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🔬Does Wearing A 3mm Neoprene Wetsuit Improve The Commonly Desired Training Outcomes: Muscle Quality And Body Fat Percentage?

This is (the short version) of a study Wim Raes is doing on using the neoprene the way we talked about, and is about to release through 2 magazines in a few weeks.
So you get the exclusivity 🙂
The full version of the study will also be released.
For y’all who love sciency stuff and numbers this will make you happy

Study:
Does wearing a 3mm neoprene wetsuit improve the commonly desired training outcomes: Muscle Quality and Body Fat Percentage?

Acknowledgements
– My clients for their long term dedication and trust
– Julien Pineau from StrongFit for coming up with the idea
– Bart Raes from Smart-Sport for providing quite a few of the test partcipants, as well as the ongoing collaboration in testing.

Introduction

The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of wearing a 3mm Neoprene suit during strength training on the overall body composition. The goal was to compare the neoprene training with the training results of our regular training program in terms of body composition and relative muscle quality.

Methodology

Participants were measured before starting our strength training protocol and again after being on our strength training program for 3 months, not wearing a neoprene suit.
We then introduced the neoprene suit and re-measured after 3 more months on the same program, but while wearing the neoprene suit at least 2 times a week.

For this study, body composition and muscle quality was measured by using a Skulpt device. The measurement results are expressed as “muscle quality” and “body fat percentage”.
In order to validate the measurement tool multiple participants had their data body fat percentage data verified by a dexa scan, which is considered to be the golden standard in the fitness industry. Measuring muscle quality and bodyfat percentages using the Skulpt device involves pressing the device against the muscle and measuring a person on 24 different areas of the body. To guarantee maximum precision, the tests were all conducted in similar conditions, by the same person, using plenty of water to activate the sensors properly, and using the real time scanning setting to check for local discrepancies. Any anomalies were double checked and re-measured. The measurements of the Skulpt device have shown to be very consistent. Measurements were done before, during and after training, and readings have shown very little to no difference when done correctly.

For this study we documented data from participants with different sports backgrounds and fitness levels. We looked at the data from over 200 people, of which 30 data entries are fully documented before and after undergoing our training program with the addition of wearing a 3mm neoprene suit.
Out of these 30 participants, 6 had a relatively passive lifestyle prior to the program, 4 are participating in sports at or above national level, 10 are serious athletes in team sports, and 10 are recreational sportsmen. Group composition is a mix of people participating in various sports. Running, soccer, CrossFit, cycling, motocross, hockey and general fitness. Depending on their level, they train 1-5 times a week in function of their sports discipline on top of our strength training program. Some of the participants were new to our program, some were already training with us before starting the first cycle, and had been on similar cycles before.

The strength training program is an individual training program focuses on compound exercises and structural work for all major movement patterns, usually adapted to their specific sports discipline. It also includes isolation work for underdeveloped areas, relating to their injury profile, as observed during a preliminary assessment and as measured by the Skulpt scan. Participants trained wearing the neoprene suit for 2 times a week for 3 months. A neoprene session would take about 35 minutes on average. The intensity of the training combined with the neoprene suit would usually prompt the end of the session. Participants gradually got better at sustaining the effort and enduring the rather uncomfortable situation created by the neoprene suit.

Participant’s activity level outside of training has not significantly changed; participants have been on the same protocol during both different testing periods. Participants’ nutritional intake has not changed either. Other training activities of the participants during which they did not wear the neoprene suit include a 20min weekly high intensity session, daily short mobility and postural drills, and regular 10minute sessions of sport specific activation drills prior to sports training. These secondary training sessions were also part of their training program prior to testing the neoprene suits. To verify the idea that creating a very uncomfortable feeling through sensory input via the skin would improve the training results, the neoprene suits used were 3mm full body suit for which we chose a really tight fit, which was often 1 or 2 sizes smaller than the participants’ regular size.

All measurements are fully documented with local results for each measurement. Please see included tables and graphs for the summary. At the time of writing, more than 200 people have been tested. Since there is no data prior to the 3-month strength training cycle while wearing a neoprene suit, they are not included in this study. However, the results clearly point towards a similar conclusion, as their measurement data shows better results than any of the previous groups.

