Knee injuries are a common problem within sport and exercise, with it even being a career-ruining injury in some cases. To prevent injury, or for added support, athletes and gym-goers will sometimes wear knee compression sleeves.
But what are they? And do they work? Let’s discuss everything you should know about knee sleeves to see if they’re worth it for you.
What Are Knee Sleeves?
Knee sleeves are not the same as knee braces, even though these terms may be used interchangeably. Although a knee sleeve can provide some support, it is not as effective as a knee brace.
Knee braces are used to protect a knee that has already been injured from further damage, so if this is what you’re wanting this feature then a knee sleeve is not the product for you.
Knee sleeves are designed to protect the knee from future injury or harm., as well as provide some support during exercise. This is especially important for knees that are put under a lot of stress regularly, like through running, jumping, and weightlifting.
Knee sleeves also provide valuable compression, which enhances blood flow and reduces pain during and after an exercise. A compressed knee promotes blood flow through the knee's blood arteries, which is why compression is so important.
Basically, the better the compression, the better the blood flow, which then leads to faster and smoother recovery from exercise. Wearing a knee sleeve can also decrease pain and swelling during and after an exercise.
Knee sleeves are usually made of neoprene material and worn over the knee. The main goal of a knee sleeve is to relieve pain. Warmth is provided by the sleeve, which restricts patella movement and can improve proprioception.
This is the capacity to feel the position of a joint in space as sensed by the central nervous system. The sleeve essentially works as a joint support mechanism as well as a tool for increasing proprioception.
Knee Sleeve Thickness
Knee sleeves come in three levels of thickness, 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm. Each one is designed for a different type of exercise or usage, and so you have to understand the benefits of each one to make sure that you are buying the right one for you.
3mm - For Endurance Sports
The 3mm thick knee sleeve is ideal for workouts that demand a great deal of agility and endurance.
3mm knee sleeves have traditionally been worn by long-distance runners who want greater stability and support during their run.
The 3mm thick sleeve has a few applications. To begin with, it is the lightest and most adaptable option out of the knee sleeves available. Thin sleeves only slightly restrict your range of motion and don't offer much in the way of joint support for your knees.
But they keep your knees warm while remaining unnoticeable and comfortable. Long-distance runners and other endurance athletes benefit the most from using them.
Because of these reasons, 3mm thick sleeves are not a popular choice among weightlifters and cross-training athletes, as they don't offer enough lifting support and don't have a firm "feel" to them.
5mm - For mixed activity
The 5mm sleeve is a good middle ground between the 3mm and 7mm.
They're appropriate for both rookie and expert athletes, as well as individuals who participate in a range of physical activities but only lift weights occasionally, such as in their work or occasionally at the gym.
The 5mm sleeves, which are thicker and more solid than the 3mm, are less flexible than the thinner option. This makes a huge difference while squatting or deadlifting. You will feel safer and more stable when doing this activity while wearing the sleeves.
An issue with 5mm thick sleeves is that they are only a temporary solution if you wish to lift more than once or twice a week. While they provide better lifting support than the 3mm sleeves, the 7mm knee sleeves provide much more lifting support and stability during weightlifting.
When lifting heavier weights, your knees are put under a lot of stress, and the thicker the sleeve, the warmer and more supported your knees will be.
An athlete can use the 5mm thick knee sleeve for a variety of workouts that require both agility and support. Long-distance runners looking for increased knee support will appreciate this thickness, while it can also be useful for someone doing an intense workout at the gym.
This is a multi-sport sleeve that can be used in a variety of situations.
7mm - For Shorter, Heavier Activity
The 7mm thick knee sleeve provides strong stability for heavy lifting as well as additional support during recovery.
The 7mm was traditionally used by weightlifters who needed extra support during a lift, but it has become quite popular with gym-goers and for people who do the heavy lifting in their work. They have a robust, thick fit that requires some strength to put on even if it is properly sized.
When you put them on though, you'll notice a significant difference between the 3mm and 5mm versions.
This weightlifting knee brace stiffens and supports your knees by encasing them in a thick layer of Neoprene. You'll feel safer and more secure when doing deadlifts, snatches, and deep squats. Deeper squats are safer and more comfortable with good squat sleeves.
If you're doing CrossFit and need some strong CrossFit knee sleeves, the 7mm Neoprene Sleeves are the way to go. This is because the 7mm gives the knee a very clear receptive input and awareness, allowing for more precise and stable performance in shorter exercises.
When To Use Knee Sleeves
As different knee sleeves can be used in a variety of activities and sport, they can be used no matter your skill level your the exercise you are doing.
However, they provide the most benefit for people who are doing some form of weightlifting, as they provide better support for your knees and may even prevent injury.
If you are fairly new to weightlifting in general, then using knee sleeves may not be necessary at first, as you will not be putting a lot of pressure on your knees as a beginner.
But if you feel like you need the added support then there is no harm in using knee sleeves, no matter what your skill level is or how heavy the weights are.