March 10, 2021

Are Knee Sleeves Worth It For Weightlifting?

You may have seen Weightlifters at your gym or on YouTube wearing knee sleeves while lifting. You may wonder if wearing knee sleeves is worth it?

Knee sleeves are worth it if you train consistently and heavily. As Weightlifting requires constant squatting movements, knee sleeves can provide the extra warmth, stability, and support that can reduce knee pain. However, if you have healthy knees, there is no need to wear them.

Knee sleeves may be worth it, but are they necessary? Do you have to wear them to be a good Weightlifter? Are there any drawbacks?

Are Knee Sleeves Necessary?

Knee sleeves are not necessary. However, they can provide great support, stability, and even some pain relief for Weightlifters who are training often. 

If you train in a very cold climate, they can also keep your knees warm so you have less stiffness and a reduction in any pain from the cold weather.

If you suffer from knee pain then knee sleeves can be a necessary part of your training. Especially thicker neoprene knee sleeves as they provide the most support and stability.

However, if your knees are completely healthy, I would advise not using knee sleeves very often or at all as they can become a crutch.

Thicker neoprene knee sleeves allow you to really load the knees as the tight sleeves can take a lot of the stress from the knees as the stiff elastic aids in the rebound out of the hole of a squat or clean.

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What Is The Difference Between A Knee Sleeve And Knee Wraps?

Knee wraps and knee sleeves are two completely different pieces of support equipment for the knee. Knee sleeves are a rubber neoprene or nylon sleeve that covers the knee to provide warmth and some stability while lifting. They can also provide some support when rebounding out of the hole.

Knee wraps on the other hand are long pieces of elastic cotton that are wrapped tightly around the knee often to the point where the lifter can barely bend their knee. This intense stiffness of knee wraps creates even more support when rebounding out of the hole to the point Powerlifters usually specify if their squat was in wraps or without.

That's how big of a difference they make. So why don't Weightlifter's wear knee wraps over sleeves? Because they can be so tight that athletes can't even bend down to set up for the bar. Especially in lower setup positions such as the snatch.

Benefits Of Knee Sleeves

Knee sleeves have a few main benefits:

  • To keep the knees warm throughout the training session
  • To reduce any pain and discomfort at the knee
  • To provide extra stability and support while lifting
  • To increase the amount of load being lifted

These benefits are highly dependent on the knee sleeve being worn. For example, the Hookgrip Knee Sleeve 2.0 will not provide much extra stability and support as it is made of nylon, rubber, and spandex making them very stretchy and only providing light compression. But they do provide extra warmth.

Neoprene sleeves on the other hand such as Rehband Rx 7mm knee sleeves provide a lot of support and stability which can potentially help you lift heavier loads during squatting movements.

When To Use Knee Sleeves

Ideally, you only wear knee sleeves when you need them. For example, you may squat at the beginning of the week with no knee pain. However, by Friday, you’re experiencing some stiffness and pain around the knee due to a heavy week of training.

In this instance, you may opt to use your knee sleeves for your session to reduce the sensation of pain.

Some athletes may only use knee sleeves for squats as thick knee sleeves can get in the way when performing the snatch and clean & jerk.

Weightlifters will also use them in competition as they are often lifting for personal bests so the knee sleeves provide extra support.

Do Knee Sleeves Work For Squats?

In my opinion, knee sleeves work best for squats. The eccentric (lowering) portion of the lift and the bounce out of the hole tend to be where pain occurs in the knee most often. Because knee sleeves are thick, the stretch of the stiff elastic takes some of the stress from the knees.

As you rebound out of the hole, the stretch from the elastic also rebounds providing an extra small boost to your squat.

Are Knee Sleeves Cheating?

It may seem like wearing knee sleeves is cheating since they can potentially help you lift more weight. However, according to the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), a one-piece elastic bandage that allows free movement may be worn over the knees.

The knee sleeve just can’t be reinforced like a knee brace would be. This means knee sleeves are not considered cheating and anyone can use them in and out of competition.

Disadvantages Of Knee Sleeves

Hookgrip Knee Sleeves Review

While knee sleeves have many benefits, there are some disadvantages involved when wearing knee sleeves. One in particular is when the knee sleeve becomes a crutch.

If you get used to wearing them all the time when lifting, it can feel unstable without them. You can even potentially be able to lift less weight because of it.

Secondly, some coaches believe that tight and thick-knee sleeves can prevent the kneecap from moving naturally when the knee bends. This can potentially cause knee issues over time. While I haven’t experienced this personally, it is something to be aware of.

Lastly, knee sleeves may slightly alter your form when squatting. Because you can push into the knee sleeve for better rebound, similar to how Powerlifters would use their tight knee wraps, it can ingrain a different squat pattern compared to how you would squat without knee sleeves.

When you go to squat without them, you may find yourself pushing your knees far forward like you are loading the knee sleeves placing a lot more stress through the knees.

Pros & Cons Of Knee Sleeves

Pros

  • Provide warmth for the knees
  • Extra support and stability when lifting
  • Provides light compression potentially reducing pain

Cons

  • Can become a crutch

Are Knee Sleeves Worth It?

If you train consistently and often, knee sleeves are definitely worth it. If you suffer from knee pain or are an older lifter, then knee sleeves can also benefit you greatly.

For those just starting Weightlifting or have healthy knees, then knee sleeves will not be worth your money. As you progress as a Weightlifter, these may be something you add to your gym bag as you increase the loading of exercises and potentially how often you train.

Mona de Lacey

About the author

Mona is a Bronze Medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She has been competing Internationally for 20 years in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting and has also been African Champion, Commonwealth Champion, and the youngest South African Weightlifter to compete on the International stage.

Mona de Lacey


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