By Malia Warren
By now, you’ve probably read our article about whether or not you really need knee sleeves. (If not, take a look here)
You know some kind of knee support is a good thing. Whether it's through good form or compression, you NEED to protect those knees.
In the realm of functional fitness, you'll see athletes busting out a variation of knee support such as a knee sleeve or knee wrap. These methods of support have been extensively studied and provide a means of support in the way of compression to increase proprioception. This is just a fancy word for: are your muscles firing properly during a movement to reduce injury and create a mind/muscle connection to execute the movement properly?
Also known as Leg Spidey Senses. (legal says we have to tell you this is a made-up word lol)
But for real, it’s defined as the process by which the body can vary muscle contraction in immediate response to incoming information regarding external forces. Like a sixth sense. That’s some Spiderman sh*t right there.
So back on topic here: knee sleeves versus knee wraps is the subject of this article. Let's break down the differences and the pro's and cons of each so you can hopefully decide which level of support you need for your training.
1. What the eff is a Knee Wrap?
Knee Wraps are long piece of fabric about 2-3 inches wide and 72 to 96 inches long. Some are shorter, or longer but the length should be long enough to fully wrap around your knee at least once. Ideally, it should fully cover the knee cap and the areas about 2 inches above and below the knee cap. You'll see some athletes leaving a small space for their knee caps to peek through to increase mobility.
As you wrap the fabric around your knee, care should be taken to keep it tight and firmly in place as you continue to wrap around the area. Once you reach the end of the fabric, you tuck that into a fold.
You legit should not be able to walk normally in them. This is because your legs should be pretty darn near uncomfortable that you want to lift in them and get it over with.
Mostly exaggerating, but hope you get the idea.
Knee wraps are extremely beneficial for the heavy lifter that is looking for rock-solid support in a max-out lift. Or maybe you just like the pain?
In summary, the pros of knee wraps are: maximum knee support and “bouncy” snapback out of a squat. The cons are: they're so tight they aren’t the most functional choice for CrossFit workouts and pretty damn uncomfortable.
Furthermore, they’re made from a Polyester/Spandex mixture, so they are very easy to clean! They also can be used on other parts of the body during occlusion training.
If you’re not down for the tedious wrapping of your knees over and over, try out a pair of Poly (as in Polyester) Knee sleeves.
2. Polyester Knee Sleeves
Just like they sound: Knee Sleeves made of tightly woven polyester.
The double ply polyester ones are meant to be tight AF. There are also Single Ply and Triple, YES TRIPLE, Ply Polyester Knee Sleeves out there.
You might want to pull them down in between lifts, but while they’re on, they should be promoting blood flow to your knees.
Plus, we perfected the art of making them look cooler. Truly.
For a knee wrap feel without the knee wrap feel, we recommend the Double Ply. These are so great for lifting days when you want extra knee support on lifts like back or front squats. We'll go ahead and give Polyester Knee Sleeves all of our love for the ease of getting in/out (compared to Knee Wraps) and the versatile use factor.
3. Neoprene Knee Sleeves
Neoprene is a fun material that we've been working with in our knee sleeves from the beginning. We talk quite a bit about them in our other posts, so I won't get too crazy but neoprene a synthetic material that conducts heat.
Do you know how a wetsuit keeps you warmer in the cold ocean? Our knee sleeves are its cousin and made of the same material. Neoprene sleeves are literally a wetsuit for your knees. Except, you're not in the ocean while lifting. Unless you're a mermaid. 🤷🏽♀️🧜🏼♀️ In which case, there is no excuse to skip leg day, if you know what I mean.
The neoprene allows you to use your own trapped body heat emitting from you and promote that flow to your knees. Warm knees = happy joints which makes you less likely to injure yourself.
The trapped heat also means trapped sweat. Because they trap sweat, we recommend washing them every so often using our guidelines here.
Why even wear Knee Sleeves at all?
Wondering about the benefits of feeling like your legs are going to fall off?
The same can be said for many types of lifting gear, but the point of the knee support is to make you aware of your body movements and use proper form.
A knee wrap will for sure make you aware of the knee support happening while wearing them. They’ve been known to help lifters add on 10-20 lbs or more to max lifts.
It will probably appear like an Ace bandage or brace to you at first, but if you have cute prints like ours, you won’t feel left out.
So which do you need?
Quite honestly, you could use both. But you might not need both. How much and how often you do the required activity will determine needs. If you're a functional fitness athlete doing minimal lifting focus, you can do knee sleeves.
However, if the main component of your training is lifting, we recommend having both in your bag to switch out as necessary. I personally have all three types in my gym bag, so I'm ready for anything!
If you have any questions or you would like to be a guest blogger, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What kind of knee support do you use for your workout?
Malia is the force behind Lifting the Dream and a proud mompreneur. When she's not lifting heavy weights, she's probably at the beach or Disney with her family. She is a Cali girl born and raised, with salt water in her veins and sunshine in her heart. She and her family now reside in Florida soaking up the sun, heat, and all the amazing outdoor activities this state has to offer.