One trend you might be starting to see more and more, especially among endurance training athletes. is the use of compression stockings. Whether they’re using medical grade compression stockings or just purchasing compression gear from sports manufacturer’s, the use of compression garments is starting to rise.
Will these really benefit you? Should you be considering adding them to your workout routine?
The Purpose Of Compression Stockings
The original purpose of compression stockings is to assist those who are dealing with vein related problems in their lower body, where they typically have blood pooling in their lower legs and ankles. This often happens when an individual is suffering from varicose veins, however it can happen even when these unsightly veins aren’t present.
That said, because of the nature of compression stockings and what they do for the body, they also can serve some performance enhancing benefits as well. Clearly if you do have blood flow issues, wearing them may not be a choice during exercise if you want to feel comfortable as you go about your session, but if no blood flow problems are present, that doesn’t mean you should completely rule them out.
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Compression Stockings And Performance
First, because compression stockings are so tight, they’re going to increase the speed of blood flow throughout the lower body. This can mean greater oxygen deliver to the muscle tissues, helping to slow the rate of fatigue build-up you may otherwise start to see. One study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research noted that when runners wore compression stockings, the total work load and time to fatigue were both increased compared to when they weren’t wearing the stockings.
Furthermore, the tight, compact feel they give can also help you feel more supported as you go about your sessions – something that many athletes tend to prefer. This support helps them feel quicker and react faster, thus improving performance in that regard.
Compression Stockings And Recovery
Another way in which compression stockings can assist with your performance is helping to boost your overall rate of recovery. Because of the increased blood flow to all the muscle tissues, this means greater nutrient delivery, which can lead to superior recovery as well.
If your blood is pooling in the lower legs, you aren’t doing a very good job at getting nutrients to the quads and upper body. The use of compression stockings can help you avoid this.
Those who wear them may find they are able to bounce back quicker after doing their sessions.
Choosing Your Compression Gear
So if you’ve decided that you want to give compression gear a try, it’s important that you understand how to go about choosing your garment.
Realize that the compression level required is going to be different if you are simply just looking to improve your performance compared to if you actually have blood flow and vein problems.
For those seeking performance improvement, anywhere from 8-20 mmHG tends to work best. If you are experiencing leg and blood flow issues, your doctor will likely prescribe anywhere from 20-40 mmHG depending on the severity of your condition.
Whatever you do though, don’t just jump up to the higher level thinking performance enhancements will be even better. That isn’t the case and you could actually do more harm than good by wearing a level stronger than you should be.
Also keep in mind that if you are purchasing medical grade garments, you can find them in knee high levels, thigh high levels, as well as the full pantyhose or legging varieties.
For most individuals seeking performance improvements, opting for the thigh high levels will be ideal since this will provide the quad and hamstring support that you’re looking for as well.
It all does come down to a personal preference however and what you feel most comfortable wearing on a day to day basis.
So there you have some key facts to know about compression garments. Remember that these are different than just purchasing very tight leggings as some people think they may get away with doing.
These garments have graduated compression so that they are tightest in the lower leg area and the compression decreases as you go up the thigh. This is what helps to push the blood upwards back to the heart.
Give them a try and see what benefits you receive from them.