One thing many sports and athletic apparel enthusiasts don’t realize about their fancy new compression apparel is that it belongs to one of two different types of compression groups. This leads to some being misinformed of which one would be more suited for your purposes.
They’re mainly divided into two categories:
Graduated compression and compartmental compression.
The one thing you need to know before diving deeper into this topic is that there is no one compression that is better than the other. Like other things, there is a time and place where one would be more beneficial.
But first, let’s breakdown what each type of compression actually is.
You usually see this type in compression socks and compression sleeves. It’s a type of distributed pressure that is stronger near the ankle area and slowly applies less and less pressure as you travel down through the foot and upwards toward the calves and the knee.
This allows for a more diverse coverage area and pressure allocation to pump blood efficiently. It’s ideal for these types of garments since it’s harder for the body to pump blood back to your heart since it’s constantly taking the load of your body when walking, running, lifting, etc. It promotes increased blood flow and directs blood and oxygen back to your lungs and heart for quicker recovery while preventing a lactic buildup.
Think of it like an engineered system designed to push and navigate blood back from your lower body to the chest. It improves circulation passively and makes it easier for blood to travel back and forth.
That’s the beauty of gradient compression since it distributes and diffuses the pressure throughout the entire leg without you having to do anything besides wearing the compression apparel.
Compression socks and sleeves benefit the most from this type because this is where gym-goers and working folk alike commonly experience a type of swelling or mild pain in their ankles and calves. Through gradient compression, it acts as the mediator between the legs and the organs pumping and circulating the blood. This happens while you’re working out or sitting down; it prevents any buildups or clots from occurring.
This is the type of compression you’re most likely more familiar with. This type of compression is the direct pressure that is applied at certain points of your body.
It’s pretty much that tightness you feel from the contouring design of its respective apparel slightly squeezing on your muscles and joints.
These articles of clothing are better suited for compartmental compression because the areas these clothes target (thighs, chests, biceps, etc.) don’t have as much difficulty pumping blood back to the heart as opposed to to the lower body (ankles/calf area). Having direct application of pressure on these areas would allow for a stronger and equal force of pressure which promotes a quicker recovery from things like soreness, swelling, and injuries in these main muscle groups.
Due to the location of of where the compression apparel is worn, it allows for a much more efficient recovery process compared to graduated compression.
After a workout or if you’re in the gym, it helps stimulate muscle recovery due to the natural strength of the compression. It constricts on your skin (in a comfortable way) to help pump that blood back and prevent things like soreness, swelling, edema, and pain.
The point that you need to take away from this is graduated and compartmental compression have their moments to shine in different situations.
Gradient compression is more suited for apparel that are under constant load and stress that needs more help or assistance in directing blood and increasing the flow in circulation.
Compartment is ideal for parts of the body that require much more significant and stronger recovery such as the main muscle groups: chest, biceps, triceps, core, thighs, and the calves. It has strong compression levels to accomplish a quicker and efficient recovery process.