Full Body Track Speed Suits and Compression Suits

After all the hard training and countless hours of drills to perfect your running technique, the difference between winning and losing may come down to the difference in the food you eat and TECHNOLOGY.  Namely, your track spikes and the clothes you wear.

First, we had had the sprinter’s full body suits for aerodynamics.  We saw Sanya Richards with the arm bands in Beijing 2008.  It was later revealed they were to cover up her skin lesions from Bechets disease. 

Often you see full body suits – long sleeves, full leg lengths and even a hood – similar to a  speed skater.  Canada’s Tyler Christopher or Australia’s Cathy Freeman frequently wore these type of full body suits (pictured below).

Bahamas Chris Brown (L) crosses the finish line followed by Canadian Tyler Christopher in the 400m competition at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 25 July, 2007. AFP PHOTO ANTONIO SCORZA (Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)Then we had full body suits for swimming.  That was to prevent drag with water and assist in floatation.  These are now been banned by FINA.

Then came the compression pants.  And shirts.  Tyson Gay and Jeremy Wariner – both with Adidas – talked about the benefits of these suits in past videos and articles.  Bobsledders were the first to try these compression pants to stay warm.

And finally, I won’t even get into the silly bench press suits…

What are the advantages of full body suits?  compression for circulation?  helping muscle tone?  optimizing the actin and myosin distance in the muscle fibers? (Creatine, a cell volumizer, does a good job at this) decreasing wind drag?  psychological advantages?  vanity?

On a cold day, I can certainly see the advantage of a full body suit.

Compression Suits and Full Body Suits

I wrote about Mens Athletic Compression Shorts and Benefits and The “Wondershirt” – Men’s Compression Shirts in previous articles.

The research is mixed.  Here are 3 recent examples with a brief snippet for the executive summary:

The Effects of Whole-Body Compression Garments on Prolonged High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise

The current data demonstrated that wearing WBCGs likely increased physical performance, possibly because of improvements in muscle oxygenation and associated metabolic benefits.

Therefore, wearing WBCGs during PHIIE may benefit the physical performance of team-sport athletes by likely metabolic changes within the muscle between high-intensity efforts.

Compression clothing and athletic performance — functional or fad? at the Indiana U. research at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting


Laymon’s study found that lower leg compression garments did not impact a runner’s oxygen consumption, which meant there was no change in running economy or efficiency. The study also found that calf compression garments did not have an effect on running mechanics.

"Overall, with these compressive sleeves and the level of compression that they exert, they don’t seem to really do much," Laymon said. "However, there may be a psychological component to compression’s effects. Maybe if you have this positive feeling about it and you like them then it may work for you. It is a very individual response."


Eckert’s study found that compression garments — compressing specifically the upper thigh — did not improve one’s jump height during the vertical jump. Many compression garments come with manufacture claims that their product will increase a consumer’s performance.

"I didn’t buy into that," he said. "To think there is something you can just put on and immediately you are better at what you do, just seemed too good to be true."

As more research is required, I’ll leave it up to the readers to spend your hard earned dollars on high tech clothing.  I’ll take hard work and injury free training any day!

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at SpeedEndurance.com
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee