Lower Limb Sports Compression Garments Improve Muscle Blood Flow and Exercise Performance During Repeated-Sprint Cycling

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018 Aug 1;13(7):882-890. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2017-0638. Epub 2018 Jul 26.


Purpose: Evidence supporting the use of lower-limb compression garments during repeated-sprint exercise (RSE) with short rest periods, where performance will rely heavily on aerobic metabolism, is lacking.

Methods: A total of 20 recreationally active participants completed 2 cycling RSE sessions, with and without lower-limb compression tights. The RSE session consisted of 4 sets of 10 × 6-s maximal sprints on a wind-braked cycle ergometer, interspaced by 24 s of recovery between bouts and 2 min of recovery between sets. Muscle oxygen consumption ([Formula: see text]) of, and blood flow (mBF) to, the right vastus lateralis muscle was measured during exercise using near-infrared spectroscopy and venous/arterial occlusions of the right lower limb. Cycling performance, oxygen consumption ([Formula: see text]), heart rate, and capillary blood samples (lactate, pH, bicarbonate, and base excess) were also measured/taken throughout the session.

Results: Compared with control, peak power (40.7 [19.9] W; mean ± 95% confidence intervals) and mBF (0.101 [0.061] mL·min-1·100 g-1) were higher, and heart rate (2 [1] beats/min) was lower, when participants wore compression (P < .05). [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text], blood lactate, and heart rate increased as a result of exercise (P < .05), with no differences between conditions. Similarly, blood pH, bicarbonate, and base excess decreased as a result of exercise (P < .05), with no difference between conditions.

Conclusions: Wearing lower-limb compression tights during RSE with short intervals of rest improved cycling performance, vastus lateralis mBF, and heart rate. These results provide novel data to support the notion that lower-limb compression garments aid RSE performance, which may be related to local and/or central blood flow.

Keywords: NIRS; arterial perfusion; repeated-sprint ability; venous return.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Bicarbonates / blood
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Clothing*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Lower Extremity / blood supply*
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Quadriceps Muscle / blood supply*
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Stockings, Compression
  • Young Adult


  • Bicarbonates
  • Lactic Acid