9 Best Knee Sleeves for Squats (Powerlifting) in 2023

9 Best Knee Sleeves for Squats (Powerlifting) in 2024

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Reviewed by Sergii Putsov

Squats are a compound exercise popular among athlete levels, from seasoned weightlifters to recreational gym goers. However, this exercise and its variations can be tough on your joints, which is why many pros turn to weightlifting knee sleeves for extra support. These are the 9 best knee sleeves for squats to get in 2024 and the benefits of using them.

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Our Best Choice!

Weightlifting Knee Sleeves WBCM

The Warm Body Cold Mind Weightlifting Sleeves are designed by champions for champions. As a former Olympic athlete with decades of experience, I know exactly how knee sleeves should fit and feel. I’m confident to call them the best knee sleeves for weightlifting currently on the market.

Top 9 Best Knee Sleeves for Squats (Powerlifting) Reviewed

  1. Warm Body Cold Mind Weightlifting Knee Sleeves – Top pick
  2. Rogue 7mm Knee Sleeve – Runner-Up
  3. Iron Bull Strength 7mm Knee Sleeves – Best Sleeves
  4. 2Pood Knee Sleeves – Best Design Variety
  5. Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves – IPF & USAPL Approved
  6. Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves – Best 6mm Sleeves
  7. RDX K4 Weightlifting Knee Wraps – Best Knee Wraps
  8. RipToned 7mm Neoprene Knee Sleeves
  9. Hookgrip Knee Sleeves 2.0
SleevesAverage ScoreMaterial QualityCompressionEasy of UseLongevityComfortSupportValue for Money
WBCM4.95554.5555
Rogue4.8554.55554.5
Iron Bull Strength4.85554.54.554.5
2Pood4.74.54.554.554.55
Gymreapers4.64.54.554.554.54.5
Element 264.654.5544.54.54.5
RDX K44.54.54.54544.55
RipToned4.444.54.544.54.55
Hookgrip4.344.54.544.545

1. Warm Body Cold Mind Weightlifting Knee Sleeves

TOP PICK

Weightlifting Knee Sleeves WBCM

Final Score: 4.9

Material Quality: 5

Compression: 5

Ease of Use: 5

Longevity: 4.5

Comfort: 5

Support: 5

Value for Money: 5

The Warm Body Cold Mind Weightlifting Sleeves are designed by champions for champions. As a former Olympic athlete with decades of experience, I know exactly how knee sleeves should fit and feel. I’m confident to call them the best knee sleeves for weightlifting currently on the market.

  • Material: Neoprene
  • Sizing: S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL
  • Circumference: 11.8” to 18.3”
  • Length: 11” - 11.4”
  • Thickness: 7mm
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Black, Black & White, Black & Pink
  • Best For: Weightlifting

The Warm Body Cold Mind knee sleeves boast a familiar design with a few unique perks. They’re made from durable and breathable Neoprene, which is standard for knee sleeves. They’re also 7mm thick, gearing mostly towards weightlifters.

That said, the sleeves have a contoured, anatomical design that offers support that meets medical-grade standards, while still allowing a full range of movement. They’ll help you push your exercise limits while keeping your joints safe. Additionally, they’re equipped with an anti-slip system that prevents them from sliding during exercise.

The sleeves are unisex in design, with a neutral and simple look, and come in a wide array of sizes, from S to 3XL. Moreover, you’ll notice the price is very competitive for this type of product. Whether you’re powerlifting, cross-training, or engaging in vigorous sports, these sleeves have your back.

Pros

  • Designed by former Olympic athlete
  • Medical-grade contoured design
  • Anti-slip design
  • Exceptional value for money

Cons

  • Lack of color options

2. Rogue 7mm Knee Sleeve

RUNNER-UP

Knee Sleeve Rogue

Final Score: 4.8

Material Quality: 5

Compression: 5

Ease of Use: 4.5

Longevity: 5

Comfort: 5

Support: 5

Value for Money: 4.5

Rogue Fitness boasts a high reputation everywhere from home fitness to top-tier competitions. The Rogue 7mm knee sleeves are a common choice among many knee sleeve reviews. Built to the highest industry standards and approved for use in competition, they’re some of the best knee sleeves on the market, albeit at a higher price than most.

