We like to think we’re pretty in touch with the new trends and products in the triathlon world. To that end, it’s hard to ignore the rising tide of folks selling compression gear for triathletes and other athletes. We’ve reviewed a few compression products to date and found that they all had some benefits, though not always exactly as claimed. If you’re interested, we’ve done an initial review and a final review on the SLS3 Compression Sox and an initial review of the SUGOI Race and Recovery Socks.
Today, we’re going to look at the first of two products from CompresSport, the CompresSport ForQuad Compression Sleeve for your quads. There are limited opportunities to purchase these products within the States. You might find them at trade shows and they are available online from the CompresSport EStore, based in Australia. They retail for $119.00 Australian. CompresSport isn’t the largest or most well-known manufacturer of compression gear, but that seems to be changing pretty quickly. In their debut appearance in an Ironman event, CompresSport fielded 70 participants wearing their gear. By the third IM, they were at 181, or about 12% of the field. CompresSport gear is worn by some of the top folks in the sport: Tim Berkel, Mitch Anderson, and Chrissie Wellington. Some of these athletes wear CompresSport before, during, and after the race and some, like Chrissie, don’t use them during the actual race. We won’t get into the testimonials of all the athletes, but you can check out some of their thoughts at the CompresSport Athletes page.
What is compression? Why is compression important?
Compression generally refers to any fabric or clothing that restricts muscle movement. In most cases, this is a pair of socks, or calf sleeves, or even shirts and shorts. Compression is becoming a slightly overused term: just because a shirt is tight doesn’t make it compression. Some people use ‘compression’ shirts to reduce chafing and other irritation, but there is limited science supporting compression in large garments such as shirts. Some shorts feature compression, which can be helpful, especially around your quads. Most compression gear, however, focuses on your calf muscles and takes the form of socks or sleeves.
Compression has a few medical and performance benefits. First, compression helps with fatigue. When you’re working out intensely, running for example, your muscles endure a great deal of shock and vibration, as do your veins and joints. Compression is designed to limit the movement and vibration and, it is claimed, that this reduces your overall fatigue. There is also evidence that using compression serves as a detoxifying tool. Compression reduces lactic acid buildup in muscles and increases circulation to move any lactic acid from your muscles more quickly than without. Compression socks are used in hospitals to increase blood flow and reduce the chances of blood clots, a sought after feature for triathletes traveling after great exertion.
About CompresSport and the CompresSport ForQuad:
CompresSport is a truly international company. Based in Switzerland, the CompresSport product line was developed in France and is manufactured in the Czech Republic. CompresSport is growing it’s marketshare: at Kona last year, CompresSport was the second most popular compression provider behind 2XU.
Compression gear is generally made of Lycra or a similar fabric. CompresSport chose not to use Lycra because it has a tendency to stretch and lose compression after extended use. CompresSport claims that their products will not stretch or lose compression and they back that up with a 30 day money back guarantee and a 2 year warranty.
CompresSport also approaches the actual science of compression a bit differently. Most compression gear features graduated compression, that is, compression is strongest at the toe or foot and decreases as you move up the leg or calf. This is great for hospital compression where the goal is to prevent blood pooling in the lower regions, but not ideal for exercise. CompresSport uses a slightly different approach to compression. For the ForQuad, the compression is light around the bottom of the sleeve, closest to the knee, measuring about 5mmHg. The compression increases towards the top of the sleeve, where it is 15mmHg at the peak.
CompresSport ForQuad is designed, creatively enough, to help your quads during and after exertion. Your quads are actually a group of four muscles that surround the front and sides of your femur. They are the strongest and leanest muscles in your body and are used in running and similar exercises. They serve as hip flexors and stabilize your knees while running.
Here are some closeups of the ForQuads:
Testing the CompresSport ForQuad:
We’ve had our test sample for a bit over a month and have been using them in workouts and in recovery. We’re going to focus on the recovery aspects right now, as that’s where we’ve used them most. We will discuss the workout performance in our second review. We distributed the samples provided by CompresSport to two of our testers, one male and one female.
Our first observations were that the ForQuads are very comfortable. The top and bottom bands are very comfortable and wide, which prevents most bunching or chafing, a problem we’ve experienced with some other compression products. The fabric used in the CompresSport ForQuads is very lightweight and comfortable. It doesn’t retain water, even in the most sweat inducing weather, which keeps the overall weight of the sleeves down. The fabric is also resistant to Body Glide and other lubricants you might use during a race, so you don’t have to worry about breaking down the integrity of the product.
Our female tester immediately noticed that the compression didn’t decrease at the top of the quad sleeve as with some other products. Since women’s quads generally get larger towards the hips, the increased compression was noticeable. This created the sensation of the quad sleeves being a bit too tight at the top while they were very comfortable around the knees. It’s possible that this is due to our tester’s previous experience with other compression gear that decreases, not increases compression at the top of the sleeve. Our male tester didn’t notice this problem.
We used the ForQuads after runs and bike workouts of different lengths and intensity. Both testers reported that the ForQuads made a noticeable difference in recovery. Our female tester felt better overall after using the ForQuads, while our male tester noticed most of the difference when working out the next day. One tester is ramping up their IM training and the other is working on a HIM plan, so both are squeezing in quite a few workouts per week. Our testers reported less muscle pain and a decreased need for additional stretching before their next workout while using the compression sleeves in recovery.
One of the surprising things our testers noticed about the sleeves was that they don’t stretch or loosen after repeated use. Our female tester is our compression expert and was very pleased that there was no decrease in compression after multiple weeks of using the ForQuads.
Initial Thoughts on CompresSport ForQuad:
For this review, our testers have focused mainly on the recovery benefits of the CompresSport ForQuads. We’re happy to say that the level of compression provided by the ForQuad is very helpful in recovery. Both testers noticed significant decreases in pain and fatigue and increased recovery time and a reduced need for extra stretching before follow-up workouts. Both testers commented on the strength of the compression, although it caused a bit of discomfort for our female tester, especially at the top of the ForQuad.
Stay tuned for our second review of the ForQuads, focused on performance during exercise instead of during recovery. We’ll also complete our initial review of the CompresSport R2-Race and Recovery Calf Sleeve in the next week or so.