Powerlifters, bodybuilders, and weightlifters are often seen sporting knee sleeves for squatting. In fact, these compression sleeves are favored by both recreational and competitive athletes, and for good reasons. While squatting isn’t really harmful to the knees, add weights to the equation and you exert significant compression forces on the knee joints and their supporting structures. This leads to micro-injuries, which get compounded over time and can cause serious and even irreparable knee damage. Although knee sleeves are certainly not a replacement for proper form and training, if you already have those two factors under control, these compression coverings can give you added protection. And if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, then even a boost in your performance. So, continue reading to know everything there is to using knee sleeves for squatting…
Benefits of Knee sleeves for squatting
More confidence in your squatsFor starters, the feeling of compression created by knee sleeves greatly enhances proprioception. This is the awareness of your body in space and above all the awareness of the position of your knees in relation to your hips and ankles. This improvement in proprioception draws your focus toward your form. In turn, this awareness of the position of your knees and the movement of your body helps to give you greater confidence when doing squats, particularly in the hole.
More power when getting out of the hole
Because knee sleeves compress the joints and their supporting structures, wearing them, gives you a bit of rebound when getting out of the hole. This helps in two ways. · It helps you to gauge the level of your depth more accurately before you exit the hole. · Because the sticking point for many athletes is just above parallel, the block created by the compression garment provides a discernible boost of rebound when you are at the bottom. The net effect is more speed as you get out of the hole.
Improvement in your squat maxTo expect an increase of several pounds in your squat max just because you have donned a pair of knee sleeves would be wishful thinking. But, this is not to say that the compression coverings don’t help at all on this front. Studies have shown that knee sleeves do actually help you to squat heavier, bringing about a marginal yet conspicuous increase in 1 rep max. But, they have no bearing on leg extensions, squat jumps, and leg presses.
Enhanced perceived stability
As you try to build barbell confidence with progressively heavier loads, it’s normal to feel a bit unstable when squatting heavy. In fact, this feeling of instability raises its head the moment you unrack. Knee sleeves can come to your rescue here by conspicuously enhancing your own perception of the stability of your knee joints. Because these compression garments hold the knee joints firmly, they inevitably make you that much more steady and composed, even when handling heavy loads.
Increase in blood flowWearing compression sleeves also brings about an immediate improvement in the blood supply to the knee joint and the surrounding areas. Increased blood flow equates to greater warmth, which helps to alleviate after-exercise soreness and swelling. In fact, for athletes who suffer from knee pain that is linked to squats, the use of compression sleeves can bring about a discernible improvement. This is one of the reasons, why longtime lifters are quick to feel the benefits of knee sleeves; more so than athletes who are just starting out.
Prevention of injuriesCompression sleeves restrain the movement of the patella, without restricting your overall range of motion. This, along with the support they provide to the surrounding tendons, reduces, even if not completely elevates, the risk of injuries.
Because knee sleeves bring down both soreness and inflammation, they help to speed up recovery. And an improvement in post-exercise recovery duration means that you can get more done in a set period of time. This translates to faster and greater improvement in performance.
How to choose the best knee sleeves for squatting?When it comes to exercise gear and garments, choosing products that work for you can make all the difference to how much they help your performance. Knee sleeves are no different, so take your pick based on these 4 factors:
The right lengthThe length of the compression sleeves will obviously depend on the height of the lifter. The idea is to have equal coverage, both above and below the knees. So, in terms of length, 20 cm sleeves work best for short lifters while 30 cm sleeves are well suited for tall lifters.
The right thicknessThe thickness of the material has a direct impact on the level of support that the compression garment offers. On average, knee sleeves are available in the thickness range of 3 mm to 7mm. While 3 mm works for general strength and endurance training, you will need 5 mm sleeves for cross-training. Because lifters need even more support, you will have to opt for 7 mm sleeves for powerlifting and weightlifting.
The right fitYour aim should be to find sleeves that fit snugly around the knees. You don’t want to go so tight that the sleeves pinch the skin around the joints or cut off the circulation. At the same time, you also don’t want sleeves that slip off. The sweet spot in in between these two points and sizing your knee accurately will help you to pick just the right pair. Because, sleeves are meant to provide support to the knees in both bent and straight positions, for accurate measurements, opt for a position that is in between these two points- This would be when your leg is bent at a 30-degree angle. Also, the compression sleeves should provide support to the hamstrings, quad, and calf muscles, so measure the width about 10 cm or 4 inches below your patella (knee cap) with your leg bent at a 30-degree angle. And you will get the precise sleeve width you need. Since these sleeves are available in set sizes, some athletes may find themselves in between two sizes. In this case, opt for the smaller of the two sizes, because when it comes to sleeves, tighter is almost always better.
The right fabric
Neoprene, polyester, cotton, nylon, and spandex are all used to make knee sleeves. Your aim should be to pick the material that offers maximum breathability and warmth, without compromising on flexibility. Often, this is achieved by combining these materials.