If you’re a regular gym-goer, you will already be familiar with the importance of leg day.
Squats are a great addition to any workout routine, as they help to strengthen the knees and ankles while also helping you to tone those hips muscles, calves, and obliques. But what happens when squats go wrong?
If you are squat lifting heavy weights, you may risk tearing tendons in your knees as well as damaging your hips and lower back. These injuries can spell the end of a productive workout are often caused by bad form or improper technique. That’s where knee sleeves come in.
Knee sleeves are tight-fitting sleeves made from an elastic material. They are not the same thing as knee wraps, as they will not provide the kind of support necessary to help you keep working out through an existing knee injury.
What they will do, is prevent you from getting an injury in the first place by helping you to keep your knees warm and in the right position for squats. Here is some more information about knee sleeves and what they can do to help you improve your squats.
What Do Knee Sleeves Do?
Knee sleeves are elastic tubes often made from Neoprene. To understand how they help it will be useful to know a little bit about the anatomy of your knee.
As with all the other joints in your body, your knees are filled with synovial fluid, which is a liquid found between the bones to lubricate them provide essential nutrients. A common injury from squat lifting is tearing the tendon connecting your kneecap to your quadriceps.
The idea behind knee sleeves is to keep your knees warm and compressed, as such they should be tight-fitting but not uncomfortable.
How Do Knee Sleeves Help?
Knee sleeves keep your legs warm which is essential for helping your joints to move as they should without your kneecap grinding against itself. They do limit movement in your knee, but in a good way that will lower the chance of ripping a tendon or otherwise damaging your knee.
If you have a pre-existing problem with tendonitis or other injuries, these sleeves will not provide enough support for you to still work out. Instead, knee sleeves are all about preventing injuries rather than curing ones you already have.
Since they are tight-fitting, the compression on your legs will increase blood flow to your knees and reduce the amount of pain you feel while working out, both of which will help massively with squats.
The people who will benefit the most from knee sleeves are intermediate lifters, looking to improve and start doing heavier lifts.
As you move up the weight categories, your kneecaps will grind more against themselves increasing the risk of tendonitis or injury. The insulation provided by the sleeves will reduce this grinding by warming up your synovial fluid.
Drawbacks Of Knee Sleeves
There aren’t many dangers to wearing knee sleeves, in fact, they can be a very helpful piece of equipment for intermediate to advanced lifters.
If you aren’t used to wearing knee sleeves, one problem you may notice is ‘form creep’. ‘Form creep’ is a term that refers to minor changes in exercise technique that will lower the effectiveness of your workout and potentially lead to injuries further down the line.
With that said, any new piece of equipment or exercise gear can have this effect simply because you aren’t used to it.
To mitigate ‘form creep’ just try to be extra aware of your lifting technique before trying knee sleeves and work to correct any problems that appear once you start wearing them.
One other drawback is that the extra insulation provided by knee sleeves will make you sweat more, so the fabric may start to smell after a few gym sessions.
This is easily solved by washing the sleeves once a week on days when you aren’t training your legs to keep them clean and odor-free.
When To Use Knee Sleeves
It goes without saying that knee sleeves will only help with exercises that use the knees as the primary source of lifting power. They won’t do much for regular squats, but the compression may help you keep better form.
People who regularly do squats while lifting weight will get the most benefit from the added compression and insulation.
Knees sleeves don’t make it impossible to injure yourself, but they can help put your mind at ease and give you more confidence when you start trying to lift heavier weights.
Are They The Same As Knee Wraps
There are many products on the internet that look like knee sleeves with different names, such as knee wraps and knee braces. These products are not as interchangeable as they look so always double-check what you are buying before making a purchase.
As we’ve already mentioned knee sleeves are for preventing injuries and helping you to exercise better by keeping your knees warm and compressed.
Knee wraps are designed to provide even more compression in order to support your knees. This extra support is intended to help athletes keep exercising through injuries such as tendonitis.
As such this extra support won’t be necessary if you are new to working out and don’t have a pre-existing injury.
Knee braces often use mechanical components to provide maximum support and keep the knees in the right position for squats. These are for people working out with serious injuries and weight lifters who want to move on to heavier weights. The extra support offered by braces is enough to actually help the knee lift more without damaging itself.
Buying The Right Knee Sleeves
You may think there isn’t anything complicated about a neoprene sleeve for your legs but if your knee sleeves are loose or baggy, they won’t help your squats at all. This is why it is always important to make sure your sleeves are tight-fitting.
In order to get the right size, you will need to straighten your leg and measure around the center of your knee cap. Once you have this measurement you will be able to decide which size of knee sleeve you need for a tight but comfortable fit.
While they may look simple, it is worth investing in quality knee sleeves rather than just buying cheap ones from the supermarket. As well as being baggy, lower-quality sleeves may degrade faster or lose their elasticity over time.
Overall, knee sleeves are not for everybody and they aren’t going to miraculously help you lift heavier weights. Advanced lifters may need more support than sleeves can provide, meaning they would be better off investing in knee wraps or braces instead.
However, if you are relatively new to weight lifting, and just starting to move on to heavier lifts, knee sleeves can offer many benefits.
The compression and insulation they provide will help keep your knees warm and increase blood flow, both of which will massively help with squats.
Not only will you be able to do more squats without feeling as much pain, but these simple neoprene tubes can boost your confidence and enable you to push yourself harder without worrying too much about potential injuries.
Again they don’t make it impossible for you to get tendonitis, but they can be a useful preventative measure against it. So if you want to do more squats with heavier weights, but are worried about the damage this may cause, consider investing in some knee sleeves