If you’ve found yourself asking what’s the difference between knee wraps and knee sleeves you’re in the right place, other questions surrounding the topic might include:
- Will knee sleeves or knee wraps add more weight to my squat?
- Can I use knee sleeves/wraps every time I squat?
- How do you properly wrap your knees
The Basic Difference Between Knee Wraps & Knee Sleeves
In a basic sentence, a knee wrap is a long strip of polyester or some other material that is wrapped and fastened around the knee as tight as possible using a spiral or figure 8 wrapping technique while knee sleeves are simply a neoprene compression garment that slips over the knee.
Knee wraps are mainly used by powerlifters in powerlifting contents that allow the use of knee wraps (some federations, and divisions decide the use of which equipment is allowed). A powerlifter will also train in the knee wraps some amount of the time to push their maximal lift and also get used to squatting in the wraps.
Due to the high elasticity of the knee wrap and how tightly it’s wrapped around the knee joint, there is a mechanical advantage gained through the rebound produced by the wraps. However, it doesn’t come without drawbacks as a medical study examined that knee wraps alter squat technique and therefore the muscles targeted by the exercise. It could lead to a compromised knee joint, and the paper recommends not using knee wraps for the strength and conditioning process.
For powerlifters the paper is a good idication that knee wraps do in fact have a positive influence on your squat weight so using them properly could net you an advantage in competition and training. However for the regular strength trainer, gym goer, or squatter I would not recommend them. You rarely see olympic weightlifters wearing knee wraps due to the decrease mobility and stiffness at the bottom of the squat but it does happen.
Knee sleeves are used by many folks for a ton of different activities ranging from basketball, powerlifting, olympic lifting, crossfit, running, or even to make it through a strenuous work day. They don’t add a ton of mechanical advantage to the squat, however some tight fighting, thick sleeves designed specifically for powerlifting and squatting could add some advantage at the bottom of the squat.
Other than for chasing adding weight to the squat, benefits of knee sleeves include compression around the knee joint, keeping the knee warm, and also providing lateral support to the knee to keep it centered and safe.
Go to a commercial gym and you’ll see quite a few people wearing knee sleeves for various gym exercises – they’re relatively inexpensive for a decent pair and easy to use. Compared to knee wraps which take a long time to put on, and you have to wrap up for each squat set – it’s a low commitment for a bit of protection and comfort.
I think there are few trains of thought when it comes to why people wear knee sleeves:
- For support while squatting, also for confidence and maybe to increase the workload possible
- To cover up for injuries (I wouldn’t recommend this)
- General athletics for warmth and reduced risk of injury
- Recover from injuries or protection in the workplace
These are all valid reasons to wear knee sleeves, except I would recommend if you have an underlying knee issue that’s causing you pain to discover the root reason rather than trying to cover it up with support aids. It could lead to more trouble in the future – definitely see your doctor and figure it out.
Sleeves Vs Wraps Conclusion
So some fairly significant differences between these two support aids. In terms of lifting, unless you’re a serious powerlifting competitor it’s not worth wearing wraps. If you do want to wear wraps, make sure you wrap them properly to get the most out of them – and also mix in non-wrapped training to maintain your muscle groups and technique.
Knee sleeves don’t alter your squat form and provide a good amount of support – it’s pretty safe to wear them every squat session but I would recommend taking a break from them from time to time to let the body naturally be able to support its self.