Results and findings

First of all, all participants report that training in a tight neoprene suit is extremely uncomfortable and intense, and that it gets increasingly difficult to sustain the training intensity and focus as they progress through the training program for that session.
They report feeling a need for a slightly longer recovery times after training, which can be traced back to their HRV data. They also report an increase in muscle soreness after training, especially when first starting, the HRV data indicates that it takes on average 1 full month to get the HRV data back to their regular level. The HRV data is not very consistent, and shows large difference in individual recovery times and adaptation periods.
Consistency: the program provides very consistent results, with every participant in the program showing similar numbers.
Effectiveness: the collected data allows us to conclude that wearing a neoprene suit such as the one described shows a significantly bigger increase in muscle quality (32%) and a significantly bigger reduction in body fat percentage (38%) compared to the results of the same specific strength training program without wearing the neoprene suit.
Neoprene training shows an average 10.6% increase in muscle quality, compared to an average 6.8% without, this equates to the mentioned 32% increase of effectiveness of the training program, when aiming to increase the participant’s muscle quality.
Neoprene training also shows a 3% reduction in body fat on average, compared to an average 1.9% before, this equates to the 38% increase of effectiveness of the training program, when aiming to lower the participant’s body fat percentage.

Participants also report being able to connect to some of their problematic muscles more easily. Although this finding is based on highly subjective feedback, it is consistent enough to be included in our list of findings. In particular, participants would repeatedly report the previously assessed dysfunctional muscles to be “heating up” while training in the neoprene suit. Those areas also proportionally show the biggest increase in muscle quality and the biggest decrease in body fat percentage after the 3 months of training, again pointing to the possible effectiveness of the conditions created by the neoprene suit.
Also, participants with limited results in their last 3 month cycle before testing the neoprene suit now once again display favorable results, mostly caused by localized improvements in specific areas of their body. Finally, the data also seems to support the concept of “spot reduction”.

Implications and notes

For our industry, wearing a 3mm neoprene suit during a series of intelligently programmed strength training sessions clearly has the potential to significantly increase generally desired outcomes; increasing muscle quality and reducing body fat percentages at a drastically higher rate.

With 2 sessions a week the results have proven to be worth the increased effort and the somewhat practical implications/limitations. Therefore, the neoprene training has become a staple in our training program, especially for our serious amateurs and higher-level athletes, as well as for the rehabilitative treatment and preventative care of injured and/or injury sensitive athletes. It has also become a standard tool to help athletes progress through stubborn plateaus for which an increase of muscle quality or a reduction of body fat percentage is appropriate.
Care must be taken of the recovery of our clients, gradually starting this type of modified training program using a neoprene suit and closely monitoring the recovery of our clients is strongly advised.
The ideal amount of sessions per week clearly varies based on the current fitness level, the ambitions and the recovery capability of our clients. Determining an optimal amount of sessions requires more testing and individual experimentation.

We established a clear correlation between the neoprene suit and the results, but we were unable to establish an exact cause for this effect. It is known that triggering the skin’s cutaneous receptors found in the (epi)dermis provides feedback via the somatosensory system, which is understood by the nervous system.
A direct link from the skin receptors to the nervous system holds the most likely causal connection. Because of the different type of receptors in the upper layers of the skin, one or multiple causes could be hypothesized
– Thermoreceptors sense the temperature change caused by the neoprene suit.
– Nociceptors detect damage to skin cells caused by the annoying friction with an overly tight suit.
– Mechanoreceptors sense contact in a mechanical way, which could point to the cause lying in the compression factor of the suit.
On another note, the mental aspect caused by the increased pressure could definitely also be a major factor. More testing aimed at triggering only one of the above is required to get closer to identifying exact causation.

Multiple other studies can potentially be done based on this data, so it will be made publicly available shortly. One could for example aspire to identify the overall weakest links in the body, identifying the most common places specific athlete types store a higher percentage of their body fat, … and then linking this back to common injuries.
The data clearly shows a higher body fat percentage and lower muscle quality in the glutes, hamstrings and triceps. One could easily use this data to (again) prove that general weakness or dysfunction in these muscles are directly related to the very common injuries in the lower back and shoulder areas.

Updated on March 17, 2020

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