Compression shorts and its influence on recovery

Findings from a Ghent University – Liebaert collaboration

At Victoris, we focus on various forms of collaborations between Ghent University researchers and the industry. We’re happy to share the results of a recent collaboration between the exercise physiology and training group of Prof. Jan Boone and the Flemish company Liebaert NV in which the influence of 2 compression garments on running performance and recovery were tested. 

The 2 innovative compression garments produced by Marcel Liebaert NV, also known as RV-Elite were tested and compared with 2 commercially available products. 

The RV-Elite garments had 1 type of garments that was custom-made for the subject based on a body scan, in this study it’s referred to as Elite C-M. The other type is a ready-to-wear model where the subjects used the best fitting trousers, Elite RTW. The 2 products used for comparison came from two distinct (price) categories in the market: HEP (high end product) and LEP (lower end product). The research was primarily focused on runners and both subjective and physiological parameters were registered.

Why was this study done?

The study was conducted to test the practical efficacy of the 2 types of RV-Elite garments, which are made with specific substances and according to a specific procedure. Liebaert NV wanted to know if there was an effect on running performance and recovery.

RVE - Félix Denayer
Red Lion, Félix Denayer with RV-Elite garments.

How was the experiment conducted?

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the garments, the research group of Prof. Jan Boone was looking for physically active people between 18 and 27 years who have experience with running training. They found a group of 25 men who trained 2-3 times a week for the past year. 

To study the difference between the different compression shorts, all 25 people had to perform the same running training 5 times in 5 different compression conditions: 4 times with the different compression garments and one time with loose running shorts, as a control condition. Do you want to know the specifics of these training sessions? Then go knock on Kobe Vermeire‘s door, as he has taken the lead over the experiments in the group of Prof. Jan Boone.

Several parameters were measured: the heart rate, blood lactate concentration and the metabolic gas exchange, with the objective to determine the Running Economy. In addition to these physiological parameters, the subjective experience of the load was obtained from the runners (via the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale).

The effect on recovery was examined through 3 areas: 

  • Performance: using jump height, performing the Counter Movement Jump.
  • Muscle soreness: using a subjective scale (0 to 10) to assess the presence of DOMS (i.e. Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness).
  • Inflammatory markers in the bloodstream: Creatine Kinase was determined using a venous blood sample.

Was a difference in the runner’s performance found when wearing the compression garments?

From a physiological point of view, a difference in the runner’s performance was found. Here are the facts: 

  • the Running Economy was lower (i.e., better) with Elite C-M (custom-made garments) compared to LEP and the control condition.
  • the subjective sensation of load when running at high speed (RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion) was better with compression garments Elite C-M compared to the control condition.
  • and between all the compression garment types there are no differences in terms of heart rate, lactate concentration and RPE at low speeds.

Did the compression shorts influence the recovery after intensive exercise?

Yes, they did! The muscle damage suffered during exercise was least prominent in Elite C-M compared to LEP and control condition. It appeared that the Creatine Kinase (CK) had a less prominent increase in Elite C-M, Elite RTW and the high end product (HEP) after exercise. This was also reflected in the perception of pain (DOMS) after exercise. The jump height remained the same after exercise. 

So what were the key findings?

  • At submaximal running speeds, compression conditions had no impact on physiological responses. Running economy was slightly better by the custom-made garments compared to the control condition (but not to the high end and low end product), however, there was a large interindividual variation in this parameter. 
  • At high-intensity running speeds, compression conditions had no impact on physiological responses. Subjective perception of load appears to be positively affected with Elite C-M compared to LEP and the control condition. 
  • The induced muscle damage was lower in the Elite garments and in the high end product compared to the LEP and the control condition. This was also reflected in the perception of pain which appeared to be lower after exercise in these 3 types.
  • The subjective feeling of the compression garment for support and comfort was higher in Elite C-M, Elite RTW and HEP compared to LEP.

How are Ghent University and Liebaert looking back at this project (& what’s the future holding)?

The present project is an excellent example of how academic expertise can be applied to test and validate novel products developed by industrial companies active in the area of sports textiles. From the beginning, our research group had the opportunity and independence to share our knowledge and set out a research program within the setting of this project. Several meetings between the research group and the company, mediated by Victoris, facilitated an optimal collaboration that will be continued in the future. 

Final thoughts

The compression shorts produced by Marcel Liebaert NV had a positive influence on Running Economy (at average level), subjective perception of load, muscle damage and perception of pain after exercise. Also, the feeling of support and comfort with the compression clothing was better in comparison with the other brands. 

For more information about the research, please contact Prof. Jan Boone
For more information about the compression socks made by Liebaert NV go to www.rvecompression.com.  

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