What is the Difference?
Lets start by clearing up the most common question people have: what is the difference between knee sleeves and knee wraps?
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Knee sleeves are compression garments (often made from a soft neoprene material) that surround the entire knee joint. They come in a variety of thicknesses and the snug design allow your knees to stay warm throughout the training session. There are some that believe that the physical sensation of wearing knee sleeves can help give the athlete better awareness of their knee positioning while lifting and therefore potentially improve technique.
Today there are a number of different manufactures of knee sleeves, however Rehband sleeves are often the most poplar amongst athletes.
Knee wraps are constructed from a thick polyester canvas that is interwoven with small rubber filaments (1). These wraps, which are often 2 meters (78.7 inches) in length and roughly 8 cm (3.1 inches) in width, are wrapped around the athlete’s knees as tight as possible (either in a spiral or figure 8 technique).
What makes the wrap different than a sleeve is the mechanical advantage that is created as the elastic material (rubber filament) is stretched during the lowering phase of the squat. (2) Just like a spring being pulled into a stretched position, the elastic properties of the wraps store this energy and then transfer it to the lifter during the ascent of the lift. In fact, research has shown that wearing knee wraps can lead to 20% more speed out of the bottom of the squat (2).
Now, there are some knee new sleeves on the market that are manufactured to fit extremely tight around your knee and can give a small amount of elastic rebound compared to wraps (the majority of sleeves however do not).
The use of these wraps is common in the sport of powerlifting but not in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, as they can be very restricting for receiving the barbell in the deep bottom of the snatch and clean movements. While you may see some Olympic weightlifters use a knee wrap that resembles those of traditional thick powerlifting style, they are often constructed from a much softer cotton blend that only keeps the knees warm and do not add any mechanical advantage to the lift.