By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com.
While compression garments are a recent trend for athletes CEP entered the category as a medical compression manufacturer in 1951, over 60 years ago. CEP’s background in compression gives them insights and experience other compression brands don’t have.
As a brand the lineage to medical compression in CEP products is obvious. The key concept with CEP is “graduated compression” or different amounts of compression in specific areas of the body depending on their need and function. CEP’s athletic insights were developed from CEP’s medical products that prevent edema and help speed recovery, provide joint stabilization and facilitate movement of fluids in tissue for faster recovery. It was a short to leap to apply that technology to improve athletic performance and recovery.
Two of CEP’s most effective and innovative products are their Compression Quad Sleeve and especially their unique Compression Tri Short. Compression Quad Sleeves are compression for athletes who may not want to wear lower leg compression but want the benefits of muscle stabilization and fluid return. The quad sleeves can be worn under street clothes for recovery, with running shorts for training and racing and even on the bike with tri shorts. In a pinch they even double as knee warmers although CEP did not intend them for that use. I used CEP’s quad sleeves during a number of runs with baggy shorts over three weeks and liked how they fit and felt. Short of a statistically verifiable, scientific study which I didn’t do (but CEP has results for from University studies) I thought they made my quads feel better while running and “jiggle” less. That sensation of vibration or movement, especially when running on tired legs, is painful. Stabilizing the tissue stops it from jiggling so it hurts less- that part doesn’t require much science to discover. Because it hurt less for me I tended to run faster, even on tired legs.
Of the CEP compression products I used my two favorite were the Compression Tri Short and their Compression Triathlon Suit. The Compression Tri Short is a joy to run in, much better than a conventional run short or tri short because of the graduated compression in the thigh/quadriceps area that helps stabilize tissue and provide fluid return. I ran on sore legs in hot weather a number of times in this short with a feeling of less sore legs each time. No jiggle, no pain. The level of compression in CEP Triathlon Shorts seems higher than other compression tri shorts I’ve used and this may is likely part of what makes them work well.
The first thing I noticed putting the CEP compression tri short on was that the legs are difficult to pull up. Getting them on takes more work than traditional tri shorts, and pulling them all the way up took effort since the graduated compression is most prominent in the thickest part of your leg. They reminded me of seeing a fighter pilot put on a “G” suit. Once on its worth double checking you have them pulled all the way up. While they are tight in the thighs they do not bind at all at the leg opening, a nod to the graduated compression. Because the legs of the shorts feature graduated compression the top portion feels relative loose. Both on the bike and running the effect feels supportive but not restrictive. There is a nice, swimmable pocket in the back of both the tri suit and tri shorts.
It’s not easy to make a garment with very different stretch characteristics but CEP has done it in both their trisuit and their tri shorts. considering the difference in how much the fabrics expand the panels had to be arranged to facilitate good fit and also optimize the compression benefits. CEP has done both, especially in the one piece suit. I will admit the first time I got into the riding position in the tri shorts it felt like the waistband at the back of the shorts was being pulled down. It’s cut high enough so this isn’t a concern though.
The CEP Triathlon Compression Skin Suit uses a front zipper for easy donning and ventilation on the run. The compression is in the legs of the tri suit with a ventilated mesh insert in the top of the suit for temperature regulation. We didn’t get a chance to swim in the suit but the neck comes up high enough to suggest reasonable hydrodynamics for non-wetsuit swims.
CEP’s classic product is the Allsports Compression Calf Sleeves, a product seen at nearly every multisport event around the world. the graduated compression in the calf sleeve differentiates it from other brands. The unique fabric and knit also facilitate good moisture transfer and temperature regulation even in hot weather.
Each time I review a compression product I’m reminded of the validity of the category. Compression is here to stay. While it is a “look” that defines the triathlete as one of its early adopters it isn’t a trend. It’s proven technology for performance and recovery. No other compression brand has the same level of experience in compression apparel as CEP. They are one of few brands to bring valid medical compression technology to the sports compression application. That experience is apparent when you use their equipment.