Knee wraps vs knee sleeves aren’t they the same thing, both work towards providing support, right? well yes, but when we get into the depth of how both knee wraps and knee sleeves work it is very different. In your gym, you may have seen people using knee wraps or sleeves and wonder aren’t they both the same both have their advantages and disadvantages when used under heavy loads when squatting and powerlifting. So it’s better to know about both of them and as a novice or advanced lifter decide which one would be best suited for you based on your medical history and health goals.
So let us dive right into it…
What are knee wraps?
Knee wraps are made of durable elastic material, the same material that is used to make wrist wraps. They are easy to adjust, Knee wraps are designed in a way that they can be wrapped around the knee in spiral or diagonal form. Knee wraps are used when a heavy load is placed upon joints and connective tissues during lifts such as squats. It is generally used by bodybuilders and powerlifters.
Benefits of knee wraps
Powerlifters or advanced lifters often use knee wrap because they do believe that wrapping their knee with elastic material will help them lift heavy weight load and shatter the plateau of their strength. To some extent, it is true that knee wrap stores energy during the downward phase of the lift, and this energy is somewhat ‘elastic’ in nature which allows the lifter to shoot up during the concentric movement with the heavy load. This shoot-up causes faster and heavier squats.
In some studies these wraps have been proven to reduce pressure and pulling force on your quadriceps tendons, Quadriceps tendon is attached to the quadriceps and patella, the patella is also known as the kneecap. During the lowering movement in the squat, the tendon pulls on the patella which can cause some nasty injury but knee wraps help by reducing the stress on the tendon which will, in turn, help avoid detachment of the tendon from the patella. In simple words, It will help your quad stay attached to your knee when trying to get max effort out of your squat.
Wraps shouldn’t be used by lifter when he or she aims to do more than 8 repetitions because elastic energy that gets stored in the knee wrap will provide good assistance and the downward phase of squat won’t be hard enough to trigger adequate muscle stimulation.
The reason we lift is to get stronger and using knee wraps often will undermine your strength and will become a hurdle in your fitness journey.
Disadvantages of Knee wraps
These wraps do allow you to lift more weight had squat more reps but they are missing to get one key thing out of your workout that is making you strong. Your squat capacity increases due to the elasticity of the band, Knee wraps are wrapped tightly around the knee which forces your knee to be straight. While heavy load helps you bend your knee and the elastic energy stored in the band pushes you up in order to straighten the knee.
This happens because they are restrictive in nature and they totally cover the kneecap as it is worn tightly it pushes the kneecap into the thighbone, and it can increase the friction between the kneecap and its cartilages which can lead you to potential injury, and sometimes it can cause even more serious health problem such as arthritis.
To further understand this problem a study was conducted the aim of this study was to investigate the effect of knee warps on back squat exercise.
Ten resistance-trained men performed 6 reps of their 80% of 1RM, 3 reps while wearing knee wraps, and 3 without. In this study, they found that wearing knee warp provided a 39% of reduction in horizontal barbell displacement, during squat movement barbell movement is not limited to just up and down, horizontal movement of back and front is also involved. Lifters should have low horizontal barbell displacement to increase the efficiency of the exercise. The lifter with knee wraps performed the downward movement of squat 45% faster than the lifters without it because of the elastic energy stored.
While knee caps did increase the mechanical output but changed the back squat technique that in turn changed the targeted muscles and it also possibly compromised the integrity of the knee joints.
What are knee sleeves?
Knee sleeves are binding sleeves that are easy to slide into and over your knees. Knee sleeves are made out of neoprene material, the same material that is used to create diving and scuba suits. Knee sleeves help keep your joints and muscle warm by trapping the heat inside. It moves with your body and is tear-resistant meaning it’s durable enough to withstand constant rigorous use.
Benefits of knee sleeves
Knee sleeves provide protection from potential future injury by compression and heat but it does not mean that they will protect you from an old knee injury, for that you have to use knee braces. Knee sleeves provide compression which helps in warming up our connective tissues, also increases blood flow, and reduces post workout pain and swelling.
Knee sleeves help in providing lateral support to the kneecap while limiting its movement this might help in increasing performance level in the workout. Knee sleeves are made from the same material that is used to create sauna suits meaning they can safely increase the internal temperature of the knee joint which can help you combat inflammation and it can also boost your recovery process.
Disadvantages of knee sleeves
Knee sleeves do limit your certain range of motion but in a good way, It will limit patella movement. For an intermediate lifter that is looking to train injury free and recover quickly, knee sleeves would be an ideal choice. Most of us are intermediate lifters but it does not mean that knee sleeves are for everyone. It may be fantastic for some lifters but for some it may not.
Knee sleeves won’t help you lift heavy loads, unlike knee wraps, when squatting while wearing knee sleeves you would have to do all the lifting. Buying cheap knee sleeves won’t do the trick so they can be a little pricey and with regular use, they tend to get stinky so they would require your attention and care especially if you’re a guy because guys do produce fouls odor.
Knee wraps vs knee sleeves
Knee wraps and knee sleeves both have their advantages and disadvantages so before buying any of them consider a few things and decide which one would be best for you.
Knee wraps will help you lift heavy weight loads because they are designed that way. They help you increase weight in a less painful manner and provide stability and also aid you out of the bottom position in the squat. Experienced lifters that are looking to increase the weight load they lift should invest in good knee wraps but if you’re suffering from any past injury you shouldn’t invest in knee wraps it would be better to get in touch with your doctor and develop your plan accordingly.
Most powerlifters prefer knee wraps because their goal is to move as much as weight possible also knee wraps are more restrictive in movement compared to knee sleeves. If you are looking to invest in knee wraps it is also necessary that you learn how to wrap them to get the most out of them and avoid injury.
Knee sleeves will help you keep your knee warm during the workout and promote good blood flow by adding compression it will also protect you from any potential future injuries. Knee sleeves should be your first choice if you’re an intermediate lifter that plans to keep his/her workout routine injury free. Knee sleeves are tight but it still allows you to move freely and they are easy to use.
If you have flexibility or range of motion problems a good stretch with knee sleeves on before any physical activity it would relax the surrounding muscle in turn increasing your flexibility and range of motion.
If you’re suffering or recovering from a past injury neither knee wraps nor knee sleeves would be an ideal choice for you. Using them would not guarantee a pain-free workout session. Knee braces would be the best choice for you it can provide the necessary support that you need during the lift but still, most lifters prefer to rest and recover because that would be more beneficial.
The type of tool or equipment you use comes down to your fitness goal. Keep it simple, knee wraps are preferred by powerlifters, and knee sleeves are preferred by intermediate lifters or the cross-fit community. Doesn’t matter what you decide just don’t rely too much on them and ruin your mobility and technique. Do add after-workout stretching to your routine to trigger fast recovery.