Tune into any NBA game these days and it feels like everybody is wearing compression pants. They come in black or white, long or short and some even feature heavy padding. But from Dwyane Wade to Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, almost everybody is rocking them!
But should you follow that trend? In this article, I want to explain why so many NBA players are wearing compression pants these days. I am also going to break down the different types of leggings and show you my favorite compression pants that I use for workouts or basketball games.
Athletes all over the world are wearing tights not just as a fashion statement (even though I am sure some do), but there are scientifically proven benefits of compression pants.
Studies have shown that these tights are able to keep skin temperature constantly high, even when working out in cold surroundings. Another study has shown that compression pants significantly accelerate recovery after intense training consisting of 100 drop jumps. This quicker recovery is especially helpful if you are working on your vertical jump because quicker recovery also means better training results!
For me, the biggest benefit is that they keep me warm during basketball practice when the gym is cold during winter. It used to take me forever to get properly warmed up in January, and after 10 minutes on the bench, I always felt as if I needed to start all over again with my warm up. Wearing compression pants has improved my muscle temperature a lot, I still prefer a hot gym in the summer, but my legs are feeling a lot looser today.
There are a lot of different compression pants on the market, these are some of the most popular:
When to use?
Perfect for outdoor sports or cold gyms in the winter.
Great for outdoor games in summer or in hot gyms.
Affordable option which can be worn all year.
Budget option, designed to be worn as a baselayer.
For intense basketball games and players who often suffer thigh bruises.
When picking the perfect compression pants for you, there are a lot of different factors you want to keep in mind:
Picking the right size for these pants can be a bit tricky. You want them to be narrow enough so that they offer a good amount of compression, but also wide enough that they remain comfortable and won't restrict your blood flow. Overall, I never had a problem picking the right size, I am 6 ft tall and have relatively wide thighs, but the size L fit me perfectly with all brands. I would advise to pick your usual size unless the manufacturer specifically recommends otherwise.
A lot of NBA players wear compression shorts, but as my main motivation was to improve muscle temperature I was in the market for long pants.
There are two different styles you most often see:
These come down to the shins and leave just enough space for high basketball socks. They are most commonly seen in the NBA, probably because they don't bunch up at the shoes and look much more fashionable.
These come down all the way to the shoes and provide added warmth at the ankles. Added compression is negligible as the ankles are very thin compared to the neighboring calves.
Most compression pants are made of a mix of polyester and elastane, the higher the amount of elastane the stretchier the material. A common mix is around 90% polyester and 10% elastane.
The materials also differ in thickness. For example, the Nike Pro Hypercool features a really lightly weaved material which allows for good ventilation and cooling. On the other hand, the Nike Hyperwarm is made out of thicker, heavier material which stores warmth much better.
You also want to make sure that the stitching of the seams is well done, there is nothing worse than pants that rip easily at the seams.
Let's take a closer look at some compression pants I tried myself:
The Nike Hypercool are 3/4 compression pants that are meant to be used in warm or hot conditions. The material consists of 88% polyester and 12% elastane and is very flexible, the compression effect is comfortable and less pronounced than in other pants. The fabric is very lightly woven, if you hold up the pants against a light you can see a million little holes which provide ventilation and sweat wicking.
If you are used to warming compression pants then you are in for a surprise when you wear these Hypercool pants for the first time. As long as you are not in motion the experience isn't much different. But as soon as you start running it feels as if you are playing with air conditioning on your legs, these pants really feel as if they are actively cooling your legs!
So if you are looking for compression pants to play basketball in the summer or in hot gyms, then the Nike Hypercool should be your first choice.
If the Hypercool pants work best in warm conditions then these full-length Hyperwarms work best in...? Yep, you guessed it, cold conditions!
Identical to the Hypercools, the fabric is also made of 88% polyester and 12% elastane, but it is heavier and woven much more tightly. There are no tiny holes in the material, and because of that, the Hyperwarms are much better at storing heat and the compression is stronger. These pants are also really comfortable, I never felt any itching, and after 5 minutes you completely forget that you are wearing compression pants.
I personally love wearing these pants during cold January basketball practices or when I go for a run in the winter. They also work great during leg day in the gym! They are quite elastic which means I was never afraid that they may rip during deep squats.
To sum it up in one sentence: If you like your legs warm and cozy, then the Nike Hyperwarm Compression Pants are for you!
The slogan on the label of these pants is: "Heat Gear - keeps you cool!" Am I the only one who thinks these pants are named counterintuitively?
These Under Armour pants are designed to keep you cool which is observable in the light and thin material. Compared to the Nike Hypercool, however, the fabric of the Under Armour pants is woven more tightly without the tiny holes that are responsible for the amazing ventilation of the Nike Hypercool.
This results in pants that feel somewhere in the middle between the cooling effect of a Nike Hypercool and the warming effect of a Nike Hyperwarm.
Compression is comfortable and on par with the Nike Hypercool. Overall these pants are a great choice if you are looking for an affordable option you can wear all year long.
I also bought a pair of Tesla Gears compression pants because I wanted to see if they are a sensible choice if you don't want to spend as much money and whether they can compete with the big players like Nike and Under Armour.
The fabric of these pants feels very thin and light and the compression is rather weak. Also, these compression pants run a bit small and the waistband is almost uncomfortably tight, so you may need to consider ordering these one size up.
Overall, I am not terribly impressed by these pants, but if you are on a tight budget and you want pants that you can wear as a base layer to keep you warm in winter, then these are a good option.
If you are playing basketball like a young Derrick Rose, always attacking the rim and looking for contact, then these padded compression pants might be for you. Padded basketball compression pants are rather rare, you see padding much more frequently in compression shorts.
I haven't tried these Eastbay pants myself because I am more of a three point shooter and I suffer from thigh bruises only very rarely. But if you are a more aggressive basketball player, then the added protection on the thighs and knees could really minimize the effect of collisions and boost your confidence.
If somebody has first-hand experience with these, then let me know in the comments!
If you are looking for compression pants that keep you warm and offer tight compression then I would recommend the Nike Hyperwarm. Don't want to do without compression pants in the summer? Then go for the Nike Hypercool, the ventilation system of these pants is truly amazing.
Somewhere between these two options are the Under Armour pants: They are comfortable and can be worn all year, however, the compression is not as strong as I would have liked.