  • Material: SBR, Neoprene
  • Sizing: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Circumference: < 12.2” to 16.9”
  • Length: Not specified
  • Thickness: 7mm (+ 3mm and 5mm custom designs)
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Black (+ a variety of custom designs)
  • Best For: All-rounder

Rogue knee sleeves are American-designed and manufactured in the U.S.A. They are made from a combination of SBR and Neoprene, providing optimal compression, warmth, and stretch. The 7mm thick version features a standardized all-black design.

However, the manufacturer offers complete customization options (with additional charges) including size, thickness, and even the possibility of adding your own unique graphic or custom text. The 7mm version is one of the best knee sleeves for powerlifting and is fully approved for use in both the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) competitions.

If you attend or follow weightlifting competitions online, there’s a high chance you’ll see more than one person wearing them. However, for primarily powerlifting knee sleeves, they lack a bit of size variety, so make sure to look at the sizing chart to see if they fit.

Pros

  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Approved for both IPF and IWF competitions (7mm)
  • Fully customizable size, thickness, and design

Cons

  • Lacks larger sizes

3. Iron Bull Strength 7mm Knee Sleeves

BEST SLEEVES

Iron Bull Strength 7mm Knee Sleeves

Final Score: 4.8

Material Quality: 5

Compression: 5

Ease of Use: 5

Longevity: 4.5

Comfort: 4.5

Support: 5

Value for Money: 4.5

Iron Bull Strength is a Canadian-based brand of fitness accessories. Their focus is on high-level athletes and top-tier competitions, with a wide range of products approved in all sorts of competitive lifting circuits. If you’re an experienced lifter familiar with using weightlifting knee sleeves and want the best 7mm sleeves, these made for an easy recommendation

  • Material: SCR Neoprene
  • Sizing: S, M, L, XL, 2XL
  • Circumference: < 11.8 to 18.3
  • Length: 11.8”
  • Thickness: 7mm
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Black (+ Blue, Gray, Green, Pink, Purple, or Red details)
  • Best For: Powerlifting

These knee sleeves are primarily made of SCR Neoprene, a medium-grade Neoprene composite often seen in protective sports gear. Connected with doubly-stitched welded seams, they can withstand high levels of pressure, making these some of the best squatting knee sleeves.

The design is unisex and minimalist, with a black base and a few color options that highlight the details like the logo and contours. Compared to other knee sleeves, they offer decent size and design variety and come at a slightly above-average price.

Iron Bull Strength went out of its way to secure approval in all powerlifting federations, including IWF, IPF, USAPL, USPA, and IPL. Boasting a standardized 7mm thickness and what they call “Level 2” compression levels, they provide hefty support and stability. They’re 30cm in length, which is the maximum allowed by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) — the governing body of the Summer Olympic Games.

Pros

  • Approved in all powerlifting circuits
  • Doubly stitched for extra durability
  • Minimalist, eye-catching design

Cons

  • One-size-fits-all length is not ideal for all athletes

4. 2Pood Knee Sleeves

BEST DESIGN VARIETY

2Pood Knee Sleeves - Best Design Variety

Final Score: 4.7

Material Quality: 4.5

Compression: 4.5

Ease of Use: 5

Longevity: 4.5

Comfort: 5

Support: 4.5

Value for Money: 5

2Pood is renowned for creating standout workout accessories, known for their distinctive designs that make them easily identifiable. However, it's not just about aesthetics. Their products also deliver above-average quality considering their price point, providing excellent value for money. Check them out.

  • Material: Hybrid Neoprene
  • Sizing: XS, S, M, L
  • Circumference: 12.2 to 16.9”
  • Length: 12.2-16.9”
  • Thickness: 5mm
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Black (+ unique designs) 
  • Best For: Cross-training

The 2Pood Knee Sleeves are made from a thick and flexible hybrid neoprene. They’re 5mm thick, providing medium comfort and support best suited for cross-training. That said, they’re not the best when it comes to heavy lifts, as the stitching tends to tear according to some knee sleeve reviews.

