Knee Sleeves for Squats: 4 Benefits Explained

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
October 6, 2022

When doing squats, especially with weights, structures surrounding the knee and within the joint itself may accumulate micro-injuries due to the compressive forces loaded on the joint. These are usually overlooked, but over time they may cause serious damage to the knee joint.

Knee sleeves apply compression to the knee joint, provide knee support, enhance blood circulation, minimize discomfort, and improve recovery time. Because of this, performing squats with knee sleeves may help reduce the risk of injury.

Furthermore, when doing squats, awareness of the position of the knee in relation to the hips and ankles is crucial. Knee sleeves have been found to be helpful in knee position awareness as it aids in improving proprioception.

What Is a Knee Sleeve?

Knee sleeves are considered to be garments that have the capability to provide warmth and compression for the joint. The compression from the knee sleeves not only increases the stability of the knee but also improves blood flow and responsiveness for better control.

strong knee sleeves
My STrong Knees Sleeves

It is widely used by athletes or lifters, especially in sports such as basketball, volleyball, track and field, and other activities that require large work output from the knees. Whether it be used during the activity or post-activity knee sleeves can be of assistance for both instances. 

Types of Knee Sleeves

There are two types of knee sleeves, both of which differ in their functionality and design. Additionally, both sleeves are still designed to provide compression and support to the knee.

Open Compression Sleeves

The open compression sleeve is designed so that the kneecap is left uncovered; to assist in relieving pressure on the patella. There are designs of open compression sleeves that can still provide reinforcement for the stability of the patella by placing stabilizers around the opening of the sleeve.

Closed Compression Sleeves

The closed compression sleeve as its name suggests covers the entirety of the knee. This type of compression sleeve offers a variety of movement for the knee joint while still being able to apply the necessary support for it. Compared to the open compression sleeve, the closed compression sleeve is able to provide more support. 

Benefits of Knee Sleeves for Squats

Knee sleeves aren’t important for weightlifting activities that don’t involve the use of the knees. However, in activities such as squats, knee sleeves provide benefits beyond just protecting the joint.

1. Improved Blood Flow

Knee sleeve compression has the ability to improve the blood flow and warmth of the knee, this is able to alleviate the individual’s pain and swelling after and during the exercise. For individuals that have non-complicated knee pain or knee conditions that may get irritated when doing squats, the use of knee sleeves may prove to be beneficial. 

2. Knee Support and Alignment

Due to their design, knee sleeves are capable of restraining movements of the patella without limiting its range of motion. The compression that the knee sleeves provide also assists the individual’s sense of placement or position for the knee, otherwise known as proprioception, which is able to help during the performance of squats.

3. Injury Prevention

The knee is one of the most commonly injured joints in sports activities. These injuries include torn ACLs, MCLs, meniscus, and patellar tendon problems. Because knee sleeves provide support, compression, and stability, using knee sleeves helps reduce the prevalence of future injuries.

4. Improved Recovery Time

In a previous study, it has been found that compressions can assist in the recovery time of individuals. Wearing compression garments during and after the activity helps in eliminating muscle fatigue and soreness. It is also able to reduce the build-up of lactic acid and inflammation in the limb.

The shorter recovery time required from the individual will give them the capability of having much more activities done within the day, which will help them gain results faster. 

Knee Sleeves vs Knee Braces vs Knee Wraps

knee sleeves and knee wraps
Knee Sleeve Left and Knee Wrap Right

Knee sleeves are often confused with knee braces and knee wraps; and although they are similar in some ways, they each provide benefits that differ from the others.

Knee Sleeves

knee sleeves for squats

Knee sleeves are usually made with neoprene and are designed so that they can be slipped on to wear over the knee. It usually varies from 20 to 30 centimeters in length, with thickness varying from 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm. These are usually used to offer support for the knee and protect the knee from future injuries.

Knee Braces

Unlike knee sleeves, knee braces are used when there is a prior injury to the knee that needs protection and support upon doing activities that may exacerbate the condition.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, there are several classifications of knee braces which consists of prophylactic, functional, rehabilitative, and patellofemoral braces.

Choosing the type of brace to utilize depends on the support that is warranted and the injury to be protected.

Knee Wraps

knee wraps for squats

Knee wraps are made of elastic material so that it stretches as it is wrapped around the knee. They are applied tightly in a spiral manner to provide support and compression to the knee joint. Knee wraps are often utilized by lifters since it reduces stress on the joint, quadriceps tendon, and the soft tissues around the joint which allows them to lift heavier weights.

How to Choose the Right Knee Sleeves

Knee sleeves vary in size and thickness and choosing which one to use greatly depends on the activities to be performed. The length of the knee sleeve to choose will depend on the lifter’s height. 20 cm knee sleeves are best for shorter lifters, and the 30 cm sleeves would do best for taller lifters.

Furthermore, the thickness of the knee sleeve to use depends on the activity to be performed. The 3 mm knee sleeves best support the knee during light activities such as walking or hiking. The 5 mm sleeves work best for lifters who perform intermediate-level lower body exercises such as deadlifts, squats, etc. Lastly, the 7 mm sleeves are usually used by heavy lifters who need additional support when weightlifting.

Final Thoughts

The knees are more prone to experiencing a great deal of stress than any other joint in the body. Although weight-bearing exercises are beneficial in improving the quality of the structures surrounding and within the joint, activities such as squats may cause damage or elicit pain, especially in beginners.

Exercise progression is beneficial, but additional support and relief from discomfort may be warranted as strength is developed in the knees. Knee sleeves are able to aid in performing squats with proper form by providing support and alleviating pain.

References

1. Knee pain - Symptoms and causes. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/knee-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20350849

2. Loudon, J. (2016). BIOMECHANICS AND PATHOMECHANICS OF THE PATELLOFEMORAL JOINT. International Journal Of Sports Physical Therapy, 11(6), 820. 

3. Paluska SA, McKeag DB. Knee braces: current evidence and clinical recommendations for their use. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(2):411-424.

4. Mohd Sharif NA, Usman J, Wan Safwani WKZ, et al. Effects of simple knee sleeves on pain and knee adduction moment in early unilateral knee osteoarthritis. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine. 2019;233(11):1132-1140. doi:10.1177/0954411919874614

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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