In this article you will learn everything about the knee sleeves and knee wraps. Here are all the major pros and cons of knee sleeves and knee wraps.
The difference between knee wraps and knee sleeves
Walk into a large gym and chances are you will see a number of athletes wearing knee sleeves or knee wraps. Many athletes think that knee wraps and knee sleeves are the same. This is certainly not the case! Knee sleeves and knee wraps both have their unique properties and associated advantages and disadvantages. In this article you will find all information about knee sleeves & knee wraps.
What are knee sleeves?
First of all, it is important to realize that knee sleeves are NOT knee braces. The primary purpose of knee sleeves is to protect knees from future injury and reduce the risk of injury. Where knee braces are made to protect previous knee injuries from further ailments.
Knee sleeves are compression sleeves made of neoprene material. The sleeves are in different thicknesses of neoprene, each with their own qualities. During powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting and crossfit, the 5 and 7 mm thick sleeves are mainly used, sleeves thinner than 5 mm are suitable for endurance and long-distance training. Nowadays there are many different brands and manufacturers of knee sleeves; however, despite the many different sleeves, Rehband sleeves are still the most popular among top athletes worldwide.
Advantages of knee sleeves
- The compression of knee sleeves stimulates blood circulation and also reduces pain and swelling of the knee during and after a workout.
- Compressed knee sleeves ensure that you recover faster from a training so that you will ultimately perform better from day to day.
- Knee sleeves improve blood circulation not only warms the joints, but also ensures that all the nutrients your knees need to recover after a hard workout are in the right place faster.
- Recovering faster and performing better every day, which could eventually make you lift heavier. Over-training exists, but recovering too much doesn’t exist.
Disadvantages of knee sleeves
- The warmth and compression provided, knee sleeves also restrict movement of the patella (kneecap), lateral stability and increase your proprioception.
- Knee sleeves minimize imbalance problems and make you aware of body movements during exercise.
- The biggest pitfall for using knee sleeves is arrogance. Many athletes think that by using the sleeves they automatically improve the technique of their lifts and perform perfect lifts. This is not the case! Even when you use knee sleeves, it is important that you continue to work on your mobility and technique of your lifts.
What are knee wraps?
Knee wraps are strong and stiff elastic bands that you wrap around the knees, the bands are frequently used by power lifters and bodybuilders. They are designed to lift more weight during a squat.
Advantages Knee Wraps
- Knee wraps are highly appreciated by power lifters because they allow you to squeeze more weight. Now I already hear you asking how is this possible? The elastic bands are wrapped very tightly around the knees so that the eccentric movement (downward movement) stores elastic energy that is released during the concentric movement, resulting in heavier squats!
- During a squat, the bar moves not only up and down (vertically) but also back and forth (horizontally). The amount of horizontal movement depends on how upright your chest stays during the squat. This horizontal movement brings us to the second benefit of wearing knee wraps.
- The second benefit of wearing knee wraps is more efficient bar movement, the above study concludes that knee wraps reduce horizontal bar movement by 39%. Minimal horizontal movement of the bar during a squat is a sign of good posture and high efficiency.
- Another important finding is that the eccentric movement of the lift was 45% faster than when knee wraps were not worn.
All sounds very positive! But is it as beautiful as it seems?
Disadvantages of Knee Wraps
- The reduction in horizontal movement is accompanied by a change in the technique of the lift because you are forced to be held in a specific position. For some people this is no problem at all, however there will be many athletes who will be forced into a position in this way that does not work with their given mobility.
- The second downside to using knee wraps is that they do the job of your quadriceps. The findings of JP Lake, PJ Carden and KA Shorter in the study ‘Wearing knee wraps affects mechanical output and performance characteristics of back squat exercise.’ show that knee wraps reduce quad muscle activation by nearly 20%. The problem with this reduction in muscle activation is that you squat heavier but actually train less effectively in terms of muscle growth, calorie burning and fat loss.
- In addition, frequent use of knee wraps can lead to decreased knee stability. This is caused by the elastic bands covering the knee completely and being worn very tightly, and damage can occur due to the kneecap being pushed against the thigh. This increases the friction between the kneecap and the cartilage of the kneecap and, as expected, this can lead to annoying knee complaints such as arthritis. It’s not for nothing that several physiotherapists in the fitness industry say that knee wraps should only be used during the toughest moments of your workouts.
Knee wraps vs Knee Sleeves
The choice between knee wraps and knee sleeves depends on your personal fitness goals and concerns about the health of your knees. There is a clear reason that power lifters prefer knee wraps because their sole purpose is to lift as much weight as possible, however it is not wise to use them during every workout. Knee sleeves, on the other hand, can be used every workout, prevent injuries and promote recovery from heavy workouts. The only pitfall for using knee sleeves is to avoid simply by continuing to work on your technique and mobility!