Do You Need Knee Sleeves?

Depending on what kind of gym you go to, you may notice a bunch of weightlifters or functional athletes wearing some sort of compressive knee sleeve.

Some sleeves are really thick, some are really thin, and each athlete will wear the sleeve for a unique reason that is specific to them.

Some athletes say their knees get achy, some say sleeves help them feel more stable, and some just like the warmth the sleeve provides.

They have their reasons... whether the sleeves truly work for them or it's just a placebo.

But do YOU actually need knee sleeves??

First let's look at the function of knee sleeves.

No matter what, a knee sleeve is deigned to provide insulation and compression to the knee joint and the structures surrounding the knee joint. That's regardless of thickness.

By providing insulation to the knee joint, the tissue temperature rises due to increased blood flow. That increase in blood flow increases mobility while decreasing the perception of pain and/or stiffness.

By providing compression to the knee joint, you’re delivering a “sense of touch” to the structures surrounding the knee joint. That information is picked up by the local receptors and sent to the brain. As a result, the knee subsequently feels more stable in the action of squatting, jumping, running, cleaning, snatching, etc.

It's that simple.

And the more thick the knee sleeve, the greater the compression. However there is a trade off, the greater the compression means there will be less ability to bend your knee repetitively. So the sleeves that most powerlifters wear are approximately 7mm. They require greater compression for their sport.

Whereas if you're a functional athlete who is engaging in multiple movements and needs to bend their knee more easily, then a knee sleeve that is less than 7mm is preferred.

Make sense? Shoot me an email if you have any questions about that. My address is below.

Ok now let's look at three different variables when it comes to understanding if knee sleeves are right for you.

We have training history, movement, and pain.

Training history: have you trained consistently for 1.5 - 2 years?

That's important because by that point you will have built up a base level of strength while having a greater perspective about what it takes to achieve results in your fitness journey.

Movement: What's the quality of your basic movements?

Think the squat, deadlift (hinge), clean, etc. This typically goes hand-in-hand with training history but I wanted to re-emphasize it here. The more you have trained, the more "practice" you will have had for your movements.

If you are not moving well, then I would strongly advise not to use knee sleeves. Knee sleeves will cover up poor movement. For example in your squat, do you just dive-bomb and bounce hard out of the bottom? Or do you smoothly descend under control, and build up to that bounce? There's a huge difference there and the knee sleeves will give you some reinforcement at the bottom. Move well first, then use knee sleeves.

Pain: Do you have knee pain?

If knee pain has been a chronic issue for you, but you've been training for 8 years and your movement is perfect, then by all means sleeve up!

However, if you're just beginning and want to wear knee sleeves to cover up that knee pain you've been experiencing for 3 weeks, I'd suggest talking to a coach, local physical therapist, trainer, or MD who knows movement to figure out why that may be going on. Get to the root cause instead of using knee sleeves as a crutch.

So what's the deal with knee sleeves for you?

It depends!

I know, crappy answer. But that's the truth. Use the above to help guide you in a decision to wear or not wear knee sleeves.

Make sure you've been training consistently, have mastered your form, and have no acute pain you're trying to mask. Be smart and use your intuition.

If you can check off the above three factors, then I'd say you're ready to grab a pair of knee sleeves to take your training to the next level!

In fact, we make our own 6mm knee sleeves at Element 26. Just click the red button below to check them out. Then shoot me an email if you decide to purchase :)

If you're still unsure about whether you're ready for knee sleeves or not, shoot me an email to this address and I can help guide you in that process. That's what I'm here for!

Be smart, stay strong!


Phil Gauthier
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Strength Coach
Element 26 Co-Founder

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