The role of compression in sports is clear: it increases blood flow and circulation which leads to faster sprints, longer jumps, and more weightlifting power.
Whether you’re an experienced athlete or a fitness beginner, chances are you’ve already heard about compression socks.
They’re specially designed stockings that help improve blood circulation in your legs and feet.
Before we explain why compression socks should be part of your sports outfit, let’s explain briefly and as clearly as possible why compression is so useful, especially for athletes.
How Does Blood Circulation Work?
First, let’s take a look at the journey the blood takes as it flows towards your legs.
The heart pumps oxygenated blood through the body through large arteries (arterial system) to carry oxygen to all limbs.
Once there, the blood must somehow return to the heart. This is where countless small veins (venous systems) do their job.
These transport the now deoxygenated blood and waste products through the kidneys and lungs back to the heart.
And so the process starts over and over again with “fresh” blood. This is the blood circulation very briefly explained.
But the moment the blood has to be pumped back from the limbs is where things sometimes go wrong.
The blood flow and the lymphatic system (fluid) in the body also have to do with gravity when it has to be pumped back upwards towards the heart.
However, some health problems can make blood circulation difficult. This can cause blood to collect in the venous system of the lower legs or feet.
The veins are then no longer able to pump the blood back quickly to the heart. This can lead to fatigue or even life-threatening blood clots.
What Is Muscle Damage?
Intensive exertion of the leg muscles causes muscle damage in the legs. In this process, cell tissue is broken down, the remains of which consist of proteins.
These waste products linger a bit between the cells and make it more difficult for tissue fluid to be absorbed by the capillaries of the lymph system.
This creates fluid retention, which in turn has a negative effect on blood circulation.
Now, you might wonder what do muscle damage and blood circulation have to do with compression? Well, a lot, actually. Let me explain.
Why Compression Helps?
One way to reduce the risk of these complications is to help the blood drain. This can be done by exerting some pressure on the connective tissue and the walls of the veins.
This stimulates an upward pressure from the legs, which helps the blood to return to the heart in a timely manner.
The pressure also ensures that the leg muscles are squeezed, so that waste products have less chance to get stuck between the cells.
Wearing compression stockings is the way to get this support.
The Benefits Of Compression In Sports
Now that we’ve briefly explained how support socks help, let’s take a closer look at the benefits for athletes.
At one point, researchers thought compression stockings could play a role in athletes’ better performance, believing that the socks would improve circulation and help the heart pump more efficiently.
A heart that pumps the blood more efficiently ensures that the muscles receive more oxygen and it reduces the rapid build-up of lactic acid (acidification).
More oxygen and less acidification means faster sprints, longer jumps, and more power in bench presses, right?
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this yet. Studies do not support the hypothesis that there is a clear correlation between wearing compression stockings and improved sports performance.
But one thing is clear; wearing compression stockings certainly has no negative effect on performance.
What researchers do know for sure is that they help reduce swelling during post-workout recovery and, in the case of stockings that wrap around the leg, help prevent excessive back and forth shaking of the calf muscles.
Minimizing this back and forth shaking of the leg muscles prevents the muscles and tendons from being overloaded.
Get Ready To “Compress”
Now that you know that compression socks help prevent muscle damage and improve blood circulation, would you consider wearing them?
Or did you wear them already? What was your experience? Let us know in the comment section below!