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Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Lifting and Crossfit, Master, Music and Rants, Product Reviews

Product Review: Skins vs. Bodyscience Compression Tights

Product Review: Skins vs. Bodyscience Compression Tights

About two weeks ago I convinced myself a proper pair of compression tights was a good idea. The science behind them was my first priority. There are quite a few studies out there about compression clothing, specifically lower limb compression (go to pubmed and search ‘lower muscle compression’). Most of the studies focus on endurance athletics or recovery after running or cycling. The way the circulatory system works, the heart pumps blood in one direction and muscle contractions push it back the other way. That’s where graded compression comes in, compression from the ankles lessening as you approach hips, effectively mimicking the muscle contractions and helping to push blood back into the body. The idea being the more fresh blood you can get through your tissues the better performance and recovery.

Photo credit : kevin 813

Photo credit : kevin 813

The Science

THE EFFECT OF GRADUATED COMPRESSION TIGHTS, COMPARED TO RUNNING SHORTS, ON COUNTER MOVEMENT JUMP PERFORMANCE BEFORE AND AFTER SUBMAXIMAL RUNNING. The mean post-run CMJ height in graduated compression tights of 60.3 ± 19.4 cm was significantly greater, at the p < 0.05 level, than both the pre-run with tights value of 57.7 ± 19.4 (4.5% increase) and the post-run running shorts value of 57.7 ± 19.6 cm (4.5% increase). In addition, the subjects reported a significantly lower level of perceived exertion and greater comfort values while wearing the graduated compression tights. The results of the present study support the use of graduated compression tights for maintenance of lower limb muscle power after submaximal endurance running. Effects of compression tights on calf muscle oxygenation and venous pooling during quiet resting in supine and standing positions. Compression Tights compared to Elastic Tights have positive effects on calf muscle oxygenation and venous pooling in quiet resting positions.

Aerobic energy cost and sensation responses during submaximal running exercise–positive effects of wearing compression tights. During part II, wearing compression tights decreased significantly VO2 slow component by 26 and 36% compared to elastic tights and conventional shorts, respectively. There were no differences in sweating and comfort sensations, RPE, and for whole thermal sensation between clothing conditions in parts I and II. Wearing compression tights during running exercise may enhance overall circulation and decrease muscle oscillation to promote a lower energy expenditure at a given prolonged submaximal speed.

I literally only searched the first page of pubmed, there are hundreds but I was convinced enough to try it out. Though the literature suggests that it could be pretty 50/50 in terms of effectiveness. When I set out to buy some compression tights, I looked at four companies, 2XU, Zoot, Skins, and Bodyscience. As far as the MSRP goes they’re all about the same, somewhere between $140 and $160 for a pair. The biggest difference is that some companies offer a different pair for recovery and for active use; some companies suggest you can use a single pair for both. The deciding factor for me was price, being that amazon.com had Skins for about $90 a pair rather than the retail $150, and they came highly recommended from a couple other blogs and internet friends.

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They got here last Saturday, just in time for squats on Monday. Seemingly at the same time I was contacted by @BK_Athletics on twitter. This was a first, he wanted to give me a pair of his tights just for this review. That’s a pretty bold move, only someone with a lot of faith in their product would give it away, knowing how it might rack up against the competition. That already was a bold gesture in my mind – not to mention my excitement over the first tangible anything this blog has generated.

Skins

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Material
The Skins material is pretty much really nice under armour. There’s a few talking points they give, “The fabric we use is warp knitted, which is a superior fabric that provides the stringent stretch and recovery standards needed for SKINS engineered gradient compression.” The first thing I noticed was how many more seems there were than regular leggings, they looked to be made of at least 5 or 6 pieces. The material feels very smooth and about as thin as other leggings I’ve worn. They aren’t thermal, so they weren’t meant to be thick. Really nothing stood out to me as problematic or special here.

Fit
According to the Skins sizing chart, a 6’2 210 pound male should buy a Large. I was kind of second guessing this but thought I should just follow the chart. I ordered larges of both the A400 and the Recovery tights. My original perception is that both pairs fit pretty well, they felt tight through the calf and looser along the thigh and hip. They sit rather high on my waist which takes some getting used to but beyond that I figured they fit pretty well. I should also mention that I adjusted them multiple times during my first workout, often having to pull on the thighs to keep them from sagging down.

Effectiveness
Still pretty early to call this one, especially since I’m in the middle of a strength gaining cycle, to really say “these skins helped me squat 10# more, or run 5 seconds faster” is almost impossible. I will say, they felt good through the workout. The metcon I did in these was deadlifts and muscle ups, the deadlifts were only at 225# but my legs stayed fresh through 8 rounds of 7. The real test would be to run week-to-week 5k’s in both pairs, thats where they would really see changes. From a psychological perspective, theres something to be said about placebo, just feeling the tights on your legs gives you the perception of greater strength and stability. This could be my fault however, maybe a medium would actually feel more compressed and make a bigger difference.