Moreover, they lack size variety, ranging only from XS to L. These sizes cover the majority of athletes, sure, but won’t fit as well on large weightlifters or smaller athletes. Firstly, they come at a more budget-friendly price point. Additionally, 2Pood stands out with its range of unique and eye-catching designs.

Unlike traditional options in black, white, gray, or red, 2Pood offers a vibrant selection, including Operator Black, Bakers Dozen (featuring donut shapes), Pineapple, Sunflower, On the PR-owl (jaguar print), and even two designs with sequins sewn in, known as Mermaid and Black Magic, in black or blue respectively. If nothing else, this diverse range of styles allows you to express your individuality and stand out in the gym.

Pros

  • Unique eye-catching designs
  • Excellent for cross-training
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Very limited sized variety (only 4 sizes)
  • Will tear under immense pressure

5. Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

IPF & USAPL APPROVED

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

Final Score: 4.6

Material Quality: 4.5

Compression: 4.5

Ease of Use: 5

Longevity: 4.5

Comfort: 5

Support: 4.5

Value for Money: 4.5

Next up, we have the 7mm Knee Sleeves by Gymreapers. These sleeves have received approval for use in all IPF and USAPL competitions, attesting to their exceptional quality and careful design. If you're considering competitive lifting, these sleeves complement other Gymreapers weightlifting gear seamlessly.

  • Material: Neoprene
  • Sizing: S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Circumference: 11.8” to 18.3”
  • Length: 10 inches
  • Thickness: 7mm
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Black & White, Black & Red, Green & Black
  • Best For: Weightlifting

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves are designed for heavy lifting by providing extra support and compression for your knees. Made from a tight-fitting premium Neoprene material with 7mm in thickness, they effectively reduce knee strain, discomfort, and pain without limiting your range of motion. The contoured fit is suitable for both exercising and post-workout recovery.

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves Instagram
Photo by @gymreapers

The sleeves are enhanced with reinforced stitching at common breaking points, making them ideal for heavy lifts. Each pair of knee sleeves is backed with a 1-year replacement warranty in case of faults, making them a safe purchase. As a bonus, Gymreapers includes a free carrying bag for added convenience.

Pros

  • IPF & USAPL approved
  • Reinforced stitching among major breaking points
  • Free Gymreapers carrying bag included with each purchase
  • 1-year replacement warranty

Cons

  • Nothing in particular makes them a standout

6. Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves

BEST 6MM SLEEVES

Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves

Final Score: 4.5

Material Quality: 5

Compression: 4.5

Ease of Use: 5

Longevity: 4

Comfort: 4.5

Support: 4.5

Value for Money: 4.5

Where other brands follow trends to save on cost and sell more products, Element 26 is looking to innovate where it can. Their 6mm thick sleeves are an original design with some unique benefits.

  • Material: Neoprene
  • Sizing: S, M, L, XL
  • Circumference: 16.5” to 19.5” 
  • Length: Not specified
  • Thickness: 6mm
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Black, Blue, Green
  • Best For: Cross-training

Element 26 knee sleeves stand out with their unique 6mm thickness, intentionally chosen to fit between the comfort of 5mm and the robust support of 7mm. This makes them an excellent choice for cross-training and WOD-style workouts. If you’ve used either of those and found them unfitting, give Element 26 a try. They’re highly stretchable and easy to put on and off.

The sleeves have a contoured, anatomical design that allows for unrestricted movement. They also feature a 25-degree offset at the back to prevent the material from bunching during deep squats, box jumps, and other exercises with high knee bends.

Made from 100% premium Neoprene, they offer impressive stretch and compression while remaining gentle on the skin. While they come at a slightly higher price point, the lifetime warranty adds significant value to the investment.

Pros

  • Unique 6mm thickness design
  • Soft, non-irritating material
  • Lifetime warranty.

Cons

  • At full price, they’re quite expensive

7. RDX K4 Weightlifting Knee Wraps

BEST KNEE WRAPS

RDX K4 Weightlifting Knee Wraps

Final Score: 4.5

Material Quality: 4.5

Compression: 4.5

Ease of Use: 4

Longevity: 5

Comfort: 4

Support: 4.5

Value for Money: 5

So far we’ve talked about knee sleeves, and now we’d like to mention our favorite knee wraps. Knee wraps are best suited for heavy lifts. If you’re looking for maximal support and assistance for your next personal record (PR) attempt, choose the RDS K4 Knee Wraps for weightlifting.

