With more choice in compression garments than ever before, it’s good to see some research validating their efficacy for strength recovery following weight training. The study in question was headed up by researchers from Japan and involved a group of nine males who had several years of experience performing strenuous resistance training. The group was relatively young, with an average age of 21 years, while their average weight was 69.1 kg.
In short, the subjects performed two resistance training session, separated by approximately one month. As you might guess, after one session they wore compression garments for 24 hours, while after the other, they just wore normal clothes.
The weight workout comprised six exercises for the upper body muscles (chest press, lat pull-down, seated rowing, shoulder press, arm curl, and triceps press-down) and three for the lower body muscles (bilateral leg press, bilateral knee extension, and calf raise). Each exercise set comprised 10 repetitions involving 5 sets for bilateral leg press and bilateral knee extension and 3 sets for the remaining 7 exercises. The intensity of all exercises aside from the calf raise was set at 70% of the 1RM. The subjects performed 3 sets of 20 repetitions of the calf raise and rested for 90 s between sets and exercises.
As you would expect the garments were fitted accordingly for each subject based on chest, waist and ankle circumferences and as mentioned above, subjects wore them throughout the 24h recovery period , except during performance measurements and when showering at night.
To determine how the compression garments affected recovery, subjects had to undertake strength assessments and blood sampling before exercise and at 1, 3, 5, 8, and 24 h after exercise to determine the changes in each parameter over time. In addition, they also measured upper arm and thigh circumferences before exercise and at 8h and 24h after exercise.
For the upper body, the strength measures were assessed by means of 1RM for chest press using a weight stack machine. To measure 1RM, the load was progressively increased until the subjects were unable to complete a successful lift. While the strength of the lower limb was measured by assessing maximal voluntary contraction during a unilateral knee extension.
In the washup, subjects wearing the compression garments had less muscle soreness and subjective fatigue scores the morning following the workout. Upper arm and thigh circumferences were also significantly higher in the group not wearing compression garments. Changes in muscle circumference are essentially a crude measure of inflammation – thus suggesting that the compression garments contributed to reduced inflammation. However, the main finding of the study was that compression garments facilitated the recovery of muscular strength compared with controls. More specifically, recovery of upper body muscles significantly improved within 3 to 8 h after exercise. However, recovery of lower limb muscle by wearing compression garments took a longer period of time. The researchers also measured multiple blood markers such as lactate, insulin like growth factor-1, free testosterone, myoglobin, creatine kinase, interleukin-6 and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist concentrations several times across the 24 hours recovery period. However despite the changes seen in strength recovery, none of the blood markers showed any significant difference between groups.
Goto K & Morishima T. Compression garment promotes muscular strength recovery after resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Jul 7 [Epub adhead of print].