Durability
This one was a bit interesting to me. I mentioned above the material is thin, as thin as most compression wear I’ve worn. I did some hang snatch’s in these, and the knurling on the bar started to tug at the material. I didn’t rip a hole in them or anything, but they did start to pill a bit, I could see using this for long enough that it did become an issue. For $150 I’d want something that lasts for awhile. I have washed both pairs of Skins and they survived that just fine, no stretching or messed up fit.

Recovery
I wanted to take a special area to talk about the Recovery tights specifically (RY400). This is something that most people will probably use their Skins for. I love them for this. I don’t like the idea of wearing the same tights you just spent 2 hours sweating in all night for recovery as well. First, the fit of the Skins is a bit more relaxed, so they’re comfortable enough to wear for 10-12 hours at home for the night and still get some benefit. I put these on to sleep in every night after I do any form of squat or clean and I can definitely tell the difference when I wake up the next morning. The other side of this is the circulation heals inflammation in joints, my knees have felt so much better since wearing these regularly. While I might not land on the A400’s for my workouts, the RY400’s definitely have a place in my bag.

Score: 88 B+

Bodyscience Compression

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Material
The first thing I noticed when pulling these out of the box was that they were thicker than the Skins. Trying them on, the material felt much better right off the bat. Without getting into fit, there was already a noticeable difference between the two. The second thing I noticed was the sort of rubberized webbing from the calf through the knee, this same material was used to add logo’s to both calves as well as one on the thigh. From a styling perspective I really enjoyed the more outspoken branding on the BSC tights. I can’t think of a super practical reason for the webbing on the calves short of rope climbs, but it does look good. They’re thick enough that wearing them actually keeps my knee warm to the point of not needing my big reheband wraps.

Fit
According to the BK Athletics and the Bodyscience site I would’ve placed myself in the Large category as well. Here’s where having a person rather than a company makes a huge difference. Knowing my height and weight Ben suggested a medium. This as a pretty big deal, I don’t wear anything medium really, at least not without looking like the hulk after he’s ripped through his shit. Skeptically, when I put them on for the first time I felt a huge difference between the Skins. I actually felt “compressed” rather than just like wearing something thats skin tight. They also sit lower, as a ‘long-waisted’ individual, I find the lower hip level much more comfortable. They’re also much tighter passed the knee compares to the Skins which seemingly let go about half way up the thigh.

Effectiveness
After my first day in the Skins I wasn’t expecting a ton from tights beyond the psychological affects. I tried them first on Friday and had one of the best workouts of my life. I PR’d my snatch, then I PR’d my clean, then I PR’d my jerk. Then I did the heaviest set of 5 front squats I’d ever done, without my knee sleeves. Was it probably just a good day? Yes, did the compression help, absolutely. I also wore them on Saturday which didn’t go so well, though no lower body exercises. Then again on Monday, which was 5RM back squat that I struggled more than I wanted to. I still give the Bodyscience pair a leg up on the Skins. They feel far better while working out, while doing rowing intervals, and not having to adjust them constantly.

Durability
I mentioned doing hang snatches in the Skins and the trouble that caused. I did both hang cleans and hang snatches in the Bodysciece tights and they did not show any of the same signs of wear that the Skins did. That’s a huge bonus, if they’ll last forever they’re worth whatever you can charge for them. Already a victory.

Recovery
This part I can’t talk about. I mentioned above I’ve only used them to workout in, they get sweaty and smelly, I don’t want to wear that to bed. If I had 7 pairs of these, I would gladly set a pair aside to relax in, but short of that I really can’t see using these as a recovery tool, unless it was laundry day.

Score: 97 A/A+

TL; DR

Skins

  1. Lightweight material
  2. Sized a bit big
  3. Comfortable for recovery
  4. Cheaper through 3rd party retailers
  5. Minimal branding/logo’s

BodyScience Compression

  1. Heavier material for more “compressed” feeling
  2. More durable
  3. Better workout stability
  4. Pricier but probably worth it
  5. Well styled

At the end of the day the biggest metric is where I’ll spend my money, and my next pair of tights will definitely be from BK Athletics and Bodyscience.

39 Comments

  1. where did you purchase the body science tights? They seem to be only in Australia (I live in NYC)

    • The only official retailer in the US is @BK_Athletics (http://www.bkathletics.net/). He’s a great guy and is very responsive to twitter and e-mail if you have further inquiries.

  2. Great reveiw , I bought a pair of BSC tights today. Cant wait to use them.

  3. Did you ever try the 2XU or zoot you mentioned in the beginning of the article?

    • I haven’t…mostly because I like the BSC so much, its hard to justify trying more. If they want to send me a pair I’d be happy to add them to the review lineup, but as far as spending my own money, I’m quite content with the BSC’s and would probably opt for another pair of them before I go shopping elsewhere…

  4. Do you think the skins would have been better if they were a medium

    • It might’ve help the fit, sure. I still think the build quality and material of the BSC outweighs any fit concern though, even if they fit identically I’d still be strongly in favor of the BSC. Though you can find skins at about 60% of the price, so maybe that makes them worth it knowing they might not last as long. That’s your choice.