  • Material: Cotton
  • Sizing: S, M, L, XL
  • Circumference: 16.5” to 19.5” 
  • Length: 2m (roughly 78 inches)
  • Thickness: Not specified
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Red, Blue, Pink, Sky Blue
  • Best For: Powerlifting

The RDX K4 lifting wraps are constructed from highly stretchable and breathable cotton material, ensuring that your knees remain comfortable during your workouts. With a generous length of 2 meters, they’re easy to wrap, and their secure hook & loop velcro closure keeps them firmly in place.

What sets these knee wraps apart is their certification by OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, which guarantees that they are made from high-quality, non-hazardous, and sustainable materials. Furthermore, they’re approved for use in competitions governed by the World Powerlifting Congress.

It's worth noting, however, that knee wraps are not intended for prolonged, extended workouts the same as knee sleeves. The snug fit that makes them effective in supporting your knees during heavy lifts may also exert additional pressure on your joints if used for extended periods.

Pros

  • Highly breathable material
  • Easy to wrap
  • Strong hook & loop closure
  • Best for single attempt heavy lifts (PR’s)

Cons

  • Knee wraps are not suitable for extended periods of use

8. RipToned 7mm Neoprene Knee Sleeves

RipToned 7mm Neoprene Knee Sleeves

Final Score: 4.4

Material Quality: 4

Compression: 4.5

Ease of Use: 4.5

Longevity: 4

Comfort: 4.5

Support: 4.5

Value for Money: 5

If you’re shopping on a budget and want a pair of 7mm weightlifting knee sleeves, RipToned has you covered. Designed with heavy lifts in mind, these sleeves will provide ample support and keep your knees healthy.

  • Material: Neoprene
  • Sizing: XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL
  • Circumference: 11.5” to 18.5”
  • Length: Not specified
  • Thickness: 7mm
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Black with red details
  • Best For: Weightlifting

These 7mm thick knee sleeves are made from typical Neoprene. Designed with heavy lifts in mind, these sleeves will provide ample support and keep your knees healthy. The fit and stitching follow a contoured design to prevent motion restriction. Moreover, they are approved by the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) for use in sanctioned competitions.

However, the lower price does reflect in their overall quality of materials and construction, so you can’t expect the same longevity in the long run. There’s also only one color choice at the moment, which won’t appeal to everyone, making them a bit hard to recommend.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly 7mm knee sleeves
  • A large array of sizes
  • Approved by the USPA for competition use

Cons

  • Material can bulk up behind your knee
  • Overall quality is slightly lower, reflective of the price

9. Hookgrip Knee Sleeves 2.0

Hookgrip Knee Sleeves

Final Score: 4.3

Material Quality: 4

Compression: 4.5

Ease of Use: 4.5

Longevity: 4

Comfort: 4.5

Support: 4

Value for Money: 5

Last, but not least we have the Hookgrip Knee Sleeves 2.0. As the name suggests, these are the second iteration of knee sleeves by Hookgrip, looking to address user feedback from the previous version. They’re the least expensive sleeves on this list at full price, plus, it’s hard to find less expensive ones sold through a trusted retailer.

  • Material: Nylon, rubber, spandex
  • Sizing: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Circumference: Not specified
  • Length: Not specified
  • Thickness: Not specified
  • Design: Unisex
  • Color: Black, Pink, Blue
  • Best For: Warmth

The Hookgrip Knee Sleeves are made from a lightweight blend of nylon, rubber, and spandex, ensuring they offer basic compression without hindering your freedom of movement. This blend also makes them comfortable and exceptionally stretchable, making them effortless to put on and take off.

Their primary purpose is to provide a modest level of compression, effectively maintaining knee warmth and enhancing blood circulation during your workouts. However, it's crucial to note that these sleeves are not intended for joint support and should not be substituted for weightlifting knee sleeves.

