If you’ve ever seen knee wraps or knee sleeves being used in the gym, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “What’s the difference?” Although they might look similar, a knee wrap and a knee sleeve are not the same thing. Each has their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and one might serve you better depending on your medical history and fitness goals.
Let’s take a closer look at the difference between knee wraps and knee sleeves, and which one is best for you.
WHAT ARE KNEE SLEEVES?
Knee sleeves are compressive sleeves that easily slide up and over your knees. You’ll find that most knee sleeves are made out of a material called neoprene, which is used when creating diving and sauna suits. This is important as the neoprene base gives the sleeve many of its benefits, which we’ll discuss below. Knee sleeves are incredibly popular, particularly with athletes who squat or do a lot of heavy lifting work.
KNEE SLEEVE BENEFITS
The purpose of knee sleeves is to prevent injury. They should not be used to protect from a former or reoccurring injury; this is what knee braces are for. Knee sleeves prevent injury by providing compression, which warms up the connective tissue, increases blood flow, and reduces swelling and pain post-workout.
Thanks to knee sleeves providing lateral stability while limiting patella movement, they might be able to increase performance levels during your workouts.
As mentioned above, the material used in knee sleeves is neoprene, the same thing used to create sauna suits. Neoprene safely increases the internal temperature of the knee joint, which can reduce inflammation and expedite the recovery process.
WHO SHOULD WEAR KNEE SLEEVES?
Any weight lifter or high-performance athlete who works with compound movements or plyometric (jump-based) exercises and has no prior knee issues. If you have had a knee injury or surgery, we recommend looking into using a knee brace.
WHAT ARE KNEE WRAPS?
Knee wraps are similar to the elastic and durable material used to make wrist wraps. Easy to adjust, knee wraps are designed to be wrapped around your knee in a spiral. They are intended to be worn during exercises where a large weight load places the joints and connective tissue under a great deal of stress such as squats. Knee wraps are typically worn by competitive powerlifters and bodybuilders.
KNEE WRAPS BENEFITS
Competitive weightlifters like anything that helps them lift heavier weights and knee wraps do just that. During the downward phase of your squat, for example, the knee wrap will tighten, allowing a massive surge of elastic energy to be stored. This energy is released during the upward phase, and this allows you to lift heavier weights during compound or Olympic exercises such as squats.
Knee wraps are also said to reduce stress on the quadriceps tendon, which attaches to the quadriceps and the patella. As you squat downwards, the tendon pulls on the patella. Therefore, reducing tension on this tendon helps reduce your risk of tearing your quads—something you definitely don’t want to experience.
Experienced and courageous powerlifters use knee wraps when squatting to avoid serious injury. In fact, research shows that using wraps changes the horizontal movement of lifters, changing the muscles targeted.
WHO SHOULD WEAR KNEE WRAPS?
For experienced lifters who plan to increase the amount of weight they lift, investing in a good pair of knee wraps is an excellent idea.
If you’re a beginner to weight lifting, but you have plans to learn powerlifting or strongman exercises, it’s still a good idea to invest in knee wraps now. You won’t use them until you’ve built a strong fitness foundation, which will take months, but it’s always good to have a pair.
Those with prior knee injuries should not use knee wraps; instead, buy a knee brace.
WHICH ONE DO YOU WEAR: KNEE SLEEVES OR KNEE WRAPS?
The type of knee tool or support you choose comes down to your fitness goals and concerns. In general, knee wraps are preferred by powerlifters, but knee sleeves are used by the Cross-Fit community because they aid in recovery. Let your fitness goals guide your decision.
Which best describes you: powerlifter, CrossFitter, or average Joe? Do you use knee sleeves or knee wraps? Have you experienced any of the benefits mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below.