As an affiliate of various sites, I may earn a commission on qualifying purchases via links in this post at no extra cost to you. See full disclosure.
Knee injuries are some of the most common injuries for many kinds of athletes, including strength athletes.
Knee sleeves are a simple, comfortable and easy way to add protection and comfort to the knee joint during exercise. If you’re recovering from a knee injury or if you experience knee pain while training, a knee sleeve can offer a numerous benefits to enhance your performance and workout experience.
How do knee sleeves work?
Knee sleeves are usually made of a strong but flexible neoprene material that tightly holds itself in place when slid over the knee. When worn, they support and compress the knee joint to prevent damage to the joint as well as increase blood flow, provide warmth and reduce pain. Knee sleeves also increase proprioception — the brain’s awareness of the knee joint — which can make you more aware of things like alignment and sensation, aiding in injury prevention. Knee sleeves are especially useful in protecting the joint during activities like jumping, running or lifting heavy weights.
It is important to note that knee sleeves are not the same thing as knee braces. While both sleeves and braces support the joint, a knee brace doesn’t provide a lot of the other injury-preventing and comfort-enhancing benefits.
Are knee sleeves right for you?
Athletes who consistently lift heavy weight as part of their training tend to be prone to conditions like tendonitis because of the wear that is put on the joint. Wearing a knee sleeve can help prevent inflammation in the short term as well as long term damage from the grinding of the kneecap. However, not all weightlifting exercises put strain on the knees. If your routine doesn’t include knee-straining exercises like squats or deadlifts, a knee sleeve isn’t necessary.
A knee sleeve may also be unnecessary for beginning weightlifters with no history of knee problems. Lifting low weight won’t put enough strain on the knee joint to require compression. However, if you are still working on gaining proper form, the increased proprioception a sleeve provides could help prevent injuries from incorrect alignment.
If you’re unsure about whether you should be wearing a knee sleeve, a doctor, physical therapist, or orthopedic surgeon can determine whether it would be appropriate for you.
Benefits of knee sleeves for strength sports
The two main reasons to wear knee sleeves are to provide support or warm to the knee joint. You may choose to wear a knee sleeve for one of these reasons depending on the type of athlete you are, the conditions you’re exercising in, and the various benefits that it offers.
Knee joint support
Weightlifters, powerlifters, strongmen or anyone consistently lifting heavy weight as part of their training can benefit from the support aspect of a knee sleeve. The benefits of knee joint support include:
- Prevention of injury and long term wear to the knee joint
- Increased proprioception
Knee joint warmth
Even if you’re not a weightlifter, there still may be worthwhile benefits to wearing a knee sleeve while exercising including:
- Keeping the knee joint warm
- Increasing blood flow to the knee joint
If you exercise in the cold, find that your knees are slow to warm up, or tend to have long breaks between movements or sets, the warmth and light compression of a knee sleeve could provide some relief from pain and help prevent injury.
A knee sleeve is a comfortable and easy-to-use piece of equipment that offers numerous benefits. However, it is important to know why you are using it and whether it is appropriate for you. If you’re a beginning athlete, a knee sleeve may simply not be necessary. For people with unstable knee joints, a sleeve may cause irritation by restricting the venous return around the joint. But for most strength athletes, a knee sleeve can provide stability, joint protection, warmth, and increased awareness of the joint that can help you to train your best, pain and injury free, for years to come.