One thing that has to be pointed out is the sizing chart, which may appear a bit perplexing. It uses average user weight as a reference point instead of more traditional measurements like circumference, length, or thickness.

While the chart is straightforward to follow, human bodies come in various shapes and sizes, which might make it slightly challenging to determine your ideal size if you don't align with the average measurements.

Pros

  • Soft, non-abrasive materials offering mild compression
  • Exceptional warmth
  • Least expensive on the list

Cons

  • Not meant to provide joint support
  • The fit guide can be a bit confusing

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What Are Knee Sleeves and What Do They Do?

Workout knee sleeves are a fitness accessory frequently worn in sports where strong and healthy knees are important for performance. They're commonly used in activities like basketball, weightlifting, and running. These sleeves are made from flexible materials designed that provide a snug fit around your knees without restricting movement, providing compression and warmth to the joint.

Knee Sleeves

Knee sleeves can be multi-purpose. They’re used proactively during workouts to prevent potential knee issues and can be left on post-exercise to aid in recovery. For those engaged in heavy lifting, such as powerlifters, it can be beneficial to wear them both during and for a short time after exercise to maximize their benefits.

Benefits of Wearing Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with knee sleeves, we can show you how they work. Most people can benefit from wearing them, as the sleeves provide ample knee support for squats and other lifting exercises. Here are some important benefits of wearing knee sleeves for powerlifting:

✅Improved Blood Flow

Studies looking at the effects of compression garments found that they stimulated blood flow, muscle oxygenation, and venous return. The snug fit of weightlifting knee sleeves creates mild compression in the surrounding area. During exercise, the sleeves apply a slight squeeze to the muscles and blood vessels, stimulating blood circulation.

The result is faster oxygen and nutrient delivery, which lowers fatigue and increases energy levels. Additionally, better blood circulation keeps the muscles engaged and warm, aiding in quicker recovery and maintaining our exercise readiness.

✅Symptom Relief

Knee sleeves are frequently suggested for alleviating symptoms of common knee issues like osteoarthritis, runner’s knee, and tendonitis. Research on knee sleeves indicates they can enhance gait and balance for those with osteoarthritis, improve functionality for mildly injured knees, and enhance proprioception in healthy ones. Moreover, they can be helpful as a preventive measure to safeguard healthy knees during exercise.

Pro Tip:

It's important to emphasize that while knee sleeves can assist with minor knee problems, they shouldn't be viewed as a substitute for proper treatment and physical therapy. They shouldn't be solely relied upon for managing severe injuries like fractures or ligament tears and excessive pain well after exercise.

✅Enhanced Performance

Let’s get one thing out of the way: wearing knee sleeves for squatting won’t magically increase your lifting strength, the literature on this is clear. From multiple studies we’ve encountered, knee sleeves won’t directly increase power output maximum, and we can attest to this from personal experience.

That said, knee sleeves can enhance your overall performance through other means, which can indirectly lead to better exercise results. By providing joint stability and warmth and reducing pain and discomfort, they can make your squat more comfortable on the body as a whole. This may give you the physical and mental boost you need to push for a new personal record.

✅Faster Recovery

Compression clothing has been shown to have modest to moderate effects in enhancing recovery, reducing muscle swelling and perceived pain, improving blood circulation, and keeping the body temperature moderated.

WBCM Knee Sleeves Gym Workout

By alleviating muscle soreness and discomfort, compression clothing can minimize perceived exhaustion, allowing us to return to exercising quicker and more confidently. Thus, we can conclude that wearing a knee sleeve for lifting can be especially helpful for workouts involving multiple sets and reps.

Different Types of Knee Sleeves

Although they practically serve the same function, knee sleeves come in various shapes and sizes, as well as intended use. Here are some common types of knee sleeves:

1. By Thickness

The most common knee sleeves by thickness include 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm. Those are standardized sizes, with slight variations popping up here and there. In essence, thinner knee sleeves offer a greater amount of mobility, while thicker sleeves give better stability and more compression.

3mm sleeves are best suited for activities that include running (cross-training, sports). 7mm sleeves are the thickest and offer the highest levels of compression, ensuring maximal support at a slight cost of mobility and comfort. 5mm sleeves sit somewhere in the middle, making them both very versatile and best for athletes who do a bit of both.

