Background: Adequate recovery from exercise is essential to maintain performance throughout training and competition. While compression garments (CG) have been demonstrated to accelerate recovery, the literature is clouded by conflicting results and uncertainty over the optimal conditions of use.
Objectives: A meta-analysis was conducted to assess the effects of CG on the recovery of strength, power and endurance performance following an initial bout of resistance, running, or non-load-bearing endurance (metabolic) exercise.
Methods: Change-score data were extracted from 23 peer-reviewed studies on healthy participants. Recovery was quantified by converting into standardized mean effect sizes (ES) [±95% confidence interval (CI)]. The effects of time (0-2, 2-8, 24, >24 h), pressure (<15 vs. ≥15 mmHg) and training status (trained vs. untrained) were also assessed.
Results: CG demonstrated small, very likely benefits [p < 0.001, ES = 0.38 (95% CI 0.25, 0.51)], which were not influenced by pressure (p = 0.06) or training status (p = 0.64). Strength recovery was subject to greater benefits than other outcomes [p < 0.001, ES = 0.62 (95% CI 0.39, 0.84)], displaying large, very likely benefits at 2-8 h [p < 0.001, ES = 1.14 (95% CI 0.72, 1.56)] and >24 h [p < 0.001, ES = 1.03 (95% CI 0.48, 1.57)]. Recovery from using CG was greatest following resistance exercise [p < 0.001, ES = 0.49 (95% CI 0.37, 0.61)], demonstrating the largest, very likely benefits at >24 h [p < 0.001, ES = 1.33 (95% CI 0.80, 1.85)]. Recovery from metabolic exercise (p = 0.01) was significant, although large, very likely benefits emerged only for cycling performance at 24 h post-exercise [p = 0.01, ES = 1.05 (95% CI 0.25, 1.85)].
Conclusion: The largest benefits resulting from CG were for strength recovery from 2 to 8 h and >24 h. Considering exercise modality, compression most effectively enhanced recovery from resistance exercise, particularly at time points >24 h. The use of CG would also be recommended to enhance next-day cycling performance. The benefits of CG in relation to applied pressures and participant training status are unclear and limited by the paucity of reported data.
Keywords: Eccentric Exercise; Exercise Modality; Muscle Damage; Resistance Exercise; Resistance Training.