You might have heard compression sleeves popping up in convo with your fellow gym buddies. There is a growing interest in compression sleeves within the fitness community due to their ability to improve athletic performance and recovery, with the accessory becoming a part of the training regimes and recovery routines of athletes, runners, and fitness enthusiasts alike.
We know a thing or two about this recovery accessory, and we’re here to show you that they’re not just another fitness fad.
No doubt you want to recover faster, and find some relief from the deadly DOMs, and slipping on a pair of sleeves will do exactly that, support your fitness journey and helping you reach your goals. So let us talk you through exactly what compression sleeves do, and how you can benefit from wearing compression sleeves during exercise, and to support your recovery.
What Are Compression Sleeves?
A compression sleeve is a tight-fitting band of fabric with a small amount of stretch that compresses your legs or arms.
Compression sleeves are part of a compression therapy technique used by athletes and medical patients to improve recovery.
Types of Compression Sleeves:
Compression leg sleeves: for calves, knees, upper leg and hamstrings
Compression arm sleeves: for forearms, full-arm sleeves
7 Common Questions About Compression Sleeves
Straight from your Google search history, here’s everything you need to know about compression sleeves.
What do compression sleeves do?
The primary function of compression sleeves is to support your muscles by providing slight pressure and compression to promote optimal blood flow to the area the sleeve surrounds.
Studies have shown that wearing compression sleeves dilates your arteries, resulting in increased blood flow, or vasodilation . Vasodilation is the widening of the blood vessels as a response to low oxygen in the blood, which happens during exercise and triggers an increased blood flow. Increasing blood flow improves the levels of oxygen and nutrients delivered to the body, which enables you to power through your workouts.
A secondary function of compression sleeves is to reduce muscle fatigue during exercise by minimizing the amount of muscular vibration as you workout, which can cause your muscles to tire. They can also reduce injury, protect the limbs, improve muscle and joint recovery time and regulate temperature .
When to wear compression sleeves?
You should wear compression sleeves during exercise as this is when your muscle tissues require the most oxygen, nutrients and blood flow for increased oxygen demand and greater energy production.
Any exercise you may be exerting great energy from your upper or lower body such as basketball, tennis, weightlifting, or functional workouts are where you may want to wear a compression sleeve to help with your recovery and performance. Runners tend to wear compression sleeves to help with their running performance, improve circulation and prevent swelling during long-distance runs.
You can also reduce the risk of injury and improve your running time by doing these 6 stretches before every run.
As well as being used during physical activity, compression therapy also helps to improve muscle fatigue and fight potential swelling and blood pooling experienced during extended periods of sitting or standing, such as when you’re traveling on a long-haul flight.
Wearing compression sleeves can also reduce pain and discomfort and has been found to improve recovery time and reduce DOMs in athletes .
How do you wear compression sleeves?
Compression sleeves are worn by athletes over their knees, calves, hamstrings, arms, and elbows.
Compression sleeves should be put on over your foot or hand like a toeless sock and pulled up into the intended place at the widest part of the limb. Be careful not to stretch the fabric too much as you put your compression sleeves on. Instead you should scrunch the sleeves over your foot or hand, and gradually pinch the material up to the desired fit.
If the compression sleeve feels too long, you can fold over the elastic at the end which will not affect the compression. To remove the compression sleeve, don’t pull it off and stretch the fabric, instead fold it over and peel it off like a banana. Over-stretching the sleeve can make it lose elasticity and compression.
How tight should compression sleeves be?
Compression sleeves should fit snugly on the skin. If they feel too loose and slip around then they won’t provide adequate compression and you should size down. If the sleeves feel too tight when you try them on, you may experience numbness or pain if you continue to wear them exercising, so you should size up for good measure.
What are compression sleeves made from?
Compression sleeves made to wear during exercise are engineered from sweat-wicking and breathable fabrics that can be worn for extended periods of time. Pieces of compression wear are designed with comfort and function in mind, and are crafted using soft and stretchy materials that provide adequate compression to increase blood flow.
Here are four materials you’ll typically find compression sleeves made from;
Nylon - silky, smooth, strong and lightweight, nylon makes up most of the construction of a compression sleeve and resists shrinkage
Spandex - one of the most elastic materials available, this high-stretch, durable, synthetic material is added to compression sleeves to help create compression
Silicon - a chemical element used to improve wearability and add grip to compression gear
Cotton - this natural fibre is added to the fabric blend in small amounts to elevate the texture's softness
What are the benefits of compression sleeves?
Compression sleeves provide an array of benefits depending on their intended use. Originally they were used in the medical field to help patients with varicose veins and lymphedema. However, they are commonly used during exercise increase blood flow, which brings more oxygen to your muscles to help you push through your workouts. But besides this, compression sleeves can also offer the following benefits:
Help with shin splints
Aid with recovery from injury, or DOM’s
Prevent inflammation and swelling
Reduce muscle fatigue
How long should I wear a compression sleeve?
There’s no rule of thumb for how long you can wear compression sleeves, but if you’re wearing them to improve muscle recovery you’ll be happy to know that they are safe to wear all day.
Generally, speaking, most people wear compression sleeves for the duration of the workout or a few hours afterwards to gain the benefits of a reduction in muscle soreness and improved recovery. One study found that the largest benefits from compression garments were seen 2 - 8 hours post strength exercise .
Multiple compression sleeve options are available, so select the right type of sleeve based on your needs and level of activity. Consult a medical professional before wearing a sleeve if you have any concerns.
Now you’re all clued up on the facts on compression sleeves, how can wearing them benefit you in your training regimes? By utilising compression sleeves, you’ll be able to improve your recovery time, allowing you to train harder and more frequently, thanks to your well recovered muscles.
If you’re a lifter, good recovery between sets is crucial for you, and compression sleeves will help you during those resting moments. The upsurge in oxygen and nutrients in your blood helps the capability of your muscles to perform more optimally, and recover faster between sets.
This ability to work at a higher capacity will help you in your fitness journey to increase your strength, stamina, and grow more muscle. Lift heavier, run further and perform better.