Best Compression Shirts
updated January 1, 2019
What are Compression Shirts
The wearing of compression clothing in order to improve athletic performance and speed up recovery has rapidly gained acceptance in the fitness community. Compression clothing is available for all parts of the body. The market has responded to the demand for compression clothing with many companies producing compressions shirts. The leading brands are 2XU and Skins. In this article we focus on compression shirts, which come in both short and long sleeve versions.
Compression shirts have been designed to provide a tight fit theat compresses the part of the body in which they were being worn. Often different levels of pressure are applied to different parts of the body. We’ll review the top 3 players in the various market segments, dig deep on the supposed and real benefits of compression shirts and provide you with an invaluable buyers guide so you can be confident in making your purchasing decision.
Best Short Sleeved Compression Shirts for Men
Short sleeved compression shirts look like very tight t-shirts. They are designed to be worn while working out in the gym or while engaging in outdoor training activity. The key areas of compression are through the deltoids, pectorals and core. However, when you wear a short sleeved compression shirt, there will be no compression on the biceps, triceps or forearms.
Best Long Sleeve Compression Shirts for Men
Long sleeved compression shirts do the same thing as the short sleeved version, but also cover the arms right down to the wrists. They, therefore, provide compression to all of the areas that are covered by short sleeved shirts but include the biceps, triceps and forearms.
Best Sleeveless Compression Shirts
Sleeveless compression tops are a more breathable, less restricting version of the compressions shirt. They do not provide coverage for the shoulders and arms, allowing for a freer movement around the shoulder joint. They are also more breathable as there is no coverage under the armpits. The downside is that you do not get any compression on the deltoids, biceps, triceps and forearms.
Best Superhero Compression Shirts
Compression shirts became hugely popular as a result of the saturation of Superhero movies that we have been subject to over the past decade. It’s not surprising, then, that a whole new sub-category has developed focusing on compression shirts that follow the design and include the logos and other emblazoned images that are worn by the various Superheros on screen. Of course, these garments are more than just a gimmick, as they include all of the compression benefits of other compression shirts. The majority of Superhero compression shirts are long sleeved.
What do Compression Shirts do?
Compression shirts are primarily designed as a training aid. They are purposefully very tight on the skin. This is achieved with the use of spandex fibers. This makes it very tight for your muscles when you are working out. The idea is that the tightness will result in a greater rate of blood circulation, which will fast track oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. The tightness is also meant to keep the muscle tight and engaged while you are exercising.
Compression shirts provide you with a level of therapeutic compression that provides you with compression without restricting your range of motion. Compression shirts are about 15 percent smaller than a conventional t-shirt or tank top. They are believed to make your exercise performance more efficient by limiting any extraneous movement. As an example, when you are doing the bench press, the compression shirt keeps your key training muscles - the pectorals, triceps and front deltoids - tight and engaged, leading to better performance. Many powerlifters wear compression shirts in order to get their bench totals as high as possible.
Benefits of Wearing a Compression Shirt?
There have been many claims made regarding the benefits of compression shirts, the majority of them coming from the people who make the compression clothing. The main benefits that are promoted are as follows:
- Boost blood circulation
- Decrease post workout soreness
- Increase endurance
- Prevent injury
Many people like to wear compression shirts because they like the Superhero look that it produces in terms of its tightness. Guys who have some muscle to show off, may enjoy that bulging muscle look. Because compression shirts are in vogue right now, they may also enjoy the style aspect of the garment. Then, of course, there is the undeniable placebo effect of wearing compression clothing.
Many people believe that compression shirts only work on the top 3 inches of the human body - the brain. Having spent a sizable amount of money on a garment designed to improve performance and feeling comfortable - if slightly tight - while wearing the garment, many people will perform better because they are convinced that they should do so.
What Compression Shirts Really Do
While it is true that there is a definite placebo effect when it comes to compression shirts, that is not to say that there no real benefits to be derived from wearing them. However, the reality is that the solid scientific evidence behind the use of compression shirts as a training aid is limited. Much of that evidence is specific to compression clothing for other areas of the body (most notably the legs), but we can extrapolate the findings to cover compression shirts.
In 2016, a study was conducted that involved long distance runners an the ability of compression shorts to improve post run recovery. It was seen that the wearing of compression shorts markedly improved recovery time and post run muscle soreness. It was suggested that this was largely due to the increased flow of oxygen and nutrients to the target muscles that resulted from the increased compression.
The speeding up of the blood circulation process will also enhance the removal of lactic acid from the working muscle, which is another factor that leads to improved recovery and reduced post exercise muscle soreness.
As already mentioned, wearing compression clothing may also help to keep your muscles on point while you are working out. There will be a marked decrease in muscle vibration as a result of the tightness of the garment. This especially comes into play when you are performing more complex exercises, such as the bench press, squat or deadlift. While there is, no doubt, a placebo effect here - you feel more in control because you are wearing the compression shirt - the tightness on the muscle will also reduce extraneous movement, making you a more efficient athlete.
Compression shirts may feel quite uncomfortable as a result of their tightness. The tightness can also produce sweat more readily. Fortunately, many compression shirts include advanced moisture wicking properties that will help to quickly remove sweat from your skin. It will also keep you comfortable during and after your workout. This will both allow you to exercise more efficiently and to recover faster.