2. By Purpose

Thickness and the material used are good indicators of the sleeves’ intended use. For example, powerlifting knee sleeves are much thicker and warmer than those used for active sports. Rehabilitation knee sleeves, on the other hand, can come in varying thicknesses and sizes, as recommended by a physical therapist.

3. Open vs. Closed

You may have noticed some knee sleeves have an opening at the patella (knee cap) while others are closed. Open knee sleeves leave the knee cap uncovered to help people with patella issues — they’re more common in physical therapy (in braces). Closed knee sleeves, on the other hand, have a closed fit, offering better compression and warmth, making them ideal for heavy lifting or stability-focused exercises.

Choosing the Best Knee Sleeves for Squats

With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to find your perfect squatting knee sleeves. To make things easier for you, we’ve rounded up some factors you should consider before your purchase:

Man lifts with Knee Sleeves

1. Material Quality

Neoprene is the most commonly used material in knee sleeves, as it provides the right amount of elasticity and warmth and isn’t expensive. Better quality neoprene meshes are also more breathable and sweat-wicking, preventing discomfort and odors from accumulating. Most knee sleeves will have to be hand-washed, but some manufacturers make them machine-washable.

2. Thickness

Knee sleeves come in different thicknesses depending on their intended use. Thinner sleeves (3-5mm) are recommended for highly mobile sports like basketball or handball, whereas thicker knee sleeves (usually 7mm) are recommended for activities demanding strong knee stability, such as weightlifting. Choose based on your intended use.

3. Compression

Knee sleeves are meant to fit tight, but not too tight. The compression should be obvious when you put them on, but they shouldn’t restrict your blood flow and movement. For this reason, it’s important to get the correct size, as a size too big may not provide enough compression, while a size too small might feel overly restrictive.

Pro Tip:

If you measure up between sizes: for example, you’d fit into an L or XL according to the size chart, consider getting the smaller size for a tighter fit and more compression or the larger size for a higher mobility.

How to Use Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting?

Now that you have your knee sleeves in hand, let's go over the proper way to put them on and take them off. While it may seem simple, there's a correct technique to ensure they provide you with the best support while avoiding hurting yourself. Here's a step-by-step guide:

Step-By-Step

Here’s how to properly put on knee sleeves:

  • Fold the top: Before sliding the knee sleeves onto your leg, fold them in half by rolling the top section outwards.
  • Slide them on: Slide the folded knee sleeve over your foot and guide it up just under the knee.
  • Fold them out: Using your fingers, unroll the previously folded top section over your knee.
  • Adjust the fit: With the knee sleeve covering your knee area, you might need to make slight adjustments to the fit. Gently pull the sleeve left and right, up and down until you center it. Once it’s sitting comfortably, you can stretch the sleeve out slightly to let the material snap into place and apply the compression.
  • (Optional) Leave them on: Let the knee sleeves sit on your knee for a short period post-exercise to aid in faster recovery.
  • Remove them: Once you’re done with your knee sleeves, gently remove them in a reverse motion. Stretch them out by inserting your fingers then roll the upper section below the knee, then you can slide them down. Avoid pulling the knee sleeves up and down forcefully when you put them on/off. This could not only damage the sleeve and cause it to lose shape but can potentially irritate your skin from the friction.

1. Using Knee Sleeves For Squats

Lifting exercises are known for being hard on the knees, but squats are especially notorious for it. This is because, whereas in other lifts like deadlifts, knees have periods of downtime, in squats they’re pretty much always active.

Among the two main versions of squats — the front and back squat — both exercises target nearly identical muscle groups, but the back squat results in more compressive forces on the knee. Moreover, studies showed no significant difference in mass lifted or knee biomechanics in back squats when wearing vs. not wearing squatting knee sleeves.

Therefore, if you have knee issues that cause some pain and discomfort, but you have the “okay” from your doctor or physical therapist to train, you might consider using knee support for squats to alleviate the issues, and maybe consider checking different squat variations to avoid mileage.

