Knee Sleeves vs Knee Wraps: What's the Difference?
by Evelyn Valdez·
There are many different pieces of equipment that you can use at the gym, and they all have a specific purpose. Some are designed to make your workouts more comfortable, like barbell pads, while others offer greater control over the weight that you’re lifting, such as lifting straps.
When it comes to your knees, there are two popular accessories that you might have heard about already – knee sleeves and knee straps. And while they sound very similar, they serve different purposes in your strength training sessions!
In this article, we’ll show you the main differences between knee sleeves and knee straps, as well as their pros and cons, so you can decide which one works better for you, your fitness level, and your goals.
Differences between knee sleeves and knee wraps
Although both accessories go around your knees, they’re still very different pieces of equipment. Here are the three main aspects that set knee sleeves and knee wraps apart:
Knee sleeves and knee wraps might have a similar name, but their design is completely different, making it very easy to tell them apart when buying your own.
Knee sleeves are, as the name suggests, a sleeve that you slide up your leg and place around your knee. They’re usually made of Neoprene, which is a thick material that helps retain the heat around your knee area, and they come in three different thicknesses – 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm.
Knee wraps, on the other hand, are designed to be wrapped around your knee, similar to gauze. They’re made of a more elastic material that makes them easier to handle and is usually 3 inches wide, while the length can be either 2m or 2.5m.
Because they’re designed for different purposes, the thickness level of both accessories varies greatly.
Knee sleeves are a single piece of clothing that covers your knee, so the tightness is evenly distributed along the whole sleeve. Because of this, knee sleeves are tight enough to offer knee protection, but you can still move around and completely bend your knee without restrictions.
However, knee wraps work differently. Because of how elastic they are, you can adjust the tightness when wrapping them around your knee to restrict movement as much as possible, making bending your knee difficult or even impossible depending on how tight you made it.
Last but not least, the main difference between knee sleeves and knee wraps is the purpose that they serve in your workouts.
Because of how they’re designed, knee sleeves are intended to support your knees during lifting exercises as well as high-mobility exercises, such as heavy squats or CrossFit circuits, so you can avoid any unwanted knee pain. They allow you to go through the full range of motion while protecting your knees from all the strain.
Knee wraps, because of their tightness, work best for advanced lifters who practice competitive powerlifting, as well as those who include Olympic lifts in their routines. Because they offer a higher movement restriction, they’re great for safely lifting as much weight as possible and moving up to even heavier weights.
Pros and cons
To better visualize the difference between knee wraps vs. sleeves, the good and the not-so-good, and to help you decide which one to buy, here’s a list of pros and cons for each of them:
Pros of knee sleeves
- Highly versatile, can be used for both lifting and high-intensity exercises that involve bending your knees a lot
- Offer protection against pain and discomfort while working out
- Can aid in post-workout recovery by increasing blood flow around your knee area
- Offer great support for those with knee injuries that are trying to get back into lifting
Cons of knee sleeves
- Only designed to support your knees, not to help you lift more weight
- Dependent on size. You need to ensure you get the correct size for optimal compression.
Pros of knee wraps
- Offer a great level of protection when doing heavy compound or Olympic lifts while powerlifting
- The same knee wrap can offer a lot of different levels of tightness depending on what you need
Cons of knee wraps
- Designed only for very specific exercises and advanced lifters, not as versatile
- Steep learning curve when learning how to wrap properly as you usually need the help of someone else
- Can be uncomfortable to wear because of their tightness
Which one is better?
When it comes to choosing the better one of the two, there isn’t really a definitive answer! Both are great and highly effective for their specific uses, so it all comes down to your fitness level, type of training, and personal preferences.
Knee sleeves and knee wraps are ideal for intermediate to advanced lifters. While it’s true that you can adjust the tightness of your knee wraps, knee sleeves are versatile and comfortable enough to allow you to move freely across a variety of exercises.
Additionally, if you’ve experienced a knee injury or you’re prone to knee pain, knee sleeves will offer you the protection needed to perform your lifting exercises without putting your knee health at risk.
If you’re an advanced lifter that deals with very heavy weights, particularly those in competitive powerlifting, then weightlifting knee wraps might be the better option. They’re restrictive enough to allow you to perform heavier exercises more easily and without straining your knee and leg area.
So, to quickly recap:
- For safety during general lifting or high-mobility exercises, go with knee sleeves
- For powerlifting, go with knee wraps
Take your weightlifting workouts to the next level
Whether you choose to buy a pair of knee sleeves for protection or you’re at a level where knee wraps might be beneficial for you, the right fitness gear will always help you make more progress in your strength training journey. Just remember not to rely on your accessories to be able to get through every workout – they should be your support, not your crutch!
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