Tons of pro athletes are wearing compression gear and using compression machines to improve their performance and speed up their recovery. But do they really work?
Compression for Weight Loss?
As you probably guessed, most of the research on compression gear is focused on performance and recovery, but there are also claims that compression can benefit people who are overweight. Specifically, compression gear has been touted as especially helpful for larger folks.
Exercisers that carry larger amounts of weight are often more susceptible to repetitive use injuries like strains, shin splints, sprains, and other joint issues. This is especially true when they are starting a new training program. Compression gear can actually help compress muscles against a person’s skeleton and minimize the tiny muscle tears that are caused by muscle vibration and oscillation.
It is true that larger bodies move more during exercise and compression gear can limit that movement and possibly prevent some of that wear and tear. But could it also help with losing weight?
Well, no. All the claims that I could find skirted the issue quite adeptly and only made assertions that compression can aid in the exercise portion of an overweight person's weight loss regimen. This is assuming that the types of workouts overweight people are engaged in usually involve higher volume and higher intensity. So, wearing compression gear could aid in minimizing that muscle damage we talked about earlier and also help overweight people recover faster so they can be more consistent in their training. All of these factors can certainly help with fat loss but not in a very direct route or as a direct result of the compression.
So it would seem that compression is not a magic sock for weight loss. It doesn't burn more calories, and it doesn’t boost your metabolism—no surprise there—but if compression gear makes you feel more comfortable when you move, helps you get back at it faster, and perhaps gives you confidence in your appearance, then it is probably a worthwhile investment.
Peristaltic Pulse Dynamic Compression (PPDC)
The key to this type of compression is something called “Sequential Pulse Technology,” which is based on our own body’s physiology. These dynamic compression machines replicate the action of blood pumping through the veins in our legs, arms, torso, or wherever else you apply it, and they liken it to peristalsis (a series of wave-like muscle contractions) on steroids.
These are systems that usually include a control unit, air compressor, and attachments (or sleeves) for the legs, arms, or hips. They use compressed air to inflate and then deflate the sleeves to massage your limbs and mobilize fluid. They first pre-inflate, so that the sleeves become molded to your exact body shape, then they begin compressing your feet, hands, or upper quad depending on which sleeve you are using. Similar to the way an RMT will rub, knead, gouge, and apply variable pressure during a massage, each segment of the attached sleeve will compress, pulse, and release.
The technology behind these machines combines three different massage techniques to aid the body’s recovery process.
Pulsing: Instead of using static compression like the socks and pants we talked about earlier to squeeze fluid out of the limbs, this technology uses dynamic compression (or pulsing). This is said to greatly enhance the movement of fluid and metabolic waste out of the limbs after a workout.
Gradients: In our bodies, our veins and lymphatic vessels have a one-way valve that prevents the backflow of fluid and keeps everything moving in one direction. The Sequential Pulse Technology uses what is called a gradient hold pressure to keep your body’s fluids from being forced down to your feet. And this can help deliver maximum pressure all over the entire limb, evenly.
Distal release: Because squishing your body for extended amounts of time can be hard on your body’s circulatory flow, the Sequential Pulse Technology releases its grip once it is no longer needed to prevent backflow. By releasing the pressure as soon as possible, each portion of your limb gets the perfect amount of rest and the perfect amount of compression.