Knee Sleeves For Squatting, Why They’re Essential

Knee Sleeves For Squatting, Why They’re Essential

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

knee sleeves for squatting

Benefits of Knee sleeves for squatting

More confidence in your squats

For 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.

best knee sleeves for squatting

Improvement in your squat max

To 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.

knee sleeves squatting

Increase in blood flow

Wearing 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 injuries

Compression 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.

Faster recovery

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.

good knee sleeves for squatting

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 length

The 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 thickness

The 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 fit

Your 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.

knee sleeves for squat

Things to keep in mind when using knee sleeves

You don’t have to get addicted to knee sleeves

Many lifters worry about building reliance on knee sleeves. You can easily avoid this by combining naked-knee days with compression days. A lot of athletes choose to not wear their sleeves for warm-up sets but make the switch once they reach certain thresholds or reserve them for days that call for heavier strength.

There is such a thing as too tight

The exact fit of the knee sleeves is a matter of personal preference. And as stated above, snugness should be the goal and tighter is better. That said, it makes no sense to go too tight. If you have to struggle to get them on, you are working with one size too small. And going that tight is simply not worth the effort.

There will be discrepancies in sizes based on brand and material

Even when manufacturers offer the same sizes, the sleeves may feel tighter or snugger based on the material used. So, remember this when switching brands. Also, consider the fact that your sleeves will not get any tighter after a few uses but they will lose some of their elasticity over time. So, it does not hurt to start on the tighter side.

Keeping your sleeves clean is of utmost importance

All that sweat, dead cells, and warmth create a thriving environment for bacteria and fungi. So, those sleeves will have to be washed at regular intervals. How often will depend on how frequently you use them. Typically, after every 3 uses is a good timeline. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions when washing to make them last. Some brands offer products that can be machine washed while others insist that their sleeves be hand washed. In either case, use gentle detergents, and given the elastic components of the material, strictly air dry these on a flat surface. If your sleeves are not too dirty, spot cleaning will also work. But, do put them through a round of washing at least once a month.

Sleeves that are past their prime may no longer serve you

You won’t have any trouble telling when it’s time to discard the ol’ pair of sleeves. While some decrease in elasticity is to be expected over time, if you see considerable slackness, it is time to let them go. Sometimes, the material will be intact, but you will find the stitching beginning to give way. This and any loss of shape or form are tell-tale indications of sleeves that need to be replaced. Even when there are no visible signs, if the sleeves need adjustment after every other set, it is time to get yourself a new pair.

And one last thing to remember…

After all that, you won’t have any trouble finding the right knee sleeves for yourself. However, remember that while these compression garments are incredibly useful, like lifting straps and weight belts, and other supportive strength gear, just how useful knee sleeves are for squatting will depend on your preference and the context of your workout. Having said that, if you are new to knee sleeves and don’t know where to start, introduce them to your body and routine slowly but consistently. This will help you to better acclimatize yourself to their feel when lifting, squatting, and training. Plus, it will get you more from these compression garments in terms of their injury-prevention and performance-boosting benefits because you will develop a feel for exactly when they are needed the most.

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