On the other hand, some compression shirt manufacturers include thermal technology to help to keep you want during the workout. This helps to maintain a consistent body temperature during warm ups, training and cool down. Many compression shirts also include a level of UV protection to keep you safe when you are training out under the sunlight.
Do Compression Shirts help you lose weight?
There have been many claims that compression shirts, along with other compression garments, are effective weight loss aids. So, do these claims really stack up?
The genesis of the compression to lose
weight belief goes back to those neoprene bands that people have been wearing around their waists for decades. It was claimed that the bands will melt away the fat that lies beneath them as a result of the increased
core body temperature and leads to increased sweating. It was also believed that a vibrating movement of the band will also lead to fat loss because it breaks up the cellulite sufficiently to make the skin smoother.
It is true that compression clothing, including compression shirts, will make you sweat more (which is why you should buy a shirt with built-in moisture wicking properties), and you will lose water weight as a result. But there is a big difference between water weight and fat loss. Drink a liter of water and you will have put that weight straight back on!
Some types of compression garments will make you look slimmer. That is because their tightness acts much like a girdle to keep the fatty areas tightly compressed. In addition, medical grade compression garments are often used following weight loss surgery. But this is not to enhance the weight loss process but, rather, to reduce post surgery pain and speed up the healing process.
The answer, then, is that compressions garments will not help you to lose weight. In fact, using compression clothing for that purpose can be dangerous. Excess tightness around the core can cause the muscle in that area to relax, leading to loss of muscle tone. They can also lead to overheating, which may result in dizziness. The excess loss of water through increased sweating may also lead to dehydration.
What to Look for in a Compression Shirt?
There are a range of materials that compression shirts may be made for. The construction material will have a lot to do with the durability, breathability and fit. Here are the main ones and what to consider with each.
While not the most durable of materials, polyester is a good choice if you are going to be training outdoors. It is water resistant and it is more resistant to UV radiation than any other material that is used for compression shirt construction. With this material you do not have to worry about the material fading in the sun or the fibers breaking down.
Nylon is quite a common material in compression shirt construction. It usually has a blend ratio of 2 to 1 with lycra, with which it is usually paired. After neoprene, nylon is the most durable fiber used in compression short construction. It is also the most water resistant natural fiber that you will come across. And, because it is a smooth fiber, nylon will not cause irritation to those who have a skin condition.
Lycra is also known as spandex. You will find it, to a lesser or greater degree, in virtually every compression shirt on the market. The greater the lycra content, the better. Its great benefit is that it provides a great deal of flexibility while still retaining its shape. It is, therefore, the spandex which allows for the form hugging fit of compression shorts. It allows them to perform without any restriction of movement.
Of all of the materials in this list, neoprene is the least breathable. Neoprene is resistant to water and sunlight so wil nor deteriorate from extended outdoor use. It is also thermal and heat resistant. While being thick it is also lightweight, which makes it a popular choice for protective sports gear. Neoprene is technically a rubber, and is far more durable than most other compression shirt construction materials. It is not as breathable as other materials, however.
- Level of Compression
Look for the compression level of the shirt. Graduated compression means that the level changes in different parts of the garment, which is believed to increase the effectiveness of the compression. Compression levels of between 20-30 mmHG are the best. Many compression shirts have panels imbedded in them which have been placed in specific areas, such as over the abs or pectoral muscles.
- Moisture Wicking
You should look for a compression shirts that have inbuilt moisture wicking and sweat removal properties.
- Type of Shirt
You need to decide which of the various types of compression shirt you want to buy.
Your options are:
- Sleeveless compression shirt
- Short sleeved compression shirt
- Long sleeved compression shirt
- Superhero compression shirt
If you are going to be primarily wearing your compression shirt as an undergarment, you will be better off with a sleeveless compression shirt. This is also the best option if you will be wearing the compression shirt under your sports uniform. Short sleeved shirts are good for very warm climates and for those who want freer arm movement. Long sleeved shirts will keep you warmer and will also provide compression for your biceps, triceps and forearms. If you want to look as stylish as possible, you might consider going with a Superhero compression shirt.
Compression shirts may make you look like a Superhero, but they will not instantly turn you into one. While some of the claims relating to compression shirts are over the top, there are some very real benefits from wearing them. Our favorite brand of short sleeved compression shirt is the Under Armor Men’s Tactical HeatGear , with its 4-stretch fabric, advanced moisture treatment and anti odor properties. The best sleeveless compression shirt out there is the Under Armor Men’s HeatGear Sleeveless Compression Shirt , delivering heatgear fabric, underarm panels and UPF 30+ sun protection.
Our top long sleeved compression shirt is the Defender Men’s Quickdry, which provides you with a Quick dry transport system, good heat retention and a great price. And finally, the best Superhero compression shirt on the current market is the Generic Superhero compression costume, with its non abrasive fabric and great quality of printed designs.
Top 3 Compression Shirts
My name is Jim Roose. I'm a former competitive power lifter and gym owner. I've bought millions of dollars of fitness equipment over the last 20 years. This site is my way of giving back to the fitness community that's done so much for me. Every article on here is carefully researched and written by me. Leave a comment if you have any questions.