  5. How did get the blue? Only option is black… Also, BSC for training and RY400’s for recovery is the best combo? I’m 6′ 210 and wondering about size

    • My BSC’s are Black. I have seen the Blue’s in America but I think you have to special order them through Ben. Shoot him an e-mail and confirm. I do BSC’s for training and the A400 (the ones they market as training compression) for recovery. The RY’s are basically like wearing $20 long johns. I’m 6’2 210. If you have doubts about sizes shoot Ben a tweet or e-mail. He’s always been more than happy to answer my questions.

      • Hi Dan, you mentioned above in your review that you really like the RY400s but here you mention that they’re like wearing “$20 long johns”. Is that reference to the quality of it or the fit? Sorry I’m just a bit confused so can you please clarify? Thanks!

        • Yes – Great question. The answer is a little bit of both. The material is not really that cheap, it’s a nice spandexy, material. So I would say its about 80% fit and 20% material. The biggest issue I had with them is that following their sizing guide, they just didn’t feel like they fit very well. Perhaps if I could find a Medium instead of a Large my opinion would be different. The A400’s fit more like I expected the RY to fit.

          • Ok so if I were planning to buy a pair for recovery, you would recommend the RY400s? And if the SKINS sizing guide was to say I was a Small, would you recommend me moving down to an XSmall to avoid the problem you had? I”d just like to be sure because as you know I’d be shelling out a lot of money for these tights. Thanks again in advance!

          • I think if properly sized the RY400’s would suit you fine. It’s really tough to say on the sizing though. I would size down, and you can always return them if they’re too tight? That’s the best advice I can give.

  6. Also love to get your thoughts on lifting shoes

    • I’ll add it to the list of reviews I’m working on !

  7. Hey, great review. Really enjoyed it. I was looking into buying the skins but your Body Science review has possibly swayed me. Do you have any idea of there is a UK distributor online? I’ve looked around but no luck.

    Thanks

    • Send a tweet to @BK_Athletics – he’s offered to take care of you.

  8. Hi, great review! I am about the same height and weight as you are but seem to be on the border between Large and Medium according to BSC’s sizing charts……what is your waist size and does a Medium feel tight around the waistline for you? Thanks

    • I’m a 34 inch waist, and the mediums fit perfectly.

      • Thanks Dan!

  9. Great review of the BodyScience elite athletic tights!

    I have one question that I hope you can help me out with.
    Q) Does the compression tights come with a drawstring at the waist?

    Cheers,
    Alan.

    • Yes, all the BSC’s have drawstring waists – it sounds like such a trivial feature, but it’s huge. I love it.

      • Yeah I love the drawstring feature, allows me to adjust the overall fit on my waist.

        Your review definitely swayed me to buy one for myself. Do you reckon a 5’9 140pound individual like myself should get a S as recommended on the size chart? Or you reckon a XS would be a better fit. I am a 28-29 inch waist.

        • Unless you’re between sizes – I would go with what it recommends. I was between M & L and went with a M, so if you’re between sizes, go with the smaller. But if you’re safely a S on their chart, I would go with that. The waist is adjustable, it’s more important that it fit length wise and through the quad for them to work properly.

  10. Thanks for the comparison. The A400’s are the same price as the BSC ones here, so tossing up between them.

  11. Wow thanks for the comparision was a great help.

  12. I’m afraid those things leave me cold. I am a scientist and a runner of more than 35 years’ experience. I cannot see how running in a pair of compression tights is going to improve your performance: first, the rate of venous return from the legs in a well-toned athlete is already maximised; second, the compromised heat loss is going to work against any possible gain that there might be. I see more and more runners in them and the only winners are the marketing people pushing them onto a gullible public. Wake up, people – a pair of shorts is all you need on your legs.

    • They might protect you from varicose veins though.

      • I’d be surprised, given what we know about their aetiology and risk factors.

    • That’s Funny Murray ” The Scientist ” saying all we need is shorts. I have to ask Murray why did you go out of your way to stop by here and comment in this blog. ? was there any other reason you popped in or was it just to mention shorts ? Coming from a guy with Thyroid issues , cold sensations in my bones and off and on knee trouble I’ll be buying them. You stick to your shorts there Murray , You’ll be just fine.

  13. Tights are so great! I have piles, but have definitely been encountering problems with organization. Anyway thanks for the tips!

  14. If you haven’t checked out CW-X tights, they are definitely worth looking in to – built in muscle and joint taping plus compression!

    • I’ll look into them for the next revision of this. Thanks!

  15. Hi Dan, I work for a company called Blackchrome Sportswear, we are about to launch our own brand of personalised custom compression, so basically we could design a compression tights/tops for you to test in promoting your blog (as an example). Would you be keen to try a pair for me if I can get our dev department to ship them over to you?

  16. Do you still have the same pair of the body science rights you bought fit this review in 2013? If not, How long did they last? If so, how often have they been worn and fire what activities?

    • I do still have the originals. I also have another pair I got about 2015. They’re both still in beautiful condition, worn probably 3-4 times a month. Wash on cold and air dry.

      • Thank you! My husband is looking for something for Crossfit, but we are the kind of people who don’t buy shoes if they’re over $15 usd , so spending $150 on a pair of pants is hard to justify. But if the cheap ones have to be rebought every other week, longevity is a serious consideration.

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