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Athletes running in activewear.
  • Writer's pictureCompression Athlete

Should You Wear Anything Under Compression Shirts?

Let's take a look at the factors an athlete should consider.

Male and female athletes wearing compression shirts.

Athletes of every sport suit up in compression gear for a variety of performance boosting benefits.

The second-skin compression fabric offers breathability, sweat-wicking capabilities, muscle stability, and much more, all while providing superior comfort and a stylish look.

In addition, athletes often use compression shirts (both short and long-sleeved) to manage temperatures and weather conditions, whether competing indoors, outdoors, in the sweltering heat, or the bitter cold.

Due to their signature snug fit and the fact that they’re worn in both cold and hot conditions, it’s not uncommon for people to have a few questions regarding how exactly compression shirts are supposed to be worn.

Here, we’ll cover the correct way to wear a compression shirt, as well as other performance optimizing factors that an athlete should keep in mind.

How To Wear a Compression Shirt: Correct Way Explained

The signature snug and stretchy fit of compression shirts, along with all compression garments, is unique from most of the everyday garments that people are used to wearing.

So, if you’re new to wearing a compression shirt, you might have some questions as to how exactly these shirts are supposed to be worn.

For example, should they be worn as a top layer or a base layer? Is it alright to wear anything underneath a compression shirt? Or is it okay to wear anything over the top of it?

Athlete wearing compression shirt while running on treadmill.

We’ll start with an important general principle, which also applies to all compression garments.

In general, compression garments, including both short sleeve and long sleeve compression shirts, are intended to be worn right against your skin as a base layer.

So, if we’re just considering the intended design of a compression shirt then, no, you’re not supposed to wear anything under your compression shirt.

This is the best way to ensure that you reap all the benefits that compression gear offers you and your performance.

Keep in mind, however, that this does not apply to sports bras for female athletes.

It’s absolutely fine to wear a sports bra underneath your compression shirt, as the fit and fabric of a sports bra will be similar in nature to your compression shirt and should provide a comfortable, friction-free wear.

Athlete wearing compression shirt while running outdoors.

What’s key here for athletes is to minimize any superfluous fabric underneath your compression garments, allowing the performance fabric to do its job unimpeded.

Also, note that if you have a properly fitted compression shirt, it should feel like wearing a second skin. The stretchy and silky-smooth feel should be more than comfortable enough to wear on its own right against your skin.

If you feel like this isn’t the case with your compression shirt, you may have a sizing issue or an issue with garment quality.

Wearing Compression Shirts in Cold Conditions

If you’re looking for additional warmth in cold conditions that won’t hamper your performance, a compression shirt is the way to go.

Compression garments create a breathable shell that help maintain warmth for your body without trapping in all the heat that you’re exerting. Without this breathability, you would quickly overheat when active.

When wearing a compression shirt in cold conditions, it’s important that you wear the shirt as a base layer without anything underneath it.

Putting layers between your skin and the compression fabric will diminish the breathability of the garment and lead to overheating.

Professional baseball player wearing compression shirt under jersey.

If you need additional warmth to combat frigid temperatures, consider a men’s or women’s compression shirt specifically designed for cold weather, which typically have a brushed or thermal interiors.

Otherwise, compression shirts can also be layered with a warmer top layer, so long as you always keep the compression shirt as your base layer.

This is a common practice among athletes during competition when their jersey needs to be the top layer but doesn’t necessarily give them all the warmth that they require.

Wearing Compression Shirts in Hot Conditions

Whether you’re competing outside in humid weather or inside a hot and stuffy gym, utilizing a compression shirt is a great way to keep cool and improve endurance.

Compression shirts can be worn as a base layer under your uniform or on their own for training sessions.

Compression fabric’s performance features far outshine other fabric choices when it comes to moisture management and temperature regulation.

Athlete wearing compression shirt during spin class.

Compression garments have sweat-wicking capabilities that other fabric blends lack.

And when worn right against your skin, the compression fabric moves moisture away from your body to help keep you cool, dry, and comfortable.

Additionally, compression fabric has superior breathability compared to other fabric blends, which assists your body’s natural temperature regulation process when active.

Benefits of Wearing Compression Shirt as a Base Layer

Due to the fact that compression gear is designed to be worn against the skin (i.e. worn as a base layer), wearing an article of clothing beneath your compression garment can hinder the very benefits that are supposed to come from wearing them.

Consider the following benefits that wearing a compression shirt during physical activity and athletic performance can offer you:

Improves Overall Athletic Performance:

From start to finish, a compression shirt can improve your athletic performance. Whether it’s shortening your warm-up by improving blood flow or elevating your endurance and muscle control throughout the competition, compression shirts can offer you a boost.

Not only can compression shirts keep you active longer, but they also assist in strain prevention, which makes for healthy and happy muscles.

Reduces Muscle Fatigue and Improves Recovery:

Your compression shirt can actually help to reduce muscle fatigue thanks to the compressive pressure it applies to your muscles. As you move and exert energy, your muscles require oxygen.

Compression shirts can improve your body’s blood flow, which is essential in muscle oxygenation.

Not only does this help with muscle fatigue but the improvement in blood circulation also helps with your body’s recovery process.

Offers More Comfort and Support:

It doesn’t matter your activity or skill level, no active person enjoys discomfort from their clothing.

Compression shirts are widely used by athletes as a comfortable option while training and competing, as they cut down on chafing and regulate temperature by wicking sweat away from your body.

Compression shirts also offer great support to your muscles and assist in your overall movement and control.

Can I Wear an Undershirt Under My Compression Shirt?

By now you probably have a good sense of how getting the total package of benefits from your compression shirt requires that you wear it as a base layer.

However, if we take a look at the many different types of compression garments available and the varieties in which they’re worn, you might notice a few grey areas when it comes to wearing compression gear strictly as a base layer.

For example, some athletes prefer an additional undergarment when wearing compression shorts or compression tights.

Though when it comes to compression shirts, it’s worth noting that even if you prefer the feel of an undershirt beneath your compression shirt, there really isn’t anything to be gained by doing so.

In fact, wearing an undershirt beneath your compression shirt will diminish the benefits that the compression has to offer your performance.

Additionally, an undershirt will trap in heat and moisture under the compression layer and could lead to irritating bunching and chaffing.

So, if it’s simply your personal preference to wear one, be mindful of how the seams of your undershirt choice lay and move against your skin while worn beneath the compression layer.

Parting Thoughts: Proper Care for Your Compression Shirt

Regardless of whether you’re wearing your compression shirt on its own or layered as a base layer, and regardless of whether you’re wearing it in cold or hot conditions, be sure to keep up with a frequent wash cycle for all your compression garments.

Compression shirts, and compression gear in general, commonly take the brunt of all the sweating we do when we’re active.

In other words, it’s an ideal place for bacteria to thrive. So, it’s always a good idea to wash your compression shirt after each wear to keep it clean and performance ready.

And if you’d like to keep your compression gear in tip-top shape for as long as possible, check out our Best Care Practices.


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About the author: Compression Athlete
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