When you go through Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting gym, or any CrossFit box, then you will find a few athletes wearing knee wraps or knee sleeves while they workout. These both are some of the most common accessories for barbell training. However, many people are left clueless when it comes to how and when actually to use them.
Maybe you think that knee wraps and knee sleeves are the same, but these both are a different thing. Surprisingly – here you come to know each and everything that you need to know about the knee wraps vs. knee sleeves.
Well – Get ready to dive in
Knee Wraps – What Are They?
In a very basic sentence, knee wraps are the gym accessory which is made up of the same elastic material that is in wrist wraps. It is made up of thick polyester canvas with small rubber filaments. The amazing thing is that knee wraps are wrapped around the knees as tight as possible using figure 8 wrapping technique. On the other side, knee sleeves are made up of a neoprene compression garment that sleeps over the knee.
When it comes to squats, knee wraps is the highly recommended option. Knee wraps help the athletes to store energy on the downward phase of the squat. As powerlifters go through from two phases of squat, one eccentric (downwards) phase and the second concentric (upward) phase. When you are squatting to the downward phase, the knee wraps allow storing a high amount of elastic energy, and this energy is releasing during the upward phase of squatting – as a result, heavier and faster squats.
When you use this incredible accessory, you will able to add more weight and lift the weight faster while squatting. It also helps to unfold the question of how to stop knee pain as it reduces pressure on the quadriceps tendon, it also helps patella tendon pain, too.
Knee Sleeves – What Are They?
In a simple sentence, knee sleeves are gym accessory which is made up of compression garments (neoprene material) that bodybuilders surround the entire knee joint. The thickness and the snug designs of knee sleeves allow the knees to stay warm throughout the workout session. If you are looking for how to reduce swelling in knee, then you can reduce swelling by wearing knee sleeves as it keeps the knees warm. Many bodybuilders wear knee sleeves to offer compression.
The advantage of knees sleeves is that it helps to protect from future injuries and damage. Even some athletes believe that knee sleeves help in knee positioning while lifting.
However, knee sleeves increase the flow of blood to the knee, reduce pain and also increase recovery time. Ultimately, knee sleeves help to recover any workout a little faster. Knee sleeves are the solid choice for intermediate lifters as it protects from future injury and recovers quickly.
One thing more – remember that sleeves will not help you to lift bulk weight and invest for the best knees sleeves rather than the cheap supermarket kinds. If you have knees sleeves, then you will need to be diligent about caring as they require washing every week.
The Best Way To Prevent Knee Injuries – Knee Wraps VS. Knee Sleeves for Squats
When you decided to buy knee wraps or knee sleeves, below are few things to consider before purchasing them. Why you want wraps, or sleeves keep reading to know why you buy each item.
Knee wraps are specially designed to increase the weight on your squat in a relatively safe and painless manner. It is the best for every athlete who wants to achieve the best position of workout, it increases the support, and you can easily bounce back up on the bottom of a deep squat.
As mentioned above that knee sleeves help to keep the knee warm during the workout. When you wear sleeves, it helps to increase the blood flow to the knee, and during a workout, it helps to protect from future injuries. If you are an intermediate lifter, then this accessory is the ideal as it helps to stay injury-free.
Overall, bodybuilders and power-lifters are agreed to work out by wearing knee wraps as knee wraps help to add more weight to the squats than any other accessory. For CrossFit athletes – knee sleeves are the best option as it keeps staying injury-free.
If you are intermediate lifters, then both of the above options can be ideal. Knee sleeves keep your knees warm throughout the workout and eliminate the pain and increase the recovery time.
Pros of Wearing Knee Wraps
- Added Support
- Injury Prevention
The tremendous thing is that when you are wearing knee wraps, it enables your body to carry bulk weights. This wrap tightens your knees, and you get better support because your bones, joints, and muscles are well-supported. It is the reason why knee wraps are essential for professional weight-lifters.
Knee wraps not only about the additional supports, but it also decreases the chance of sustaining injuries. When you are wearing knee wraps it help to reduce the stress which is absorbed by your knees through the fabric. The tightly wrapped fabric helps to reduce the space gap between tendons. Therefore, it reduces the chance of sustaining other injuries.
Cons of Wearing Knee Wraps
Yes – when it comes to building up and developing knee strength, wearing knee wraps are not the best option because the tight wrapping gives you the edge. When you remove the wraps, the edge that you get will goes along with it.
Remember that, when you use knee wraps, in the long run, it may increase the friction between the patella and the cartilage of the kneecap and may lead to joint problems.
In 2012 a study conducted to understand why wearing knee wraps during barbell squat is significantly improving the mechanical output and performance. The study conducted in resistance trained men with some good training experience, half wearing knee wraps and the other half performed barbell squats without wearing knee wraps.
