Knee sleeves are beloved by many weightlifters, powerlifters, and different robust individuals. However what are they actually for? It is a surprisingly laborious query to reply, and there was some extent in my lifting profession when I discovered myself confused about whether or not I wanted to purchase a pair.
What are knee sleeves?
First, let’s be clear about what knee sleeves are. They’re usually manufactured from neoprene, seven millimeters thick (though thinner ones can be found), and so they slip onto your knees like, effectively, sleeves. You purchase them from specialty energy provide firms, normally, like SBD or Rehband. They’re not the identical factor as these braces with a gap within the entrance you should buy on the drugstore, and they’re not skinny, sock-like compression sleeves.
Knee sleeves most likely don’t stop harm
Generally individuals will declare that knee sleeves assist to forestall harm, however there’s no strong proof to again up this declare—no research that I might discover in contrast harm charges over time between individuals who squat heavy whereas carrying knee sleeves and individuals who squat heavy with out them. There are biomechanics research that present that knees function the identical method with a sleeve on as with out, and there are research exhibiting that folks usually say their knees really feel higher after they put on sleeves, however the harm knowledge simply doesn’t appear to be there.
It wouldn’t make a lot sense, anyway: what’s seven millimeters of neoprene going to do for those who’re placing sufficient power in your knee to injure it? Individuals discuss “compression” and “help,” however a bit of neoprene hug isn’t going to “help” your knee if many a whole bunch of kilos of power come down on it within the flawed course. (Soccer groups are starting to study that even their heavy-duty knee braces don’t appear to have an effect on harm charges; it’s laborious to think about that knee sleeves can do what braces don’t.)
Knee sleeves don’t help your squat by a lot
Let’s cease for a minute and distinction knee sleeves with knee wraps, that are totally different. Wraps appear to be lengthy, skinny elastic bandages, and so they’re utilized in some energy sports activities to extend the quantity of weight you possibly can raise in a squat or a squat-like movement. You wrap them tight—or, ideally, get a teammate or coach to wrap them tight—simply earlier than you waddle onto the platform. They resist the movement of your knees bending, which signifies that whenever you sit down right into a squat, the wraps’ elasticity helps your knees to straighten. Knee wraps can positively make it easier to squat extra weight, when correctly used.
Knee sleeves aren’t that tight. They’re normally comfy sufficient you possibly can put on them for an entire apply, though some athletes say for those who purchase them a dimension or two too small, and squeeze your self into them, that they provide you a bit of increase in standing up a squat.
However not everyone wears super-tight knee sleeves, and it’s debatable whether or not the sleeves actually do present a lot help. One latest research discovered that folks had been in a position to squat very barely extra weight whereas carrying sleeves, however that tighter sleeves didn’t have a bonus over usually fitted ones. The researchers concluded that “the advantages of neoprene knee sleeves could subsequently be because of compression-mediated enhancements in consolation, stability, or knee joint warmth retention.”
Knee sleeves simply really feel good
Now we will get to the essential half, the factor the place anecdotes and knowledge totally agree: knee sleeves make your knees really feel good.
For months I requested my fellow lifters why they wore knee sleeves and by no means bought any actually nice solutions past that. Finally I made a decision I’d simply have to purchase a pair to search out out, so I measured my knees and purchased the really helpful dimension from Norse Health in 7mm.
I seen the distinction in my first exercise: my knees had by no means felt unhealthy, however with the sleeves on, they only felt higher. Every so often I’d really feel a bit of stiffness or gentle discomfort if I did a exercise with quite a lot of deep (ass-to-grass) squats; with sleeves, that simply fully stopped taking place. I didn’t turn into in a position to raise extra, I simply felt higher whereas I used to be doing it.
One speculation is that the sleeves preserve your joints heat, and heat physique elements are inclined to carry out higher than chilly ones, which is a part of the purpose of “warming up.” I don’t discover that rationalization significantly convincing; knee sleeves really feel simply nearly as good to me in sizzling and in chilly climate, and I felt the results immediately moderately than ready for them to heat me up. However I can’t show this both method.
One other is that compression is sweet in your tendons or muscle tissues. Whereas there’s some analysis to help the concept that compression helps muscle restoration, that analysis normally has individuals carrying their compression gear for hours after a exercise. May compression be an element right here, maybe simply making issues really feel higher? Maybe!
Greg Nuckols has a speculation that the way in which the neoprene bunches up behind your knee relieves a few of the stress that your kneecap places in your thigh bone. That sounds extra affordable to me than most of the different theories I’ve heard, however no one is aware of for positive.
Regardless of the motive, squats simply really feel higher with knee sleeves than with out. If you happen to’ve by no means tried them, you may like how they really feel, however don’t anticipate them to forestall accidents or add vital poundage to your squat.