A lot of runners use calf and leg compression sleeves, as these are supposed to improve blood flow. It would seem a logical extension to use compression sleeves on your forearms during climbing, especially on pumpy routes. Are there anecdotal or actual studies on the effectiveness of forearm compression sleeves for climbing?


Part of the reason you get pumped out while climbing is because your arms are up over our head. Compression sleeves work for runners because the gradient compression helps the blood in their legs flow back up to their hearts against gravity (they give extra elasticity to the veins which are superficial[nearer to the surface of the skin] to your muscles). Running is also an aerobic exercise, their heart rate is higher which enables them to clear away lactate more effectively. Climbing is more of an anaerobic exercise, the lower heart rate and elevation of the limbs makes it more difficult to clear the lactate. The problem in climbing isn't getting blood back to the heart, it's getting new blood up into your arms against gravity. Compression sleeves would do little if nothing at all to aid your more profound[deeper in your body] arteries. I imagine compression sleeves would only aggravate the buildup of lactic acid in your arms while climbing. The most effective way to control blood flow on a climb is to control your breathing, the more you breath, the more your heart pumps. That's probably why the best climbers in the world are also some of the loudest.

There are compression sleeves for climbers, but they're for recovering after a climb, they're not meant to be worn while climbing, and don't prevent arm pump.

  • 2
    Some good thoughts here, and I like it, but some references are always beneficial, especially regarding medically related issues. Nov 10 '14 at 6:32
  • @manoftheson I've added some links to my answer.
    – ShemSeger
    Nov 10 '14 at 20:17
  • Good deal! Also, welcome to TGO! Nov 10 '14 at 23:41
  • The reason you get pumped out is also related by bad or no warming exercises.
    – Gudgip
    Nov 18 '14 at 14:04

I do use those compression sleeves when I am going for cycling. I have observed that with the sleeves that I have, there is a gradual difference in the elasticity of the material towards the middle of the arm sleeve, such that the compression is tighter at the lower endpoints, like wrists in case of arm sleeves and ankles in case of leg sleeves.
The idea that the Decathlon guy explained me is to have the progressive/gradual compression on the targeted area of muscles.

The science says, When you are exerting your arm/legs, you are going to need oxygenated blood which arteries carry from heart to limbs, so its important that the de-oxygenated blood flows back to the heart, which is carried by veins to heart, so that it gets oxygenated in lungs.

Have you observed what a physician does when he/she measures your blood pressure?
He/She tightens a band, use the rubber bubble to pump air into the band. Why?
Because, an optimal level of consistent and controlled compression results in dilation of the walls of the arteries, and increasing the blood flow through them.

Additional information: While walls of Arteries dilate due to compression, walls of Veins constrict under compression action, which helps to increase the velocity of blood flow through them. Quickening up this process would result in a faster process of converting de-oxygenated blood into oxygenated blood and sent over arteries. This entire thing would result in provision of more oxygenated blood per average time.

When you climb, you are making your arms work harder. Thats one of the reasons to have a numb arm, cramping fingers after an exhaustive climb. Cramping fingers can be a consequence of lack of Oxygenated Blood supplied to them. With Compression Arm Sleeves, you aid in the purpose of ensuring that your arms would not go numb too soon, or at least earlier than when you are not using them.

Like all other users you might think that I am blabbering more about cycling and not climbing, but to be fair, I've never tried them on a climb. But I have used them extensively during mountain-biking and when I play cricket, being a fast bowler, I've always preferred having them on eve since I used for the first time. Allows me more spells to bowl before I feel my forearm hurting and/or start loosing pace. Its no harm to related the Blood Flow concept with the Compression Arm Sleeves, be it for any sport where you count a lot on arm workout. If you ask me about why people don't use them when the workout in gyms, I've got no answer to you.

I have seen the difference that I don't feel my elbows that exhausted when I wear a compression sleeve. May be because its like a strapped elbow? Muscular vibration during physical activity contributes to fatigue.

Apart from the science behind it I have observed that there is absolutely no possibility of the chafing that one may feel due to compression, like you may feel when you put on the socks that are smaller than what suits you, or may be undergarment would be an ideal example of chafing due to skin compression.

Apart from that, these help you with:

  • Used as Sun protection when Riding, Cycling, Trekking, Climbing, Hiking, etc.
  • Help you minimize the injuries when you face a minor fall
  • When trekking, Allow you to wear a Half-Sleeve T-shirt (Thats my personal choice) and help you avoiding the scratches, rashes, etc

have you observed that these are typically used by people who do a lot of tasks that require arm strength? Be it Baseball, be it Basketball, We've seen Cricket Fast Bowlers using these..

  • 1
    Sorry, but I don't see at all how that tries to answer the question... Nov 7 '14 at 11:49
  • @BenediktBauer: See the edits, I was having a word with my sister while I was typing, I knew the end result about Blood flow, didn't know the HOW part of it so couldn't add up the complex data then and there itself. Hope it answers the question now.
    – WedaPashi
    Nov 7 '14 at 12:25
  • I still do, as the question was "Are there anecdotal or actual studies on the effectiveness of forearm compression sleeves for climbing?" Also you state that "Veins are through internal segments of the body and Arteries are in the outer segment" but according to my knowledge and Wikipedia it's reverse: "Veins are [...] often closer to the skin [than arteries]." Nov 7 '14 at 12:31
  • 4
    I'm sorry, but the business about measuring blood pressure makes no sense. The reason that an inflatable cuff is used is that when the compression of the cuff exceeds your blood pressure, blood flow below the cuff will stop. That's what they are listening for with the stethoscope while they are taking your bp. It doesn't have anything to do with increasing blood flow through the arm. Nov 7 '14 at 17:45
  • 3
    Sorry, but I'm also inclined to agree that this doesn't answer the question above. While it's quite interesting information, and a good response, it is an answer to a different question. This seems more about arguing for the validity of the principal of compression sleeves, but doesn't address this for climbing, which is quite different from cycling. However I think there's some potential here if it can be directed towards climbing. Nov 10 '14 at 6:28

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