Mechanical output and other characteristics of exercise were obtained from GRF and the motion of barbell recorded during several single repetitions with 80% of 1 rep max (1RM). The effect of knee wrap on the exercise is quantified using effect sizes (ESs)
- Vertical force obtained with knee wraps during the lowering phase was considerably larger. This additional force was obtained by the generation and storage of elastic energy within the knee wrap.
- Vertical impulse obtained with knee wraps was 10% greater.
- Mechanical work for the upward phase was performed 20% faster.
- Peak power is increased by 10%.
- Lowering phase was performed 45% faster
- Wearing knee wraps resulted in a 39% reduction in horizontal barbell displacement during the exercise.
- The elastic properties of knee wraps improved performance by compromising the way your body naturally moves.
- It is also altered the musculature activation by the squat exercise.
- Knee wraps compromise the integrity of the knee joint.
Wearing knee wraps affects mechanical output and performance characteristics of back squat exercise – Journal of strength and conditioning research: October 2012 – Volume 26
Pros of Wearing Knee Sleeves
- Prevents Injury
- Faster Recovery
Yes, wearing knee sleeves will also help you prevent sustaining injuries, just like knee wraps. As it helps by compressing the joints of knee, patella, and cartilages into one crammed up single space. When you wear knee sleeves, it helps in positioning the knee and misaligned decreases. It also protects you from future injury and damage.
Being a weight-lifter or athlete, you always aim to fast recovery. Yes, wearing knee sleeves help you recover faster after a hard workout or after playing in a tournament. It is because of the compression that it gives to the knees. This compressing will not only improve the blood flow to the knees, but it also helps to improve the entire lower body’s blood flow. You can reduce knee swelling, muscle pains by wearing knee sleeves.
In 2016 scientists from University of Malaya analysed 20 studies on the biomechanical effects of knee sleeves to determine whether knee sleeves can significantly cure knee problems.
Structured Effectiveness Quality Evaluation Scale is used to determine quality and the authority of studies. They reviewed a lot of studies from January 2005 to January 2015. Based on the SEQES they pick 20 studies on knee sleeves for the analysis because of their scope and coverage.
Based on their analysis and findings, in 2017 they published a literature review – Biomechanical and functional efficacy of knee sleeves.
Among these twenty studies twelve studies found significant improvement in gait parameters and functional parameters with knee sleeves usage. Major improvements includes proprioception for healthy knees, functional improvement of injured knees and gait and balance for osteoarthritic knees.
Biomechanical and functional efficacy of knee sleeves: A literature review – Physical Therapy in Sport, volume 28, November 2017, pages 44-52
Cons of Wearing Knee Sleeves
Hygiene and Limited Movement:
Yes, from above you come to know about a lot of good things that you can get by using knee sleeves. But it still has a few downsides like hygiene and limits your movements. When you use knee sleeves a couple of times without washing, these easily get stinky, and therefore, you need to wash these regularly. Knee sleeves also limit your movements because of the compression.
Best Knee Wrap Technique
Do you have an idea about how to properly wrap your knee? Luckily – here you come to about the two general ways to wrap your knee:
- The Spiral
- Cross Figure 8
In 2015 scientists from University of Piracicaba and University of São Paulo conducted a study to analyse the lifting force with two different techniques of knee wraps spiral and X during squat exercise. 21 well trained physical active participants were evaluated for this study.
All participants performed squat in 4 different conditions- without knee wrap, spiral knee wrap technique, tensor and X knee wrap technique.
The study concluded that there is a significant increase in peak force during the back squat exercise by using the knee wrap. But there is no significant difference in peak force between techniques and the rating of perceived exertion was similar.
WKW: without knee wrap, SKW: spiral knee wrap technique, XKW: X knee wrap technique and T: tensor
Still there is 3% difference in peak force between spiral knee wrap technique and with X knee wrap technique. Yes I know 3% is not that big but during competitions this 3% will definitely make a big difference.
Can the Technique of Knee Wrap Placement Affect the Maximal Isometric Force during Back Squat Exercise? International Journal of Sports Science 2015
Every weight-lifter has their own choice on how to properly wrap knees. There is not a huge difference between the above two sources. You can also ask your trainer to tell you about the wrapping of the knee.
Ultimately, you come to know that knee wraps and knee sleeves are two different fitness gears.
Knees wraps are best for the lifting heavy weights. Knees wraps should be saved for heavy lifting days, 1 RM days and competition days. On the other hand, knee sleeves are specifically designed to add extra support and develop knee strength with intermediates weights.
Well – you can share all the above information with your family and friends, especially with those who participate in workout competitions.
Anna Steve – I have accomplished health & fitness writer and want to explore the legitimate health relevant information with those who are too conscious for their health. You can see my latest works at 100HomeRemedies.com. I am also conveying more attention towards the beginners who wants to achieve their health goals.