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The Benefits of Compression Garments for Cycling Recovery

Are compression garments, such as tights, stockings, and calf-sleeves, merely marginal gains for professionals, or do they also offer benefits for amateur athletes? Research indicates that compression garments (CGs) can indeed provide a small but significant enhancement in cycling recovery, potentially increasing performance the following day. Skipping compression garments might mean missing out on an approximate 1% improvement in performance. [1]

Impact of Pressure Levels on Recovery

Recovery benefits from CGs are observed irrespective of the compression level, as long as it remains below 12mmHg [2]. This effectiveness appears consistent regardless of whether the athletes are trained or untrained.

Duration and Effectiveness of Usage

There is no consensus on the optimal duration for wearing CGs. Some studies suggest benefits from wearing them for as little as one hour, while others used protocols that lasted up to 48 hours. Generally, the longer the wait to the post-exercise benchmark test, the greater the perceived recovery benefits. Immediate recovery (0-2 hours) shows less significant benefits compared to longer periods such as 2-8 hours or overnight, regardless of how long the CGs were worn.

Compression Garments in Strength Training

The advantages of CGs extend beyond cycling. A meta-analysis focusing on strength training recovery found that CGs help reduce the perception of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and accelerate the recovery of muscular strength and power. Additionally, wearing CGs is associated with lower levels of creatine kinase (CK), a marker of muscle damage. [3]

Practical Recommendations

Investing in compression garments may be worthwhile if you participate in multi-day events or engage in block periodization training. They can also be beneficial for faster recovery after gym sessions. However, for those who typically allow two days between intense workouts, CGs may not make a noticeable difference.

Optimal Timing for Wearing CGs

It is advisable to wear compression garments as soon as possible after exercising. Although there is limited high-quality data regarding the exact timing for optimal recovery, the inflammation response begins almost immediately after physical activity. Thus, early application of CGs may help mitigate this response more effectively.

Comparing Different Types of Compression Garments

Currently, empirical data comparing the effectiveness of different types of compression garments (such as calf socks vs. tights vs. stockings) is lacking, making it difficult to recommend one type over another based on scientific evidence alone.


[1] The information in this article comes from the meta analysis by Sports Medicine.

[2] 12mmHg was the highest study that showed benefit, and three studies above 15mmHg showed detriment to performance. Normal compression garments are less than 12mmHg.

[2] The minimum effective dose of caffeine may be as little as 2 mg/kg, and 9 mg/kg doses have a high incidence rate of side effects and do not seem to elicit further improvements. Temperature of the caffeine gel/drink doesn’t seem to have an effect on absorption rates. Caffeine gum and mouth rinse absorb caffeine the fastest.

[3] The information in this paragraph comes from the meta analysis by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which focuses on the role of compression garments on weight training.