A big question for athletes getting into powerlifting, weightlifting, and crossfit are what is the difference between knee wraps and knee sleeves? As they both draw some of the same similarities when it comes to function and injury prevention, there are some big difference that should noted.
Lets first start with knee wraps. Typically worn by powerlifters and weightlifters, these wraps are designed to be tightly wrapped around the knee to aid in joint support for very heavy lifts, particularly the squat. Let's look at some of the pros and cons for this fitness tool.
Allow for more weight to be lifted in squats. This is due to the amount of stored elastic energy in the knee wraps at the bottom of the eccentric phase of the squat. During the upward concentric phase of the squat, the elastic energy is released yielding more power and speed for the lifter.
Promotes knee stability, reduces tendon stress and quadriceps injuries.
Do not necessarily help you get any stronger. This is due to the highly constrictive nature of the wraps which prevent the knee joint from building strength while wearing them.
If overused or misused, knee wraps may lead to knee problems such as arthritis.
Now, let's take a look at knee sleeves. Typically you will see these used among crossfitters, weightlifters and in powerflifting training. Sleeves are great for all variations of the snatch, clean and jerk, and also movements like the squat. Usually you will see athletes using sleeves when lifting heavy weight for high repetitions. Let's check out the pros and cons.
Provide joint stability.
Help to prevent knees from joint stress
Increases blood flow and decreases
swelling in knee joint during and post
workout. These factors help for quicker
Athletes may overly depend on sleeves, relying on them to correct lifting form. This can negatively affect an athlete's lifting mechanics and progress.
Knee sleeves are not a replacement for proper warm-ups.
Overall, knee wraps and knee sleeves serve purposes specific to your lifting goals. If you are lifting extremely heavy with low volume , I would recommend the knee wraps. If your are moderate to heavy weight with high volume, I would recommend wearing knee sleeves. Refer to the chart below for a further breakdown in weight to volume ratios when using knee sleeves and knee wraps.