conditions.
In other words, it works!
Now, it’s worth noting that they tested a whole laundry-list of parameters, only some of which showed improvement. The tests of reaction time, sleep quality, countermovement vertical jump and squat jump didn’t show anything. And despite a program that included biceps curl and three other upper body exercises, no changes in upper-body arm soreness were observed. Same for other areas of the body like the thighs.
But overall, it’s a positive message. It’s particularly nice to see changes not just in subjective measures (e.g. How do you feel? How sore are you?) but also in objective measures (e.g. How swollen are your muscles? How far can you throw this?) As I concluded in an earlier post, the evidence is mounting that compression really works — even if we haven’t yet mastered exactly how much is needed where. And of all the proposed uses, recovery after workout-induced muscle damage seems to be the most solid.