2. Using Knee Sleeves For Deadlifts

Although the knees are less actively involved compared to squats, they still undergo significant stress during deadlifts. When performing a deadlift correctly, the concentric phase (initial lift from the ground) relies on both knee and hip extension to drive the barbell upwards. It's not uncommon for knees to feel unstable during heavy deadlifts, but the compression provided by knee sleeves can help stabilize the joint.

WBCM Deadlift with Knee Sleeves

Knee Sleeves vs. Knee Braces vs. Knee Wraps

If you previously searched for knee support gear, you've probably come across terms like knee sleeves, knee braces, and knee wraps. So, are the differences between the three or are they one and the same? We already talked about the role of knee sleeves extensively, now let’s summarize the other two.

While knee braces may seem similar to knee sleeves, they serve a different purpose. You can describe it as "providing support and stability to the joint," but their primary function is to keep the joint in place and prevent unwanted movement. If you try to use a knee brace for weightlifting, you’ll find the fit to be too restrictive.

Knee braces are meant for use in recovery and physical therapy for individuals dealing with existing knee injuries, ligament instability, osteoarthritis, post-surgery weakness, and similar issues. Therefore, you shouldn’t use a knee brace for squats or any other exercise unless you get approval from your doctor or physical therapist.

Knee wraps work like a spring for your lift. When you lower yourself for a lift or into a squat, the material stretches, building up elastic energy. As you rise back up, the material snaps back quickly and releases that energy, giving an extra boost in speed and power. However, there's a noteworthy drawback — the tightness of knee wraps will put extra pressure on your joints.

Knee wraps

Thus, while they're excellent for helping with your 1 PR max lifts, it's best not to use them too frequently or for long periods (extended sets with more than 1-2 reps). Basically there is time and place for using them - helping with heavy lifts close to 1RM - aside from it, use sleeves or go raw.

FAQ

What Is the Best Thickness for a Knee Sleeve?

The optimal thickness of your workout knee sleeves largely depends on the type of activity you'll be engaging in. Thinner knee sleeves (3-5 mm) are well-suited for dynamic exercises such as walking and running, as they’re less restrictive. On the other hand, thicker knee sleeves (6-7mm) can provide greater compression and warmth, making a noticeable difference in weightlifting.

Can Knee Sleeves Improve Your Lifts?

The studies discussed earlier in this article consistently show that wearing knee sleeves is linked to better performance in lifting. While knee sleeves won't provide raw strength and instantly help you break personal records, they can give your joints extra support and make exercises more comfortable and approachable. You probably know already how important is confidence during lifting heavy 🙂

Is It Better to Squat without Knee Sleeves?

Squatting without the assistance of knee sleeves promotes more natural joint development, leading to stronger and more stable knees in the long run. Additionally, while knee sleeves are beneficial for squatting with heavy weights, their effects may be less pronounced with lower-weight increments.

However, if you have knee issues such as existing injuries, joint inflammation, arthritis, or similar conditions, you may find that knee sleeves can help alleviate pain, allowing you to perform the exercise more comfortably and confidently. Consult a healthcare professional about best treatment and incorporating them into your exercise.

Do Knee Sleeves Prevent Injury?

Yes they can help reduce the risk…, knee sleeves provide the necessary support to the joint which can impact (lower) the likelihood of injury. However, keep in mind that the sleeves themselves won’t compensate for poor technique or cutting corners.

Should You Wear Knee Sleeves for Deadlifts?

Knee sleeves can provide stability and comfort to the knee, making the concentric phase (initial lift) easier on the joint. However, while lifting knee sleeves can be helpful for deadlifts, their benefits might not be as pronounced as with squats, as deadlifts primarily stress the posterior chain rather than the knees.

Conclusion

Now you know the intricacies of wearing workout knee sleeves. By providing compression around the joint, knee sleeves add a layer of stability and warmth when exercising.

This can make the difference from making lifts more comfortable and mitigating chronic pain to protecting you from injury. From our experience, the Warm Body Cold Mind Weightlifting Sleeves are the best knee sleeves for squats, providing excellent support at a modest price point.

We’d like to hear from you as well. Do you squat often? If so, have you tried knee support garments such as knee sleeves before? Leave a comment letting us know and remember to follow us on social media for more valuable fitness content.

