Compression is Key

16.2 -> 16.8 
What are those numbers?  Before and after for calorie burn per minute (cal/min).

It may not look like a big difference (+0.6 calories), but when you do 45 minutes of cardio at the same resistance level, a 0.6 cal/min change adds up to another 27 calories, or a 5.7% increase in performance.  This change took place from a Monday morning workout to the next morning’s workout.

That might not sound like much of a change to some of you even when it’s nearly 30 calories, but watch people compete in running, speed skating, weight lifting, track & field, skiing etc. 1st and 2nd place aren’t usually 5.7% apart.  Think about those horse races that need to go to a photo finish in the movies.  When I was a ski racer in high school, 1st, 2nd and 3rd were usually within a 1 second band of each other – and often closer as you move up to professional racing.

5.7% is a huge increase in performance.  And, mind you, this was achieved from one day to the next with nothing changing but what I was wearing on top and on bottom.  From a long sleeve Under Armor Heat Gear top and Heat Gear spandex shorts that were both too loose (they fit before I lost weight) to 2XU Compression long sleeve shirt and CW-X stability tights in the proper size giving good compression to my muscles.

OK, that was a $220 change – no small sum – but the learning is huge.  And it’s stayed consistent 6 months later.  The reason is that compression does a lot for you – it aides in muscle recovery by increasing blood flow to the muscles. It allows your muscles to fire faster, and keep from tiring out as quickly or as much. It reduces warm up time, and thus gets you to peak performance much sooner. Plus, the act of getting the stuff on can be quite a good workout in and of itself sometimes!

So, if you haven’t thought about it, do.  If you have, but haven’t taken the leap, get some compression clothes to work out in. And, no, I’m not an advocate of the uncovered spandex look.  Put some shorts on over those shorts! Whether you can pull it off or not isn’t the question – no one at the gym needs to know what your junk looks like!

And if you’re curious what to get, I’ve tried Under Armor, Adidas, CW-X, 2XU and Skins.  Overall, my favorite by far is Skins for both tops and bottoms. If you have bad knees, CW-X has some great tights that have what amounts to bracing around your knees, which I really like.  2XU look awesome with the giant X on your forearm or leg, but I don’t find them to be as technically advanced or beneficial as the CW-X or Skins products (though I do like their shirts a lot, and find them similar to Skins).

I like Skins mostly because a) they aide performance at least as well as the competition, and b) as a guy, they really pay attention to the crotch and the movement proper crotch structure can give. This is really simple – without a gusseted crotch (like Skins has), compression shorts or pants will tend to ride down as you work out.  Skins stay put. Plus, I like the yellow stitching on black lycra look. Very cool and sporty (and similar color choice to my logo, of course).

I personally wouldn’t bother with the more usual brands (UA, Adidas, Nike, etc). They’re ok and cheap, but they don’t do much. I do have a UA Cold Gear mock turtle neck I really like for both compression and heating me up, but not as much as the Skins, 2XU and CW-X stuff.  Save up and buy right.

You can find Skins products at Amazon here.  Compression is a great tool to help you enlighten.your.body.

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

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