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Knee Wraps Or Knee Sleeves?

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Knee Wraps Or Knee Sleeves?

Posted by Chip



When squatting really heavy, it is not uncommon for powerlifters and bodybuilders to use either knee sleeves or knee wraps.  Is one better than the other?  Well, one study looked at squatting with knee wraps, knee sleeves, or with nothing on the knees (unequipped). 


The takeaway: There doesn’t seem to be any downside to knee sleeves as they appear to provide more comfort and stability without reducing muscle forces as when squatting unequipped.  It needs to be studied a bit more, but long-term muscle growth may be suboptimal using knee wraps regularly, but they may help with longevity since they had less knee joint force observed.


The study details: 15 trained men performed reps of barbell back squats at 70% of their unequipped one rep max under four scenarios: (1) no equipment (the control scenario), (2) competition knee wraps, (3) more flexible training knee wraps, and (4) knee sleeves.  Muscle forces and perceived comfort and stability ratings were recorded. 


The lifters reported that knee stability was improved with the wraps and sleeves, but the sleeves improved comfort while the wraps did not.  Both knee wraps and knee sleeves saw faster squats.  Generally, muscle forces were greater for the unequipped squats over either of the knee wrap lifts; there were no differences in muscle forces between the unequipped squats and those done with sleeves.  That would imply that knee wraps may be suboptimal for long-term muscle growth if worn consistently due to decreasing engagement of the working musculature, but wraps may be better for less wear and tear on the knees in the long-term since knee wraps also had less knee joint force. 


Open questions: Since the participants used the same load for both bared knees and wrapped knees, it would have been interesting to see what if they had used a higher load for wrapped knees since, in the gym, most people tend to use a higher load with the knee wraps.


The research study: Sinclair J, Mann J, Weston G, Poulsen N, Edmundson CJ, Bentley I, Stone M. “Acute effects of knee wraps/sleeve on kinetics, kinematics and muscle forces during the barbell back squat.” Sport Sciences for Health. 2019 Nov 19:1-1.


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