References:

  1. “Approved List of Personal Apparel and Equipment for Use at IPF Sanctioned Competitions,” International Powerlifting Federation, https://www.powerlifting.sport/fileadmin/ipf/data/federation/Approved__List_2019-2022_Final.pdf (accessed Oct. 30, 2023).
  2. Dennis-Peter Born, Billy Sperlich, Hans-Christer Holmberg, “Bringing Light into the Dark: Effects of Compression Clothing on Performance and Recovery,” International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 8, no. 1 (2013): 4-18.
  3. Hunter J. Bennett, Alexandria Trypuc, Kevin A. Valenzuela, Zachary A. Sievert, “Wearing Knee Sleeves during Back Squats Does not Improve Mass Lifted or Affect Knee Biomechanics,” Human Movement 22, no. 2 (2021): 32-42
  4. Jason P. Lake, Patrick J. C. Carden, Kath A. Shorter, “Wearing Knee Wraps Affects Mechanical Output and Performance Characteristics of Back Squat Exercise,” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26, no. 10 (2012): 2844-9.
  5. Jonathan C. Gullett, Mark D. Tillman, Gregory M. Gutierrez, John W. Chow, “A Biomechanical Comparison of Back and Front Squats in Healthy Trained Individuals,” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23, no. 1 (2009): 284-92.
  6. “Knee Brace,” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/21034-knee-brace (accessed Oct. 30. 2023).
  7. Nahdatul Aishah Mohd Sharif, Siew-Li Goh, Juliana Usman, Wan Kamarul Zaman Wan Safwani, “Biomechanical and Functional Efficacy of Knee Sleeves: A Literature Review,” Physical Therapy in Sport 28 (2017): 44-52.
  8. Shane F. O'Riordan, Rod McGregor, Shona L. Halson, David J. Bishop, James R. Broatch, “Sports Compression Garments Improve Resting Markers of Venous Return and Muscle Blood Flow in Male Basketball Players,” Journal of Sport and Health Science 12, no. 4 (2023): 513-522.
  9. Steven B. Machek, Thomas D. Cardaci, Dylan T. Wilburn, Mitchell C. Cholewinski, Scarlett Lin  Latt, Dillon R. Harris, Darryn S. Willoughby, “Neoprene Knee Sleeves of Varying Tightness Augment Barbell Squat One Repetition Maximum Performance Without Improving Other Indices of Muscular Strength, Power, or Endurance,” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 35 (2021): S6-S15.

Why Trust Our Reviews? Our product reviews are meticulously curated by a team of seasoned athletes, certified coaches, and sports nutrition experts, boasting more than 20 years of collective coaching experience. In our mission to promote Olympic weightlifting and strength training, we engage in comprehensive testing and evaluation of weightlifting products and supplements, making certain that only the utmost quality items meet our rigorous criteria.

We take a hands-on approach, procuring and personally testing these products in gym settings, affording us genuine insights into their performance. Our credibility stems from the expertise of experienced athletes, supported by authentic photos and videos, offering you dependable assessments tailored to athletes of all skill levels.

Ihor Shymechko

Author: Ihor Shymechko

Coach, PRO Olympic Weightlifter

Ihor Shymechko is a renowned Ukrainian weightlifter. He has represented his country in several Olympic Games, notably in 2008, 2012, and 2016. His impressive career includes winning the European championship in 2009 and earning a silver medal in 2011 in the +105 kg division. Shymechko also earned a Ph.D. from Lviv State University of Physical Culture.


Sergii Putsov

Reviewed by: Sergii Putsov

PhD in Sport Science, Olympic weightlifting, Strength & Conditioning coach and fitness expert

Sergii Putsov is a professional weightlifter with over 20 years of experience and multiple national medals. He was a member of the National weightlifting team, competing in the 94 kg weight class. Sergii holds a master’s degree in Olympic & Professional Sport Training and a Ph.D. in Sport Science. After his athletic career, Sergii transitioned into coaching and is now responsible for designing training programs, writing blog articles, providing live commentary for international weightlifting competitions, and hosting sport and fitness seminars worldwide.

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