Other than the lower back, knee injuries are probably the most prevalent amongst heavy lifters. On top of this, an injured knee is one of the most debilitating injuries a weightlifter can suffer. While injuring an elbow or shoulder will keep you out of the gym for a few weeks, unless it’s particularly serious it’s unlikely to interrupt your daily life.
Compare this to a knee or back injury, which could leave you unable to walk, drive a car or even force you to stay in bed until it’s healed! Needless to say, protecting your knees and back should be one of the primary concerns of any weightlifter, whether a beginner or a seasoned pro.
While back injuries are outside of the scope of this article, we do carry a number of weightlifting belts which can help prevent lower back injuries. In this article, we will go over two of the most useful pieces of equipment weightlifters use when trying to prevent knee injuries: the knee wrap and the knee sleeve.
Now before you even ask, we’re going to say it: yes, they are very similar but each has key differences which can make one or the other more useful for specific tasks.
Knee Wraps vs. Knee Sleeves: What’s The Difference?
While knee wraps and knee sleeves are very similar, there are major differences in their construction and function which determines how they should be used.
Knee Wraps are exactly what they sound like: wide bands of elastic material, similar to that found in wrist straps, which are meant to be wrapped around the knee in a diagonal or spiral method.
Knee wraps are commonly used by bodybuilders and powerlifters, especially those that are lifting competitively. Knee wraps allow for more weight to be squatted by storing energy via their elasticity on the downward motion of the squat. If you’re wearing knee wraps, you’ll feel them get tighter as you go lower in your squat. Think of a knee wrap as being similar to a Bench Blaster, except for squats.
Knee wraps are also thought to reduce stress on the muscles and tendons surrounding the knee and leg muscles, particularly the quadricep tendon which connects the quadricep muscle to the patella (knee cap). With the amount of weight modern powerlifters are moving during their squat, you can see why they would want to reduce the amount stress put on their knee caps.
Long story short: knee wraps are used mostly as an aid in squatting more weight, and less likely to be used as a preventative safety device.
Knee Sleeves on the other hand, are a single sleeve, usually made of neoprene, that slides over the leg up and over the knee joint and provides compression and support. If you’ve spent more than a day or two in the gym, you’re guaranteed to have seen at least one person using knee sleeves.
Knee sleeves are meant to provide support to the knee and surrounding ligaments and tendons by using compression to promote blood flow and restrict some of the motion of the knee/patella.
Knee sleeves can also help prevent lateral motion of the knees (knees going in or out) while doing certain lifts like the squat. This adds stability to your lifts while promoting better form. Be aware that using knee sleeves won’t automatically give you perfect form.
**It is important to note that knee sleeves are NOT meant to fix an already injured knee, but to prevent injury in the future. DO NOT think that just because you’re wearing a knee sleeve that you can get back to squatting with your injured knee.**
Conclusion: Knee Wraps or Knee Sleeves?
By now, you’re probably asking yourself if you should be using knee wraps, knee sleeves, or both.
The answer is really going to boil down to what kind of exercises you’re doing and what you want the wrap or sleeve to accomplish.
Knee Wraps are almost exclusively used by heavy powerlifters and bodybuilders, and mostly just for squatting heavy weights. If this sounds like you, or if you just want to give them a shot to see if they help increase your squat weight, then pick up a pair of our Apex Knee Wraps. They’re made of heavy duty elasticated cotton, are 3 inches wide and come in a variety of lengths and colors.
Knee Sleeves are more of a universal product, and can be used with everything from running, Crossfit, competitive sports and weightlifting to skiing and even household chores! The knee sleeve provides compression, protection and support, and is suited to a wide variety of activities. As such, if you were forced to choose one, we would recommend picking up a pair of Knee Sleeves.
While Wraps are helpful for squatting, their use is ultimately limited. Knee sleeves can be worn during just about any kind of workout, and will help keep your knee safe.